“Read me this book, Slam,” Annie Jr. said climbing into my lap, forcing a book into my hand.
“I had this book when I was little,” I said feeling overwhelmed with nostalgia.
“It is your book,” Annie Jr. replied. “look here is your name and here is that piece of gum you got stuck to it back in ’72.”
Sure enough there was my name written in large scrawling hand writing and a piece of gum on the back page dirty and black from the years of dust it had collected back when it was still sticky.
“Where did you get this?” I asked assuming for some reason, it had found it’s way into a box and been long ago forgotten and stored. I mean I hadn’t seen any of my old books for a really long time.
“Outta this box,” Annie Jr. said pulling a large book laden box towards me.
I had never seen this box of books. I picked one out, it was one I used to have and so was the next and the next. “Where did this box come from?” I asked.
“Mom-mom, gave it to me. She said they were yours,” Annie Jr. explained. “You really liked stories about cats.”
I watched Annie Jr. separating books and setting the ones about cats in a pile. “How come you scribbled this kid’s eyes on every page?” he asked.
“Because he found a basket of kittens on a treasure hunt and I wanted to find them,” I answered absently and then. “Wait; what? Let me see that book!”
Annie Jr. handed me the book and I thumbed through it, I vaguely remembered scribbling out that little boy’s eyes because I was so jealous he found kittens. I looked for a similar basket for days and not being able to find one, I had scribbled his eyes out in anger. It couldn’t have been my book, Annie in no way could have gotten them.
She had mind control device in which she could read my thoughts. I wondered; had she bought these books, scrawled my name in them and colored out eyes with a pen. It was quite possible, but Annie didn’t chew gum though.
Just then Annie came strolling into the room. “Hi Mom-mom!” Annie Jr. screamed. “These books are GREAT! Thanks Mom-mom!”
“Your welcome, Annie Jr. my special little guy!” Annie purred.
“Annie?” I yelled. “Where did you get these books?” I asked.
“From my time machine,” Annie said.
I shook my head, I still didn’t believe that Annie’s time machine actually worked. It was made out of a vacuum cleaner box, contact paper, some empty tuna cans and a crudely drawn red button that said, ‘fart’.
Annie Jr. still going through the box, was stacking them in categories. “Slam you musta really loved cats.” Annie Jr. remarked.
“We had lots of cats when I was little,” I replied, thumbing through a book about a set of twins turning two.
“You have lots of cats now.” Annie Jr. said. looking up.
“We had lots more than now,” I sighed remembering my childhood.
“And they all lived in your house?” Annie Jr. cried in disbelief. Annie by this time had crept close and was listening intently.
I gave her a sly look as I made my reply, “Of course not Annie Jr. Cats had it hard back then. They lived in the chicken house, and had to earn their keep, keeping it free from rats.”
“You could discriminate back then?” Annie Jr. asked.
“Discriminate?” I asked.
“Yeah you had housing for cats and chickens and not the rats? They need housing too. ”
“The rats would eat the chicken food,” I said.
“Then ya shoulda buyed them some rat food. They can’t starve you know. Think about Templeton, he had to eat old left over slop,” Annie Jr. screamed waving a book with a pig and a spider on it at me.
“Look at all of these farm books. Did you live on a farm too?” Annie Jr. asked thumbing through a book I remembered with fondness.
“We had chickens and for a little while ducks and occasionally a rabbit, but it wasn’t a farm.” I explained.
“Is that where the old guy lives?” Annie Jr. asked.
“What old guy?” I asked having no idea what Annie Jr. was talking about.
“Remember when Mom-mom and K8 were little and you would say, One day K8, Mom-mom, and Slam were taking a walk and they found a little teeny itty bitty tiny baby goat and you would feed it a bottle. Every day you found a different itty bitty teeny tiny little animal and take it home.” Annie Jr. said.
“Yes, I remember.” I said fondly thinking of stories I would create for my K8 when she was little bitty teeny tiny.
“AND YOU FORGOT?” Annie Jr. screamed.
“Forgot what?” I shrugged having no idea what Annie Jr. was talking about.
“You told K8 that all those animals you got were living on a farm with some old guy and he was holding them for you and when you gotted rich you would buy the farm?” Annie Jr. said excitedly jumping around as he spoke.
“Annie Jr. it was a story, there were no baby animals and there is no farm. Besides, I don’t know the first thing about farming.” I explained.
“Mom-mom said you know a whole lot about pulling teats, she said it was one of your first good paying jobs.” Annie Jr. responded.
“It was a long time ago, and we are not buying a farm. Now go drag that box of books your Mom-mom drained my bank account for into the other room and find just a couple that I can read you before bed time.”
Later that evening, Annie Jr. settled down for sleep after his ‘couple’ (14) books. “You, K8 and Mom-mom used to play the wonder pets too right?” He asked drowsily.
