Cast of Thousands, chapter 12

Gail came drifting in from the living room. "There's rosemary, that's for remembrance; pray you, love, remember: and there is pansies, that's for thoughts. There's fennel for you, and columbines: there's rue for you; and here's some for me: we may call it herb-grace o' Sundays: O you must wear your rue with a difference. There's a daisy: I would give you some violets, but they withered all when my father died: they say he made a good end." She waved her hands grandly as she declaimed this speech, and ended it by flinging herself dramatically across a chair.

"Romeo and Juliet?" Joyce guessed.

Gail shook her head sternly. "Hamlet, one of Ophelia's crazy speeches. Act four, scene five."

Joyce shook her head, smiled and sighed. "Soon we'll have two insane teenagers in the house."

Gail tossed her head, and then laughed. Joyce passed her a jar of spaghetti sauce. "Here, make yourself useful."

Gail whipped the lid off and poured the contents into a saucepan. "She must be just about old enough to start seeing some Shakespeare, don't you think?"I think she's been ready to handle that stuff for a long time," Joyce answered. "I don't know whether she wants to, though. It's not exactly light reading, and she's more into regular young adult books."

"Or younger," Gail said, grabbing a wooden spoon for the sauce.

"Hm," Joyce said, reserving judgment. "Call her, will you? Dinner's just about ready."

Gail went to the foot of the stairs and shrieked up, "Hey, shrimp! Come and set the TABLE!"

The "shrimp" sat on the top stair and bumped slowly down, smiling angelically at Gail, who was standing in the hallway tapping her foot pointedly.

"Very mature," Gail said as she reached the bottom step. "Now go, go, before the pasta is overdone or cold!" She chased Jessica into the kitchen.

For a few minutes, chaos reigned, but soon they were all seated and eating.

"So, Jessica, how was your day at school?" Joyce asked.

"Um...." Jess said vaguely. "I don't know. What did I do at school today?"

"Went, I hope," Gail said drily, systematically mashing her squash up with the tines of her fork.

"Hmm." She ate a few more bites of potato, then bounced up and down in her chair. "Oh I know! I had art class and we drew a picture of a dollar bill and then colored it in!"

"That's wonderful, honey," Joyce said approvingly.

"I brought it home, even, so you can see! I'm going to work on it some more so it will be really pretty. The teacher said it was... um... all playful and stuff." She took another helping of squash. "Oh and then I read all the kids' books at the library. And then I came here!"

"So that's where you were all afternoon," her mom said. "Well, that's a nice place to spend a Friday."

Gail finished mashing her squash up and decided she was done. Kitten immediately took over and began sculpting it into elaborate shapes on the plate. Jessie watched with great interest and looked thoughtfully at the food that remained on her own plate.

"Don't you dare," Joyce interrupted her. "Kitten, you too. Either eat it or put it in the fridge. If you keep fooling around with it it's going to get tough and dried-out." She pulled Kitten's plate away a little. "Honestly, first we have two sarcastic teenagers in the house, then two little kids!"

Jessie giggled, shoveling butternut squash into her mouth quickly. She nearly choked, covering her mouth with both hands as she giggled lest it overflow and spill half-chewed squash onto the table. She finally got it under control, gasping, swallowed, and exclaimed, "I thought squash was going to come out of my nose for a minute!"

That started Kitten giggling too. Joyce sighed amiably and took her dishes to the sink.

Jessica calmed down and followed suit. "Hey, Mom, can Marcy come over again tomorrow? We're going to do our social studies homework," she added virtuously.

"Sure, I don't see why not."

"And will you help me with my German homework tonight?"

"Sure, honey. And then you can show me the picture you made in art class today."

"Oh, okay. But I don't know why you'd want to see that old thing. It's kind of a mess."


Chapter 13?