Tad awoke the next morning in a creaky bed with a cast iron headboard, morning sunlight streaming through faded calico curtains, and a black and white goat straddling her body. The goat opened its mouth with a loud “Baaa!”
Finding this exclamation alarming, along with the demon-esque yellow eyes with horizontal pupils, Tad sat bolt upright and shouted.
The goat, offended, leapt off the bed. In the doorway it stopped, looked over its shoulder with a chastising wag of its tail, and baa’d again, exactly the way Tad’s grandma June used to say, “Well, I never.” Then it clattered down the stairs.
Tad rolled out of bed and followed, still wearing her tank top and cargo pants from the day before. (Her one and only other set of clothes were still in her pack.) She reached the open-plan main floor in time to watch the goat leap onto the dining room table and slip out the window, which Tad had left open the night before for the breeze.
Something barked outside, which Tad assumed was not the goat. She opened the front door and stepped onto the porch. The goat bounced through the uncut grass as only a goat can. Meanwhile, a small, rough-coated terrier hid in the undergrowth, rear-end high in the air, then darted out and chased the goat around the yard. Tad leaned against a post, folded her arms, and laughed heartily.
A woman emerged from one of the small outbuildings near the farmhouse. She pushed a wheelbarrow stacked with hay, a pitchfork lying across the top. She was perhaps in her sixties, a little round, with white hair piled on top of her head like a bird’s next and stuck through with chopsticks. A mix of city girl and country girl, she wore a pink gingham shirt and denim capris, but also gold hoop earrings that matched her gold-framed glasses. Her feet were clad in hot pink Crocs. Her nails and lips were painted pink, too, and yet she manned the wheelbarrow as handily as any tomboy. Tad wasn’t sure what the woman was doing here, but she knew she liked her already.
The woman parked her barrow next to a pen off the shed and began to fork hay into a wooden feeder. “Harriet! Come get your breakfast!”
The goat veered through the open gate, pulled up at the trough, and dipped its head in hungrily. The small dog, winded, stretched out in the shade of the feeder, tongue lolling.
The woman turned and spied Tad on the porch. She gasped and put a hand to her chest. “My word! I didn’t see you there.” She squinted, as if with curiosity. “Tad Lee, is that you?”
“In the flesh,” Tad confirmed. Whoever this woman was, she apparently considered Tad a friend, and Tad was just fine with that.
The woman crossed the yard and climbed the steps, beaming. “I’m Dina McClusky. I live just next door.”
Tad stuck out her hand. “Well, it’s a real pleasure to meet you. Did you know Aunt Maribeth?”
Dina’s face turned sorrowful. “We got to be such good friends. I had no idea when you’d get here, so I’ve been collecting your mail and taking care of Harriet.” She motioned to the goat.
Tad felt better about the missing mail. She grinned and gestured with her thumb. “Is that my goat? I’ve never had a goat.” In fact, she hadn’t known she’d wanted one until now.
“Oh, you’ll love her.” Dina pointed to the dog under the trough. “That’s Benny. He’s mine. But he and Harriet are inseparable. Oh, they’re just a hoot together.”
Tad gestured toward the farmhouse door. “Would you like coffee? It’s instant, but it’s not so bad.”
Dina smiled. “I’d love to! I just need to let the chickens out.” With her index finger lifted in a gesture of waiting, she headed back down the porch and toward the sagging coop.
Tad beamed. “I have chickens, too?”
Dina slid open the door of the coop and six hens tottered out, clucking and blinking in the light. Maybe Curiosity Farm wasn’t so bad after all.
To be continued…
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