“Yes,” I replied. His purr relaxing me, his drool dripping on my arm.
“Mom-mom and Duh-Wayne play it with me.” Annie Jr. said. “Mom-mom always thinks up good stuff. Like today it was a cow stuck in a garden hose and Duh-Wayne had to suck him out and save him. Mom-mom calls Duh-Wayne suction lips now.”
Annie Jr.’s purr became loud and strong, my arm lay in a puddle of icky cat drool. “I wish we had a farm. I could just see you walking around with a piece of straw in the side of your mouth, a pair of bib overhaul with “Slam” written across the front.”
His eyes snapped shut and I quickly followed. I had just hit that hard fast sleep and I heard the birds chirping outside and saw the light streaming through the window. Annie Jr. was just standing up and stretching. That was a fast sleep, I thought as I stretched.
I didn’t feel refreshed at all, and the bed felt lumpy and weird. It squeaked when I moved. Memory foam doesn’t squeak. The blanket felt weird, then I opened my eyes and looked down. It was the bed spread I had as a kid, the one with the big strawberry.
I sat up opening my eyes wide, surprised I could see so well without my glasses. I was in my old room, that tacky pink painted room with the ugly chocolate brown trim. I could smell the lemon pledge my mother’s house was famous for. Exactly as I remember it, except for the Annie’s sitting on my bed. Annie Jr. still rolling around and stretching and Annie looking at me with a huge cat smile; her eager face pleasantly obvious.
“I’m going back to sleep, Annie,” I yelled. “I have begged you not to use your dream control device on me.”
“I used my time machine, Slam.” Annie said. “We are back at the farm.”
“Annie I will never believe your time machine works and I never lived on a farm!” I said, laying back down and pulling the sheets over my head, noticing for the first how hard that feather pillow was.
“You worked on a farm!” Annie Jr. screamed jumping on my head. “And it’s Saturday. Remember that is the day you said you cleaned the barn?”
“Come on Slam, up and at ’em. We need to get down to some serious teat pulling,” Annie yelled.
“Slam, breakfast is ready,” I heard my mother call. Why was she calling me Slam?
“Annie turn that machine off,” I hissed, covering my head further under the covers.
“Slam, come on, you need to get to the barn,” my mother kept calling.
Annie Jr. stood by the side of my bed with a pair of bib overhauls with Slam written across the front. I knew my mother would keep yelling and Annie would keep the dream going unless I just went along with it. I jumped up and grabbed the pants and put them on. “Annie you are going to get it,” I hissed again and shook my fist at her.
My mother had never gotten up at 4 am to fix me breakfast and no one in the family would have been up at that hour but there they all were gathered around the table. “Hi Slamma Aunt Loose-wheels and Slap ya Uncle Pan,” Annie Jr. screamed.
“Hi Annie and Annie Jr.” my mother said.
“Have a piece of cheese,” my father said dropping an entire brick on the floor. There were already several bowls of cat food all different kinds on the floor, the entire living room was filled with a huge cat house structure.
“Now I know you are lying Annie, they didn’t have those cat houses back then.” I said.
“Why; that sweet little cat would never lie, ” my mother said setting a huge sausage sandwich in front of Annie who was sitting up at the table in the old high chair. “She drew the plans and your father made it with wood.”
I looked over at my brother who was pouring orange juice on his bowl of boo-berries while reading a comic book. “Why are you pouring orange juice on your cereal?” I asked.
He sighed really deeply and replied, “Annie drank all the milk.”
“Oh, Sigh, ” Annie sighed equally deeply, “I will bring you some more when we get back from the farm.” She sang the end part like it was part of a reality show. ‘Back from the farm,” she sang again and everyone but me laughed.
Annie jumped up quickly and said, “I know you’ll want coffee, Slam.” She grabbed a cup and poured hot water from the tea kettle into it. “She drinks coffee now.” Annie explained to everyone.
I sat there looking around, sort of feeling dizzy trapped into a dream created and controlled by Annie. I didn’t even stop to think when I saw her pouring the water from the tea kettle that the coffee would be instant. Instant coffee was the worst and I never even noticed that Annie was putting tablespoon after tablespoon of coffee into the cup.
Annie set the cup in front of me and absently I took a long drink, then I choked gagged, and tried not to throw up as I swallowed it just to get the awful taste out of my mouth. “Annie this is awful. It’s thick.” I yelled.
“You wanted it, you better be drinking it,” my father said. “No waste in this house.”
I’d forgotten about that, too. I glared at Annie as she said, “Drink it up, Slam. We gotta feed the pig.”
“What pig?” I asked. “There was never a pig.”
“Top of the morning to you all,” I heard a very British sounding voice say.
