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BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - ROMANCE
More on Jayne as a young teenager and the older woman who makes him a man. No man-making yet, though. This is still lead-up. Gimme your thoughts, neh? I thankee.
CATEGORY: FICTION TIMES READ: 1455 RATING: 9 SERIES: FIREFLY
The Way of Jayne, Part 2
The Cobb triplets, all three, were sick. It’d been six months since the town midwife had helped Ma Cobb birth the babies and Jayne had assisted in their first spongebath. Timmie, Jayne’s slightly younger twin sister, had been mother to the babes more than Ma since they were born allowing to the weird being on Ma in a small way most of the time since the birth, and in a big way other times.
Timmie didn’t mind mothering. She’d been like a co-mother to Mattie who’d come several years after she and Jayne drew breath and she’d always loved doing for little ‘uns. If she kept her good school grades up, kept learning at a prodigious rate, she thought she might like to turn her natural love for kids into a teaching job some day.
Jayne helped out when she asked him to, indeed, she didn’t have to ask him most of the time. He came off all brash bluster in this boy-to-man stage but he had a heart sensitive enough to just naturally know when the big sister of the family had had enough and needed him to shoulder the load.
But when something came up that the thirteen year old siblings couldn’t handle, like what was ailing the babies right now, they didn’t know where to turn. Pa was mostly indisposed, on the juice, and Ma, well, Ma was a butterfly. She sat half in a rocking chair mentally flapping iridescent wings, smiling and at peace with the world without being in it for about the past three hours. She’d eat when she needed to if given food, would go to the bathroom alright, but wasn’t much of a mother to anybody but her own self.
All hell was breaking loose in the kids’ room but she couldn’t care, serene in her rocking perch. In the room barely 10 feet from her three small voices screeched fit to pierce each other’s eardrums, each baby feeding off the next one’s cries. Thank the god of aural tranquility, they seldom even let forth a cry of anger or upset as long as they were fed and dry, normally. They were good babies, and almost no trouble. Except for now when they were sick.
“Sheeniou, if I felt like they look right now, I’d be yellin’ fit to wake their drunk daddy my own self,” Jayne muttered. “Language, Jayne,” said Timmie in a dutiful imitation of Ma’s used-to-be-standard rejoinder to profanity in the house during days past. Days before the triplets’d come. “Lords, but you’re right about the banshee’in though. I need some cotton batting to plug up my ears before I run deaf.”
Jayne’s hands were busy changing diapers as were Timmie’s so neither had hands free to cover their throbbing ears. Struggling babies finally diapered, the elder twins washed their hands in a basin nearby and each put one bent knuckle into a little rosebud mouth to plug shrieking orifices, Timmie giggling as Mary drew hard on her finger, sucking lustily.
Grateful mind finally able to focus on something besides his ear-pain, Jayne assessed the children’s appearance this morning. He had hoped the tincture of calamine they’d rubbed into the babe’s skin woulda worked overnight to help, but no such luck.
“What’d you think, Timmie? The spots look any better today? Don’t look to have spread any, do they,?” Jayne asked hopefully, despite the evidence before his eyes.
“It’s bad, Jayne an’ gettin’ worse,” she said, touching the area outside the little girl’s upper cheek where the biggest crusty spot festered. “This one wasn’t that big yesterday morning. Please, yesu, don’t let it leave a scar on her pretty face! How’re the boys?,” this as she checked one boy and Jayne inspected the other.
“Peter and Paul are about the same as yesterday. No, wait a minute, these on their hands are worse,” he said, turning four little hands front and back. “Don’t touch the spots, Timmie. We don’t know if it’s catching to anybody but them. Maybe only them on account of ‘em sleepin’ in the same crib.” He pulled the high sides up on the big crib and popped a bottle of cow’s milk into each boy’s mouth, nodding at Timmie to do the same for Mary.
The siblings held the bottles for a half minute as the babies turned tears into hungry noises only spoilt by whimpers every now and again. Jayne propped a small pillow under each bottle in case the triplets’ hands grew tired of holding them in sleep, and he and Timmie backed out of the room.
They walked on out to the porch to talk without disturbing the babies and their mother dreaming in her rocking chair. Mattie, years younger than his big brother and sister followed in their wake. “We’re gonna need some help with this, we done all we can,” Jayne looked off across their few acres of land toward the direction of Maeve’s small house.
Timmie caught the anxious look on him, wondering if it had more to do with worry over the kids or how they were going to pay for the herb woman’s doctorin’ visit. As if he knew her thoughts, Jayne wiped a hand across his broad forehead and pushed an errant swag of hair back out of his eyes. “We’ve got all that honey from jarred up we can pay her with, if she’ll have it. One of us is gonna have ta go get her.”
