the short story project


D.D. Manners

The “I” and the “U”

The old farm house had so much charm standing on the hill next her grandmother’s house.  It was huge, so there would be more than enough room for all of them.  The fact that each of the girls would have their own bedroom with its own bathroom was the single selling point for her.  Three girls getting ready in the morning for school and work was almost impossible with only one bathroom between them, like their old house had.  Each bathroom had a charming clawfoot tub in it with the ole fashioned knobs giving them charm and functionality, and there was plenty of room for each of her daughters to spread their wings. 

The house was old and there were a few things that had to be fixed from time to time.  A loose floorboard in the hallway, was easily fixed with the bang of a hammer.  The screen doors squeaked from time to time and the little hole in the screen allowing mosiquitos in at night was covered with a piece of surgical tape.  They were settling in fine and as the days grew into weeks and weeks into months the O’Riley women were calling it home and learnging to live with all the moans and creaks an old house can have.  Samantha loved watching her girls Abby and Meaghan play in the yard.  After numorerous hours on her feet at the hospital, she loved sitting out on the large screened porch, sipping tea and watching the girls run around, hoping they would wear themselves out and make it easier for her to put them to bed at night after a good dinner and a warm bath.  They were notorious for being cranking in the mornings, but so was she, she had to admit to herself. 

Her youngest daughter Abby was a sweet little girl with blonde hair that laid in ringlets, down her back.  She had a chubby little face with dimples in each cheek.  Abby had a pure innocence about her that was both playful and silly.  Her older sister was always teasing her about being a “blonde” and took pleasure in exploiting her gullibility.  Abby could be a little willful at times testing her mother’s patience more often than her sister Meaghan did.  Samantha tried to be as patient with Abby as she could, but long hours at the hospital, and being a single parent, caused her to lose her temper at times.  Samantha always felt so bad when those moments came. 

Today started out as any other day.  Samantha yelling down the hallway telling the girls to hurry up or they were going to be late.  Looking up at the clock, Samantha sees they only have an hour left before she needs to get in the car to make the hour drive to the hosipital where she works as a floor nurse on a busy surgical ward.  Hurrying the girls through breakfast, and checking homework was at time more of a challenge than her job.  Once the girls are safely sent on their way to her grandmother’s to wait for the bus with lunches and bookbads in hand, Samantha takes a deep breath, out the door with ten minutes to spare she thinks to herself as she makes her way through the house turning off lights, she knows they left on. 

Making her way to Abby’s room she hears the trickle of water coming from her bathroom.  Dammit she thinks when she realizes the hot water facet to the tub is still leaking.  She’s tightened in several times over the past weeks, but it’s a stubborn one.  So before heading out the door herself, she calls her uncle to see if he has the time to come and replace it for her today while they are all out. He tells her not to worry he will take care of it before the girls return home from school.  

Driving to work she’s glad he is going to do that task for her, one less thing she must worry about now.  Eight hours on her feet she’s glad it’s time to give report.  Her day had been very eventful; one of her patients had to be sent up to the ICU and one of her patients, decided to get sick on her when she tried to get him out of bed after surgery, spilling his just comsumed green jello all over her white scrubs.  Samantha always enjoyed her hour long drive home after her shifts, the road was quiet, and the country road usually never had other cars on it most nights, so the drive gave her time to decompress from her tedious job at the hospital.  She would think about her patients, think about her girls, looking forward to getting home to them, making dinner and just spending time with them going over their day at school.  

Pulling up to the house, she can see that more lights are on than are being used.  Those girls love to turn lights on she thought to herself, shaking her head.  Walking through the door she’s greeted with smiles and “hi mom,” from both girls.  They’ve been home for hours and the living room shows sign of it, books and empty juice boxes on the coffee table, shoes on the floor.  Sofa pillows out of place, a few toys left to rest where they dropped them after playing. Heading to her room to change out of her uniform, Samantha just shakes her head at the mess these two little girls can make in just a few hours.  Looking at the alarm clock on the  nightstand she realizes it’s getting late and she needs to start dinner. 

