The thirteenth unicorn, p.34
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       The Thirteenth Unicorn, p.34

           W. D. Newman


  The kids grabbed hands and began running around in circles, laughing with joy. They tried to get Louise to join them, but she made them stop.

  “Listen up, children. We don’t have time for this right now. We have to get inside and get cleaned up before George gets home. Jenny and Casey, you two get upstairs and take a quick shower. Joey and Ben, you can use the shower in our bedroom. Joey and Jenny, you two go first. I’ll get you a robe to wear, because I need your dirty clothes as fast as possible, so I can get them washed and dried. Let’s hurry!”

  The kids ran around to the front porch and scrambled up the steps, with Louise right behind them. Jenny and Casey ran up the stairs and Ben and Joey hustled into the back of the house. Within half an hour, the kids and their clothes were clean. Louise took the clothes out of the washer and threw them in the drier, then hurried off to get herself a shower too. By the time she had dressed and dried her hair, the kids were sitting at the kitchen table drinking milk and eating cookies.

  “Oh my, that looks good,” said Louise.

  She poured herself a glass of milk, grabbed a handful of cookies from the cookie jar, and then leaned back against the counter to eat them.

  “Is it really over?” Ben asked.

  All of the kids stopped eating and waited for Louise to reply. Louise finished chewing the cookies in her mouth and then washed it down with a sip of milk.

  “Yes, dear. It’s over. Thank goodness, it’s finally over.”

  “What do we do now?” Ben asked.

  “Why don’t we all just take it easy for the rest of the day? We’ve been through a lot and I think we all need a few days to recuperate, don’t you?”

  Ben nodded.

  “Let’s put the dishes away and I’ll take Joey and Jenny home. I have some canning jars that I need to return to Rebecca anyway.”

  The kids rinsed their glasses out, placed them in the sink and headed outside. Louise came out behind them, with her purse on her arm and her car keys in her hand. She got Joey to pick up a cardboard box by the door that was full of pint size Mason jars and opened the trunk of her old Galaxy. Joey sat the box in the trunk and closed the lid and they were on their way.

  Rebecca was kneeling in the front yard, weeding one of her flower beds, when Louise pulled up in front of her house. She laid the small hand spade down and brushed the dirt from her knees then walked out to greet them.

  “Hello, Louise. Is everything okay?”

  “Oh yes, nothing’s wrong, dear. Ben and Casey wanted to show Joey and Jenny their goats and then they wanted to come back over here to play the Play Station. I had some jars to bring you, so I just gave them a ride, that’s all.”

  Louise opened the trunk for Joey to get the box of jars and the kids hurried off into the house, while she sat down at the picnic table to visit with Rebecca. The two women chatted for an hour or so about flowers and vegetables and the proper way to grow them. Finally, the kids came out of the house and Ben came over to the table to speak to Louise.

  “Grandma, Grandpa is home now. He just called and said we all needed to come home too.”

  “Is something wrong?” Louise asked with concern in her voice.

  “No, I asked him if anything was wrong and he said no. He said he had some important news for us and didn’t want to tell us over the phone.”

  “What do you think it is?” Rebecca asked.

  “I don’t know. But I guess we’d better get going and find out.”

  “Call me if you need me for anything, okay?”

  “I will, thanks Rebecca. Ben, Casey, let’s go find out what’s going on.”

  Ben and Casey said their goodbyes and crawled into the front seat of the car with Louise. When they got back to the farm, Louise stopped about halfway up the driveway, where the car could not be seen from the house. She switched the car off and turned to the kids.

  “Children, I have a story to tell you. Do you remember that fall when your mother had her car accident?”

  Ben and Casey nodded. Ben’s pulse quickened.

  “Do you remember coming up here to visit at the end of your summer break, right before school started back?”

  Ben and Casey nodded once more.

  “Okay. Do you remember going to the cattle sale with your father and your Grandpa?”

  “Yes, Grandma, we remember,” said Casey. “Why are you asking us all of these questions?”

