Water sloshed and sizzled as it boiled out and dribbled down the side of the pot to the stove burner.
Virginia turned to push the run down automaton out of the way when Toby began to cough and wheeze harder and louder than before.
She rushed instead to the boy. “Mother, the pot!”
The old woman rushed in from the porch as quickly as an old woman could rush. She pushed the pot to the cool back burner. “Not so much of a mess, it’s mostly steam now.”
The old woman looked over at mother and child.
Virginia was in an attempt to make Toby take that horrible medicine. She didn’t see that it did her grandson any good. In another few moments, he would have another great fit. The space between these bone-rattling cough spells were getting closer together.
She refilled the pot and pulled it back over the flame to boil again. The old woman wound the automaton back into motion. “This old clunker needs to be replaced,
The boy laughed which started another fit, this one worse than the one before.
Virginia started to pour another spoon full of syrup, but the bottle was empty. “Mother, sit with him, please. I have to run to the cellar for a new bottle of medicine.”
The old woman sighed that swill was worthless. “We could try another of the old remedies. That last one helped for a day.”
“No, those silly superstitions don’t ever work. He needs real medicine. Just sit with him and I’ll go down to look for it.”
Virginia sighed as she walked down the cellar stairs.
The old woman looked at the automaton. “Don’t make a mess of it this time.” She shook her finger hard at the clockwork machine and made her way to her grandson’s side.
The small breath the boy took in rattled and wheezed. He looked up at his grandmother, his eyes filled with a knowledge. The knowledge he might not see the sun tomorrow.
It broke the old woman’s heart. He was one of the few joys left in her limited days. He couldn’t leave this world before an old crone like she. Toby’s dog, a shaggy thing that always tracked dirt even when there was no dirt to be tracked, leaped up on the bed to lay next to the boy.
The old woman looked at them both the way the boy absently scratched the old mutt’s head. Would it work? It was a silly old tale, but some silly old tales could bare some truth in them. She looked at the cellar door and listened to see if
Virginia was still rustling about for the last bottle of foul liquid that never really made anything better.
The old woman hurried into the kitchen and buttered two pieces of bread. She carried them back over and sat on the side of Toby’s bed. The dog’s nose perked up smelling the fresh baked slices.
The old woman grinned softly at her grandson. “I’m sorry, Toby.”
He looked at her strangely as she pet his head. “For what, gran… Ow!”
She kissed his head as she put the strands of hair she pulled from the boy’s head between the slices of bread. “Now feed it to the mutt and say what I whisper in your ear while you do.”
His granny had always been a strange woman, maybe age made her even more so. He sat up a bit more as he listened to her whisper into his ear then offered the dog the odd sandwich and repeated the rhyme. “Eat well you hound, may you be sick and I be sound."
The old woman grinned and kissed his flushed cheeks as she tucked the covers around him. “That’s my boy.”
When she looked down at the boy he was fast asleep and seemed to be in a peaceful rest. “He looks so comfortable. It’s been so long since he’s looked this way.”
“He’ll feel better in the morning, I’m sure of it.” The old woman patted her daughter’s shoulder and gathered her skirt to rush to the kitchen as she scolded the automaton for allowing the soup to burn.
The next morning she woke to someone tugging on her sleeve. “Mama, I’m hungry. Can I have eggs with cheese for breakfast?” That small voice a little hoarse but strong sank in and
Virginia’s eyes flew open.
Her son stood next to her chair, his cheeks a healthy pink, his eyes bright. The weariness of illness gone, his hand was warm, not cool and clammy. His grip on her hand was strong, not weak. This couldn’t be, could it?
She hugged him tight until he wiggled free complaining as little boys down when they want to be man of the house.
The old woman set a platter of biscuits down on the table and smiled softly when the boy ran over and climbed into a chair. He was well again.
She looked at her grandson dig into the food. The first time in so very long he has eaten more than a few spoonfuls of soup. The old woman gave her daughter’s shoulder a squeeze. “Be thankful one of us remembers some of those silly old superstitions.”
Part of the Blogging from A to Z Challenge for the letter C. Visit the site for the linky list to visit more great and creative blogs as we journey through the alphabet this April.