Mort Rainey abruptly sat up right after the first ring of his doorbell. His dog, Chico, gave a blatant yap and padded towards the door. His owner knitted his brows together as he walked to his front door. Mr. Rainey unlocked his door and opened it to see a redhead standing on his front porch.
"Ruby," he spoke slowly, narrowing his eyes at his younger sister.
"Mort," she greeted just as blandly. He peered over her shoulder to spot Ruby's daughter holding a bright purple backpack in the shape of a cat's head. He drew in a tired breath, cringing.
"So you forgot that you are supposed to watch Bonnie today. Surprise, surprise," his sister frowned. Mort Rainey looked up from beneath his glasses, the tiniest amount of shame displayed on his features. Ruby took her daughter, Bonnie, by the hand and led her into Mort's kitchen.
"Hi, Mort," Bonnie greeted as she sat down at the small coffee table.
When her uncle was about to reply Ruby cut in.
" Uncle Mort. Say Uncle Mort. It's rude to call someone older than you by their first name," Ruby lectured her daughter. Bonnie brushed the remark aside and zipped her backpack open, fumbling around for her drawing pad.
Ruby turned to Mort who was already pouring himself a steaming cup of coffee.
"Mort," she started, pressing the palms of her hands together. Her brother took a long slurp from his mug.
"I'm really sorry about you and Amy," she apologized, lowering her voice to a sympathetic murmur. Mort waved off the comment sullenly.
"I'll come to pick up Bonnie around noon tomorrow," Ruby changed the subject, adjusting the bandana that held up her curls.
"Wait—Tomorrow?" Mort echoed, nearly choking on his drink.
"Mort, I thought we went over this on Tuesday. I said that Bonnie would have to spend the night at your house. I can't leave her alone while I go to Frehance Village," Ruby sighed, rubbing the bridge of her freckled noise. Mort ran a hand through his bed head, exhaling softly.
"Honestly, Mort. Don't act like it's such a big deal. I'm pretty sure you can handle a twelve year old," she said, hitching her purse over her shoulder. Ruby moved back to her daughter and gave her a peck on the forehead.
"Be a good girl and remember to use your manners," her mother reminded her.
"I will. You don't have to worry about me," Bonnie grinned, exposing her brand new braces. Ruby gave Mort a look of encouragement as she passed out the door. Bonnie stared up at Mort who simply stared back. The room was filled with an awkward silence.
"I'm hungry," Bonnie finally spoke up. Mort raised his eyebrows and swung open the fridge door.
"Well, we have…" He trailed off looking over his bottles and bottles of Jack Daniels and yogurt cups.
Bonnie cringed, wrinkling her nose in disgust. "I want pancakes," she replied quickly.
"Pancakes?" Mort repeated, cocking his head to the side.
"What's so bad about yogurt?"
"It's not a very healthy breakfast. That's what Mom says," Bonnie said, folding her hands on a stack of newspapers.
Mort nodded, scuffling to his cabinets in search of pancake mix.
"Pancake mix, pancake mix," he muttered to himself. He fished through his cabinets until he pulled out a fairly small sack of pancake mix. He shook it and twisted his face into a forced smile.
Chico dashed into the kitchen at the sound of food. He skid his paws against the floor, startled to see a strange little girl sitting at the table.
"Hi, baby boy," Bonnie cooed, putting out her hand.
As Mort turned on the stove, he looked over his shoulder.
"Bonnie, Mort. Mort, Bonnie." The dog lurched forward and began lapping his tongue across her fingers playfully. Bonnie giggled and wiped her hand on her Camp Tashmore t-shirt.
"Your dog is adorable," she commented, scooting out of her seat. Mort grunted in reply.
"Hey, can I look around your house, Uncle Mort? It's been forever since I've been here," Bonnie said, sliding her socked feet against the floor.
"Ah, sure. Why don't you head upstairs and put your over night clothes in the guest bedroom?" Bonnie nodded obediently and zoomed up the stairs. Chico romped after her and bumped into Bonnie as she stopped in front of Mort's computer.
"I completely forgot that you're a writer!" Bonnie shouted from the room that looked over the den. Mort muttered something sarcastically under his breath, pouring pancake batter into a frying pan.
"Kids," he snorted, pushing up his glasses over the bridge of his nose. Bonnie sat in her uncle's chair and stared at the long, dragging sentences on the laptop. She leaned in and placed her elbows next to the keyboard.
"This story is a snooze-a-palooza," she frowned, looking closer. Suddenly, the girl fell off the edge of the torn seat and sent her elbows crashing into the computer. The laptop screen blinked as the paragraphs of his story were deleted. Click.