Gossamer dreams tangle in the mind like finely woven spider webs floating in the air. Thin and filmy objects they are that move about like strong transparent gauze in a gentle breeze. In the dark of night they are seemingly so very real, but the break of day leaves room for doubt and disappointment.
“What was I thinking when I agreed to teach school?” Emma Lapp grumped as she threw quartered apple pieces into a bowl of water on the table. The water splashed her face. “That was not gute,” she mumbled. She laid her paring knife down, grabbed the tail of her apron and wiped the water off. While she was at it, she scooted her prayer cap back where it belonged and wiped her sweaty forehead.
Hal rubbed the insides of a glass quart canning jar with a knife wrapped in the dish cloth as she twisted to look over her shoulder. She giggled. “That must have felt gute. It's hot in here. How about I stand close to the bowl, and you throw an apple in for me?”
Emma couldn't help smiling. “Ach, Hallie!”
“I knew you were too quiet. Now that you're in a better mood how about telling me what's wrong,” Hal suggested.
Emma sucked in her cheeks and concentrated on peeling another apple. Finally, she stated emphatically, “I decided I am going to tell Bishop Bontrager I changed my mind. I do not want the teaching job.”
“Ach fudge! That's nervous jitters talking. You're just worried, because this is something you've never done before,” Hal reasoned as she placed the canning jar in the rinse pan with half a dozen others.
“You have that part right. I have never been a teacher before. I am not sure I will be gute at it,” Emma said truthfully. Her gray green eyes sparked at the thought of becoming a teacher.
Hal rolled each jar in the rinse water and placed them upside down to air on a dish towel beside other jars she'd washed. “Take it from me, you will do just fine. Besides, you can't back out now. It wouldn't be fair to the bishop. At this late date, you should teach at least long enough for Bishop Bontrager to find another teacher to replace you. Just where do you think Elton would find someone now?”
“I reckon you are recht,” Emma agreed reluctantly. “It is just I am not so sure I will be gute at teaching.”
“I'm sure enough for both of us. You will do a gute job so go for it. This is just a year to year job. Everyone should try a new experience once in awhile. Make it through this year. See how you like it before you say jah again,” Hal encouraged as she draped the dish cloth on the wire line behind the cookstove.
Emma looked troubled. “I always thought I wanted to learn more about nursing so I can help you in the clinic. I thought that was what you wanted, Hallie.”
“Oh my, is that what is bothering you? You do a gute job of assisting me when I need you. As far as that goes, you will still help me when you're home. I repeat. Everyone should be able to have a new experience, and teaching is going to be it for you. You can learn nursing from me and still teach.
Now we have to get that kettle of apples on the stove along side the other two if we're going to get all the applesauce cooked and canned before we start supper.”
“We did not make a dint in the baskets in the mud room,” Emma said, transferring the apple pieces to the kettle.
“Nah, but once a bunch of us gets together at Freda Mullet's house the first of the week we'll make short work of all our apples,” Hal assured her.
Emma giggled. “I wonder if Freda will be giving her broom a workout on the front porch when we arrive.”
Hal smiled. “I expect so. You'd think Freda would have that porch floor clean by now. She sure works at it hard enough when company is around.”
“Jah, and the rest of the time we are working, she is busy trying to make us do everything her way,” complained Emma, placing the lid on the kettle.
Hal nodded agreement. “That's one bossy woman all recht, but she knows how to organize to get the most work out of the rest of us. Got to give her credit for that, Emma. Speaking of organizing. It's our turn to have the worship service. We've got house cleaning to do before next Sunday.”
“Jah, we must get redded for that,” Emma agreed.
The back door slammed. Hal and Emma flinched as Noah and Daniel burst into the kitchen from the mud room.
The loud noise woke Redbird and Beth in their infant seats on the end of the table. They let out startled squeals.
Hal scolded, “Daniel, are you ever going to learn to come in quietly when the babies are sleep ----?”
