Sunday, August 19, 2018

The Beasts Are Very Wise


The beasts are very wise,
Their mouths are clean of lies ; 
They talk one to the other, 
Bullock to bullock's brother,
Resting after their labors,
Each in stall with his neighbours. 
But man with goad and whip, 
Breaks up their fellowship,
Shouts in their silky ears 
Filling their souls with fears. 
When he has tilled the land 
He says, 'They understand.'
But the beasts in stall together, 
Freed from yoke and tether, 
Say, as the torn flanks smoke,
'Nay, 'twas the whip that spoke.' 


I heard this poem by Rudyard Kipling when I watched The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. A member of their reading group, a little boy, read it aloud at their meeting.

Ned is one of our beasts. He loaned his black collar to Baby, and like most girlfriends, she kept his clothes. Finally Adam found an old pink collar somewhere on the farm. We think Ned is manly enough to wear pink well.
 This morning I went to let my chickens out of the coop, and this little girl didn't come out -- meaning, she didn't go into the coop last night. Meaning something probably ate her for lunch yesterday.
I hadn't yet given her a name.
 The smaller chick is still around. These things happen when you keep chickens.

Adam continues his gingerbread cookie trials. He thinks he's finally mastered it!
 He finally rejected the Williamsburg cookie recipe; he instead opted for a gingerbread cake batter, and added just enough flour to make a wet cookie. Perfect! They were delicious. He took them to share around at the blood drive on Friday.
Inside of the cookie:
 He feeds me such delicious dinners. Here are Mexican fried tacos: meat and cheese on the inside, pan fried and drained, with guacamole and tomatoes and lettuce.
Do you like that Kipling poem? It makes one think, doesn't it?

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Ten Days at Federal Hill: Chapter Ten

(If you'd like to read previous chapters, please click on the page tab, Ten Days at Federal Hill, just under the banner photo above.)



Chapter Ten: Edward

All the children squealed and a general ruckus erupted from the alcove in Julia’s room. Above this din a woman’s voice pealed out.

“Children! What is going on in here?!”

Aunt Velma sailed into the room, her arms flung overhead. Her curly red hair bounced and her eyes flashed. She marched to the alcove and yanked back the curtain.

“My word! What a noise!” She glared at Julia. “Why weren’t you at breakfast?” Then she saw the state of the children’s clothes. Her jaw dropped but she found no words to express her dissatisfaction. “Have you been out rolling in the mud this early in the morning? Look at your clothes!”

As all children obediently do, the three of them looked down at themselves. They were covered with cobwebs and red clay. Julia’s bed was a frightful mess. The children’s shoes, caked with filth, had spread grime and muck on books, toys, pillow, blankets, windowsill, and curtain. Julia could hear a rumble under her bottom as she sat on the sill. Ten was pushing on it, and she was gently pushing back.
Both girls began laughing and giggling loudly to cover up the noise from the tunnel.

“Sorry, Mom!” Julia bellowed. “We’re just … we’re ….”

Cecil rescued her. “We’re … in a silly mood. A really silly mood!” And Cecil laughed an unnatural cackle. Both girls stared at him.

“Well!” Aunt Velma retorted. “I want quieter children, cleaner children, and --” here she turned to Julia – “children who eat breakfast when I cook it!” And quick as she came, she stomped from the room.

The children all collapsed in relief. Julia held her head in her hands. “That was so close! I’ve been gone almost 24 hours. She might’ve found out!”

“She ought to know!” Carla hissed through clenched teeth. “I’m sick of being in this kind of danger without any adults helping us! I can’t do it anymore!” She fell onto Julia’s pillow in tears.

“Carla, we do have grown-ups helping us,” Cecil said quietly. “We’ve had Lucie and Mrs. Lambert, and --”

“Who?” Julia asked.

“Nothing,” Cecil answered her. “Besides, we’re done with this situation. You don’t have to go back to that house. There’s no kids there. We’re done ….”

Knock. Knock knock.

“We’re – done – we’re ….”

Knock knock knock. KNOCK!

Julia felt the banging rumbling under her. “We have to let him in.”

“We have to keep him secret,” Cecil said.

Carla sat up. “We have to find a place to put him!” she said. “Ever think of that?”