“I’ll go!,” sang out Mattie. He liked going to the lady’s house. She had horehound candy in a jar and a shaggy horse of a dog that liked little boys. Timmie opened up the front door to the house, tugged down a light sweater off the rack and draped it ‘round Mattie’s shoulders.
“Lace your boots up, Baby, and go. Don’t dawdle ‘long the way. She offers you some candy, have some, but you come right back and bring her with you.” Mattie turned to leave, was one riser down the steps when his sister grabbed his dangling overall strap to bring him up short. “Hang on there, sprinter, and take this with ya.” Timmie wrote a short note on a piece of flour sack. “If she’s not to home, leave this note on the windowsill and pluck a goodish sized rock to hold it, hear?”
The boy grabbed the note, tucked it in the sweater pocket and was off like the wind. Twin siblings watched him go, smiling at the little puffs of dust his heels kicked up trailing like faithful puppies after a master.
“She’ll take the honey in payment,” his sister put her hand on his shoulder, patting lightly. “Don’t you worry none. She has a soft spot for this family, it’s easy to see.” She peered up to his face, wondering if he realized the herb woman’s soft spot was a lot softer for one member of the Cobbs in particular. “Remember she told us to let her know if we need anything. Strikes me as being the type not to make the offer idly so it was right a’ you to send for her.”
He grunted by way of reply and went back in the house to check on ma and the kids. Pa Cobb was still sleeping it off in the hayrack, would be for hours yet. Seemed to Jayne he and Timmie had six kids of their own to keep; three babies, one Mattie and ma and pa. Weren’t right, but was the way the road turned for the eldest Cobbs. Hell, woulda been all kindsa worse if he didn’t have Timmie to play mother to them all.
The babies had drifted off into a nap bellies milk-full, breathing steady. Each child had contorted to be in contact with the other, a little leg draped over another’s knee, a small hand atop the other’s neck. Jayne smiled, Timmie answering with her own just behind him in the doorway. “They’re a caution, ain’t they Jayne,” she asked, audible grin in her voice.
They left the bedroom for the kitchen, companionably preparing a lunch of coarse bread with cheese and sweet pickles for themselves, wrapping up three more without pickles for when Mattie came back and for ma and pa later, if they were of a mind to come out of their separate stupors to eat.
“THANK YOU,” Timmie chirped as she picked up the card Jayne had just discarded. She added it to the pair in her hand and laid the coup on the table. Jayne “argghed,” and picked up the next card on the deck laying next to the remains of his sandwich.
Their game at the rough-hewn dinner table was interrupted by the sound of a child’s treble and a woman’s big clear alto singing harmony drifting in with a light summer breeze through the front window. Jayne stopped in mid card sorting to listen. Timmie smiled and began to sing along, “What shall we do with the drunken farmer, what shall we do with the drunken farmer, what shall we do with the drunken farmer, early in the morrrrrr-ning!”
She hurried out to the porch to wait for Maeve and Mattie to get there. Jayne followed. “Isn’t that supposed to be ‘sailor,’ Maeve?” “Sure is, Timmie, but when I spied Mr. Cobb passed out in the hayrack, I changed the lyrics a tad in his honor.”
‘How’d she see him in the barn?,’ mused Timmie without speaking. ‘The door’s closed and the path they took to get here goes nowhere near the barn.’
“Hey, Jayne?,” began Timmie quietly to him, just before Maeve looked up from the bottom step in a loud voice quick to interrupt and change the subject at the same time.
“Mattie says the babes are ailing,” she directed at Timmie, projecting concern to usurp all other factors the girl might be considering. “Let’s go see what’s what, hmmmm?”
Jayne held his hand out to help her up the last step, taking her brocade bag with the other. “Thankee, Jayne. You’re a good man,” he blushed at the last, and watched as she passed where he stood, hips rounded and full beneath the long forest green frock she wore. He shook clouds out of his head and followed her into the house, rewarded by the glimpse of a slim ankle peaking from beneath her gown’s hem. Her signature scent of cinnamon, cloves and smoky warmth filled his nose leading the way like a beckoning aromatic waving hand.
The herb woman was down the hall, reaching the crib quickly, three eldest Cobb children at her back. “Mattie, you go have some lunch, now and thanks for coming to get me, Dear,” whispered Maeve. As he left, she quietly told Jayne and Timmie, “’Tis good that you sent the boy to collect me.”
She bent close to little Mary’s head, leaning far into the crib to look at the largest angry spot on the babe’s upper cheek, not touching the railing, loathe to rouse the sleepers. She took her time inspecting Peter and Paul too, careful not to miss checking their hands and feet especially well, then the small torso of each child.
“Is that calamine tincture on the spots, my Lovelies?,” she sent over her shoulder softly to Jayne and Timmie. Timmie stepped forward. “Yes’m. Works on bug bites and we didn’t have anything else to use.” Maeve nodded, “Fine. No worries.”
