Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Drafts: Frog Haven, Chapter 8

Chapter 8: The Interrupted Lesson

Sunday morning, Sissy sat in her usual spot next to Lyssa in the fourth pew. By craning her neck, which of course was against the rules, she managed to watch the people coming into the church. LeFevres took their usual spot near the back. Sissy thought that this was so that they could make a hasty exit of any of the kids was disturbing the peace. Paul and Guy had two younger brothers and a baby sister. Sissy was surprised to see Garryd and his family come in, a few minutes later. Garryd hadn’t mentioned anything about church, but then again, Sissy hadn’t mentioned it either.

The Knudsons sat in the pew behind the Taylors and Mancinis. Sissy did the introductions and Garryd interpreted for his parents. Sissy learned that Garryd’s parents’ names were Nels and Elke. When they rose for the first hymn, Sissy was sorry that Nels and Elke couldn’t hear it. The sound of singing filled the church, the sun shone through the stained glass windows, and it seemed as if God himself was contained in the song. Sissy wondered what it would be like to be standing there not hearing anything, but she couldn’t shut out the glorious swelling of song. She tried shutting her eyes, but that just made the singing stronger.

When Reverend Gordon began to preach, Sissy turned and saw Garryd signing to his parents. Sissy could see what an advantage knowing sign language would be in school, if she wanted to talk to her friends when the teacher wasn’t looking. She decided to ask Garryd to teach her. She watched him interpreting the small sermon and wondered if he would go to Sunday school with the kids or stay and do the big sermon. She was glad to see him go out but disappointed when she realized that he wouldn’t be in her class.

“Who’s going to help your parents now?”

“Sven. He thinks he’s too old for Sunday school. That’s okay with me. The big sermon is usually boring. At least it was at our old church. I’d rather let him do it. Only thing is, he’s not as good at it as I am. But he’s good enough, I guess.” Miss Quigley stuck her head out of the room and Lyssa and Sissy ducked in, after showing Garryd his room. When they peeked in, they saw Paul and Marc dancing around poking at each other and Bill sitting with his head down looking embarrassed.

It was church-dinner Sunday, and Mom’s covered dish of Spam-goulash (one of Sissy’s favorites) was down in the warming oven, along with Papa’s strawberry-rhubarb pie. Lyssa and Sissy were in the serving group, so they had to wait to eat. Sissy was so hungry she could hardly stand to wait, but once they started carrying the dishes around, she didn’t have time to think about it.

The Knudson’s stayed to dinner and Reverend Gordon welcomed them and introduced them. Nels stood up and smiled his wonderful smile and bowed to everyone. Elke looked terribly shy, Sven looked embarrassed, and Garryd just grinned his winning freckle-faced smile. In spite of the fact that Nels and Elke were grown-ups and parents, and Sissy was just a kid, she felt protective of the Knudsons. She wasn’t sure what they needed to be protected from, but she didn’t want them to be hurt. She claimed their table and brought them plates with lots of the best stuff. Then she brought her own food and sat next to Garryd. Lyssa joined them.

She and Lyssa had to eat fast, because everyone else was almost ready for dessert. Paul nabbed three pieces of pie off her tray and she nearly dropped it trying to kick him. “They’re for my parents,” he said, grinning. He sat on the heaters by the window and ale all three. Then he nabbed two more off Lyssa’s tray.

Sissy saved Lyssa, Garryd and herself a piece of Papa’s strawberry rhubarb pie. Garryd asked her to get them pieces of his Mom’s lemon meringue pie, so she did. Then Lyssa insisted that they try her Dad’s chocolate mousse. It was wonderful, absolutely heavenly, but Sissy felt a little ill after all those desserts. She was glad she wasn’t on the clean-up crew and they got to leave early. On the way out, she snickered watching Paul LeFevre mopping up with a mop three times as big as he was.

After Church, Sissy flung her dress on the bed and got into her favorite cut-offs and her whale T-shirt. “Hang up your dress,” her mom called, as she passed Sissy’s room on the way to her own. Sissy had been all set to leave. She groaned and flopped the dumb old dress onto a hanger and into the back of the closet. She hadn’t zipped it up and it fell off. She started to shut the closet door, but decided she’d better re-hang it in case her mother checked. She might think she’d thrown it on the floor on purpose.

“I’m going out to play,” Sissy called, shutting the screen door carefully behind her.

“Be home in time for supper.”

Sissy went back in and got her Super Girl watch off her vanity and put it on. She checked the time against the clock in the kitchen. It was right.

Sissy pounded on Knudson’s door. She wondered how Nels and Elke would know if she were knock if Garryd and Sven weren’t home. But they were. Sven came to the door and called Garryd. He had his play clothes on and was ready to go. He started out the door with Sissy, but his parents were both signing wildly. Because his back was turned and he couldn’t see them, Sissy told him. Signing definitely had its disadvantages, Sissy realized.