At last Julia scooted off the windowsill, and the children raised the wooden seat and brought Ten into the alcove. He was dirtier than they were. Cecil slipped to his room and retrieved some ill-fitting clothes for the boy. Cecil was quite a bit chubbier than Ten, who was rather a good bit taller. While Aunt Velma tended to Grandmother Julia, who was still feeling unwell, they sneaked Ten to the bathroom to get clean. To avoid Frances, who might reclaim her bedroom at any moment, the children climbed the second, narrow set of stairs into the attic, where several small servants’ rooms used decades before still lay under a coating of heavy dust. The children chose a room at the end of the narrow, dark hall with its low, sloping ceiling. Panels of sunlight slanted across the floor from the vent in the gable end of the room, and motes of dust floated around them as they sat cross-legged on the floor. The sloping roof encased them like a cave.

Cecil began. “First of all, I want everybody to know what’s going on here, what Carla and I know. Ten,” here he turned to the boy, “Carla and I have been to your world before, to the workhouse. Do you remember? Last year? Some of the children left?”

Ten nodded. “Yeah. I wasn’t there. Fen had traded me off to a farm, but I kept runnin’ off, so she brought me back to be under her thumb. When I got back, I heard about you and these girls.”

“The other girl is our sister, Connie. She’s not here right now. She’s sick.”

Julia watched the boys, mystified. “Wait. Wait! Are you telling me that you and Carla met him before, or ...” she shook her head as if to clear it, “or kids like him, somewhere else, some other world?”

“Yeah,” Carla whispered. “We rescued them. Fourteen of them.”

“Fifteen,” added Cecil. “Don’t forget the baby.”

“Fifteen,” Carla agreed.

The boy Ten squirmed and made a gruff noise. “Rescued? Is that what you call it?”

Cecil and Carla turned to him. He fixed his eyes on them.

“Those kids disappeared. They never came back. Their brothers and sisters and friends were left alone!” He kept his voice low, but there was anger in it.

Carla regained courage to defend herself. “We were willing to bring everybody! We begged them to come.”

“Come where? They didn’t know where you were taking them!”

“We were taking them here!” Cecil rejoined.

“What’s so good about here?” Ten asked.

Cecil became exasperated. “Oh … I dunno! Food maybe? Safety? People who love you? Not sleeping on a hard floor in rags and being afraid of being beaten and made to work until your hands bleed! Not being afraid of every adult in your life!”

Ten sneered slightly. “Oh, like that screaming woman before? You seemed pretty nervous about her.”

Julia stood up. “Hey! That’s my mom!” She glared down at Ten. He looked up at her, then at the other two. His tight face slackened and his eyes dimmed.

Quietly he asked, “What’s a mom?”

Then Julia turned to her cousins and asked, “Been hiding any more secrets?”

The room was quiet until Cecil spoke again. “Ten, we’re glad you’re here. We hope we can show you a little of how we live. I don’t have a clue how you can stay here though. Julia’s parents will want to know where you come from, and I honestly don’t know how we can tell them. Plus,” and he looked at Carla for agreement, “the place you really should go isn’t this house … or this world … it’s a different one.”

Julia gasped. “Another one?!”

Carla interrupted. “It’s a house better than this one, with the kindest grown-up you could ever meet. Her name’s Lucie. All the other children from the workhouse are there already. That’s where they really moved to.” She looked keenly at him. “And they are very happy. We’ve visited them there.”

“Well, I’d like to go visit them too,” Ten said.

“Ten,” Cecil broke in, “it’s not that easy. We don’t know how to travel to Lucie’s house from here, from Julia’s home. Carla and I live far away, and it’s from our house that we know how to get to Lucie’s.” Ten looked confused and disappointed. “It’s complicated. I’m sorry.”

“So, what are we supposed to do with him now?” Julia asked. It was the obvious question, but one no one else wanted to ask. “If he can’t stay here, where does he go?” No one answered. All the children looked at each other. The silence became heavy.

Finally Cecil asked, “How far is it from the house where you were sleeping, to the workhouse? It must take you days – even weeks – to walk that far. Did you see people on the way? Are there other houses, other adults, in your world?”

Ten studied Cecil’s face, looking for some meaning there. “Days? Weeks? Are you kiddin’? At a quick pace, I walk from the workhouse to the empty house all night, from sunset to sunrise.” He paused. “How long is that?”

Cecil whistled low. “That’s ten hours maybe.” He stared at Carla. “That’s not possible. From our house to Federal Hill – that’s Georgia to Virginia. That’s a full day’s drive in the car on the interstate.” He turned back to Ten. “Are you sure?”

“’Course I’m sure! I walked it, didn’t I?”

“I wish we could talk to Lucie,” Carla moaned. “She could answer so many of our questions. She could tell us just what to do!”

