Huckleberry Hearts

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Authors: Jennifer Beckstrand
you’ll be able to find us.”
    â€œI don’t think I can do that,” Dr. Reynolds replied.
    Mammi furrowed her brows. “Don’t you have the map on your phone? Cassie tells me everybody has one.”
    The doctor squeezed her hand reassuringly. “I don’t usually make house calls. But you can always reach me on the phone.”
    Mammi squeezed the doctor’s hand. She must have really been serious. Cassie could see her knuckles turn white. “Doctor, I would feel so much better if you came to visit me. What if my foot falls off? What if I die and leave my children bereft of a mother? What about my sixty-four grandchildren and hundred and three greats?”
    Dr. Reynolds didn’t lose that gorgeous, reassuring smile as he tried to divert Mammi’s attention. “Sixty-four grandchildren. That’s amazing.”
    Mammi would not be sidetracked. “One thing you need to know about the Amish is that we really need our doctors to visit us.”
    Cassie stiffened. Mammi had seemed so confident only a few minutes ago. Maybe the fact that she was about to go into surgery had just hit her. Mammi didn’t often talk about her own death. Cassie leaned across Dawdi, still looking at tattoos, and patted Mammi’s hand. “It will be all right. I’ll take good care of you.”
    â€œI’m sure you couldn’t have a better caretaker,” the doctor said.
    Dawdi pried his gaze from the magazine. “It’s no use trying to work things out right now, Annie Banannie. There’s plenty of time after your surgery.”
    Mammi shrugged and seemed to sigh with her whole body. “You’re right as usual, Felty. I’ve got two months to recover. We’ve done a lot more with a lot less time.”
    â€œYes,” said the doctor with a wink. “Everything’s going to be fine. And those sixty-four grandchildren are going to get a big kick out of your scar.”
    Mammi still held Cassie by the left hand and Dr. Reynolds by the right. She brought her hands together and placed Cassie’s hand in the doctor’s. A bolt of electricity traveled up Cassie’s arm at the mere touch of Zach Reynolds’s skin. Surely her face glowed a lovely shade of purple-crimson.
    â€œRight now,” Mammi said, “the only grandchild I’m concentrating on is Cassie. And I know neither of you will disappoint me.”
    â€œWe won’t,” Dr. Reynolds said, chuckling and looking as if he were surprised and pleased to be holding hands with her.
    When the doctor didn’t seem all that inclined to let go, Cassie slipped her hand from his and attempted a carefree smile to match the doctor’s. “I won’t disappoint you either, Mammi.”
    Mammi grinned like a fat kitty swimming in a bowl of cream. “I know you won’t. I’m never wrong about these things.”

Chapter Five
    With bowl in hand, Zach sank onto his threadbare secondhand sofa and propped his feet on the short metal filing cabinet that also served as a coffee table. He had to stretch a little as he reached for the three remotes sitting on the arm of the sofa. One remote to turn on the TV, one to change the channel, and one to work the volume. He wasn’t quite sure how he’d ended up with so many remotes, but at least the ancient TV worked and the cable box didn’t spark and hiss like the last one.
    Not really interested in watching, he turned on the TV more for background noise than anything else. With his fork, he twirled the long, curly noodles in his bowl. Oriental-flavored ramen noodles with hot dog slices probably had as much nutritional value as a shoebox, but they were easy to fix and tasted pretty good after a long day at the hospital. His grueling schedule over the last few years had made him less picky about what he put into his mouth.
    Still, what he wouldn’t have given for a thick slice of Giordano’s Chicago-style pizza at

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