“Hi Gracie,” everyone but me shouted as Din-yell’s pig Gracie came into the room.
“There’s a pig now, Slam,” Annie screamed.
“Annie Gracie doesn’t talk and she is not from England she is from Brooklyn.” I said.
“Not anymore,” Annie yelled.
Gracie sat down at the table and began daintily slurping a cup of English tea and nibbling on a spot of tomato and a sausage link. I shook my head watching Gracie at the table and my mother letting a stream of chickens through the front door while my Dad tossed fried eggs onto the floor calling, “here chick chick.” I noticed a white duck with a pink hair band around his neck and a diaper among them.
“Come on, Slam, time to pull some teat,” Annie screamed.
“Annie will you stop saying that!” I yelled back.
“Saying what?” Annie looked at me confused.
Annie Jr. was getting several more hugs from my mother and eating one more pound of cheese out of my dad’s hand. “Bye Slamma Aunt Loose Wheels,” Annie said giving my mother a large noisy smack on the cheek. “Love ya sweetie, I will bring your angel Annie Jr. back often.”
I was so confused. My mother hated cats, well she grew to like them over the years but, this was way over the top. Mom was actually sniffing back a tear. Well, at least that meant we weren’t staying and eventually I would wake up from this crazy dream.
“Slap ya Uncle Pan,” Annie screamed and kissed my father atop his bald spot.
Dad handed her a brick of cheese. “Take care of yourself, Annie.” He opened his wallet and handed her two one hundred dollar bills. “You’ll need it taking care of that young cat by yourself.”
Annie sniffed back a tear but I could tell her eyes were laughing. She played them like a fiddle. Annie sighed deeply, then ran over and rubbed my brother on top of his head messing up his hair. “Sighhhhhhh,” she screamed. “I lied. There is milk in the fridge. I milked the rats before bed.” Then she yanked the comic book out of his hand and said, “Give this a whirl,” I saw the title. “Life with Annie.” There was a crudely drawn cat on a scooter headed towards a building labeled ‘poop factory’.
“HIIIIGGGGGGGGGGGGGHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Wow Annie, thanks. Mom, look at this!!!! And rat milk! Got it made in the shade!” He said jumping up and opening the fridge.
“Don’t you waste that bowl you already have,” Dad yelled.
I walked out the door. Annie and Annie Jr. followed me down the road to the neighbor’s barn. “Annie, I am not sure what kinda stuff you are pulling,” I yelled at her once we were out of ear shot of the house, “but after this barn time and getting your fill of ‘pulling teat’ you better be waking me up or whatever you have to do, but I want to be back in my own bed in my own house. Got it.”
“Sure Slam, sure.” Annie said, then whispered to Annie Jr. , “She’s nuts.”
The barn was exactly the same as I remember but not the people in it. Instead of my neighbors, it was Duh-Wayne, accompanied by Abe and Bryan. “Why are they here?” I screamed. “They weren’t my neighbors.”
“I don’t know your neighbors,” Annie screamed.
“Well come on let’s get this over with.” I demanded.
We milked cows by hand, by machine, wore one of those funny things strapped to your rear end to sit on while your milked. We fed the calves, from a bucket, from a bottle, climbed a silo, fed the cows. Then the highlight of the day, we cleaned the barn.
Annie started it first tossing a large cow patty at the back of my head. Annie Jr. went next and Abe and Bryan followed suit, pelting me with cow poop. Then we mucked out the stalls and scraped down the floors and watched all that poop slowly move around on a track into the back of a poop spreader.
Once the barn was totally ship shape, I begged Annie to please end my crazy dream. “One last thing slam, we need to spread the poop. Start the tractor, Duh-Wayne.”
Duh-Wayne jumped in the seat and started the old red international. “Fords better,” Annie screamed.
“No, I’d take an international any day,” Duh-Wayne screamed back.
Abe and Bryan jumped onto either seat over the tires, an Annie sitting next to each of them. I was forced to stand behind the seat. Duh-Wayne lurched the tractor forward and out of the barn. He kept shifting the gears screaming,”lets see if we can get this up to 180 Annie, got that flux whatchacall it?”
Steam was coming out of the smoke stack as the tractor chugged faster and faster. Abe and Bryan were screaming, “Faster, faster.” Poop was flying from the back. Everyone was laughing with glee and I was screaming.
I awoke with a start. I sat up and rubbed my eyes, trying to get them to focus. My bed. My room and I couldn’t see without my glasses. What a weird dream, I was thinking.
I got up wondering what in the world smelled so bad. I realized it was me. Bib overhauls, Slam written across the front covered in cow poop, my hair in braids. I turned around knowing I would have to strip my bed and put fresh sheet on it, then I noticed the spread had a large strawberry on it.
I stripped the bed and headed to the shower. Just another day in the life with Annie.