Cecil nodded, and then held his bent head in his hands. He rubbed his crew cut above his ears because he was thinking hard. Carla and Julia knew to wait while he was thinking this way.

“What we need to do,” said Cecil at last, “is find out how to reach Lucie’s world from here. If there were three versions of our house, there must be three versions of Federal Hill.” His voice rose. “There’s a Federal Hill house in Lucie’s world. That’s the house we need to find. That’s the next thing we need to figure out!”

Carla shook her head. “No. The next thing I want to find out is who that creature was that chased me down the tunnel. The woman with the bulging eyes.”

No one answered her, but Ten nearly said something, and then pursed his lips. Cecil and Julia wondered if she’d imagined it all, in her terror of the tunnel. Finally Julia said, “Well, the next thing I’m gonna do is wash Ten’s clothes while I can.” She held out her hand. “Give ‘em over. I can smell them from here.”

“Watcha gonna do to ‘em?” Ten asked as he put the bundle in her arms.

“I’ll put them in water and soap and get the dirt and smell out of them.”

He jumped up and grabbed the clothes back from her. “Hang on! I gotta get somethin’ first!” And the boy rifled through a tattered pocket on the pair of pants he’d given her. His grimy hand clutched a frayed piece of cloth.

“What’s that?” Carla asked.

“Nothin’,” he replied. “It’s just somethin’ I’ve had a long time. Long as I can remember. Some little piece of cloth from the clothes I wore before, when I was a young’un. It’s a pretty little thing.” He smiled and handed it to Carla. She thought it was the first time she’d seen him smile. “It’s the only precious thing I got. I don’t know what it is, rightly. Just swirly things in thread.” He glance at Julia and added, “Like the little papers you left me before.”

Carla looked down at the patch of fabric in her palm, a scrap from a child’s sweater, or maybe a bib. On it, embroidered in cursive script, was the name “Edward.”



[Ten Days at Federal Hill is copyrighted in its entirety by the author, M.K. Christiansen.]

Escaping Crazy

Everybody needs to get away from whatever crazy is in our lives. For two weeks, Adam and I have hoped for clear weather to get away to the beach. Yesterday ... we did it!
On the ferry:
 Harker's Island - its sandy roads, quirky cottages, and live oaks:
 A dilapidated farmhouse set amongst knobby trees with the ocean behind it:
 The Straits, off Core Sound:
 A brief stop for a can of something to keep the car engine from squeaking ...
 Lunch at The Spot Grill

 It takes a while to get to the beach, set up, settle inside the tent, and relax. We both read. Adam napped.
 He looks a little grumpy, but he's not. He's squinting at the sun. He doesn't particularly like the beach (sand, salt, sitting in the heat ... sand especially), but he did it for me, and then he had to tell me to stop apologizing and asking if he wanted to leave. So I said okay, and we stayed longer contentedly.
 I painted something that was supposed to resemble a plover.
 I extended the date and took us to Fort Macon, built well before the Civil War. Such a history!


 The Coast Guard were there for the weekly Wednesday firing of a cannon. That was interesting to watch.
I took a video of the firing, but it was too long for Blogger to upload it from my camera. Ah well. It was quite a loud boom!

The ferry ride home before sunset with seagulls flying and a rain storm up river:




Fly away. Have you ever envied a bird? Those birds of the air that do not sow nor reap nor store anything away -- and yet they're provided for. They don't worry about tomorrow. More and more, it seems that so many of us live lives overcome with anxiety. Just when you think you've got some sort of handle on the anxieties you already have, a new load comes along. I've been pondering these things lately because I know that humans have borne anxiety for all our existence, and many in centuries past had much harder lives than ours. How did they cope? They had no meds, no therapists, no sympathetic societies. Perhaps they didn't cope much at all. Jesus tells us repeatedly (as He anticipated His own horrific murder) not to worry, not to be anxious about anything. I spend a lot of time pondering Heaven and the peaceful New Earth we all anticipate, and remember that the worst sorrows of this planet are at least temporary. Thank goodness that the fall is accompanied by death. (Not meaning to be morbid) But the temporary nature of our anxious, sorrowing lives here is a blessing, is it not? And of course, there are very happy times too, times of sunlight and thanksgiving and sweet fellowship. Those help too. As do trips to the beach with one's best friend and fellow-laborer in this life! How could I do it without him? I'm so thankful God gave me a sweet husband who is my dear friend. That's all the blathering I have for you today, friends! Thanks for stopping by and sharing our beach trip!

