Chapter 19: A Little About Jeffrey
“Ah,” Lizzy said. She curled up from her snooze, embracing the morning air. She rubbed her fists over her eyes and raised her arms into the air.
“Finally,” Ellie said, “you’re awake.”
Lizzy twisted around at her dressed siblings. “Goodness, did I oversleep? What’s the time?”
“Wouldn’t have a watch to tell you,” Charlie said.
“Don’t worry, Oliver’s still asleep,” Ellie said.
“Morning, everyone,” Oliver said.
“Morning, sleepyhead,” Lizzy said.
“You didn’t rise so early either,” Charlie said.
“Everyone,” Oliver said, “we will spend one more night here. Enjoy the area while you can…”
“Can I go out on my own?” Jeffrey interrupted.
“Yay!” Jeffrey said.
“Before you head out,” Lizzy said, “I’m going down to get some fruit for breakfast. I’ll call everyone when I’m ready.”
“And I’ll prepare a fresh set of clothes and the combs,” Oliver said.
“Quick, we better get out of here before that wicked comb can catch us,” Charlie said.
“Charlie, stop this bad example,” Oliver said.
“May I leave?” Jeffrey asked.
“Yes, go,” Oliver said.
“Charlie and I will make a small snowman,” Ellie said.
“I’m off,” Lizzy said.
“Be back soon,” Oliver called.
“I will,” she said.
Jeffrey weaved his way to the back of the hill, on the opposite side of the cave. “Ooh, a bunny!” He chased the bunny, but the bunny ran away. “Darn it.” He plopped down in the snow. Oof.
“A bird!” He leapt up again, but the bird flapped its wings and flew away. “Oh snap.” He attempted snapping his fingers, but this failed too. He slumped down and pressed his cheeks in his hands. He scooted the snow around with his boot.
A familiar bunny hopped toward him. “Coco!” he said. He held out his arms and waited for Coco to come. When Coco came, he stroked her with a soft hand, recalling his lessons about animals.
Back two years ago, Jeffrey began wandering on the snow of the family’s backyard. Jeffrey roamed out and about with his father and Ellie. Every once in a while, animals popped out in the open. Birds, bunnies, and snow leopards jumped from their hiding spots. Whenever Jeffrey saw one, he sprinted toward it at full speed.
“Animal!” he said. He trotted toward the trees where a small squirrel sat. In comparison to the small creature, this huge beast scared the animal away.
“Jeffrey, you can’t frighten the squirrel,” Ellie said. James followed in their shadows.
“I didn’t startle him.”
“Yes, you did. You scared him so he ran away,” Ellie said.
“Well, I didn’t try to.”
“You see Jeffrey, when you want to play with an animal, you can’t barge in like a predator,” James said.
“Why not? I want to get there before it can skedaddle.”
“Jeffrey, you’re much bigger than most of them. When they see you bolting at them, they become afraid,” James said. James hoisted Jeffrey to his shoulder.
“You have to prove to the animal you’re soft and gentle,” Ellie said.
“Very true, Ellie. Your sister knows animals very well. Stay gentle and they won’t run away so much.”
“Yes,” Ellie said.
“Jeffrey, there’s a chipmunk. What should you do?” James asked. At first Jeffrey tried squirming out of James’s arms. “Jeffrey, are you supposed to chase the chipmunk?”
Jeffrey blushed. “No. I will walk slow and gentle.”
“Good.” James set him on the ground. Jeffrey sauntered to the chipmunk, resisting every urge to take off. The chipmunk let Jeffrey stroke his head once. Jeffrey’s face lit up like a lightbulb. He dashed to Ellie and James and leapt into his father’s arms.
“Did you see that? I got to pet the chipmunk,” Jeffrey said.
“Yes, we both saw, Jeffrey. Always remain cautious when petting them though.”
He brought his attention back to the present and moved on from petting Coco.
“Ah, my trains,” he said. He hastened back to their cave and grabbed his toys. He returned to his spot and rolled the wheels along a rock from side-to-side, backward and forward.
Toys shared an important tradition for the family. Trains and cars passed from brother to brother while dolls passed between the sisters.
“I can’t believe Jeffrey’s already playing with trains. It seems just yesterday my little Oliver tooted their horn,” Evelyn said.
“Has it been that long?” Betty asked.
“It has. Oliver used them alone until we forced him to share with Charlie. Oliver didn’t like it,” Evelyn said.
“I remember. He often shoved Charlie and then Charlie cried to me,” Betty said.
“Thankfully they learned to share. They've behaved great since then,” Evelyn said.
“Look, Mommy,” Jeffrey said, riding the train along the tracks.
“Great job, honey. Can you show me again?”
“Yes! Yes,” Jeffrey said.
“Oh no! He’s leaving,” she said.
“Bye, mister train,” he said.
Evelyn giggled. “Bye bye.” As she watched the train go by, she tackled and cuddled him from behind.
“Ah!” Jeffrey said.
She squeezed him. “My baby’s growing up.”
“I’m not a baby.”
