The strange wolf stared silently into the glow of the fire.
“Blech,” said Prue. “When can we fumigate?”
“Immediately,” said her mother, grasping the crock and pouring the remnants into the disposal unit in the sink. Her father acted downcast.
“Good-bye, magic pickles,” he said mournfully.
“Lemme help,” said Prue, reaching under the sink for the spritzer of lemon water. She began spraying it about the room.
“How was your walk?” asked her dad as he peeled the rubber gloves from his hands.
“Good,” she said. “Fine. Weird.”
“Why weird?” This was her mother, wiping the counter clean of some of the pickle crock’s brackish liquid.
“I ran into Ms. Thennis. Darla.”
“Really? That’s funny; she left just after you did. Said she had to head back to school.”
The bluff would not be on the way to the school; this was odd. “Yeah, I ran into her, and she bought me a steamed milk at the coffee shop,” said Prue. She didn’t mention that she’d passed out—that seemed like too much to reveal. And it would require mentioning the screams from the Scotch broom, which would be downright weird.
“She seems like a very cool teacher,” said her mother. “Is she new this semester?”
“Yeah,” replied Prue, staring fixedly at the lumpy pickle her dad had left on the counter. “From Eugene, I guess.”
“Well, that explains it,” said her mother.
“So what ever happened to Mrs. Estevez?” her father asked.
“Dunno. Retired. Health reasons. Someone said we all drove her crazy.”
Her dad made a face. “Ooh.”
Prue swiveled and began walking upstairs. “Anyway, I’ll be in my room. Let me know when dinner is.”
“Soon!” hollered her mom after her. “It’s lentil curry! Your favorite!”
Her father couldn’t help but interject, “And don’t think we haven’t forgotten about that note from school.” Pause. “Because we haven’t!”
Prue closed her bedroom door behind her and found herself blessedly alone. The patterned rug on the floor, littered with the contents of an overturned laundry hamper, was only barely made visible by the yellow light from the terrarium on her desk. Following the glow, she leaned over and tapped on the glass. Her box turtle, Edmund, moved inside, the half-chewed remains of a leaf balanced on his small head. She reached over and turned on the swivel lamp and assessed the few textbooks strewn about the desk’s surface. She halfheartedly grabbed the slim paperback at the top of the pile and flipped it open to its dog-eared page. She read for a moment, trying to worm her way into the world of Atticus and Scout Finch, but found, after a time, that she was merely reading the same paragraph over and over. Defeated, she set down the book and launched herself into the folds of her bed. Lying on her back, she stared at the strange shadows cast on the ceiling by the neighbor’s house lights through the bared branches of the trees in the yard. The wind had picked up, and the branches appeared to be long, spidery fingers lashing at one another. As she watched, a large blot darted over the display, blackening the shadows completely for a split second.
What was that? Prue mouthed. She hopped from her bed and ran to the window. She arrived just in time to see something dark disappear into the neighbor’s juniper hedges. She pressed her forehead to the window, studying the ground below; the glass was icy cold against her skin. Her mother called from downstairs.
“Prue!” came the voice.
She turned away from the window and stuck her head out of her door. “What?”
“I screwed up the naan bread,” her mom called, sounding defeated. “Can you run down to the take-out place and just pick some up?”
Still absorbed with the thought of the dark shape in the backyard, Prue marched down the stairs. In the kitchen, her mother was studying the back of a packet of instant yeast. “Did you call it in?” asked Prue as she dipped her feet back into her Wellington boots.
“Yeah,” said her mother. “Here’s ten bucks. Grab some chutney while you’re at it.”
“I don’t know why we didn’t just order it all from there,” murmured Prue, pocketing the cash.
“Hey,” scolded her father, reading a magazine in the living room. “Home-cooked meal. Your mother’s specialty.”
Mac was sitting on the floor at his feet, chewing on the frayed end of a chopstick. “Poooo!” he said.