Grinning from ear to ear, Daniel held his hands out with a new find to show them. A squirming baby raccoon that he had a tight grip on. The frightened creature was trying to claw its way out of Daniel's gloved hands as the boy walked toward Hal. “Look at what I found in the timber.”
“Stop recht where you are. I see it fine from here. Daniel, be careful with that animal. It will scratch you,” Hal scolded, backing up until she felt the counter stop her. “That wild animal wants to be turned loose. Those claws are sharp and ---- and ---- germy. Please, back away from the babies with it.”
Emma looked scornfully at the raccoon. “Why do you have that nasty thing in the house anyway?”
Two years older and a head taller than his eleven years old brother, Noah gave Daniel a knowing look as he leaned down to say in his brother's ear, “I told you the women would not like your coon.”
Daniel's face took on exasperation that widened his large dark eyes. “I just wanted to show you I caught it.”
“That animal must be sick,” worried Hal, staring at what at the moment seemed to be all legs and a long snout. “Otherwise, you wouldn't have been able to catch a wild animal in broad daylight and out by himself alone like that.”
“He is not sick, and he was not alone,” Daniel defended. “The rest of the babies in the litter were hidden in a hollow log with him. I heard them tweeting for their mother and thought it was baby birds. I got down to look in the log, and there they were. Five of them. I grabbed the closest one and left the others. Noah said he didn't want one.” Thinking that answered Hal's worries, Daniel held the raccoon up again for inspection.
Hal rolled her eyes toward the ceiling. “Denki for small favors. Daniel, why did you bring him home?”
“He is going to be my new pet.” The boy held the struggling animal toward Hal and Emma for closer inspection. “Now you want to see? He is cute, ain't so?”
“We can see that coon just fine from here. Keep him away from us,” Emma snapped as her face reddened enough to highlight her freckles. “Daed was all recht with you bringing that thing home?”
Daniel shrugged his shoulders. “Jah, he must have been. He did not say anything when he saw I had the coon.”
“A raccoon may not be a gute idea. Won't Tom Turkey be upset to see you replaced him with a new pet?” Hal asked, trying to come up with a reason to get rid of the raccoon.
Emma agreed, “Jah, I would be if I were Tom. That is the worse pet you can have around him. That coon will eat Tom when he grows up, and you will have to get rid of him. Then you will be out of pets.”
“Nah, do not worry. He will not eat Tom. I will not let him,” insisted Daniel.
“I worry you will not be able to stop the coon from eating my chickens. When you are in school, you will not be able to watch him all the time. Where are you going to keep him?” Emma asked heatedly.
“In that wire cage in the barn,” Daniel retorted.
“I use that cage to put setting hens in to break them up,” Emma shrilled.
“How did wood cutting go?” Hal interrupted quickly. It was time to change the subject.
“We brought in a wagon load Daed parked by the chicken house. Daniel and me are going to rick it up along the back wall while Daed starts milking,” Noah told her.
“You two better put that raccoon in the cage before he gets away from you in here. You need to get busy stacking wood. It will be supper time before you know it,” Hal told them, flipping her apron tail at the boys as if she was shooing hens out of the garden.
“Can I have some milk for the coon? He is still small enough to need milk, and he must be hungry by now,” Daniel worried.
“Sure. Noah, get some milk for Daniel out of the supply tank,” Hal said, thrusting a cool whip bowl into Noah's hands.
“Quickly, Noah, get the milk.” Emma voice held urgency, trying to get her brothers out of the house. “Daniel, the coon can drink it in the cage.”
Hal and Emma stood at the open window, watching the boys walk across the front yard. The curtain swayed gently as the hot breeze carried the smell of cows from the barn into the kitchen.
Emma said, “That was the homeliest baby animal I ever saw.”
Hal nodded. “Englishers have a saying. That baby was one only a mother could love.”
“Jah, I agree,” Emma said seriously.
“What creature will they try to make a pet out of next?” Hal asked, shaking her head. “First, a duck, a turkey and now a raccoon.