Backing away a step, she took her bag from Jayne’s grasp, set it on the old long wooden dresser that served as changing table and gave the verdict before either he or Timmie could ask. “The kids have Scrumpox.” Opening her bag, the woman removed a napkin to lay on the bureau surface, found her mortar and pestle positioning them on the cloth.
Jayne stepped closer to her side for a better look. Her next retrievals were some moist wrapped moldy bread, some dried cherries and, was that flour?
“Scrumpox is the local word for it. The scientific term is Impetigo, skin disease,” she evinced as she held the mortar still and ground the pestle down into the red, white and green ingredients in its bowl. She began a rhythmic twisting grinding motion, elbow nearly bumping Jayne’s side close-by as she worked.
“Maeve? Need me to do that?,” she smiled at his use of her given name, proud of the progress from Missus Burlee six months ago to Maeve now. “The better you grind, the better the stuff will go down. If it’s too grainy, it’s harder for the babes to swallow when we mix it with liquid,” she handed him the pestle, moved over to his side and showed him the motion. He was clumsy and slow at first, but soon caught on and steadily, strongly worked the mixture into a powderish clowder.
The babies stirred a little, waking from their nap, hands beginning to rub at sores. Before they commenced the wails Timmie knew would come upon full awakening, she asked Maeve, “Why’d they get the Scrump…, I mean Impetticoat? Was it something we did wrong?” “No honey, and it’s Im—peh—TI—go,” she watched Timmie’s lips soundlessly obediently repeat the syllables. ‘Girl has a real interest in the craft, or maybe it’s just any learning she craves.’
“It’s a pretty common skin infection caused by bacteria, little germs too small for us to see. Sometimes it comes from scratching at bug bites with dirty fingernails but more often it comes out of the blue. Nobody knows how. Mostly kids get it, and it’s contagious by touch. One of the little ‘uns got it, no knowing how, and it spread from hand to hand there in the crib. Hands go to faces and there you have it.”
Sure of Jayne’s progress, she turned to the crib to help Timmie with the now whimpering babes. “Y’all been careful to not touch the spots, I can see, or else you’d have the stuff too.” Timmie cringed a little, remembering she’d come close to touching the big spot on Mary’s cheek before Jayne warned her not to.
“If any of you big ‘uns do come down with it from tending them the last few days, just dose yourselves with the medicine too. I’ve measured enough to do you all. But don’t take it if you don’t need it.” She wrapped up Peter and Paul in separate small blankets found nearby and held one in the crook of each arm.
“There’s a little analgesic in the white floury portion of what Jayne’s powdering up. It’ll help with the burning ache of the sores, and’ll help the babes rest easier too. Do you have any berry juice in the house, Timmie? We’ll need to mix some of the powder Jayne’s got there into the right amount of liquid and then keep it cool.”
She handed Peter or Paul, she couldn’t tell which, to Timmie and went to Jayne, touching his bare arm by way of stopping the grinding. “Well done, Jayne. This’ll work real good for the kids. Take the baby now and I’ll go get this mixed up in the kitchen.”
Timmie led the way holding a boychild. In a cold box, she found the chokeberry juice and hauled it out, handing it to the herb woman while balancing Peter in her other arm. Maeve poured better than half of the red nectar into a three liter jar on the counter and dumped 2/3 of the mixed powder in. She stirred vigorously, watching as the stuff swirled and then almost disappeared. Finding some cane sugar in a bowl, she added half of it and tasted the merest drop for flavor. Adding another bit of sugar, she stirred and nodded, satisfied.
“Jayne, honey? Find me some baby bottles.” Jayne brought the empties from the crib, took them apart, rinsed them under clean water and handed them to Maeve who poured ¼ a bottleful into each and screwed the lids back on, handing one to Jayne for him to secure.
“Give each baby one right now, if they’re thirsty enough to take it. The sweetener should help the taste a little.” Saying that, she popped one nipple into the mouth of the boychild in Timmie’s arms and pointed Jayne and the other two bottles toward the children’s shared bedroom.
“Timmie, here’s what you do, once in the morning and once before they go to bed for the next four days. You stir the pitcher up good and give each baby just that much like I just poured. If you or Jayne or Mattie come down with even one sore, you get twice that much. Dong ma?”
Timmie nodded. “Got any butter?,” she asked next. Timmie was quick to hand her a pat of creamy butter on a dish on the counter. Maeve used a finger to push it into the remaining dry medicine in the mortar and used the same finger to stir it well. She scraped the ointment out of the bowl and into a small ramekin, turning her finger this way and that to wipe the last vestiges from the mortar into the small bowl to leave with the Cobbs.
“When they go to sleep tonight, you spread a little of this on their sores. Use a cloth tip to do it, Timmie, not your bare finger.” Timmie nodded, wide eyed. “Umm, are they gonna be okay, do ya think, Maam?”