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Ten Days at Federal Hill: Chapter Nine

(To read previous chapters, please click on the Ten Days at Federal Hill page tab, just below the banner photo above.)


Chapter Nine: Running in the Tunnel


“So, what do we do now?” Carla asked Cecil. “I think we should explain --”

“No,” he replied. “There’s too much to explain.” He looked at Julia. “Listen, we can’t tell you the whole story right now. But I think we – Carla and I – have had something like this happen to us before, last summer, at our house.”

“At your house?”

“Yeah. So we know a little about it.”

“Okay.”

Carla interrupted. “What’s the other house like, the one that looks like your house?”

“Um, it’s set up the same, but it’s really old and in horrible shape. There’s a tree growing through the roof.”

“Is it scary?” Cecil asked.

Julia thought a moment. “Not exactly scary. Nothing bad has happened.” Then she squirmed. She hated to admit this next secret. “But, well, I did meet somebody there, and he seems a little scared.”

Cecil grasped her by the arm. “Someone? Who?”

“A boy. Only a little older than me. He’s edgy, like he’s afraid of something. He’s not always there.”

“Is there anybody else in the house?” Cecil asked.

“No,” Julia replied, and Cecil breathed a sigh of relief. “No, but I think there are people wherever he comes from. He doesn’t live in the house either. I think he hides there.”

“He hides? From what?” Carla asked her.

“From people he’s scared of,” Julia answered. “And I think he’s really poor. He looks dirty and his clothes are too small.” She paused. “And he has a funny name.”

“Like, foreign?”

“No, not really a name at all. He says his name is Tin. Or Ten. Or something like that.”

Cecil and Carla looked at each other. Carla’s stomach lurched and her heart thumped hard in her chest. It was all beginning again.

“Oooo—kay,” Cecil said slowly. He took both girls by an arm and gently moved them all into a seated position on the floor of the tunnel. “Let’s take a minute to calm down and think.”

“Calm down about what?” Julia asked. “I’m not upset.”

“You don’t know what you’ve gotten yourself into,” Cecil retorted. He sighed. “We can’t talk long here. We need to get back into your bedroom and have a good talk where it’s safe.”

“Why isn’t it safe here?” She rolled her eyes. “Y’all are over-reacting.”

“If we’re anywhere that connects to that house, then we’re not safe,” Carla said. “That’s something you have to remember from now on. That other house is not safe.”

Julia’s voice raised slightly. “But why not? What’s gonna happen there? The boy is nice. It’s just an empty house.”

Cecil had been thinking. “First, let’s see if we can go back home.” The children stood again. Cecil looked around. “Which way is home?” he said to Julia.

“I think,” she hesitated. “I think it’s that way.”

Julia’s flashlight was quite dim, and the tunnel, after the children had moved and turned many times, looked the same both ways. Julia led the way. She brushed through the curtain, breathing a sigh of relief. “I think it worked this time!” she said. A strange feeling glossed over each child, as the curtain was brushed through, like cobwebs, but finer, filmier. It was the gentlest of portals. Julia strode confidently forward until at last she reached a ladder.

“It’s not my bedroom, I can tell,” she groaned quietly.

“How can you tell?” Carla asked.

“The walls. The boards are looser here. The ground is bumpier and the ladder is not as good. This is the ladder to the other house.”

The three children stood there for a few moments until Cecil spoke. “Let’s go back the other way. I want to experience the whole tunnel – I want to walk the whole thing several times – before I climb up a ladder into that house.”

“I want to make sure we can get back home,” Carla added. She could feel anxious tears welling in her eyes.

“It won’t work,” Julia said.

“How do you know?” Cecil asked.

“Because … because I’ve done this over and over. We went the right way to find my house, but it didn’t work.” Julia put a hand on the ladder rung. “We might as well go up. I promise you, there’s nothing scary up there.”

Carla sighed. She felt like crying. She couldn’t face the fear again of that other world. Julia’s descriptions of the house, of the boy, they felt so familiar and so terrifying.

In the tiniest of voices, she said, “I can’t go.”

Cecil looked at her. “I know. It’s okay. I’ll go up. Maybe that’s what has to happen. One of us has to go there and see it.” It seemed they both had grown up again, in a few moments. He leaned down from the ladder and looked into her eyes. “I’ll be back as soon as I can.”

