He found the feral child on Wednesday, under the bramble-bush. Hank had meant to cut that bush down six weeks ago, after that toad-strangling thunderstorm. Said it would loosen up the roots, make it easier to get out, to do it then. He forgot, or put it by, maybe hoping Ellie wouldn’t remember she’d asked.
She hadn’t. That was all he heard about. She left him notes. She asked him after he came home from work. She suggested that today looked like a good day. It started off once a week that she’d remind him, but then it was twice a week. Then it was more. At 8 that Wednesday morning he finally got tired of her reminding him, so out he went, hoe in hand.
He thought he saw something odd the moment he stepped out the back door. A bit of laundry blown over from Mrs. Whipple’s house? A piece of paper from a torn-open bag of trash? The wind was forever driving things into their yard.
The wind drove a baby into their yard this time.
The moment Hank saw it, dark-eyed and brooding, with a narrow-eyed stare that thinly hid years of malice and hate behind them, he knew this was a baby in size only. Knew right then and there it wasn’t human, neither. He ran back inside, more afraid of that child than of the ribbing he’d get from Ellie at bein’ a’feared of anything. First off he’d have to explain how he wasn’t shirking the bramble-bush chore. That alone was enough to make him think twice about going all the way back inside.
He stood a bit in the mud-room, on that peeling linoleum floor, trying to decide. He’d known Ellie for 18 years. He just met that baby, if a baby it really was. He decided he was better off going back outside. He knew how Ellie got when she was angry. He’d take his chances with the baby.
(Photo purchased October 2015, from the three-story antique mall on West King Street in Boone, NC. It was in the “adopt a relative” box and cost $1.50)