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- “A tisket, a tasket, a green and yellow …,” the soft baby voice singing came to a stop. Madison turned, looking up at the woman seated nearby in a lounge chair. “Miss Terry.” The little blonde cherub pronounced the name as “Terwy”. It had been endearing the first time. Now it was just plain annoying.
Terry glanced up from the Sunday paper. “What?”
“I forgot the next word.”
“Gasket,” Terry said.
A questioning frown covered the young girl’s face. “Gasket? Is that right?”
“Positive.” Terry knew it was wrong, but lying to the child was somehow deeply satisfying, irresistible actually.
It was early spring and the day was warm enough to make the slight breeze heavenly. Reading under the porch had been peaceful and relaxing until the neighbor’s daughter appeared like a meerkat on the rise of earth that separated their adjoining backyards. Terry had been tempted to warn Madison away by telling her there’d been a recent pesticide application and it was too dangerous to walk on the grass. It was her most effective maneuver to keep the pesky little rodent from invading her yard. But, since it was the beginning of the season, she didn’t want to overuse her primary weapon for maintaining her solitude.
Terry had made the mistake of being friendly when the couple and their three kids moved in a little less than a year ago. Their two older children were boys and neither of them had one iota of interest in a middle aged woman. She became invisible as soon as she admitted she had no children, not even a dog they could play with. All she had to offer was a crotchety old husband.
Madison had been different. The four year old had taken an immediate interest in everything about Terry. Her flowers, her house, the mailbox with the painted bluebirds. The child’s obsessive behavior reminded her of the squirrels from their previous residence.
Their old neighborhood was full of towering trees and squirrels. Frank had trained a threesome to accept pecans from him, holding out the nuts with his bare hands. They’d rest one little paw on his finger while quickly grabbing the pecan with the other paw and then scurry up a tree. It was cute at the beginning. They nicknamed the critters Gopher, Digger and Big Balls. The frequent feedings soon led to their entire backyard looking like a mine field with holes dug to bury the nuts. It was amusing until the day that Big Balls appeared next to Terry as she was planting a bed of bulbs. He was standing upright on his haunches, front paws square on his hips, his posture signaling he expected to be fed. When she couldn’t shake the little beast, she retreated to the safety of the house. But the bugger followed her, flinging his body against the aluminum door. That was the last of Frank’s nature experiment.
Terry listened as the child sang the modified nursery rhyme. “A tisket, a tasket, a green and yellow gasket.”
She chuckled, wondering how old Madison would be when she finally discovered she’d been duped.