“We better get the boys a dog, before Daniel captures anything else strange.”
“Jah, that's a gute idea,” Hal agreed.
“The sooner the better,” Emma said with certainty. She turned and saw the apple peelings. “Ach, nah! I should have told Noah to take the apple scraps to the hog pen.” She rushed into the living room, opened the screen door and shouted over the hum of the milk generator, “Noah!
The boys turned.
“After you help Daniel get the milk come back for a bucket of apple scraps in the kitchen. Give it to the hogs.”
“Jah, I will,” Noah assured her.
In a short time, he was back for the bucket. As he picked it up, Emma asked, “While you were catching that coon, did you take the time to check out the walnut trees in the timber like you were supposed to do?”
“Jah, looks like there will be a gute crop this fall. We just have to wait for the nuts to drop and get to them before the squirrels carry them all off,” Noah replied, headed out the mud room door.
In a minute, Hal glanced out the window toward the barn. “Noah isn't going to the pig pen with the bucket.”
“Where is he headed?” Emma asked in exasperation, joining Hal at the window.
Noah met Daniel by the horse pen fence. Noah whistled shrilly. Six horses, in various shades of red, raced across the pen and lined up at the fence. He rifled through the peelings in the bucket and came out with an apple core. Daniel did the same. They held the cores at arm's length. Two of the horses curled their lips back and bared their teeth as their long tongues wrapped around the cores.
“That is not gute.” Emma rushed for the front door and yelled through the screen, “You two stop feeding the horses those apple scraps. They will get colic if they eat too much.”
“Ach! We did not mean to give them but only a treat,” Noah called back.
Daniel held a core out to a bright red mare. She stretched her long neck over the fence and lapped up the core. “See how Molly likes apples,” he shouted toward the screen door.
Emma walked out on the porch and planted her hands on her hips to reinforce her order. “I see just fine. Give the rest to the hogs. They like apples, too.”
John Lapp peered over the barn door. “Boys, stop rutsching around. Get that wood unloaded, and help me milk.”
Noah picked up the bucket, and hustled to the pig pen. Daniel headed for the wagon load of wood.
During supper, all the boys could talk about was Daniel's new pet. After devotions, the family settled down in the living room. John sat in his rocker, reading the latest issue of Family Life. Emma pulled the treadle sewing machine away from the wall and sewed on a dress for Redbird. As soon as she finished that dress, she'd sew another one for Beth. Hal carried the mending basket over by the couch and picked up one of Noah's pants that needed the leg hems let down. The boys turned out the Scrabble game on the table by the window and set it up.
“Did you hear the coon chattered after we left the barn tonight?” Daniel asked Noah. “He misses us when we are not with him.”
“Jah, he does get noisy,” Noah agreed.
John laid the magazine in his lap. “The coon is missing his mother. It was not a gute thing, taking him away from his family.”
Daniel put down a letter tile. “I take gute care of my coon.”
“Jah, we both are,” Noah agreed.
John nodded. “Keep in mind he wild, and he grows fast. He will always have a wild nature. You can not take that out of him. How long are you going to keep him?”
“We did not think about how long,” Daniel said, looking at Noah for an answer. His brother shrugged his shoulders.
John urged, “You should think about it. Early spring is mating season. Coons are set on finding a mate at that time. This one will not be any different. He can not be trusted, and he is very strong. He will attack you when he smells a female coon around. You need to turn him loose before then.”
Daniel saddened at the idea. “All recht, we will.” With a new thought, he brightened up. “Until then we need a name for our coon. Any ideas?”
“How about Barnabas?” Hal suggested.
Emma spoke up. “Nah, the best name is Barabbas.”
John grinned at the significant of that name for a raccoon.
“I like Barabbas. How about you, Noah?” Daniel asked.
“Has a gute ring to it,” Noah agreed, thinking they could appease Emma by allowing her to name the raccoon.
