Cousin Avery and Wyatt are taking us to the mall today. She needs to pick out a present for Uncle Robert and Aunt Alicia’s anniversary. They’ve been married for about a hundred years. Dad and my uncles always tell us to keep an eye on Wyatt when we’re out with them but we like him. He’s cool. He makes a mean PB & J and he lets us do whatever we want. We even made him a member of our tree house club.
When we arrived, we went over the rules. Everyone stays together and no one talks to strangers. Avery went into a store that sells glass figurines so they agreed it would be a good idea to keep us outside. She said it would be like letting loose six bulls in a china shop. Whatever that means. Gabe and Owen are still too little to travel with us but they should be joining the fun soon. While we were waiting for Avery, Wyatt saw a shirt he liked in a clothing store. So he took us in there. By the time we came out there was some jerk with a clipboard in his hand talking to Avery.
“Why does he have a clipboard like the one dad uses for our soccer games?” Jake asked.
“He’s playing a game of his own.” Wyatt’s jaw ticked. “I think he does surveys for the mall.”
I knew that tone. Mom says Wyatt has been acting jealous lately, which was a change of pace. He usually flirted with girls to get under Cousin Avery’s skin. But lately it seemed he got upset if anyone talked to her. Which was kind of weird because he’d been avoiding her a lot lately. Clipboard Dude asked her if she liked the remodeling of the mall and threw in that she had a nice smile. That seemed to make Wyatt angrier. He huddled us together. He had a plan for situations like this. He called this one the Runaway Mama.
“OK boys. You know what to do. We’ve practiced Runaway Mama plenty of times.” Wyatt crouched down so he was eye level with the kids. “Remember Jake, louder is better. Colby and Matt, I want to see those doe eyes you do when you’re trying to stay up after your bedtime.”
Colby and Matt widened their eyes and made their saddest face.
Wyatt interrupted. “Colby, I need you to dial it back a little. You look more like Gerri the Giraffe is missing. Matt, pull on that curly hair of yours. It’ll make you look like you miss your mama.”
Colby lowered his eyebrows a little. Matt touched a lock of his curls.
“Perfect.” Wyatt nodded. “Connor and Jack, you’re on leg pulling duty. We’ve rehearsed this plenty of times and it should work. I’ll send Mackenzie over there as a last-ditch effort. If this goes well, I’ll take you for pizza at the restaurant that has the arcade.”
Clipboard Dude was laying it on a bit thick, as if he were really going to get Avery’s phone number. Cousin Avery smiled when she saw us walking in her direction. But it faded when she saw Wyatt holding Mackenzie while giving us a thumb’s up. She tried to move away from that clipboard toting jerk but it was too late. We were already there.
“Mommy, please come home. We miss you.” Jake yelled.
“I promise if you come home I’ll never ask Santa for anything ever again.” Connor clutched her leg.
“We’ll clean our rooms every day.” Jack clutched her other leg.
Connor was really good at ad libbing. Grandpa John Jacob said he was a natural-born politician.
“These are your kids?” Clipboard Dude said.
“No!” Avery squeaked out. “Boys, cut it out right now!”
“But we love you and want you to come home. Molly’s been crying herself to sleep every night.” Matt pointed to Wyatt and Mackenzie.
We all looked over and Wyatt had loosened one of Mackenzie’s pigtails and had put a brush in her hand. She looked like she did when she tried to climb out of her toddler bed in the morning when the guard rails were up as high as mom could get them.
“Do I look like I’m old enough to have all these kids?” She glared at the guy.
“Hey. No judgment.” He held up his hands and backed away.
“There’s nothing to judge.”
“I don’t know what’s going on but you should be with your family.”
“Come on. They’re joking.”
“Sure they are.”
When Clipboard Dude was out of range, Avery turned back to us with a stern look on her face.
“I can’t believe you sold out your favorite babysitter. What did he promise you?” She squinted.
“Let’s go.” Avery herded the brood over to Wyatt. “You have a lot of nerve.”
“These kids are naturals.” He grinned and gave them all a high-five. “And I’ll take that as a thank you. That guy looked creepy.”
“He’s a survey taker. It’s his job to poll the people walking around the mall.”
“That’s not the pole he was planning on you showing you.” Wyatt huffed.
“Stop right there. They learn enough bad things from you.” She took Mackenzie into her arms and sat on a bench and fixed her hair. Once the pigtail was back in place, the little girl was ready to go.
“Wyatt. Up!” Mackenzie reached for Wyatt.
“Two can play this game. I’m going to tell their parents you’ve been teaching them how to play poker in the tree house.”
“Avery!” He took Mackenzie into his arms.
“The punishment should fit the crime.” She stuck her tongue out at him then pulled out her phone and composed a text. “I’m sending this to everyone in the family.”
“What happens in the tree house, stays in the tree house. Maybe that’s why they haven’t been made you a member.” He said.
“OK. What do I have to do for you to cancel that group text?”
Avery tapped her finger to her chin. “You have to give Comet a nice brush down. I want him groomed so good he’ll look like he’s competing in an equestrian competition. And I want a picture of you giving him a great big hug afterward.”
He shook his head. “No way. That horse tried to bite me last week.”
“He gets moody. Like you.” She shrugged.
Wyatt put up a fight but we all knew he’d do what Avery wanted. Dad said that’s how he knew Wyatt was a goner. Whatever that means.
“This is extortion.” Wyatt rolled his eyes.
“No, it’s what you deserve for getting the kids involved in your shenangians.”
“Can we have pizza now?” Colby asked.
“You sure can.” Wyatt smiled.
Cousin Avery and Wyatt continued to fuss with each other all the way to the restaurant. They reminded me a lot of mom and dad when they talked. Mom keeps saying I’ll learn to appreciate this one day but I’m not so sure. It’s all still gross to me.
Hope you enjoyed Jake and the gang’s adventures with Avery and Wyatt!
In case you missed it, check out Tree House Follies with Uncle Jared, Kangaroo Court with Uncle Channing, Phone Follies with Uncle Tyler, Big Brothers Club Meeting with Uncle J.J., Music Lesson with Uncle Tate, Running Interference with Uncle Robert and Field Trip with Uncle Bubba!
Until next time,
Copyright © 2016 Rhonda Laurel. All Rights Reserved.
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