Disclaimer: As always, this is just for fun! I do not own the characters of Jessica Fletcher, Frank Fletcher, or Grady Fletcher. Thank you to MCA/Universal for creating these wonderful characters. And like everyone else who is participating in this Writer’s Challenge, my intent is not to infringe on anyone’s copyright, nor is it to make any money.
Jessica huddled within the heavy sweater that she was now very thankful she had packed for their camping trip. She looked heavenward with an inward grimace, listening to the breeze that rustled the crisp leaves in the trees above, only adding to the chilled, cool, damp evening air.
Young Grady, under Frank’s watchful eye, worked diligently to start a campfire but unfortunately for the trio, the task was proving rather more difficult than pitching the tent had. The rain that had fallen earlier in the day as they had hiked up the well worn trail to their campsite had dampened everything, including the leaves and small sticks that they would need for kindling.
There had been a great deal of smoke from his efforts but as of yet, no actual fire. Finally, after much struggle and frustration, Grady stood back and admired the roaring flames. Frank and Jessica smiled at each other, both realizing how good it felt to see a look of pride on the boy’s face.
The happy lad who had always been filled with boundless energy and who had always shown unlimited affection for his favorite aunt and uncle had rarely shown either of them even a hint of a smile much less a hug since the loss of his parents several months earlier. No one could blame him for feeling gloomy and even abandoned after such a tragedy, so Jessica and Frank had waited patiently, loved unconditionally, and hoped that he would soon begin to show some signs of returning to his normal, cheerful self, and of adapting to his new life in Cabot Cove.
“What’s for supper?” Frank asked, reminding Grady that cooking was also one of his responsibilities if he hoped to earn his Outdoorsman badge.
Grady looked at his uncle momentarily with a blank expression. “Oh, uh…”
Then, he looked to Jessica, who mouthed the words to him.
“Right,” he said, smiling slightly before turning back to his uncle.
“Coffee can stew,” he answered more confidently this time. He hadn’t been so sure about it a few days earlier but right now, with his stomach growling, it sounded wonderful.
“Coffee can stew?” Frank repeated skeptically.
“Yeah, it’ll be really great,” Grady assured him as he dug into his backpack and removed a small metal Folgers can.
Frank had only been teasing, of course. With his wife involved in the meal planning he knew that it was unlikely that they would go hungry. As with everything she did, Jessica had thrown herself into the project. Not only had she helped Grady find information on food safety when camping but she had also helped him sort through recipes to find suitable camping fare for their overnight trip.
Later that evening after finishing his dinner, Frank stood and patted his belly. “Well, Grady, my boy, I do believe you’ve outdone yourself,” he proclaimed, giving his loving wife a knowing wink.
Grady looked up from his empty metal can. “Really?”
The boy began to get up from the large log that had served as his seat for the meal, knowing that clean up was also one of his responsibilities. “Well, gee, Uncle Frank, Aunt Jess helped…a lot,” he admitted sheepishly.
“Are you sure?” Frank teased. “I’ve never known your aunt to cook our supper in a tin can.”
Jessica began to stand as well but Frank stopped her. “We’ll clean up, won’t we Grady?” he volunteered, smiling down at her.
“Sure, Uncle Frank,” he answered, glad to have his uncle’s help.
As they began to walk toward the stream their voices carried back to the campfire. “It really was her idea,” Grady insisted. “And the best part is that we don’t even have to wash the coffee cans. Aunt Jess said that we could just throw them in the garbage can.”
Cabot Cove was quiet in the evenings but the campground was almost silent. This late in the season there were only a few campers spread out throughout the park and the only sounds to be heard were those of nature – a hooting owl, a scurrying chipmunk, and the far off, distant cry of a wolf.
“Aunt Jess?” Grady asked, later that night after she had helped him zip up his sleeping bag.
“Aunt Jess, can the wolves get into our tent?”
Jessica weighed her answer carefully. “I have yet to meet a wolf that could unzip a tent,” she informed him lightheartedly. “Plus your Uncle Frank and I are here to protect you.”
Grady smiled and gave a noted sigh of relief.
“Can I have a hug?”
This time Jessica was the one to smile. As they hugged goodnight she whispered softly, “You can have as many hugs as you want.”
“What was that about?” Frank asked later, after Jessica had slipped into her sleeping bag and Grady was fast asleep.
“Wolves,” she explained with a shiver. “He wanted to know if the wolves could get into the tent.
“Oh. What did you tell him?”
“That I’d never met a wolf that could unzip a tent…and that you and I would protect him,” she repeated, unsure that it had been the right answer.
“You know, Jessie, neither have I,” he said with a chuckle.
“Can the wolves get into the tent?” she asked nervously.
Frank wrapped his arms around his trembling wife and pulled her close. “Don’t worry, Bright Eyes, I’m here to protect you.”