Sissy watched Garryd and his parents signing back and forth. He could tell by the expression on his mother’s face that she was upset about something.

“What are they saying?” she asked Sven.

“They are telling him not to be late again. Mom was so worried about him. She was afraid he’s be lost, since he doesn’t know his way around yet.”

“I’m sorry. It was partly my fault,” Sissy said. But not entirely, she thought to herself, since Garryd was the one who had insisted on going back to the Haunted Ponds at Frog Haven. She was glad they had, though, glad they saw the heron and the beaver.

Sissy walked up to Nels and held up her arm, pointing to her watch. She picked up a pen and a piece of paper and wrote, “What time do you want him home? I have to be home at 5:30.”

Nels nodded and grinned. He nodded again and wrote, “Good.” Elke looked puzzled. Garryd signed to her.

“What are you saying to her?” Sissy asked, realizing the grown-ups couldn’t here her being nosy and rude.

“I’m just telling her that you have a watch and we’ll be home at 5:30. She says ‘be careful’ and I say I will. And, ‘don’t worry, Mom.’ I say ‘I’m sorry, I’ll be more careful.’ She says ‘okay, good.’ We’re saying goodbye now.” Garryd waved to his Dad and Sissy and he left through the garage.

“Let’s do a frog rescue run,” Garryd said.

“Okay,” Sissy agreed. They got their pails out from under the bushel baskets, yanked them apart and headed for Blackfords’ Pond.

“Can you teach me sign language?” Sissy asked as they walked along through the far backyards, jumping over flower gardens and skirting hedges.

“Sure, when do you want your first lesson?”

“When we get to the Haunted Ponds at Frog Haven, after we let the frogs go.”

“Okay, deal.”

“Deal!” They shook on it.

Frog hunting at Blackfords’ pond was relatively uneventful. The gang was not around. Sissy told Garryd he thought maybe they were playing baseball behind McNallys’.

“Maybe they’ll let us play sometime.”

“Of course they’ll let us play. I’m a good hitter, a good thrower (usually), and a pretty good fielder. I can catch a high fly or a lob, but sometimes I get scared if someone hits a line drive right at me. I run okay, and can sometimes steal a good base. How about you?”

“Yeah. I’m pretty good.”

Sissy climbed up to check the baby cardinals. There was only one in the nest and it had all it’s feathers. She looked around and spotted a baby on a branch near the nest and another farther down. As she and Garryd were watching, one took off and flew to another branch. It flew in a soft fluttering flight, not like the sure flight of the adults.

“I hope the gang plays baseball all afternoon. I don’t want them to find these babies.”

Sissy walked down one side of the pond and Garryd walked down the other. When they arrived at the fence, their pails were full of frogs, and there were lots more that had gotten away into the depths of the pond. Sissy was beginning to think that Blackfords’ Pond had an endless supply of frogs. Or perhaps they were coming back again at night. But it was too far. How would the frogs find their way back, anyway?

There certainly were thousands of tadpoles. But could there be thousands of frogs. Still, it didn’t matter how many frogs there were, killing for pleasure was still wrong.

They let the frogs go at the same frog-launching site. The beaver was nowhere to be seen, and neither was the heron. Sissy was disappointed. They walked along the shore of the pond toward the lower swampy section that was farthest from the road. Just before they reached the really swampy part, there was a sunny knoll.

“That’s a good spot for my sign-language lesson,” Sissy said, pointing. They went over and sat down on a wide dry log that was angled in such a way that they were looking down the whole length of the pond. Nothing seemed to be moving except an occasional dimple as a tadpole rose to the surface and settled back down.

“We’ll start with the alphabet,” Garryd said. “This is an ‘A’.” Sissy tried to imitate his signs and Garryd corrected her. They went through the alphabet three times with Sissy copying Garryd. The third time through, he told her some of the other meanings of the letters.

“This,” he said, crossing his first two fingers to make the sign for ‘r” and shaking them rapidly back and forth, means you have to use the restroom. Or, you could do it with a T,” he demonstrated, “which means you have to use the toilet or a ‘B’, which means you, have to use the bathroom. Sissy laughed and practiced each of them.

“This is fun,” Sissy said, “but I don’t know if I’ll be able to remember them.”

“I’ll help you,” Garryd assured her. “You’ll do fine.”

“Look, what’s that?” Sissy whispered, pointing down the length of the pond and across to the steep opposite bank. A dark animal slid down a long muddy path on the bank[MNS1] .

[MNS1]Pictures of Sissy and Garryd having the sign language lesson would be good here—or Sissy could keep a journal and make a drawing herself. Include sign language symbols for the alphabet and a few others—but not too many.

Chapter 9; P365-07W

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