“I know,” she whispered. “I don’t have any more babies now.” She squeezed Jeffrey and rocked him back and forth.
Jeffrey rolled the wheels over a snowless rock. Up the hill they go. If only the tracks could’ve come. He let his two trains pass each other. “Choo-choo.”
Ellie approached Jeffrey. “There’s Coco.” She sighed. Ellie slid beside the bunny.
“Sh! You’ll wake her up!” Jeffrey said. “Why were you worried?”
“She was playing with Charlie, Bongo, Alice, and I but then we looked away for a moment. Suddenly, she disappeared,” Ellie said.
“Maybe she likes me better,” Jeffrey said. Ellie didn’t listen. She picked up sleeping Coco and tromped away. “Hey! Where are you going?” Jeffrey asked.
“Back to Charlie and Bongo,” she said.
“But I was playing with Coco,” Jeffrey said.
“No,” Ellie said.
“Yes,” he said.
“No. You played with trains. Alice and I saw you.”
“You always get her. Maybe I want her now.”
“Too bad. You lost your opportunity to play with her. Don’t you want to play with your trains anyway?
“Oh yeah,” he said. He scratched his head before turning back to his trains.
Jeffrey drove his trains into the snow. Now I wish I chose Coco. He strolled to the edge of the hill and looked around. I need something to slide on. What could I use? I don’t see anything. He brushed some snow off his jacket. My coat! I can use that. He unzipped his jacket and tossed it on the snow.
“Now let me test this,” he said. He plopped on the jacket and pushed his hands off the snow. Nothing happened. He propelled harder and flew down the hill. “Woah!” Passing trees, zipping past rocks, and leaping over logs, Jeffrey clung to his “sled” and laughed. He floated to the bottom. “That was amazing,” he said. “I better find the others so we can do a ride together.”
“Charlie! Charlie!” Jeffrey said, darting down the hill.
“What?” Charlie asked.
“Come. I found a sledding hill!” he said.
“A spot to sled? Why, I would never miss a Rubin sled ride! C’mon, Ellie,” Charlie said.
“Sledding?” Ellie said as a smile lit up her face, “oh Coco. How fun does that sound? You don’t know, but our family has sled since Jeffrey turned one. It’s our favorite thing to all do together.”
“We never spend more time together than when we sled,” Charlie said.
“Can you find Oliver and Lizzy already? I will go get ready,” Jeffrey said.
“Sure thing,” Charlie said. Jeffrey headed to the hill first and waited several minutes for the others.
By the time Charlie and Ellie arrived once more, Jeffrey had grown a few inches of impatience. He jumped and seated himself halfway on the “sled.”
“Where’s Oliver and Lizzy?” he asked.
“They’re not here,” Charlie said.
“Are they on their way? We’re going to start soon,” Jeffrey said.
“Jeffrey, they’re not on their way,” Ellie said.
“What? Why not?” he asked.
“Oliver says he’s not ready and Lizzy’s still collecting breakfast. Oliver said we could do it this afternoon,” Ellie said.
“No! I don’t want to wait,” Jeffrey said.
“You never want to wait!” Charlie and Ellie laughed.
“I wait sometimes,” Jeffrey said.
“Come, Jeffrey. We can figure this out later,” Charlie said.
“Where are we going?” he asked.
“To Bongo and Coco.”
“Breakfast! Return to the cave,” Lizzy said.
“Change in plan! I’ll go get breakfast,” Charlie said.
“And Alice and I will go get Coco and Bongo,” Ellie said.
“Who should I go with?” Jeffrey asked.
“Go with Charlie to get fruit. I’ll arrive there in a few minutes,” Ellie said.
“Oh wait!” Jeffrey said.
“What?” Ellie asked.
“I forgot my trains. I’ll grab them and meet you guys at breakfast,” he said.
“See you then, Jeffrey,” Ellie said.
Jeffrey hobbled and skidded through patches of snow to the two trains. He crouched to pick them up. What did I plan on doing with these? Darn it. I forgot again! Oh well. He rode the trains on the rock. The two trains zipped past at centimeters apart. Jeffrey giggled at every crazy turn or speed. What did I plan on doing? Erg, why can’t I remember anything? What’s that?
“A cub!” he said, dropping the trains. He forgot what he learned and sprinted at the young bear cub. He jumped at it. The animal backed away from him in fear.
Jeffrey sauntered to the cub, stamping his foot closer. The young one inched back. Jeffrey held his hand out to pet the cub, but the two didn’t share a mutual wish.
“Come here, bear,” Jeffrey said, “why aren’t you coming? I want to pet you.”
Out of the blue appeared a bigger bear. This bear advanced around the corner. Seeing Jeffrey approach his son like a predator, the bear did what it needed to protect his child.
“Jeffrey! Where did you go? It’s due time for breakfast,” Charlie said, strolling around the corner.
The bear waved his paws at Jeffrey’s face. “Ahhh!” Charlie and Jeffrey both shrieked. The difference between the two screams—this would be Jeffrey’s last.