Finny climbed out without prompting. Here was a big white, two-story farm house. The outline of an equally big barn blocked trees at the side of the building. The long low moo of a cow called greeting. Wind rustled though the boughs that wove together overhead. Last fingers of sunlight made Finny blink.
In the kitchen, Mama Jack insisted he have something to eat. She made him a sandwich. The sweet and gooey peanut butter tasted good with a sour dill pickle. At first Finny wasn’t sure about it, but by the time he finished, he decided he would have it again.
“Now Honey, hold still.” Mama Jack wiped his face with a wet rag. He wanted to tell her he wasn’t a baby, but it was easier to let her treat him like one. When at last she was satisfied she’d gotten the last of the peanut butter from his cheeks, she led him up steep narrow stairs. At the top, she opened a door.
“Thanks, gr…uh… What shall I call you?” he stepped around her to find his bag leaning against the wall. How had that happened?
“Mama Jack will do.” She kissed him on the forehead after she tucked him into bed. When she left, Finny lay in the quiet, listening.
In the distance frogs called out with throaty croaks. They meant to comfort him.
The neigh of a horse sounded from the corner of his room. He waited until he heard the door at the end of the hall close before he crawled from beneath the covers. The bag, with all his books, stood alone against the wall. On top, the bright red one tipped precariously. Finny felt a tickle in his mind.
Misty made her presence known with a whinny. What are you waiting for? Stomping hoofs and a soft snort added urgency to the question. Come on, get me out. You have things to learn.
Holding the book close, Finny crawled back in bed.
Get me out of here so we can talk. Finny looked around, afraid the noise would bring Mama Jack back into the room.
Mrs. Sander’s gift shook with urgency. He opened the cover. Inside, the unicorn faced him with flaring nostrils. It nodded its head and snickered with a low soft rumble. Bright blue eyes blinked. That’s better. Now shall we begin?
“Shall we begin what?”
A low angry growl came from somewhere near Finny’s feet. Raskee had retreated there, and was not about to let something like a book keep him from a good night’s sleep. He clawed at the blanket, trying to pull it away from Finny.
“Raskee. Stop,” Finny commanded. He had little hope the cat would pay him any attention. “Raskee, come on.”
The cat moved in a low crouch up the bed.
The unicorn reared. It landed. Powerful front hoofs pawed at the invisible ground where it stood. With a soft gentle snort, it nodded at Raskee. Come join us, it called.
To Finny’s surprise Raskee answered. Join you for what?
“What’s going on?” Surely he had to be dreaming. The cat couldn’t talk, but then again, neither could the picture of a unicorn inside a book’s cover.
Yes we can. Both horse and cat responded in unison. Now open to page one and let’s get started, Misty commanded.
Raskee clawed at the pages. The first chapter was titled, ‘What you need to know about Mama Jack.’
Finny turned the page to find an astronaut in a spacesuit floating on a tether attached to the International Space Station. He recognized it, because it had been in his special sciences class during the last half of the school year. But what does that have to do with Mama Jack? As soon as the question formed in his mind, a caption flashed beneath the picture. Josephine, Mama Jack, Johnson prepares to replace solar panels that will supply power for her experiments on communication to extraterrestrials. It is her belief we have been receiving information from as far away as three galaxies.
“What?” Finny sat up. Mama Jack was an astronaut?.This made her much more intriguing. He liked that word ‘intriguing.’ Data from Star Trek used it. He closed the cover of the book and lay back, letting the soft feather pillow cradle his head.