“Call me Maeve. Things are gonna be just fine, mei-mei,” smiled the woman. “Just do as I say and they’ll be right as rain in a few days. In fact, they’ll feel better by this time tomorrow. Only takes a day and night for the liquid in the bottles to do the largest part of the healing work.” Maeve walked back to the kids’ room in search of her bag, carrying the dirty mortar and pestle in hand.
She came in to find Jayne holding a bottle to the rosebud lips of Mary and one baby boy Cobb. They were happy as clams at high tide, red sore hands grasping at the sweet-filled bottles. The boychild clutched in Timmie’s arms was busily slurping. All was well. Would be a lack of uncomfortable babes in a few days’ time.
Jayne motioned his sister over to the crib, pantomimed her tending to the three babies for a minute, and walked over to Maeve, wiping his hands along his sides.
Wrapping her trade’s tools in the napkin from the dresser, she turned to put all back in the bag that Jayne held open and ready. She had it in hand, ready to go. “Don’t close it yet, Maeve. Would you come with me?” Curious, the woman followed Jayne out of the room, out of the house and back behind to the shed.
He hauled open the big door, upper arms bulging with effort. Inside were shelves filled with squat liter jars of shiny gold honey. Maeve drew in a breath at the sight of so much riches. Good honey was rare enough that the sight set her to longing. “When the little ones take their long nap mid-day, me and the girls go a mile or so off in the woods and gather honey every day we can. It’s good. Man we traded with in town said it was likely “Tupelo” honey, best in the ‘verse.”
“Ohhh, Jayne. That’ll do right nicely. Thankee,” as he handed her two jars and tried to hand her a third. “One for each kid,” he smiled. “No, two will do just fine, but I appreciate it, I do. Three’d be too much for me to carry home!”
“I’ll go with you, I’ll carry all three, be glad to do it.”
Maeve was tempted. She felt the warm swai male aura offa him like a perfumed cloud of angel weed wafting round her head and heart. He moved a half step closer to her, inhaling as he moved, flared nostrils showing he liked her scent too. Daring to read just the surface of his thoughts, Maeve verified that he was scenting her as if she were a deer and he a stag in the spring.
That realization stunned her into staying inside his mind to see where he took this. Inside him, in his mind’s eye, he went from pressing his nose to her hair, inhaling deep, to moving up against her, walking her toward the shed’s wall. Once there he pressed her to him from nose to toes, brocade bag and jars of honey tumbling out of her hands to the ground unheeded. She broke the light mental link just as his heavy eyelids closed, his head tilting down to her mouth and his lips parting over hers, breaths mingling hotly…
Maeve was outside the shed with two jars of honey in her bag, striding quickly toward the direction of her cabin. Jayne still stood inside holding the third jar, never knowing exactly when she’d left.
He inhaled a great draft of air and put one straight-armed hand to the shed wall right where he’d just had Maeve Burlee pinned while he pressed against her there. Had almost ruttin’ kissed her. But not really, it was all in his mind, thank the god of fornicating monkeys. He smiled at the phrase, reminded of all the times his pa had said it when he saw a winsome lass walk by in town.
He put the third jar of honey safely back on the shelf, counted to 50 and looked down at his crotch to see if he was presentable to go back into the house. Nope. His eyes verified what his body already felt. He had a throbbing erection tenting his worn pants. ‘What if I HAD kissed her,’ he thought. ‘She’d have slapped me for bein’ a gorram fool, is what,’ he answered himself wryly.
Jayne sat down on a hay bale and dwelt on calming thoughts fit to beat down the hard-on he was packing. A few minutes later, he rubbed one hand down his jaw, wiped sweat away and trudged out of the shed, closing the door tight. Pausing at the door to check the state of his lower body, he prepared to go back in the house to help Timmie.
He gazed off in Maeve’s direction seeing her figure swaying in the distance, just a hint of dark green with Autumn leaf hair piled up on top. She was singing, he could hear it even though it should be too far for him to hear. Sounded like she’d made up new lyrics to the “drunken farmer” song. He cocked his head toward the melody and thought he caught, ‘What shall we do with the handsome farmboy’ but that had to be wrong.
Jayne walked back into the house to check on his mother and see about “his” kids.
End, Part 2
shee-niou – shit urine
gorram – god damn or gosh darn
Monday, December 5, 2005 2:54 AM
Monday, December 5, 2005 10:59 AM
Monday, December 5, 2005 6:11 PM
Wednesday, December 7, 2005 4:19 PM
Tuesday, January 24, 2006 6:47 AM
Thursday, April 27, 2006 2:41 PM
Thursday, May 25, 2006 12:26 PM
Monday, August 7, 2006 7:52 AM
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