Passing through the living room headed for the kitchen she tells the girls it’s time to clean up and they need to get in the bath before dinner.  Each little girl scurries about doing what their mother asked of them.  Just as Samantha was dropping the chicken leg in the hot oil to fry, she hears Abby calling her.  Turning slightly, she sees little Abby standing in the kitchen fully dressed.  “Mommy,” Abby says in a pitiful little voice.  “Yes dear,” her mommy replies.  In the same little pitiful voice Abby starts again.  “Mommy can you come help me?  I don’t know which one the hot water is, or which one is the cold water now that Uncle Jake changed the knobs.”  Samantha just shakes her head thinking Abby is just stalling for time again, they go through this a few times a week.  “Look honey, everything is still in the same place, the only thing Uncle Jake changed was the knobs, the water is still in the same place, ok. Now go get in the tub and hurry dinner will be ready soon,” she tells her daughter with as much patience as she can conjure up at the moment and directs Abby toward her room. 

A few moments later Abby is standing in the kitchen again.  “Mommy I’m scared that I’m going to burn myself. I need help.”   “Abby Elizabeth,” Samantha starts with a little rise in her voice, you are six years old now and I’m tired of always fighting with you to take a bath every night.  “But Mommy,” Abby replies with a little whimper in her voice.  At this point Samantha’s patience is almost at it’s limit.  “Look Abby it’s simple just turn one of the knobs on, if it’s hot water then the water will be hot and if it’s the cold water the water will be cold.  Now carry your little butt to the bathroom and take a bath!” Samantha tells her sternly. 

Before she can pull the last piece of chicken out of the frying pan, she hears Abby entering the kitchen once again. Turning around she sees that Abby is still fully clothed.  Turning the chicken off, she removes the pan from the stove.  Looking at her daughter, she knows she has run out of patience at this point.  “Abby seriously what is the problem?”  “Mommy I’m afraid.”  Her little voice is sad and pitiful and on the verge of tears.  Samantha bends down to eye level with her daughter and tells her with no patience left in her, “Abby it’s very simple the hot water has a “H” on it for hot and cold water has a “C” on it for cold.  Now carry your little butt down that hallway, take your damn clothes off and take a bath!  I’m not going to tell you again and you better not come back in here again until you are done!  Do you hear me? Now get! she tells her almost yelling at this point. 

Abby walked out of the room and towards the hallway with her little head held down, almost broken by her mother’s stern tone.  Samantha feels bad for having to scold her like that, but this time Abby was being ridiculous.  Samantha dries her hands and heads into the living room to let Meaghan know dinner was ready.  As she is standing there, she hears the stomping of little feet on the hardwood floor of the hallway heading her direction.  Not sure what the excuse will be this time Samantha holds her ground in preparation for Abby’s new excuse.  However, she is shocked to see her little girl burst into the living room butt naked this time. Little Abby is hopping mad, she is huffing and puffing with her little cheeks flushed red.  Standing in the doorway, Abby stomps her little foor down hard on the floor and places her hands on her hips then looks her mother dead in the eyes and yells with a deep animalistic voice, “Mommy, all I can find is an “I” and a “U”!

Samantha was taken aback by her daughter’s action and it took a few seconds to register what Abby had said, an “I” and a “U”.  Once it hit her, Samantha burst into laughter shaking her head, an “I”/”H” and a “U”/”C”.  Samantha tells her she’s sorry and that she will be there to help her in just a few minutes, knowing that trying to explain what happened would just confuse her, so she was going to show her which one was the cold water and which one was the hot.  Meaghan was still laughing as her mother left the room, and she yelled out to her, “See mom I told you she was a “Blonde.” 

Abby is twenty-five now, but that story continues to be told at family get togethers and to anyone who just needs a good laugh.  She now embraces her blondenes and doesn’t let it bother her any more and can now laugh at herself.  She always says people see things differently even if they mean the same thing.  Over the years Samantha and Meaghan have wittnessed and recall several of Abby’s “blonde” moments. 

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