At bedtime, Emma knelt by her bed to pray. She felt as if she'd boxed herself into a worrisome corner. School would start soon, and she was so very afraid she wouldn't make a good teacher. What if she should fail? She always attempted to be the best at everything she did. She wondered what the People would think if they knew about her intense need to do her best. They might say she wasn't being a humble servant. They might call her prideful instead.
In her opinion, Emma didn't see a sin in wanting to do a good job no matter how great or small the task. She reasoned she wasn't trying to be perfect to show off or stand out from everyone else in the community. She couldn't help it if she felt the need to do only her best at everything she tried her hand at. She clasped her hands together and bowed her head.
“Lord, I need you to guide me. I can not do this job as school teacher on my own. This will be a long school year for me if I can not do a gute job. You are the one who measures how we do in life and determines if we have been successful at living our life. Help me keep my focus on you.” As an after thought she added, “Even if I am a disappointment as a teacher. Amen.”
The first August worship service was in the basement at the Lapp farm. The humidity was stifling no matter where they congregated, but it was just a tad cooler in the basement.
At the end of the service, Bishop Elton Bontrager finished his portion of the sermon a few minutes before noon. Next he made the announcements. “I am sure everyone has heard by now Emma Lapp is the school teacher this term.
Parents need to meet on a week from Thursday morning for school clean up day. Everyone is to bring food for lunch and the necessary tools. As usual, you stay until the job is done.
Bill Boxholder is the school caretaker this term. Some of you men should make a trip to the school ahead of time to see what needs repaired. Give Bill a list so he can buy supplies needed for clean up day.”
That afternoon, the younger children played a noisy game of volleyball in the back yard. Emma and the teenage girls sat on the shady end of the porch and in the grass.
Dangling her bare feet off the end of the porch, Emma said, “While we are together, anyone have a report about what you have done as our Young Mothers Secret Pals this two weeks?”
Fair haired Katie Yost, sitting next to Emma, perked up and swung her feet back and forth. “One afternoon the first of the week, I drove by the home of my secret pal, Marie Zook. Her laundry was still on the line. I knew she was spending the day at her mother's house. I stopped and gathered the laundry, took it in and folded it so all Marie had to do was put the clothes and linens away when she came home.
Katie giggled behind her hand. “My mother went over to see the new Zook baby the last of the week.” Her big blue eyes twinkled and her pale cheeks flushed pink with pleasure as she continued, “Marie was going on about how her clothes had been mysteriously taken off the line for her. She could not imagine who would do that, but she told Mama she sure did appreciate the help. Her baby had colic. She had been up all night walking the floor so she went to her mother's to get her to take care of the baby while Marie rested.”
“I made two loaves of bread for Jennie Hoft while I was baking and slipped them onto her kitchen table while she was working in her garden,” Emma told the group. “She has such a sweet baby. It was sleeping away in its carrier at the end of the garden while Jennie gathered tomatoes. The other children must have been with their father so I did not get caught.”
“Same here.” Priscilla Tefertiller leaned back with her hands behind her as she crossed her long, thin legs at the ankles and wiggled her toes. “We had so many odds and end vegetables at the tail-end of harvest. I put together an extra casserole and took it over to the Briskey place. Isaac and Molly Briskey's twins are at just the right age to be a handful now that they are walking. Molly took the twins with her to the hen house to gather eggs. She did not know I slipped in and left the casserole on the table.”
“How will you get your dish back if she does not know who left it?” Emma asked.
“I bought some tinfoil pans that can be thrown away,” Priscilla shared.
“That is a gute idea we can all use,” Emma said. “I have one more request for a secret pal. Is there someone that can help out Hallie? I will be gone, and with two babies to care for, I am afraid Hallie is going to be snowed under with work since she is not used to working alone.”
“I can stop by,” Priscilla offered.
“So could I,” Edna Stolfus said bashfully, ducking her head.
“Des gute. Denki to both of you. It takes a big load off my mind to know someone is checking on Hallie. The mothers will all be surprised later on when they find out which secret pal they had, ain't so?”
