“Momma, Momma! Let’s go git on the slide!”
“Not now Shandi, we need to git in the hotel first.”
Hotel wasn’t quite the word I would use to describe it, or at least in city folk terms. As we walk to the check-in house, you could see that there were too many trees and raw dirt to be called one. If anything it more like a cabin vacation. But this was something we’d always been accustomed to. We, the Hyndrix family, thought it was a good idea to take summer by the horns and go on a little vacation down the west side of Georgia.
Now that led to my wife, Daisy, busy holding onto our youngest, Amber age 2, me carrying her purse, and the two other munchkins running about all over the place.
“Aww, but it’s hot outside!” That was Shandi age 7, who always had to be doing something, tended to be a handful. I hurry behind her and swoop her up in the air over my shoulders, getting an awe filled laugh out of my daughter, “Tickle time!” and start to tickle the pads of her feet.
She giggles and swings back and hangs off my shoulders. Her Momma was looking at her with that ‘I could’ve warned you’ look. She passed Amber on to our oldest, Kaylee age 10, thankfully the most calm of the trio. She was always helping her Momma, and that always helped me too. Something reassuring with Amber in Kaylee’s arms, Shandi not to far behind, and the oldest girls all together in their blue jean coveralls and myriad tee-shirts.
We are just that kind of family.
The clerk at the check in desk stroked his mustache and smirked, “Hey there, boss! Whats you and your cutie chilrens doin on this fine August evenin?”
My wife fanned at her face, “Don’t forget me now don’t cha. I’m the one who has to take care of these four kids.”
“Oh now, you have your moments too, hon. Who was it that forgot their hairdryer an’ made us go all the way back to get it like some lost teddy bear?” That drew out a long hearty laugh from the clerk and a pout from my wife’s face.
I’m so getting paid back for that.
“My aint that the truth!” the clerk swept up his glasses,”So what can I get y’all folks today?”
“We’d like a room please,” I spoke up from the gaze of my beloved, “Two beds, one for the girls and one for the Missus and me.”
My wife snorted, “Won’t be doin much in it.”
The clerk handed us our keys and I handed him my debit card; he waved bye to the kids, Shandi waving back at him like the curious girl she was. The ‘hotel’, as I said, is more like a campground, there were buildings off every few yards with beds and a bathroom in each one. Not much in the way of good housing, but considering we were out on the edge of country living, it was better than most homes. However, what little housing there was, was made up in the scenery.
As we walked up to our ‘room’, you could see a large open field, one like you’d see out in those fancy magazines for the African Savannah. Then off in front of the ‘porch’ there was nothing but a cool breeze and the nice bending curves of the Chattahoochee river. But, this was no time for sightseeing. Before I knew it, Shandi took off like a bolt of lightning down to the river, running as fast as her little legs could take her.
“Shandi! Git your butt back here, missy!” My wife roared out at the escapee.
“Don’t worry, Momma. I’ll go get her.” Then I watched as my eldest sped down after. Good lord, what a rambunctious family.
“Let her go get the munchkin. You and Amber should go inside and rest up, hon.” I opened the door to the room and was relieved that it was actually clean.
My wife turned to me and smirked, “Flattery aint gonna get you any points with me, boy.”
Well, at least I tried. “I’ll go grab our luggage.”
It took some effort, but I grabbed all our luggage bags and made my way back to our cabin. As I was getting close to the door, an ear shattering scream zipped through my ears, brought on by the worst pain imaginable. It was Kaylee screaming.
Before I even had the state of mind to think, I was already barreling down the trail towards where the scream came from, the luggage gone and dropped a ways back. As all kinds of bad thoughts entered my head, I arrived on the scene to see Kaylee clinging to a tree, as Shandi was clutching two frogs in her hands and one in her mouth. I was dumbstruck.
“Daddy! Tell ‘er to get that out of her mouth!”
My middle daughter’s face twists into a grin, “Look wha I cwaught daddy!”
All the alarm I had before just vanished, and was quickly replaced by me laughing so hard I could’ve busted a gut. Just seeing her mouth crammed with a frog and grinning as wide as a Cheshire; her tail wagging so playfully. It just brought me into fits of laughter. I turned to see my wife in the same state of urgency I was in before and could do nothing but drop to my knees and point at our two daughters, only to watch her burst out laughing too.
“Why are y’all laughing!? It’s disgusting! Take it out!”
Shandi made some sort of “nah nana nah nah” noises, but the frog in her mouth made it unintelligible. I managed to stand back up and took the frogs from Shandi. I started looking at them, they were fairly decent sized frogs there, and had a good idea.
“Hey sweetie! I guess we got dinner tonight!”
“Alright, so y’all know the rules. You can go play out in the river, but y’all stay where can see yah. You can talk to other kids, but no talking ta strangers. You come right back here after, understand?”
My wife barked these orders to our kids as both of them looked down at their feet, “Yes Momma…”
She huffed and flicked her hand, sending the two rascals running. “Don’t forget to bring back any frogs y’all see out there!”
After what we found in Shandi’s mouth, both me and Daisy decided that having frogs for dinner was a good idea, it was either that or getting take out. But, right now was time for me and the missus. We figured it was best to have brought some lawn chairs from home, and boy were we right. Coming back outside with a pitcher of peach tea and two cups, I almost drop them as I find my wife Daisy already changed into short cropped dukes and a halfway cut tank, lying out in her lawn chair. Amber down beside her playing with a slightly burnt bone-chew toy, not specifically meant for her, but it somehow keeps her attention.
“Sun and some tea, miss?” I hand her a glass.
“Why thank yah there, stranger.” She smirked and lifted the cup to be poured.