  “That day you went to the cattle sale, your mother was not feeling well and had lain down to take a nap. While she was asleep, I slipped out and went through the Merlin Tree to Camelot. I was going to pop in on Amos and say hello. I hadn’t seen him all summer.”

  Louise paused for a moment, staring through the windshield, while calling up some painful memories from long ago. The car windows were rolled down and Ben could hear the small stream that ran parallel to the driveway gurgling over some rocks nearby. Other than that the afternoon was quiet, until Louise continued her story.

  “I saw the unicorn when I was returning to the bamboo patch. It was grazing in the tall grass. At first I thought it was a white prairie stag, but as I got closer I could tell it was a horse. Then it raised its head and I saw the spiral horn. And then, suddenly, I saw the shadow cat materialize behind the unicorn. I threw my hands up and shouted and the unicorn sped off with the shadow cat in hot pursuit.”

  Louise paused for a moment and began fumbling around in her purse for some tissue.

  “I thought a unicorn had not been seen in Camelot for a very long time,” said Casey.

  Louise nodded. “I don’t know why the elves did not know of this one. Or maybe they did know. Maybe they know everything and that’s why they didn’t say anything.”

  “What happened next, Grandma?” Ben whispered. He was beginning to put the pieces together now himself. Louise dabbed at her eyes and continued with her story.

  “That’s when I heard the witch scream. She had been hiding in the tall grass nearby and now she stood up where I could see her. She was fit to be tied, that’s for sure. I knew who she was; I just couldn’t believe that she was standing there in front of me.”

  “What did you do?” Casey asked.

  “I ran. She had reached into one of the pockets on her robe and pulled out a wand. She started waving it over her head in a big circle and chanting some kind of gibberish. When I got to the bamboo patch, I looked over my shoulder and saw the witch pointing the wand at me and shaking it. I remember that she had a confused look on her face and before I disappeared into the bamboo I saw her take the wand and snap it in half. She didn’t pursue me into the bamboo, because she was not sure why her spell did not work. I thought I had escaped unharmed.”

  “But you didn’t,” Ben said. “Did you?”

  “No, sweetheart, I didn’t.”

  “What are you guys talking about?” Casey asked.

  “You were wearing a spell-catcher, weren’t you?” asked Ben, ignoring Casey’s question.

  Louise nodded and dabbed at her eyes again.

  “Would someone please tell me what’s going on?” said Casey.

  “Back in Camelot, the unicorn showed me a vision of something that would come to pass,” said Ben. “Something in the future.” He turned to look at his sister. “The vision was one of you and me sitting at the table and eating dinner with Dad. And Mom.” Ben waited a few seconds for this to register with Casey.

  “You mean Mom is going to be okay?”

  “I think so. I think the witch cast a spell at Grandma and her spell-catcher caught it. And then Mom was probably the next person grandma touched and the spell was transferred to her.”

  “Is that true, grandma?” Casey asked, tears welling up in her eyes.

  “I think so, sweetheart. When I came out of the bamboo I went back into the house and started breaking beans. When your mother woke up from her nap, she came and sat down at the table and I felt of he
r forehead to see if she was running a fever. I believe that the witch’s spell was meant to paralyze me, but my spell-catcher caught the spell and transferred it to your mother when I touched her. The spell must have been slow acting because it was working in another world and not the world in which it was cast.”

  “And now that the witch is dead,” Ben continued, “the spell should be broken. Is that right?”

  Louise nodded. “That’s the way I understand it.”

  Louise pulled the necklace out from beneath her blouse. The jewel dangling from the end of the chain had saved one life and destroyed another.

  “But Mom had a car wreck,” said Casey. “You guys know that.”

  “Yes, Mom had a wreck and I think the wreck was just enough to weaken her to the point where the witch's spell could take hold. I don’t think Mom has been in a coma for two years because of the wreck. I think it was because of the witch's spell. Think about it Casey, it makes perfect sense. The doctors have never been able to explain why Mom is not physically wasting away. It has to be magic.”