As their feet disappeared overhead, Carla pressed against the tunnel wall clutching the flashlight. When she turned it off, the filtered sunlight from the top of the tunnel barely illumined the space. She didn’t want to waste the batteries. Cecil’s and Julia’s voices, whispering at first, died away quickly and she was left alone. Fear clutched at her throat and her stomach hurt. All was quiet in the tunnel, but her mind was flooded with terrors – the memories of the year before assaulted her. They couldn’t get back home! In the house above her the evil people waited to capture her! No one knew where they were! Carla felt like an animal trapped in a cage.

Above ground, Cecil followed Julia through the tangle of azalea bushes.

“It’s dark here,” he whispered to her.

“It’s always darker,” she whispered back. “I don’t know why. It’s never bright and sunny.”

They crept to the window and looked in. A figure lay in the corner, curled in sleep under the blanket, and his dark head was on the pillow.

“There he is,” Julia whispered to Cecil. “He stays here as much as he can. He said this time he has run away for good. But they usually find him somehow. I told him they’ll find him if he stays in the house, but he doesn’t want to sleep outside.” Then she added, “I think he’s afraid of rain.”

“Rain?”

“Yeah.”

“But what about the tunnel? Why don’t you tell him to sleep in there?”

There was no answer, but then very quietly Julia said, “I didn’t tell him about the tunnel. Yet. I will later, I guess.” She looked at her cousin. “I wasn’t sure if I should. I didn’t know if I wanted him to ….”

“To follow you back home?”

“Yeah.”

Julia and Cecil continued to stare silently through the window. Overhead, from a window above them, another face peered out, a small, wizened face. As soon as they left the bushes and approached the house, the face disappeared, but a few moments later a stooped figure crawled out of a window on the far side of the house onto a shed roof and shimmied down a vine to the ground. Soundlessly, the person skirted around through the thick woods toward the well in the azalea shrubs.

Carla huddled in the dark, clutching her flashlight. She closed her eyes against the blackness and tried to remember all the brave things she’d done before, how she’d gone to Lucie’s house and eaten with her. How she’d rescued children from the workhouse, and gone back to save Cecil. But now her fearlessness had left her. She was terrified that more might be required of her again, here, in a strange house without her parents. Instead of slowly investigating the danger, feeling her way, finding Lucie to guide and help her, this time they faced the evil alone. If they did rescue any children, where would they take them? How could Lucie help them here? And this tunnel – this horrid place that felt like a grave – an open gateway for all the evils of the workhouse to come straight into her cousins’ bedroom!

Carla slid her back down the brick wall and sat on the ground. She felt anxiety and sorrow welling up in her chest. Her hands began to sweat and she wiped them on her shorts. Sobs erupted in her throat till she suppressed them and put her hands over her mouth. She hated being there, hated waiting on Cecil, hated her cousins’ house. She wanted to go home and forget about the tunnel and all that Julia had found.

And then she heard a noise above. A footfall. A hand on the ladder.

“Cecil?”

The sound stopped.

“Julia? Is that you?”

Carla held her breath. She gripped the flashlight. She wanted to stand, to run, but only if she could do it silently. She stood slowly, took a step. The ladder creaked. Carla turned, clicked on the flashlight, and began to run down the tunnel. She heard the body on the ladder coming faster, thudding onto the ground.

“Cecil!” she yelled. “Help!” And she ran.

When Carla heard the running footsteps behind her, chasing her, the terror of her situation hit her, and her courage returned. She would not be pursued by some unknown enemy! She turned, pressing one hand against the tunnel wall, and shone the light full into the tunnel to see her pursuer’s face. The steps were not heavy. Carla heard gasping breath.

“Who are you?” she demanded.

The figure that appeared in her beam was short, hardly taller than Carla herself, with a wrinkled face, bulging gray eyes, and a head wrapped tightly in a filthy cloth. The knees were bowed, and the legs and arms bent, and the woman – for it might have once looked like a woman – hobbled and stumbled into the light. The face was mottled with red splotches, the mouth gaping and toothless. The hazy gray eyes squinted at Carla.

“Eh?” and she cackled an insane-sounding laugh.

Carla screamed as she’d never screamed before. Along the tunnel, up the well shaft, across to the house, Cecil heard her. He and Julia looked in alarm at each other, and he yelled into the silent landscape, “Carla!” Both children turned and instantly ran pellmell through thicket. When Cecil shouted, the boy sleeping in the house rose in a panic and saw the children running away. So Ten, quickly as he could, tore through the house after them, desperate to discover who Julia had brought with her, and why they were running away.