I fill both of our cups with that sugary goodness and sit on the edge of my own lawn chair. I’ve been married to my Daisy for 12 years, and I swear every day its like she tempts me with that wide-hipped, country girl body, just ready to ride like a cowgirl. Even her Shania Twain-like voice could get me hot ‘n bothered.
She catches me looking her way and loses some of the tea down the side of her mouth. “What’re you starrin at?”
“Oh, just the thang that rocks my world.” Amber crawled up me leg and nuzzled under my hand.
“Well, looks like you’ve got a few other thangs to worry about first.” My wife pointed at Amber, who was now pawing my stomach. She’s hungry.
“Ugh, fine, I’ll go git dinner started. Nice frog legs ta night.” I pick up the little Hell pup and walk back to the cabin to get set for grilling. “Hey honey, wanna know somethin?”
My wife had already put some sun glasses on and managed to turn around to look at me, “Yeah?”
“You know,” I heft up my youngest darling, “She paws for attention just like her Momma, although, Momma only does it for a special treat.”
I spin around with a grin plastered on my face, as the fires on her eyes flare up and her face blushes from embarrassment.
Count me lucky that my two cutie pies came back with quite the haul of frogs for dinner. Shandi brought them in droves, whereas Kaylee was a spoil sport about it, but inevitably brought back some frogs just for her father. All it took was some good cooking oil and a skillet and I was passing off cooked frogs legs like a conveyor belt. As it grew darker outside, we pulled the kids back inside and I had a decent sized tower of gig legs set before our little bitty table.
We had only three chairs so Amber sat with her Momma, Kaylee insisted on her own chair, and Shandi jumped in at the chance to sit with Papa. There we all were, eating frog legs at the diner table, dipping them in ketchup and chugging down peach tea. Daisy held little Amber in her arms and feeding her little bits off the bone, Kaylee was picky and barely taking morsels off the legs, and Shandi gobbled down pieces at a time, while I sighed in slow amusement. Our family seemed quite awkward at first, with overalls and bleached out shirts, a few decent clothes for Sunday and the little ones crazy shenanigans, not mention my wife’s mischievous attitude sometimes, but we are a loving family.
My Daisy spotted me starring out the corner of her flame-licked eyes, “See somethin you like honey?”
“No baby, I see somethin I love.”
We had finally gotten the three rascals into bed, getting Shandi her little stuffed bear and feeding Amber a small dose of Momma’s warm milk. I have to say, I was jealous of that cutie pup. They were all huddled up together under the covers, Kaylee in the middle holding onto Amber on her left and Kaylee snuggled up to her elder sister on the right. Their snores were nice and soft like a little symphony of sleep.
I watched them from the crack of the front door, puffing on my pipe as the pale moonlight shown like a light from Heaven. I tap out the rest of the ash on the porch rail and clean the pipe; not the usual thing you see nowadays, but sometimes it’s good to be old fashioned.
Especially when raising some silly Hellpups.
I go back inside and set the pipe on our night stand and look to the crack of light from the bathroom. I could hear Daisy brushing and bristling her teeth, humming along a song, no doubt her tail swooshing back and forth. I slide into bed and take the left side facing the door, batting at my pillow and nestling down for the coming hand of sleep.
That is until Daisy slides her hands around me from behind and squeezes me closer. “Noddin off on me, huh?”
“I thought this bed was only gonna be used for sleepin?”
She nuzzles her lips into my neck and kisses it, “I think Papa needs some special attention tonight.”
I skooch back and roll over to meet my Daisy’s red eyes, her face now so different than from the Momma face she usually wears, this time more calm and endearing. Like there was no one else but just me and her in our own world.
I brush away some of her jet black hair and rub her cheek, as she does the same to me and makes a small purr, “What’s on your mind, sweetie? This was supposed to be our vacation.”
“I don’t know, Daisy. I guess…I guess I’m just thinkin about our family. Yah know, the future and all that. What’s gonna happen when Kaylee and Shandi grow up? Hell, what’s gonna happen when Amber even reaches their age?”
My wife just giggled and pecked my lips, “Darlin, we’re more than capable of makin it as we are. Its good to think about the future,” she pressed a paw to my chest, “but this is the heart of a man that does anythin for his family. So dont worry, hon, everything’ll be alright.”
I felt a lump form in my throat. “Goddamn, I love you Daisy.”
“I love you too, baby”
I kiss her, wrapping her up closer in my arms and sliding out legs together till the intertwined. But before I could get too far, she pulled back and looked at me shyly, already blushing, “Speaking of the future…I did wanna talk to you about somethin.”
She traces a paw around my forearm, “Well…I kinda want another pup…”
I feel that dread take over me again, “Oh Christ, honey.”
She lowered her head, “I know, I know, but I just…I just…I love my babies and well…”
I sigh and run my hands through her long black hair, “You sure you’d wan another one though?”
She waits a while before she looks back up and nods her head, “Yes, yes I do, darlin.”
I take one more heavy sigh and embrace her again and kiss her forehead, “Fine sweetie, we’ll have another one.”
“Really?!” Her voice sounded like it was already on the verge of tears.
“Of course, darlin. I’ll work as hard as I can to make enough to support us all, I promise.”
Sure enough when she came up out my chest, Daisy had small pockets of tears at the edges of her eyes, steaming from her low lite lashes. “Darlin, I love you. We, not just you, we will work hard to support our family, okay?”
She kisses me again and again, before I manage a reply, “Oh…yes we will.”
Then she pulled back one more time, “Theres somethin else too.”
“Oh what now?”
She smiles coyly, “I wanna get started tryin right now.”