Archives for July 2014

Blue Bonnet Plague

Annie Hobbs wiped her nose again. She watched from the sidelines as Margaret, her two-year-older sister of fourteen, returned Sue Ann’s serve with a mean slice. The ball hit the court, reacted like wet putty, and died before Sue Ann Walters could get to it.
“Game and match!” cried Maggie, throwing up her hands. She turned to Annie. “Wanna play me a game, Annie? I’m hot today!”
Annie sniffled and shook her head. “Can’t. My allergy’s acting up again.” She waved as Sue Ann headed for the club house.
“Oh, Annie, did you forget your allergy pills again?”
Annie looked at her sneakers, resenting Maggie’s words, tired of hearing the same old question. “You know I hate to take those things. And besides, they don’t do that much good…”
Maggie shrugged her shoulders, took several practise swings with her racket, and put her arm around Annie. “Won’t be long now, Annie, and it’s ‘Texas here we come!’ Mom says the air is dry, and Doctor Nell says your sniffling allergy will disappear like magic. It’s gotta be better than here in Raleigh, North Carolina.”
“Yeah,” said Annie with a sniffle, “I can’t wait. Three more weeks — seems like a…a…achoo!”
Maggie laughed. “If ever anyone needed to go to Texas, it’s you, Annie.”
“Yeah,” Annie agreed as she walked away. “I think I’ll head for the club house and the air-conditioning. Too many stray pollens out here in Spring.”
That night at dinner, the girls eagerly plied their father with questions. He had just returned from a week in Austin, Texas, looking over their newly-finished home, and talking with the builder about the final touches on the house; their mother’s drapes and carpets, and the windows in Dad’s new shop behind the house.
“Girls, I have a surprise for you. Remember, I told you about the possibility of getting an extra acre behind the house? Well, not only did we get it, but by the time we get there, there’ll be a fifty-foot pool on it complete with diving board.”
“Daddy!” the girls cried in unison. They hugged him fiercely while Mom laughed. “Oh Daddy, you’re the greatest,” said Annie, “and this’ll be the greatest summer of my life ’cause I’ll be rid of my runny nose. Maybe I can join the swim team at our new school.”
The next weeks passed quickly, but not for Annie. She sniffled and sneezed her way through the packing, the loading, and the reading about Texas and their new home town, Austin. They would be living on the outskirts of Austin near the small town of Round Rock — named for a huge round rock in a stream two miles from their subdivision. Annie and Maggie would go to Round Rock High School which had a great reputation for sports — which meant there would be lots of good-looking guys.
On the day of departure, the Delta flight was two hours late leaving due to an electrical problem. The girls and their mother sat on the hot plane for a while, but finally went back to the air-conditioned terminal. Annie’s nose was red from rubbing. She had her handkerchief out constantly.
Once in the air, Annie enjoyed the flight; she observed the stewardesses as they went about their duties, and watched the changes in terrain from twenty-four thousand feet.
A subdued bell bonged, and Annie realized that she had been dozing for some time. The ‘Seat Belt’ sign was lit, and she could feel the plane descending. In minutes they would land at their new home — Austin.
Dad met them at the airport and drove them through the city. On the way, Annie stared at the buildings, the wide streets, the large number of pickup trucks, the absence of tall trees, and the extra roads parallel to the highway — Dad called them Farm-to-Market or FM roads.
“Austin is located in a transition zone — the San Andreas Fault. To the east, the land is flat — great farm country. To the west, it gets hilly — you’ll hear people talk about the Texas Hill Country. Round Rock is on the borderline. And you’ll love the Highland Lakes, too.”
Annie was barely paying attention as she opened the window briefly and breathed the Texas air — and her nose wasn’t running!
“Annie! Roll up the window. You’re defeating the air conditioner,” said Dad.
“Look at that field over there, Maggie,” Annie yelled. “It’s almost all blue. Those must be the Texas Blue Bonnets I read about.” A tear rolled down her cheek — a tear of happiness, she thought.
The streets shimmered in the mid-day heat, and the car air-conditioner did its job. Dad turned into a subdivision of beautiful homes.
“Oh Daddy,” cried Annie, ” I know I’m going to love it here!”
He pulled into the driveway of a white two-story house they had seen only in photographs.
“We’re home, gang.”
Annie jumped from the car before it stopped. “Come on, Mag, let’s run around back and see the pool,” she yelled, and dashed around the side of the house with Maggie close behind.
Ten minutes later, Annie quietly entered the house and joined her parents in the huge living room overlooking the pool. She slumped dejectedly into a chair.
“Annie honey, have you been crying?” asked Mom. “What’s wrong, dear?”
“Blue Bonnets,” she answered, “acres and acres of Blue Bonnets out in back — as far as the eye can see, Mom.”
“Yes, dear. Isn’t it wonderful? Just like the pictures in the Texas travel brochure. And, oh Annie, with the dry air here, you can kiss your sniffles ‘goodbye’.”
“Yeah,” she sighed, “and say ‘howdy’ to itchy, watery eyes.”
“Oh no — Annie, you mean…”
“Yeah, I traded my sniffles for crying,” she whispered as a tear ran down her cheek. She jumped up and hugged her mom. “but I’ll bet Texas has a couple of things I’ll be needing.”
“What’s that, dear?”
“Air-conditioning and allergy pills.”