While they talked, the girls darted looks toward the barn at the teenage boys grouped in the shade of the lean-to. The one that really caught their eyes was Eli Yutzy, Deacon Enos Yutzy's son. He leaned against the barn in a slouchy way with his hands in his pants pockets. He wore a bright blue T shirt, with a Harley Davidson motorcycle plastered across the front, and blue jeans which created a curiosity among all the girls.
Katie spoke softly, “Do you think Eli is serious enough about rumspringa that he might turn English?”
Emma glanced toward the barn. Just her luck, Eli caught her checking him out. He gave her a smirky smile. Her face reddened as she quickly turned back to the girls. “Who knows about that one.”
Priscilla sighed. “I wish Eli would look my direction.”
All eyes were suddenly on her. It was clear the girl was enjoying rumspringa, too. Priscilla wore a handmade pink striped, tan dress with the hem way above the legal Amish dress code limit and no prayer cap. Her dark brown hair was in a pony tail. She looked defensively from one to the other of the girls that frowned at her. “What is wrong with all of you? It does not hurt anything to just look. If Eli was to take a liking to me and wanted me to go English with him I just might do it.”
That brought gasps from among the group as Katie uttered timidly, “I hope you stay one of us. We would miss you.”
Through the whole conversation, Diana Kingman sat next to Priscilla without talking. Emma inwardly groaned when she surveyed that girl's clothes. She wore a yellow dress, covered with tiny blue for-get-me-nots, and a prayer cap. At least her dress was as long as it should be.
Diana half heartedly experienced rumspringa. Her prayer cap was a way to keep one foot in the Amish world while she explored her options. Emma understood how the timid girl felt. Rumspringa brought many uncertainties into the lives of teenagers that they couldn't imagine until they went too far toward the English world. Often by the time that happened it was too late to turn back.
Diana was a plain girl with a long face and a nose to match. When she attempted a rare grin, her uneven teeth were the first thing to catch the eyes.
While the other girls risked a glance at Eli Yutzy, her gaze stayed on Jason Fisher, a friend of Eli's. The tall gangly boy dressed like Eli, but he didn't have Eli's easy going way with the girls. From what Emma had heard lately, Jason wasn't living very close to an exemplary Plain life. It didn't matter now during Jason's rumspringa that his parents had been very strict about their children's upbringing. Before rumspringa, Jason toed the line. Now that his parents wouldn't say anything about his behavior, he did anything he wanted. Most of it wasn't good.
Emma decided it was time to change the subject away from the boys. She invited the girls for a picnic in the walnut grove that evening and told them to help her spread the word to the others. They would have their youth group singing around a bonfire after they ate.
Soon Daniel, Noah and the other boys their age grew tired of the volleyball game. They trouped across the yard to join the older boys. At the sound of Daniel's voice, a loud chatter commenced in the barn.
Katie Yoder asked, “What is making that noise in your barn, Emma?”
“Daniel brought home a baby coon. When it hears his voice, the coon makes loud rackets,” Emma explained, standing up when she saw people come out of the house. “We better make sure the rest of the youth group knows about the picnic before they leave.”
Emma caught up to Eli Yutzy and Jason Fisher. They were headed for their buggies tied to the fence at the end of the driveway. “Hold up a minute, Eli and Jason. Did not know if you heard, but I am having a supper picnic in our grove and fishing in the pond if you want to bring a pole back with you. We will have the singing after supper around a bonfire.”
Jason said, “I can not come back. I have a date so I have to get my folks home and get the chores done. Maybe next time, Emma.” He held his hand up. “See you around, Eli.”
“See you around.” Eli swaggered over to the fence post his horse was tied to and leaned against it, watching while Jason backed his buggy into the driveway. He gave Emma a crooked grin. “Sounds like a gute time tonight. You figure on slipping in anything stronger to drink than root beer cause I could help with that.”
