The Opening of a Peculiar Package
Elora was not sure she had ever been so happy to see her mom. “My goodness, girls!” said Mrs. Quibble as the two drenched children scrambled into the backseat. “Why didn’t you leave as soon as you heard thunder?!”
“Mom!” Elora gasped (suddenly forgetting her previous commitment to the name “Mother”). “Mom, you won’t BELIEVE what happened when we were looking for those kittens.” The two girls panted out the story in seconds flat.
“We don’t know where it went, but we think it was looking for us!” said Elora.
“Now, Elora,” said Mrs. Quibble in a very patronizing tone, “I’m sure it was just the caretaker making sure everything was okay before the storm hit.”
“But why would the caretaker run away when they heard you calling from the road? Why would he make that weird ‘patata, patata’ sound on the porch? Did you see anyone leaving, Mrs. Q?” asked Sky earnestly.
“Sorry, but after I called for you I put your bikes in the car, so I wasn’t looking at the house,” replied Mrs. Quibble. “Not that I could see ANYTHING in this deluge,” she said under her breath. “Sky,” she continued, “I’m going to drop you off first. I’m sure your parents are wondering where you are. Elora, we’ll head home after that. It looks like this might turn into a flash flood,” she said, frowning.
Elora and Sky looked at each other and then out the back window. It was raining so hard now that the mansion was no more than a large menacing blur through the window. The windshield wipers in the front were practically useless as they slung water from side to side. Mrs. Quibble slowed the car to a crawl.
“Poor kittens,” Elora said. “I hope they’re okay.
Although Mrs. Quibble had sounded patronizing in the car, she was actually quite concerned and decided to talk to Dr. Quibble about it after Elora went to bed.
The package, at this point, had been forgotten. Mrs. Quibble had put it on top of the refrigerator to get it out of the way and she and Elora had completely forgotten about it in the excitement of the afternoon.
“I don’t know, Ransom,” Mrs. Quibble said. “They were genuinely scared. Even if it was the caretaker, that doesn’t explain why whoever it was was in such a hurry to get away. Maybe they were just scared because of the storm and imagined it, but . . . it still doesn’t add up in my mind.”
“Hmmmm . . . .” Dr. Quibble said. “It is odd. Maybe we should go up tomorrow and look at it. I’ll ask around at work and see what people remember of the Drindles, too. Come to think of it, that old mansion is a bit odd. And so is the fact that no one has checked on it or used it in years.”
Dr. Quibble was a veterinarian, known to his associates as Dr. Q (or DQ depending on the friendship). In fact, whenever Elora went to the local vet to tell them there were kittens ready to be adopted, she was really going to her father’s clinic. Now, some might ask, why would she go to her dad’s clinic when he knew the kittens’ ages already? Well, Elora, being the professionally minded young lady that she was, insisted on doing things in the proper order. Her order. She rescued them, she tamed them, and she found homes for them. She considered herself responsible for them and wasn’t going to let anyone (including her father) side step her process. Sky, of course, would love to keep some of them with her, too, but her parents wouldn’t allow it (at least not yet, but she was working on it she promised Elora).
The next morning, Saturday morning, Elora stumbled downstairs to the smell of pancakes and coffee.
“Well, good morning there, Bricky!” her father said. “Bricky” was her father’s pet name for her, in part, because of the reddish tints in her hair, but mostly because Dr. Quibble was well traveled and knew some British slang — “bricky” according to his British friends, meant “brave” or “fearless.”
“Mornin’,” Elora yawned. Her father was looking at the morning paper, her mother at a magazine. It looked as if they had both finished eating already.
“Can I run out and feed the kittens first?” Elora asked.
“That’s fine,” replied her mother, “I’ll get you some pancakes and juice.”
“Thank you, Mother,” said Elora politely as the screen door shut behind her. As she made her way toward the shed, she heard the kittens mewing pitifully. “I’m coming, I’m coming!” she called, speeding up. “There you are Sniffles and Snuggly! Aw, hello little Prickles.” She continued to name each of the kittens, bending down to pet and play with them. After a few minutes, she stood up to get their food. Despite one or two attaching themselves to her pants leg for a ride, she managed to make it to the food without stepping on anyone’s tail. As soon as she picked up the food, however, a chorus of desperate “meows” filled the shed. So she poured the food into the bowls that were scattered on the floor. After filling up the various water dishes as well, she went back inside.
“I think they’ll be old enough to find homes soon,” Elora said as she sat down at the kitchen table. Just have to make sure they’re careful around dogs like old Codger over there,” she said motioning to a sleeping dog sprawled on the floor. Codger would certainly never eat a kitten, but he was known to get gruff with them at times if they happened to swat his tail or his nose in a particularly annoying manner.
“Oh!” said Elora suddenly jumping from her chair, “I just remembered I got a package yesterday!”
“Ah, yes,” said Dr. Quibble in a deliberately cautious manner. “Your mother told me about that last night. Why don’t you open it now while we’re all here?” Mrs. Quibble gave him a worried look, but Elora was already on a chair and reaching to the top of the fridge to get it.
“I don’t like that we don’t know who it’s from,” said Mrs. Quibble. “Maybe we should ask Mr. Biddle in case he knows anything.” Mr. Biddle had been the mailman for Propingham for as long as anyone could remember. He was known for giving children high fives and sneaking doggie treats to dogs on his route to keep from being bitten by particularly territorial pups.
“Just let her open it first,” said Dr. Quibble, “Then we can decide what we need to do.”
So Elora turned the package all around, shook it carefully, and frowned at the “OPEN IMMEDIATELY” demand on the back. She still did not like being told what to do. Slowly she pulled off the crisp brown paper it was wrapped in. Codger looked up, interested. Mrs. Quibble pretended to be busy washing dishes. Dr. Quibble rustled his paper feigning disinterest.
“Well,” Elora said after cutting through the tape and opening the box, “that’s odd.”
To be continued . . . .
Copyright © 2020 Allison Shaw: All rights reserved, including right of reproduction, in whole or part, in any form.