Monday, January 22, 2007

Drafts: Frog Haven Chapter 13

Chapter 1, Chapter 2 and 3, Chapter 4, Chapter 5, Chapter 6, Chapter 7, Chapter 8 ,Chapter 9, Chapter 10, Chapter 11, Chapter 12

Chapter 13: The Man in the Bed

Lyssa might play with dolls and stuff, but she was not the kind of kid to scream without good reason. Sissy rushed to the ladder and started down. The other kids were running out the front door.

Sissy saw what had scared Lyssa. There was a man in the bed. They hadn’t seen him at first because he was nearly completely covered by blankets and his face was close to the wall. He didn’t take up much space. Sissy stood on the ladder and looked down at him. A horrible tightening in her chest kept her from moving and she felt as if she couldn’t breathe. The man was dead.

He had been dead a long time. She saw the dead fox in her mind, and suddenly, she felt very calm. She climbed the rest of the way down the ladder and walked over to the bed. She pulled the covers back a little. The man was only a skeleton, a skeleton with dried skin stretched over the bones and dressed in farmer overalls and a red plaid flannel shirt. He had long white hair with streaks of grey.

She heard footsteps behind her and was scared again. She dropped the covers and turned in a crouch, ready to run or fight. It was Garryd with a big stick. She started laughing. He looked so fierce, and she knew he had come to save her.

“He’s dead,” she said calmly, lifting the blanket again to show Garryd. She reached out and touched the skin on the back of his neck. It felt more like paper than skin.

“I wonder what happened to him,” Garryd said, letting his club fall down his leg.

“I don’t know,” said Sissy, covering him gently back up again. “What do you think we should do?”

They walked out of the cabin, shutting the front door, and closing the screen door, too. They walked down to the road through the trees. Lyssa and Bill came out of the bushes where they’d been hiding.

“He’s dead,” Garryd said. “He’s been dead a long time. He’s all dried out.”

“What should we do?” Sissy repeated.

“Tell someone,” Bill said.

“We’ll get in trouble,” Sissy said. “We should never have come here. If we don’t tell anyone, it will be just as if we hadn’t come. No one knew before and they still won’t know.”

“But someone should know. We should tell.” Bill insisted. “We can’t just leave that dead guy there.”

“Why not? He’s been there a long time already.” They retrieved their pails from under the bushes and were heading along the pasture toward home. Out of the woods on the far side came Dzabel, driving his tractor, pulling a load of firewood.

“We’re gonna get it now,” Lyssa cried.

“Run,” said Sissy and they ran, not for the dirt cliffs behind Sissy’s, but for the closest fence, behind Doolittles’.

They scrambled beneath the barbed wire fence at Doolittles’ just as the tractor was getting close enough that they could hear Dzabel yelling, “You kids keep out of my pastures!”

Mrs. Doolittle was standing in her rose garden with her hands on her hips staring at the kids. “How many times have I told you hooligans to stay out of my gardens? I am going right inside and call your mothers!!! Let’s see now,” she said, squinting down at them, “Who are you?”

They turned as one and ran into Fontenellas’ lawn, through Fontenellas’ yard, and across the street to McAllisters’. “Quick,” Sissy said, “hide the pails. Let’s join the game.” They slid the pail under McAllisters’ shrubs and dashed out to the ball field.

“Garryd,” yelled Paul when saw them headed his way.

“Sissy,” yelled Michael.

“Lyssa,” called Paul. Bill headed toward Michael’s team, who was in the field. Sissy was thinking about the dead man in the cabin and missed an easy pop-up fly. Everyone on Michael’s team groaned. But she got the ball and shot it to first and got Kelvin out anyway. That was close, Sissy thought, I’d better pay attention. But she couldn’t stop thinking about the dead man. She decided to tell her parents when she got home.

But when they got home, Papa was tired and grouchy and Mom was annoyed because she had to blow the whistle four times before the kids came home. McAllisters’ was way up on the other end of Van Vleck Drive. That was one of the reasons they usually played at Mancinis’. And Sissy didn’t have her bike and had to walk back lugging her pail.

“And Mrs. Doolittle called and said a barefoot girl in braids and three of her hooligan friends had run through her rose garden. She wanted to know if it was my daughter.”

Sissy looked at the floor and said nothing.

“I’ve asked you and asked you to stay out of Mrs. Doolittle’s yard, Sissy. You know better than that.”

“Yes, but Mom . . .”

“She also said she was devastated by the destruction!”

“She always says that. What does it mean?”

“Overwhelmed, shocked, distraught.”

“What does dis-”

“We’ll talk about it later, Sissy, the words, and your part therein.”

“But Mom . . .”

“Not now Sissy.”

“But Mom, I have something impor-”

“LATER!” Mom irritation was evident in the rising tones of her voice.

Sissy wanted to tell her about the dead man, but she wasn’t getting a word in.

It was Sissy’s dish night and Mom didn’t hang around in the kitchen like she sometimes did. Neither did Pa. He had taken the boys out to practice for the big rematch. Mom was correcting exams for a special workshop she’d been teaching.

When Sissy finished the dishes, she went into the study to talk to Mom. Mom was surrounded by piles of exams and was muttering grumpily to herself. Sissy sat down and waited for a good time to tell her mom about the dead guy. She didn’t want to just blurt it out.

But Mom looked up and said, “Sissy, you are absolutely filthy. You have school tomorrow. Go right into the bathroom and take a shower.”

“But Mom, I have got to talk to you! It’s important!!!!”

“Whatever it is, it can wait until I have these exams corrected.”

“But Mom . . .”

“GO! Right NOW! For goodness sakes, child, do as I tell you.” Sissy’s mother stood up, glowering. Sissy jumped up and ran out of the study, afraid she’d get swatted. She didn’t get swatted often, but it looked like she might now.

Sissy was rinsing the shampoo out of her hair when she heard her mother shouting. She stuck her head out, yelling, “What’s that Ma, I can’t hear you!”

“Dr. Taylor just called. He said you found some kind of skeleton in a cabin somewhere. Is this some kind of joke?”

“No, Mom, it’s not. That’s what I’ve been trying to tell you ever since I got home. There’s a dead man in the cabin in the woods behind Dzabel’s. He’s been dead a long time. He’s all dried out. He still has his clothes on and everything.”

“Sissy, who told you this? Were the boys trying to scare you?”

“No, Mom, I saw him myself. Honest. Look, Mom, I know I wasn’t supposed to be there, and I didn’t want to go, either, ask Garryd. I was the last one to go in. But when everyone else ran out, I had to see for myself. I went over and looked at him. He’s dead in his bed under the covers and all dried out.”

“Sissy, weren’t you . . . Aren’t you . . . upset about this?” her mother stammered.

“I’m scared you’ll be mad at me for going over there when you told me not to. I’m sorry. Really I am. I really didn’t want to. Honest.”

“But aren’t you upset about finding the body? About seeing a dead person?”

“I was a lot more scared before we found it. I was all creeped-out going in there. But once we found it, it was just there, that’s all. Like dead animals on the road. Like my hamsters, only different. I was sad, really sad. I suppose I was upset, because I wanted to tell you and I keep thinking about it. Worrying.”

“We’ll have to call the police. Finish your shower. Let me go get your father.”

Chapter 14, P365-07W

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