Margot and Andy were thrilled to have their granddaughter staying overnight for a rare visit. Rosie was three, going on eight; she was the quickest little thing you ever saw or talked to. She could dart across your line of vision, and you’d note idly that you had just experienced a little burst of energy, wafting by on a jet stream of giggling effervescence.
Combine this spirit with a keen intellect and a streak of curiosity, and you produce a whitewater-like flow of questions, to which there seemed no end of possible answers. Rosie had the quick smile and tinkling laugh of her mother, and the dark hair and brows, and the unequaled intensity of her father. When Rosie helped bake the cookies, her degree of concentration, while measuring ingredients, was amazing.
Rosie’s parents were heading down to the city, for a infrequent getaway weekend, and leaving Rosie with her paternal grandparents, who lived in a rural part of NorCal, halfway between San Francisco and Eureka. They lived off the grid, and therefore, the home was not as well-equipped with the modern conveniences, as Margot’s parents, who lived in the city of Ukiah, the county seat of Mendocino. But who needs a dishwasher anyway, when Andy was as competent in that art, as any ever put out by Westinghouse?
If it seemed odd that Andy and Margot were having Rosie overnight for only the rare visit, with the little girl already three, it was because Rosie’s other set of grandparents did reside right in Ukiah, and it had mostly just been more convenient to leave the child with them. When Margot had put the question out there, not long ago, it had been decided that more instances should be provided for visits. There was some ongoing mention made of possibly unwarranted fears of “dangerous elements” of the rural home. Things that had been brought up in the past included its remoteness, the fact that rattlesnakes were an ongoing issue, and just the general nature of being off the grid, with internet access sporadic, and phone service even questionable at times. If Rosie’s parents seemed unduly paranoid, it is probably because they were paranoid, though it was unclear whether or not it was warranted.
Therefore, with more restraint than might have been expected, good-byes were exchanged and Margot and Rosie traipsed off to the kitchen to make chocolate chip cookies, everybody’s favorite. Andy headed off to the den to take in the Giants game on the TV. It was a luxury and he knew it, to be able to sit in his recliner, and see the kids coming up, to see the masters at their craft, and to be able to view it all on his wide-screen, after listening to the games on the radio for the previous 47 years.
Saturday provided a gold mine of opportunity for adventure, culminating in a hike down to ThunderFalls, the name given to the one part of the creek that ran through the property, where the water dropped maybe fifteen feet, into a five feet deep pool, and the spray rose up enough to cool you off, when you were still ten feet from the pool. From the eyes of a small girl child, the falls must have seemed even more majestic.
Upon return to the house, still early in the afternoon, Andy and Rosie went back behind the house, where the back sloped down to the creek, facing the north, and tall oak and madrone trees filled the deep gully, the length of the creek bed. It was cool back here, and there were salamanders and newts, along with the possibility of finding an arrowhead, left over from the previous tenants.
They had a little bug catcher kit with them, which consisted of a cylindrical container, with screen covering the top so that whatever was kept within the little “house,” would have plenty of fresh air. Thus Rosie was puttering around, already with a salamander in the container, which she would examine for the next couple of hours, and then release back into its native terrain. At one point, Andy was off to one side, trying to decide whether the madrone he was examining was on the way out, or whether it still had a few seasons left, when he heard a yip of excitement.
Turning back to Rosie, he saw her manhandling a flat rock, managing to upturn it, and flip it over. She was squealing with delight, at whatever she saw under the rock. Andy made his way over in three strides, and saw the unmistakeable curve of the scorpion. There was never any remote sense of worry, just one of natural concern that the child not reach down and try to pluck up the little varmint.
“What is it, Bumpaw? See it has a cute tail.” She was intrigued by its robot-like movements, with its two front claws raised, and the back-hoe tail, twitching and extending, giving the little varmint a mechanical appearance.
“It may look cute, but that tail will sting like a hornet. Just let it be, and concentrate on salamanders.” Andy kept a close watch to make sure Rosie did not take matters into her own hands.
“Can’t we put it in the bug catcher? Even if it isn’t a salamander? I want to show Grammar.” Rosie was keeping her distance, but she was circling around it, with her hands helping her keep her balance, with her little bottom pointed straight up in the air.
Your grandmother has seen scorpions before,” Andy observed, but Rosie wasn’t hearing him. “Fine, but you must let it go before you leave tomorrow; he won’t like it in a bug catcher.”
Rosie looked at him quizzically. “How do you know it’s a he?”
“He, she, whatever. We need to make sure that we get the scorpion back to his home. You never know, he might have little scorpions that he has to bring bugs back for every night. And a wife somewhere, that he would not want to abandon.”
“Leave behind. Now, we’ll see if we can get it into its new temporary home, and then we need to get some lemonade. It’s hot out here, and we need to stay hydrated.” He ushered the newly christened Scrappy into its new accommodations, sprinkling in a smattering of floor covering, so that the little guy had some cover to feel a little more at home under. “Let’s see what we can do about finding a mini-leash for him, so that you can take him for a mini-walk.” He laughed at his own joke.
Rosie looked at him sideways, trying to gauge whether or not he was pulling her leg. He did not crack a smile until she asked, “If he’s going to wear a leash, can we teach him to roll over and play dead?” Now it was Andy’s turn to look sideways at her.
“Well, sure, but only after we teach him to shake hands, and we’re going to need to order some special gloves for that.” They ambled toward the front porch, he marveling at the little girl’s inability to just walk anywhere: there was always some hopping, skipping, and a trot, which just indicated to Andy, that an active mind would produce an active body. Or was it the reverse?
The next afternoon, when Rosie’s folks came to retrieve her, there was a fair amount of concern expressed at the presence of Scrappy, even though the drawing she had made that morning, was quite creative, especially the front claws, proportionately out of alignment with the rest of the body, so that they dwarfed it. Andy downplayed it, explaining that he had been the one to handle logistics, and that Scrappy would soon be returned to his native habitat.
“Meanwhile, let’s adjourn to the other room for a moment, so that I can show you what your little Rosie has been up to.” The adults moseyed into the kitchen for a moment, leaving the child, who was busy gathering up her packet of colored pencils, and her drawings of Scrappy. Five minutes later, when they returned, two things became apparent: Rosie was nowhere to be seen, and Scrappy’s home was deposited unceremoniously atop her small suitcase, which was about to be conveyed to the waiting car. Its door was flopping in the breeze and the little critter was nowhere to be seen.
To say there was instant panic-nay pandemonium-is to downplay the resulting scene. Recriminations of every sort became the theme of the moment, the ever-popular “dangerous elements” occupying center stage. Seconds later, as the situation began to red-line, there was the sudden bang of a toilet seat falling into place and the sound of a flush. Emerging into the room, Rosie stopped, sensing the discord.
“Sweetie, where’s Scrappy? His cage is empty.” Andy posed the question, waiting to see if this was the last time she was going to be allowed to visit.
“I took him back to his rock,” she explained. “Wasn’t that what I was supposed to do? He told me his kids were missing him. We couldn’t have that, could we?”
“No, we couldn’t have that. Come on, Rosie, get you stuff. It’s time to go.”