Finny looked around. “Who?” When he looked back the unicorn was reared once more in its frozen pose. All was quiet.
“Come on now. I asked you to get ready.” Mama stood at the door. Raskee purred loudly in her arms. Long blond hair pulled up in its tight pony tail stretched down her back. If set free it would reach past her waist. “Where’s Raskee’s case? You’re not reading now are you?”
“Mrs. Sanders gave it to me.”
“That’s fine, but put it away.” She took the book and stroked the front cover. “Misty’s Magical Shed. That sounds interesting.” Her eyes sparkled with a secret. “You can pack it with your other books.” She picked up a bright yellow bag with a screen window, put Raskee inside and zipped it closed. A car motor rumbled outside. “There he is now.” Her voice was flat.
The front door opened. “Anybody home?” Dad called out his usual happy greeting. “Min? Finny? Where are you?” He came into the room. “Ready to go?”
“Hello.” Mama stood on tip toes to brush her lips against Dad’s cheek.
He pulled her close, lifting her into the air.
“Put me down.” Mama glanced at Finny.
“Fine.” Dad’s shoulders slumped as he let her slide to the floor. Then he turned away.
Raskee clawed at the container. Grateful Finny turned his attention away from his parents. “Yes. You get to go too.” He unzipped the mesh just enough so the cat could stick his head out.
“Let me help you with that.” Dad grunted as he picked up the suitcase. “What do you have in here?”
“Books.” Finny scratched Raskee on the nose before he zipped the mesh closed again.
“Mama Jack will like that. She’s quite a reader herself.”
That was the last Dad said to Finny. Even at the airport, when Finny asked for a candy bar, Dad just shrugged and bought him a bag of peanuts. It did no good to whine, so Finny tucked them into his bag and followed Dad to the check-in gate. With Raskee in his travel container, and Finny on his way to his seat on the plane, Dad waved goodbye and left.
“Wait until everyone’s off the plane,” the flight attendant told Finny when they landed in Portland. “I’ll take you into the terminal.”
Finny did as he was told. He sat and looked out the window. On the tarmac, a lone figure looked up at him. Finny wondered if he was dreaming. It couldn’t be the man from the playground at school. Still, it really did look like him.
Are you ready?” The flight attendant tapped Finny’s shoulder.
“What? Oh. Yes.” Finny gathered his jacket and Raskee’s case. Before he made his way out of the plane, he looked out the window once more. The stranger was nowhere in sight. It must have been his imagination.
“Come on now.”
Finny followed her into the terminal. At the gate he recognized his grandmother instantly. Curls piled high on her head rivaled his hair with their brightness. A brilliant red ribbon that matched the color of her lips added to the effect.
“I can’t believe you’re finally here.” His grandmother knelt before him. “Sweetie, you look just like your father did at your age.” She gave him a big squeeze, and took his hand. “Call me Mama Jack.”
He wasn’t very impressed, after all, he barely knew her. Calling her Mama Jack felt better than calling her grandma.
The trip to Mama Jack’s house felt longer than the plane trip that Finny knew had brought him clear across the United States. Rain tapped on the window like the heels of Mama Jack’s shoes had tapped on the airport floor. When they finally turned onto a gravel road, the crunch beneath the tires overpowered the drumming sound.
The pickup came to a stop. The engine quieted. “We’re here.”