After Carla screamed, she turned and ran faster than before. The flashlight beam bumped and careened along the tunnel walls. Carla did not notice when she passed under the trap door beneath the garden statue, nor did she feel it when she caught her foot on the pile of bricks next to the small tunnel leading to the Clerk’s Office. She stumbled, and then fled until she reached a ladder, and not thinking which ladder it might be, she grasped her way up until she emerged into Julia’s bed. She closed the windowsill shut, shaking and trembling, and piled all the books and toys on top of it. Finally, she sat on the sill herself with her back against one wall and her legs braced against the other. She was crying quietly, whimpering, her hands quivering, her legs like jelly. She felt only a frightful dread, waiting for her attacker to bang her fist on the underside of the trap door. She gripped the edge of the windowsill, forcing her weight against it, willing the evil to stay in the tunnel. She had forgotten about Cecil and Julia.

Then she heard the clamor on the ladder and a thudding and banging under her legs. Carla’s crying turned to wailing. “No!!! No!!!” she cried. “Ahhhh!!” And she cried again.

“Carla!” Cecil yelled over the din. “Carla, let us out!”

It took several minutes for Carla to recover, to realize what was happening, to move herself and the piles of Julia’s possessions from the windowsill and let the children into the room. She was a mess of tears, dirt, and fear. Cecil looked at her sternly as they sat on Julia’s bed. The books and paraphernalia had been thrown to the floor. Julia perched in the windowsill, looking at her cousins.

“What in the world, Carla?” Cecil hissed at her. “You’re a lunatic! What made you scream like that? You scared me to death!”

Carla burst into tears and held her face in her hands.

“She was after me!” she gasped between sobs.

“Who? Who was after you?” he asked, and Julia rubbed Carla’s arm to comfort her.

Carla looked up. “A woman … or something like it … a really old woman, with horrible eyes and a crazy laugh. She … she … came down the ladder while you were gone and chased me in the tunnel!”

Cecil replied, “There was no one in the tunnel, Carla. We ran right after you. I don’t know who you think you saw --”

“I did see her!”

“Okay, whatever. Was it Madame Fen, or Critch?” he asked.

Who?” Julia interjected.

In his frustration, Cecil brushed her off. “Nobody. None of your business.” He turned back to Carla. “Well?”

“No, not them. Somebody else. I’ve never seen her before. But she’s not one of the children.”

At that point, Julia jumped and yelled. Someone was tapping on the sill beneath her.

“It’s her!” Carla cried.

The tapping turned to knocking.

“What do we do?” Julia asked. Panic rose in Cecil’s face.

Then a boy’s voice sounded softly from below. “Open up. It’s me, Ten.”



(To read the next chapter and find out what they do with Ten, click here!)

[Ten Days at Federal Hill is copyrighted in its entirety by the author, M.K. Christiansen.]

Monday, August 13, 2018

Surviving Summer

Hi, everybody! Yes, I'm still here. Granny Marigold said she's enjoying the story but misses knowing what we're up to. "Surviving Summer" about sums it up -- does that sound whiny enough? Haha! (You might want a cuppa. This could take a while.)

Books: After the John Masefield books, I read this one:
Image result for the wolves of willoughby chase
Also a beloved English children's book, I did enjoy the story. But something about Aiken's voice was too pedantic and predictable. Plus, something was lacking. Now I've moved on to this delightful English children's book:

This one is better. Ransome is perfection itself in entering that realm that Adam and I call "kid world." He understands it and has the children speak and live it. He said of the book, "I could not help writing it. It almost wrote itself." You can tell. It's a delight, a summer story about four siblings who explore a lake and its islands on their little sailboat.
Both books are adventure books, a genre that most children enjoy. I've discovered though, that in order to connect with a children's book -- to have it enter my soul and never leave -- it must be a book of magic at some level. I don't like wicked magic, nor lots of sorcery, etc. But I love reading about children who understand better than the adults around them that there's a spiritual world,  a world of supernatural realities around us that affect us and that we affect. Call it magic, or call it what you will, but that, in a book, draws me in. Next I'll be rereading this gem, and getting a good dose of adventure and magic both:

What else have we been doing? Perhaps this little ditty of a poem will express my feelings:

When, in August, I am overcome
with the sun's anxiety 
and the heat's depression,
I remind myself it is the season
of sadness for me,
of worry for me.


I remember then burrowing my hands

into soil in the greenhouse
in February,
~ my season of happiness ~
when little of bubbles of joy
rise unexpectedly within,
when the cool air and rain splattering
and promise of snow
make my body sing.

I can just hear some of you shaking your heads in despair and muttering, "She's a lunatic." Haha! 