  “So you think she is okay now?” Casey asked, with tears streaming down her face.

  “I think so,” said Ben. “Don’t get your hopes up too high but yes, I think Mom is okay now. I don’t know if she’ll recover immediately or if it will take time, since we are in another world. But I think she will recover.”

  “Maybe that’s what Grandpa called us about!” said Casey.

  “We hope so,” Louise replied. “But let’s quit guessing and go find out.”

  Louise pulled the gearshift down into drive and they made their way up the long gravel road, with Ben and Casey sitting on the edge of the car seat. When they came around the curve they saw George’s truck parked beside the barn. George had let the tailgate down and was sitting there waiting for them. He hopped off the rear of the truck as Louise drove by to park the car under the magnolia tree. Louise and the kids jumped out of the car and ran to him.

  “What’s going on, George?” Louise asked. “What is so dog-gone important that we had to drive all the way back over here for you to tell us?”

  “Charles is coming home.”

  Now Ben and Casey crowded around him, pulling on his sleeves and asking him questions.

  “When’s he coming home, Grandpa?”

  “Did he say why?”

  “Is he okay? Is anything wrong?”

  George held his hands up in the air.

  “Everybody calm down and I’ll tell you exactly what he told me. Alright?”

  Ben and Casey nodded. Louise patted George on the arm.

  “As I said, Charles is coming home. He called this afternoon and said that something had come up that required him to be at home. His company is flying someone else up to Chicago to run the project he was working on and he is flying into Greenville this evening. He wouldn’t tell me what it was, he just said for you kids to be packed and ready to go by the time he gets here.”

  “Well for heaven’s sake George, when is he going to be here?”

  “Should be around eight o’clock.”

  Ben and Casey ran for the house.

  “Where are you kids going?” George called after them.

  “We’re going to pack,” they called over their shoulders.

  George watched them scramble up the porch steps to the front door, fighting over who would be first inside the house. He glanced at Louise who was watching the kids and smiling.

  “What are you so happy about?” he mumbled. “It looks like those kids can’t wait to get out of here.”

  “It’s not that, George, they’re just anxious to see their father and find out why he’s coming home. That’s all.”

  “Hmmph. I’ll be in the barn if you need me.”

  Ben and Casey were packed in fifteen minutes. Now they had about seven hours to wait. Ben’s stomach growled noisily and they had not eaten lunch. Down in the kitchen Ben fixed a tomato sandwich with Dukes Mayonnaise and Casey made a grilled cheese sandwich. After eating they tried watching TV to pass the time, but found that they could not sit still or stay interested in anything that was showing. Finally, Ben suggested they go for a walk. They first walked up to the goat house to pet their goats. Then they walked back to the fish pond and skipped rocks across the smooth green surface. Time crawled by slowly, but somehow they made it through the rest of the day. That evening, Louise cooked a big supper. She made Charles’s favorite – pork chops, mashed potatoes and gravy, green beans, and homemade biscuits. After eating, she fixed a plate for Charles and put it in the refrigerator. Then, everyone helped clean up and put the dishes away. Afterwards, they retired to the front porch, where Ben and Casey had placed their suitcases earlier. Because George and Louise’s house was situated in a small valley, the sun had already set behind the hilltop, but a golden soft warm glow still lay about them. In another hour, lightning bugs would be flashing all over the pasture and bats would be swooping around the night light catching big fat juicy moths. Ben had a small pang of regret that he and Casey did not catch any lightning bugs. Every time they visited in the summer, they would catch all that they could and put them into jars. Then they would take the jars into their room, when they went to bed, and watch the little bugs flash on and off, while they drifted off to sleep.

  “Someone’s coming,” said George, rising to his feet. Since their driveway was gravel, you could always hear a car before you could see it. In a few seconds, Charles’s Honda rolled out of the woods, speeding up the driveway raising a plume of gray dust behind it. Everyone walked out into the yard to meet him.


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