“Make the screaming stop,” thought Zeke Cook, as he shifted his head from one side to the other. Slowly, he opened his eyes and then heard a familiar sound. Tremor the rooster was announcing the new morning with his loud cock-a-doodle do. Zeke had woken to the same morning revelry for the past two months. But as loud as Tremor was, Zeke knew that this was not the same screaming he had just heard in his head, or was it?
Since moving to his Grandparents’ farm, Zeke’s whole morning routine had changed. Instead of sleeping in as he usually did during the summer months, he now had morning chores to do. Each morning he arose at daybreak and headed downstairs for breakfast. Grandpa Cook was always the first to get up. By the time everyone else was awake, he would have gathered eggs for that morning’s breakfast and been working on his second cup of coffee. Usually Grandma Cook wasn’t far behind him. By the time Zeke made it downstairs, just past sunrise, his grandparents would be turning on the early morning news.
The only part of his routine that had remained the same was writing in his dream journal as soon as he woke up. His dreams, however, had changed. He wasn’t sure why. Moon Willow, his spirit guide, did not appear in his dreams the way that she used to. He missed seeing the familiar figure dressed in Native American attire, and the majestic white wolf that often appeared with her. He still heard her voice from time to time, but now he heard many different voices.
One thing he had learned since she first started appearing in his dreams was that he would not always understand what she said, what he saw or had written in the dream journal. More often than not, those things would make sense later, after certain events took place. Not always helpful, he thought to himself. It would be nice to understand things beforehand, but he knew he had made a lot of progress since he first started paying attention to his dreams. The summer before, he had been so confused and conflicted that he had wondered if he was cursed.
The key was not to over think things. When it was time, all would be revealed. He had learned this after having a series of what he thought at the time were nightmares, first about his Grandpa Cook and then about a family friend named Beth Thompson, who was now in a drug rehabilitation center. He realized now that these weren’t nightmares, but dreams that were meant to guide him and prepare him. Even with this understanding, some dreams still seemed scary at times.
As Zeke made his move to get out of bed, so did Barley. Barley was Grandpa’s yellow Labrador retriever. They had become fast friends when Zeke and his brother Griffen had visited the farm for a week the summer before. Barley was Zeke’s first chore, even though it didn’t really seem like a chore. Each morning Barley would follow Zeke downstairs to the back door, where Zeke would let him out and wait for him until he was ready to come back inside. It usually took less than five minutes.
As he descended the stairs he could smell freshly brewed coffee. He wasn’t a coffee drinker himself. He liked the smell, but not the taste. He had tried to like it, adding milk, sugar and other things, but none of it had worked. Instead, each morning while the others were sipping coffee, he enjoyed his orange juice. Sometimes the orange juice was freshly squeezed and other times it was from a carton. Either way, he thought it tasted much better than the strong, black stuff the adults in his family seemed to like.
He greeted his grandparents as he entered the kitchen, giving them a smile and a quick ‘good morning’ as he kept moving towards the back door. Barley, with his tail wagging, was already there waiting for him to open the door.
As he waited for Barley for finish up outside, his mother entered the kitchen, soon followed by Zeke’s dad. They both went directly to the coffee pot and poured steaming cups before sitting down at the table. It had become the morning ritual to sit quietly and watch the early morning news while they sipped their coffee or juice. That morning they all watched a news report about a missing six year old boy who had last been seen the night before. The news report displayed a photo of the child and reported that he was last seen wearing a light blue t-shirt and blue jean shorts.
Zeke heard Barley bark signaling that he was ready to come back in. He opened the door and watched as Barley raced to the table to say good morning to everyone. Giving a quick glance at the clock, Zeke headed for the refrigerator. 5:55 am. Right on schedule, he thought to himself.
As he opened the refrigerator door to grab the orange juice, his brother Griffen sauntered into the kitchen. Placing the cold carton of orange juice on the counter, he once again looked at the clock. 5:58 am. He wondered where the newest member of the family was. It was Friday morning and it was their turn to cook breakfast.
When the family had moved to the farm, Zeke’s parents had been concerned with being a burden on Grandma and Grandpa Cook. One of the things they soon implemented was a sharing of breakfast duties. His mom and grandmother prepared breakfast Monday through Thursday. Friday was assigned to the boys; his dad and grandfather took their turn on Sunday mornings. Saturday was the only day that was not assigned; everyone fended for themselves. It was often cereal, donuts, pop tarts or waffles that you threw into the toaster. If you wanted something cooked, like eggs, you cooked them yourself, unless someone offered to cook for you.
Griffen purposely bumped his younger brother as he passed him on the way to the stove. Zeke’s first thought was to retaliate and bump him back, hard, but he knew if he did that he wouldn’t get away with it. Not with all the adults sitting at the table. So, ignoring the obvious provocation, he instead asked, “You want juice?”
“Yep,” Griffen responded, snickering, as he reached into the cabinet for the frying pan and placed it on the stove. “Eggs coming right up!” he announced.
“About time,” came a response from across the kitchen. “And don’t burn mine this time.”
“One burned egg coming right up,” Griffen quipped back.
Devon Clark smiled as he told everyone good morning and continued joking with Griffen. “You burn my egg; I’ll burn your toast!”
“Do it,” encouraged Zeke. “He loves burnt toast.”
“Keep it up, Zeke, and I’ll burn your eggs, too,” teased Griffen as he cracked another egg into the almost full frying pan. He waited for his brother’s smart aleck response. Instead he heard his Grandfather’s voice as he joined in the morning fun. “Well, I don’t care whose eggs you burn, as long as they’re not mine. But you know that I like my toast burnt.”
“Sick, Grandpa, I don’t know how you can eat burnt toast. That’s yucky.” Everyone laughed as Zeke made a face and placed four pieces of bread into the toaster.
“It truly is,” responded Jack Cook, as he looked first at his dad, then at his youngest son.