What does a heat-hater do in August? She sits on the couch with her knitting ...
Infinity scarf to sell at the market
... and watches Netflix and Amazon Prime movies and TV shows (Thank you, you-know-who!!) Here's what I've been watching recently:
Horatio Hornblower (show) ****
An Inspector Calls  (movie) ****
I Capture the Castle (movie) ***
The Treasure Seekers (movie) ****
The Durrells in Corfu  (show) ****
We'll Meet Again  (show) ***
Enemy at the Door  (show) ****
Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society
    (movie) *****
(Those are my "star" ratings.) That last one I watched yesterday afternoon, and I will certainly watch it again soon. It merits two viewings. Plus, we went to the cinema for our anniversary date and saw Christopher Robin, which was quite good. Adam wants to see it again sometime. Adam and I have very different preferences in screen entertainment. I can watch sadder things than he can. I can't tolerate some of the silly, goofy things he enjoys. Our go-to evening date show is reruns of Star Trek, Next Generation. It reminds us of our newlywed days.
Adam baked apple fritters this morning to take to a friend.
I nibbled a couple with a glass of milk.
If you want a farm update, click over here.

If you want to hear my exasperation about the heat and my gardens, watch this little video :)
I dashed to the thrift store. They had all their comforter sets on sale for $5.00! I nabbed this one:
 It's a full-size quilt with 2 shams.
 I love these autumn colors. I'll get rid of the oversize blue bedspread that I've disliked for months.
That's it for today, friends! Thanks for bearing with me so long. I promise I'll be perkier in October.

Saturday, August 11, 2018

Ten Days at Federal Hill: Chapter Eight

(To read previous chapters, please click on the Ten Days at Federal Hill page bar tab, directly above.)


Chapter Eight: The Cobweb Curtain

Carla lay awake for hours Sunday night, pondering all the scattered puzzle pieces in her mind. Julia, missing. How would Aunt Velma react in the morning? The creepy newspaper article from the book in the Assembly Room. Why was it there? Who wanted to “never forget”? What was Grandmother Julia crying about? And did the mysterious tunnel really remind her of their own magical basement back home, or were she and Cecil simply confused and imagining things? She tossed in the bed till well past 1:00, and the rest of the night she listened in her dreams for the sound of Julia returning to her bed.

Carla overslept until 9:00. When she woke, Frances was dressed and gone, but Julia had not returned. Cecil was hiding under the stairwell when Carla came down at last.

“Psst!! Carla!” he said softly. She met him under the stairs.

“She’s not back,” Carla whispered. “What’re we gonna do? I’m scared to see Aunt Velma. What if she asks where Julia is?”

“We lie.”

“Well, yeah. But what lie?”

“We say … she’s still asleep. And she’s sick.”

“And then Aunt Velma will go take her temperature. That won’t go well.”

Cecil thought for a moment. “Okay, I don’t say anything. I’m not supposed to know anything about Julia. And you tell them you think she’s still in bed.”

“She kind of still is,” Carla replied.

“And then after breakfast we make some excuse to be together,” Cecil continued, “and we go back in the tunnel. Are you game?”

“Yeah. I can do it in daylight.”

Their plan went surprisingly well. Aunt Velma, worried about Ben’s foot, hardly noticed Julia’s absence at breakfast. Frances had cheerleader practice that morning. All the boys except Ben were ready to go outside and he was whining, and Grandmother Julia was not in her chair.

“She’s feeling puny this morning,” Aunt Velma explained.

Cecil and Carla each grabbed a muffin, and Cecil polished off a bowl of cereal too. They slipped from the kitchen before anyone noticed, retrieved the flashlight, made sure Frances was out of the way, and returned to Julia’s bed.

“What do we say if they ask where we disappeared to?” Carla inquired as they descended the ladder.

“We say we went exploring and got lost in the woods,” Cecil whispered back. It seemed the best plan.

* * * * *

Although they’d been there before, Carla’s fear of the tunnel seemed heightened now. She grabbed onto Cecil’s shirt as they walked.

“This is a very snaky place,” she whispered.

“No it’s not. Every place is snaky to you.”

“Well, it’s definitely spidery then.”

“Whatever.”

Silence.

“Ahhhhh! What’s that! I just stepped on something, and it moved!”

The siblings stopped. Cecil felt around on the ground under Carla’s feet.

“It’s a stick, Carla. A stick. Whatever happened to your sense of adventure? You didn’t used to be such a chicken.”

