Disclosure and Acknowledgement:
I am using JE's wonderful characters for fun, not profit.
Thank you to Maggie, my wonderful content and copy editor.
It was a typical late July day in Trenton, New Jersey. The air was humid and thick. The temperature was scorching.
The four Plum grandchildren were in the living room of their grandparents' house watching a movie in air-conditioned comfort. Frank Plum and his two sons-in-law were in the dining room playing cards and minding the children. The Plum women, Helen, Valerie and Stephanie, along with Helen's mother, Grandma Mazur, were at Quaker Bridge Mall shopping.
All was still. All was quiet. All was good.
"Daddy, can you give Frankie a hug?" asked Lisa Kloughn, age four plus. She walked into the dining room of her grandparents' home pulling her younger cousin by the hand.
Albert, Lisa's dad, looked up from his cards and said, "A hug? Who me? Sure, I can give Frankie a hug. Why am I giving Frankie a hug? Does he need a hug?"
"Yes, Daddy, Frankie needs a hug." Lisa brought her cousin over to her father. Frankie was crying. He was hitching and gasping, his nose was running and tears ran down his cheeks.
Ranger, Frankie's father, who was sitting adjacent to Albert at the table said, "Big Guy, what's the matter. Come here."
"No, Uncle Ranger, Daddy needs to give Frankie a hug 'cause he gives soft hugs."
"That's okay, Lisa. I'm Frankie's dad; I'll take care of him.
Lisa went over to her uncle and squeezed one of his well-developed biceps. "No, Daddy has to do it. You're too hard to give Frankie a soft hug."
Ranger and Albert looked at Lisa, as each started to explain why he was the best suited to comfort Frankie.
"What are you two to going to do, debate over who's got the best hug?" interrupted Frank Plum. "Frankie, come to grandpa."
"No, Grandpa, Daddy has to do it 'cause he's Cuddle Umpkins."
The men sat in silence for a moment.
Albert Kloughn looked at his child with a mixture of bewilderment and pride. He reached out to Frankie and lifted the boy onto his lap. Frankie put his arms around his uncle's shoulders and buried his head in Albert's pillowy chest. "Frankie, tell Uncle Albert what's wrong," said Albert as he patted the tot's back.
"I want Mommy," said Frankie.
Ranger reached over to take Frankie from Albert. "Why do you want Mommy, Big Guy? Come to me and tell me about it."
Frankie clung tighter to his uncle and buried his head further into Albert's chest. "Mommy. I want Mommy."
"Lisa," said Ranger, "what happened?"
"We were watchin' Bambi. And you know, the part where Bambi's mommy goes away?"
"Well. You know how Aunt Stephanie is shoppin' with Mommy and Grandma?"
"Well. Bambi's mommy went away and Aunt Stephanie isn't here and Frankie started cryin' and he needs a hug from Daddy, because when I'm scared Daddy gives me hugs and makes it all better."
"Lisa," said Albert, "that was good thinking on your part. Very good thinking. See, you are just like me. Always thinking."
Frankie took a few deep soggy breaths. Albert said, "Lisa, I think Frankie needs a tissue. Will you go get some for Frankie?"
"I don't know where they are."
"Go ask Angie or Mary Alice to help you."
Lisa called out. "Angie, can you help me find a tissue for Frankie?"
Albert leaned over and whispered into Lisa's ear.
"I didn't mean to 'bare-ass him."
Albert whispered again to his daughter.
"Okay, no yellin' in the house."
Albert whispered something else to Lisa.
"Alright," said Lisa, exaggerating every syllable, "no yellin' period."
Angie walked in to the dining room with a box of tissues and a wastebasket. She put the tissues on the table and the waste bin on the floor beside her stepfather.
Albert smiled at his near daughter to say thank you. He looked down at Frankie and said, "Frankie, how are you doing?"
Frankie leaned back to look at his uncle. He was still weeping and the features on his little face looked smeared. "I - I - I want Mommy."
"I know," said Albert, "sometimes, I want my mommy, too."
"No. I want my mommy," said Frankie and he began to sob anew.
Albert took a tissue and had Frankie blow his nose into it. He took another and mopped Frankie's tears. After he disposed of the soiled tissues, Albert put Frankie's head on his shoulder. Albert made a telephone receiver with his hand. He held his thumb up to his ear and his pinky in front of his mouth. He looked over at Ranger and mouthed, "Call Stephanie. Frankie needs to hear her voice."
Ranger got his cell phone out of his pants' pocket. He slid out of his chair and walked into the hallway of the Plum's duplex. A few moments later he returned to the dining room, holding the phone out in front of him. "Big Guy, Mommy's on the phone. She wants to talk to you." Ranger put the phone near his son's ear. He heard garbled sounds come from the phone.
"Mommy, you comin' back?"
More garbled sounds came from the cell phone.
"Mommy, come home. I need you," sobbed Frankie.
Stephanie was standing at the clearance rack in Macy's shoe department with her mom, grandma and sister, holding a cute pair of strappy sandals in her hand, when she received Ranger's call. She stepped away from the rack so that she could hear Ranger's side of the conversation. Stephanie stood huddled with her phone for a few minutes.
Stephanie sighed as she disconnected the call and walked back to where her mother, grandmother and sister were standing. Worry was written on her face.
"Stephanie?" asked Helen Plum, Stephanie's mom. "What's wrong?"
Stephanie handed the sandals to her sister, Valerie. "Hold these for me." Stephanie opened her purse and began anxiously searching for her keys. "It's Frankie."
"Is he okay?" asked Grandma Mazur.
"No. We need to go home. I'll just pay for the sandals and then we'll get going." Stephanie continued to search through her purse. "Why can't I find my keys?"
"What's wrong?" asked Valerie.
"He was watching Bambi and when Bambi's mother got shot he got upset."
"Has he seen Bambi before?" asked Grandma Mazur.
"No." Stephanie's eye started to twitch.
"No wonder he's upset," said Helen Plum, "Especially with you not being there and all."
Grandma Mazur waved her hand dismissively and said, "Bambi. That damn movie has ruined more kids."
"That's the truth," said Valerie. "It scared my girls."
"Hell, it scared you two and your mother," said Grandma Mazur.
"I wasn't scared," said Helen Plum, "I cried because it was sad. The ones who were scared were Valerie and Stephanie. They cried and cried and clung to me for days afterward."
"Same thing with my girls," said Valerie. "They were all clingy after they saw Bambi the first time."
"And the worst one of all, was your mother. She clung to me like white on rice for weeks and weeks after she saw that damn movie. You know how it is with only children, you spoil them rotten. Every little scrape and cut is a big production-" said Grandma Mazur.
"Frankie's my only child," said Stephanie as she pressed a finger to the side of her eye to control the twitching.
"Well, then you're in for it. If he's like his grandmother, he'll be sticking to you like glue."