Aletta was long and elegantly graceful. At the Wild Raccoon, she was known as the expert in all things pigs and goats. It was an odd contrast for someone with a ballet dancer’s body. She also had a face that would have been perfect for the stage, if her personality and interests had run that direction. Bobbi thought of her as the wildcat in gazelle’s clothing. It was the one thing she loved best about Al.
That and the fact that she insisted on being called Al. Aletta was a name that simply screamed fragile, girly, lady-like and please-rescue-me-you-big-strong-man. It fit perfectly into the ultra-feminine beauty strangers assumed she was and family still tried to coerce her into becoming.
In reality, Al was none of these things. She was unapologetically female. But she was also incapable of being…well…girly.
From the top of an apple tree, Bobbi held a hacksaw in her free hand. Her other arm was wrapped around a tree branch and a large pair of freshly sharpened pruning shears hung from her belt. A storm had knocked over several trees in the forest adjacent to the orchard. There were several large, dead, branches tangles in the tops of a few very old and very large (some would say overgrown) apple trees. Most of the deadwood fell to the ground with minor coaxing. The rest required a little help from the temporarily non-functional chainsaw.
Bobbi watched Al walking up the hill at the center of the orchard until she was within shouting distance – then she shouted.
Bobbi had sent a 10-year-old back up to the house, hoping the girl wouldn’t see this as an excellent opportunity to escape both chores and adult supervision for a few hours. It was a relief to see Al coming to help. It was equally annoying to NOT see the 10 year-old following her.
“Where is it?” asked Al.
Bobbi pointed. The chainsaw lay on the ground, empty of gas. Al stood over the machine with a five gallon container of gas.
“Where’s Georgia?” Bobbi asked as she climbed down with the hacksaw still in her hand.
“Said something about gardening,” Al shrugged.
“Did you let her mother know?” Bobbi sighed, exasperated and truly hoping she would not have to go hunting for the girl.
After a moment of stunned silence, all Bobbi could say was “You did?”
“Georgia has herself a reputation,” Al chuckled. “Her mother said I was the fourth adult to ‘let-her-know’ – and that’s just today.”
“She’s a handful.”
“Good worker,” Bobbi offered. “When she stops long enough to actually do something.”
Al shrugged. “She’s just got a lot of energy and even more curiosity. If you really need to find her, chances are good she’s either got her nose in a book or her hands in the pond. Possibly both at the same time.”
“Frogs. Obsessed with frogs.”
“Good to know.”
Al held the gas can up.
“Thank you.” Bobbi said, sincerely grateful. There was a lot of wood to be dropped, dragged, sawed and chopped. The walk down the hill (and back up again) would break her routine and make the job both longer and harder.
“This is enough to get me through the rest of the afternoon. You can get back to the barn, if you want.”
“Thanks,” Al said, clearly relieved yet not moving. “I think I understand why you love it up here so much.”
“I actually know what I’m doing?” Bobbi joked.
“Smells better,” Al retorted. “Pigs and goats are wonderful animals, but…”
Bobbi laughed hard enough to make the gas can shake. Somehow she didn’t spill any gas. “You’re welcome to come up and breath the air anytime you like.”
“Thanks, I think I’ll do that.” Al replied with a smile as she turned to leave. “Back to the stink pen.”