Carla grunted in frustration. “I think I learned to be afraid in that nasty workhouse.” She put her hand on the side of the tunnel again. “Maybe we’ll just go in circles again. Maybe it won’t lead anywhere.” She held Cecil’s shirt tighter until he squirmed.

For a couple of hours, the tunnel misdirected them in the same way it had the day before. Back and forth they walked from the trap door to the ladder, examining the bricks, the floor, the ceiling, looking for some way in which Julia could have disappeared in tunnel. Cecil reached the end of his patience.

“Maybe Julia’s not here at all!” Carla moaned.

At that moment, Julia stood silent and still, not twenty yards from them. She was exhausted from exploring the property around the dilapidated house and from sleeping in the tunnel overnight, too tired to do any more of this. She held her hand over her mouth. How could she prevent them from coming? She had no where to hide. They were sure to run into her. Then she remembered the spot in the tunnel – the statue above, the trap door, the pile of bricks, the curtain of cobwebs that always hung there – she must stop them before they reach it! She began running again.

“Carla! Cecil!” she yelled. “Stop! Don’t come any further!” She clicked her flashlight again and the beam bounced and flickered on the walls and ceiling of the tunnel. “Don’t come any – !”

But it was too late. As she approached her cousins, her light shone on Carla, waving her arms in the air, and Cecil, batting at his head and pulling cobwebs from his hair. They had stepped past the trap door under the statue and become entangled in the cobweb curtain.

“Oh --” Julia said.

“Get these nasty cobwebs off me!” Cecil bellowed.

“Hush!” Julia warned. “Somebody will hear you!”

“Julia! Where’ve you been?” He stopped and looked at her in the middle of his cobweb war. “We’ve been looking for you since yesterday ...” and he waved his hands to include the entire tunnel, “in this crazy place! You can’t just disappear down here like that!”

At this reprimand, Julia grew sullen. “It’s my secret. I’ve got my reasons!” she said. “Besides, I’m not usually gone that long. But you guys have come too far.”

“What do you mean, too far?” Carla asked. “We hunted this whole tunnel yesterday, over and over.”

“You couldn’t find me before, could you?” Julia responded.

“No!” Cecil answered. “The tunnel always ended up back at your bedroom. It was insane. We nearly gave up on finding you down here.”

“It’s the curtain,” Julia said.

She pointed behind them to the smaller tunnel that cut off to the side, and to the trap door above, and then to the nearly-invisible curtain of gossamer glistening threads that hung and draped from the tunnel’s arched ceiling against the far wall. “The curtain. It divides the tunnel between --” here she paused, “-- between the two places.” She hated to go on, but she had to say it. “And sometimes, not all the time, but sometimes … well, I can’t get back.”

“You can’t get back?” Cecil stared at her in the gloom. “Like … like we couldn’t get through?”

“Not right away. I always get back eventually.” Julia walked forward and placed her palm carefully against the strands of sticky substance hanging like a sheer curtain in midair. “It’s like a filmy wall, a doorway with a curtain,” she explained. “Sometimes it lets you go back home, and sometimes it doesn’t.”

“What happens when it doesn’t let you?” Carla asked.

Julia turned to look in her eyes. “You’re stuck, like I was last night. And you end up back at the other house, no matter which way you go in the tunnel.” She shrugged. “Both ends lead to the same place.”

“We know that feeling,” Cecil interjected. His stomach wrenched and his heart began to race. Their basement back home had sometimes been a fun place, but this tunnel was eerie and frightening.

“It hasn’t been a big deal so far,” Julia explained. “But a few times I’ve had to walk back and forth in the tunnel until finally it let me find my own ladder to my room.”

Carla cleared her throat. “I think I understand,” she said. Cecil turned to her, but Carla stared hard at Julia. “It won’t let you return sometimes, right? The other house – it keeps you there until it’s ready to let you go.”

“Uh huh,” Julia said softly. “I don’t know why.” Her voice sounded small and scared. “I don’t know where that house is, exactly. It looks like … well, it really looks just like --”

“Like your own house,” Carla finished for her.

“Yes,” Julia whispered.

Cecil’s flashlight flickered twice and went out. Water dripped from the roof of the tunnel, and creaky sounds echoed along the dark chamber. The children were silent.

“Cecil,” Carla whispered. “Two houses. Maybe it’s Lucie’s …?”

“And maybe it’s not.” Cecil moaned quietly. “Oh no. Not again.”


(To continue into the next chapter, Chapter Nine, click here.)

[Ten Days at Federal Hill is copyrighted, in its entirety, by the author, M.K. Christiansen.]