Emma frowned as she scolded, “Nah! I just made a fresh batch of root beer so we have plenty. Just because you are in rumspringa does not mean the others in our youth group practice it the way you do including myself.”
Eli held up both hands in surrender. “Hey, I was just asking.” He paused a long moment, studying her. “How come you do not take advantage of rumspringa now that you are of age? You should try something different while you have the chance.”
“I already know what I want to do with my life. Besides, I would not make a very gute role model as a teacher if I showed a wild side,” Emma explained.
Giving her that crooked grin again that made the girls take notice of him, Eli agreed, “Reckon not, but you should have some fun anyway while you can. That is what I am doing, and I like it.” He asked, “How long has it been since you went for a horse ride?”
Emma shrugged. “Long enough I can not remember when.”
“How about going for a ride with me? Say on next Wednesday afternoon after I get my chores done. We can ride in your pasture. How does that sound?”
“It sounds like fun. Denki for asking me,” Emma said.
“As long as I am in an asking mood, the next preaching is at Abram Beiler's farm. How about I pick you up for the meeting. We can stay for the youth group singing that evening, and I will bring you home,” Eli suggested.
The invitation surprised Emma. She twisted on her prayer cap strings, giving him an appraising look. While she wondered if he was serious about dating her, she took her time to answer.
Eli shrugged his shoulders and turned his back to untie the horse lines. “That is if you would like to.”
“I would like to,” she said swiftly to his back, suddenly afraid he might change his mind. “I better help Hallie get our picnic supplies laid out while my brothers are helping Daed load the benches on the pew wagon. See you later.”
As Emma walked up the driveway, she met Levi Yoder going after his family's enclosed buggy.
“Coming back for the picnic and singing?” Emma asked.
“Sure I am after I go home with my family and help do chores. A picnic will be fun. I am glad you thought of it. In a few weeks, we start harvest. Picnic weather will be gone before we finish with our work,” Levi said with a twinkle of anticipation in his blue eyes.
Emma smiled. “I am glad I thought of it myself. We could have had the singing in the basement. It is only some cooler in the trees than the house, but the picnic grove is more pleasant than the basement on such a hot day.”
Levi walked around her then turned back. “Ach, Emma, the next youth group singing is at the Beiler farm. You come to my house, and I'll drive the rest of the way.”
Emma looked at the ground and blushed. “Ach.”
“Was ist letz?”
“Nothing is really the matter. It is just you will not have to take me. Eli Yutzy is taking me to the singing,” Emma said.
“I will see you there then.” Levi quickly walked away.
Emma hadn't expected him to look and sound so bothered about her not going with him. It puzzled her that he did. Since they were old enough go out alone they went to the singings together. Matter of fact, they grew up together. She thought of Levi as a brother. She always felt he thought of her as his sister. She didn't understand why he'd be upset if she went to the singing with Eli instead of him.
Later, the youth group gathered around the pond and in the picnic grove. Emma and the other girls worked near the bonfire, laying out the meal. A fly buzzed past Emma's face. She swatted at it and felt a trickle of sweat run down her cheek. She brushed it away. She'd be glad when the sun went down. It was too hot to sit close to the fire until after dark, but they needed the fire to roast hot dogs and marshmallows.
Emma stretched patchwork quilts out in the grass while the other girls cut watermelons and stacked the slices in two large kettles. They laid out the hot dogs and marshmallows beside a large cooler of root beer, bags of chips, hot dog buns, ketchup, mustard, paper plates and glasses.
Once the meal was laid out, Emma walked to the pond bank. She knelt down beside Levi. “Catching any fish?”
“Nah. Looks like Daniel is having gute luck.” Levi nodded across the pond in the boy's direction.
“I am glad someone is catching fish,” Emma said wistfully as she watched Daniel reel in and wished she could have brought her pole.
Levi studied her a moment with a crooked grin. “Daniel is only lucky, because you are not fishing. You are the one that usually catches all the fish.”
“I do not think that is always so.” Emma had to try hard not to sound boastful. “We are ready to eat now so fishing is over.” She stood up and yelled, “Time to eat.”
