Lulled by sunshine and the river’s burble, Blanche and Ray slumped side by side, heads down, fishing rods loosening in their hands. A splash broke the reverie. Blanche opened her eyes and saw Tam-Tam in oversize rubber shoes, trying to keep her balance on a steppingstone near the opposite bank. Wrapped in canvas apron loaded with way too many garden tools, the old woman wobbled, chomped on the stem of her corncob pipe and looked with longing down river. Drifting away were faded margarine containers and scratched Tupperware bumping out of a mesh bag. Blanche poked Ray, who startled awake. Seeing Tam-Tam’s belongings bobbing, the teens dove in after them. Tam-Tam kept an eye on the youths as she stepped gingerly from stone to stone. The twins nabbed all of her containers, put them back in the mesh bag and greeted her when she reached the shore.
“Thank you kindly, kids,” Tam-Tam said when she stomped onto solid land. “Don’t like to be losin’ stuff.”
“It’s no trouble.” Ray handed her the bag and backed away.
Blanche backed up, too. “Yes, glad to do it.”
“Eee gads, you’d think I’m a witch the way you act, all scaredy pants and timid like. I won’t bite.” She held up the dripping bag. “Come along. I gotta put these things in the shed for future sprouts and such. Then I got some treats in the kitchen I expect you’ll like.” Tam-Tam ambled toward her garden shed.
The twins exchanged glances, excitement in their eyes at the prospect of spending time with Tam-Tam. They’d never spoken more than a few words with her at community events before Missy had steered them away, warning that Tam-Tam was an unsavory type of person, someone to avoid.
“You don’t suppose she has a great big oven in that cabin, do you?” Blanche said under her breath.
“Well, dear Gretel, even if she does, you’ll push her in, right?”
The two giggled and continued after Tam-Tam, who opened the toolshed door, took off her sunhat, put away her other belongings, then motioned for the the twins to follow her to her ramshackle home.
All lanky limbs and repressed fluster, Ray and Blanche followed her inside. It was dusty and cluttered with stacks of newspapers and magazines; cardboard boxes overflowing with tattered clothing; and an array of dented toasters, broken mixers, and other odds and ends in various states of decomposition. Tam-Tam lit a floor lamp by the refrigerator and a kerosene lantern on the table. It was a cloudless summer afternoon, but the light was needed because the trees around the home were so thick only a dappling of sunlight came through the leaves.
Tam-Tam shuffled to the kitchen area and returned with a plate of brownies and two glasses of lemonade. “Dig in. They’s fresh today.”
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