After the hot dogs and chips were gone, Katie Yost and Emma came around with the watermelon. As they relaxed in the grass, the teens chomped on the slices, talking and laughing between bites and spitting seeds off to the side. As usual, Noah and Daniel started a contest to see who could spit seeds the farthest. Everyone cheered first Noah then Daniel.
The herd of Lapp horses ambled close to the grove, grazing now that the day had cooled off. One of the horses, named Molly, heard the good time the group was having and tromped into the grove to see what was going on.
The first Emma knew the bright red horse was headed at the group was when she heard the thrashing of dry grass and snapping of twigs. She jumped up and flapped her apron tail at the horse, yelling, “Molly, get out of here.”
Molly kept coming. She lifted her nose high in the air and caught a whiff of sweet smelling watermelon. She bucked and whinnied as she picked up speed.
The horse approached Levi Yoder. He waved his hand at her that gripped the watermelon slice and yelled, “Get!”
Molly opened her mouth wide and bit into the end of the watermelon offering that came at her. She jerked her head back and ripped the slice from Levi's hand. His mouth flew open as he looked at his empty hand and back at the horse.
Molly consumed the slice with a gulp on her way toward Eli Yutzy. He growled at her, but Molly ignored him. She stretched her long neck out and bit the end off his watermelon slice.
Everyone waved their hands and shouted, trying to keep Molly from coming their direction. Emma snapped at Noah and Daniel, “Help me turn that horse around and get her out of here before she bites someone's hand off.”
The boys threw their arms around Molly's neck. She raised her head in protest and lifted the boys off the ground.
As Levi grabbed hold of Molly's mane in front of Noah, he asked amicably, “You two need help?”
Eli sprang up. “I will help, too.” He got in front of Daniel and put his arm around the horse's neck.
The boys twisted Molly toward the path as Emma bemoaned to her brothers, “This is a gute reason you should not give Molly fruit. She has a sweet tooth. This is all your fault she is ruining our youth group picnic.”
Emma followed along behind the horse, brushing her tail with a leafy limb to keep her moving. Now that she didn't have a choice, Molly walked out of the grove with the boys hanging onto each side of her neck. When the boys turned loose and got out of the way, Emma gave the horse a hardy swat with the limb. Molly whinnied shrilly, kicked high in the air with her back hooves and raced back to the other horses.
Embarrassed by the interruption, Emma said to the group, “I am sorry about that horse. She is the worse kind of nuisance. Des gute the pest is gone now. Levi and Eli, there are more watermelon slices. Help yourselves.”
In the waning light, the group sat around the bonfire, ready to start the singing. Noah and Levi handed out the sticks they cut to use to roast marshmallows.
Eli and Levi managed to get on either side of Emma. Blushing, she ducked her head when she noted the curious glances from the other girls. If her friends were to bring it up, she'd tell them she was as baffled as they were by Eli and Levi's sudden attention.
Daniel sat down next to Eli. As he stared into the bonfire, the boy thought about how Molly invaded the party and helped herself to the watermelon. He said softly in wonderment, “Lapps may be the only Plain folks who own a watermelon eating horse.” That silly thought caused him to chuckle.
Eli Yutzy heard Daniel. The chuckling was contagious. He burst into laughter at what Daniel just muttered. When Eli received curious looks, he repeated Daniel's words. Eli and Daniel's laughter was infectious. The rest of the evening in between singing hymns, the teenagers laughed and talked about the Lapp family's watermelon eating horse.
Emma was relieved at the way the group took Molly's interruption. She had to admit this had been one of the most unusual singings any of them had attended. Not that she intended to say that out loud where her brothers could hear it. They should have known better than to encourage Molly's bad habits. As it was, she had to worry about what would happen next. The others were encouraging Noah and Daniel by laughing with them. If her brothers thought there was more fun to be had, they would invite Molly to all the picnic singings. Or, come up with some equally embarrassing prank.
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