Friday, February 09, 2007

Animal Nightmares (Backwards Worries)

Keith sleeps on the couch, legs twitching like a dog

running in a dream. I leap, perhaps unreasonably, from man to dog

to squirrel, to that squirrel hit in the road, thrashing with the pain of its death

throes. In hard rain. I remember thinking then that I didn’t want to die

like that, in broken agony, cold and wet, drowning in a downpour.

Alone. Let me die, I thought, quietly in my sleep when I’m in my nineties

or hundreds. Or let me live forever, warm and comfy, slipping directly

into heaven or nothingness without any of the pain or fear of dying.

I heard several stories about my mother’s death. She died

peacefully in her sleep, one nurse told me. Another described the death

rattle of her breathing. So sudden and unexpected, when shortly before,

they’d checked her and she was fine. Many years ago, my mother was rushed

to the hospital one morning, after lying awake for hours in pain and anguish.

If I had died, she said, they might have said I died peacefully in my sleep.

Keith sleeps on, his twitching subsided now. I had a dog once

that cried and yelped and twitched in his dreams, and not with running.

Every time he fell asleep, his old owner beat him. We rescued him

from a stock truck on a cattle ranch. We don’t know who had locked

him there and left him

for over a week with no food or water, but we know that man’s inner heart.

A dementia patient, someone told me, loses the ability to communicate pain.

My mother seemed okay, before she died. Fading, but not in pain.

“The dwindles,” perhaps. She had the dwindles once before, her doctor

thought. They start downhill, he said, and it’s like a snowball

gathering momentum. At the home, no one tried to stop it, until I insisted

on appetite stimulants, anti-depressants and sleeping pills.

We turned it around, the doctor said. Amazing.

Now, Keith sleeps alone on the couch, but I think how the kitties loved him,

how they used to lie on and around him, in relaxed abandon or asleep.

Little symphonies of snores and purring. My mother always said

she wasn’t worried about dying. Fred’s father drowned

in a sailing accident, and my colicky baby, who never slept, slept

on Fred’s shoulder for hours at the wake. When I offered to take her,

he simply shook his head.

I wasn’t there when my mother died. I didn’t know she was dying, not

then, not so soon. Though when I last visited her, she told me

how she’d seen her parents that day, how they were coming back

for her soon. Maybe they were there with her when she died. Maybe

one of the nurses or aides held her hand. They did that, in the commons.

They held her hand.

Mary Stebbins Taitt

For Margaret, 070209d, first, Friday, February 09, 2007

slightly updated version.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Don't Read This Poem (An Invitation)

Don't Read This Poem (An Invitation)


My daughter calls from the other room; she's found a family dead.

All dead, all but one small baby hidden among the bedding.  A family

is dead in my room too, leaving another orphaned baby.


Don't read this poem.  My teachers told me, don't say that.

Don't mention you're writing a poem.  As if the reader,

dear reader, won't notice.  And don't say anything weird.


Over the top, they would say.  There are rules in poetry.

I always seem to break them.  Perhaps I also shouldn't mention

that I am writing this on red


paper.  Blood red.  What I picked from the scrap bin, coincidence

or synchronicity.  By the time you see this, though, the red

will have turned to white the way a face loses its color in death.


Two families dead, two orphaned babies.  But they aren't people.

We're in the animal-care rooms in the museum's basement.

The babies are mice, one tan, one maroon, both just starting


on the first hint of hair, eyes sealed shut.  Orphaned.

Of course, they will die without their mothers; we all know that.

They're not weaned.  But I am, so why the fuss? 


Okay, I'm an orphan.  But, I'm also a mother.  I put the babies

in my blouse to nurse from my own breasts.  Could you just not

read this?  I know you'll disapprove, but that's what I did.


It's sort of circular, really, since I'm the orphan now.

But I'm sixty, my parents both dead at eighty-three.  No infant, I.

In the dream, the babies grow to the size and shape of ferrets


and move inside my silk blouse like snakes, undulating, sinuous.

In my black velvet skirt and blood-red jacket, I hide myself

from everyone so these babies can nurse and live.


I am the orphan baby.  I am the snake maiden, I am the mother,

I am the grandmother.  I am as tiny as a newborn mouse

and I am the crone slipping into the grave. 


But you knew all that already, and knew the dual nature

of my Geminian twins, the yin and yang of me.  Even,

perhaps, the strange depths to which I'd sink to survive this grief.


But did you remember that you had a breast and milk

you could offer an orphan?  If you've gotten this far,

you could hold me.



Mary Stebbins Taitt

070206c, 1st Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Drafts: Frog Haven Chapter 25

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, Chapter 14, Chapter 15. Chapter 16, Chapter 17, Chapter 18, Chapter 19, Chapter 20, Chapter 21, Chapter 22, Chapter 23, Chapter 24

Chapter 25: Claude LeFevre

“Well, Maria Luisa, what do you have to say for yourself, young lady?” Sissy’s father asked when they were on their way home in the car.

“I disobeyed again, Papa, I’m sorry,” Sissy said, sorrowfully.

“You could have been seriously hurt. There are reasons for rules, good reasons. This time, you will have to be punished.”

“Yes, Papa, I understand,” Sissy said sadly, wondering what the punishment would be.

“And you boys were also instructed never to go beyond the pastures, and a couple days ago, you were specifically told never to go to Williams’ cabin. You will both have to be punished as well.”

The boys said nothing.

They drove in silence for a while.

“Papa?” Michael said in a very small voice.


I don’t think Sissy should be spanked. Officer Maroni hit her a lot already. Aren’t you worried about her at all?”

“Yes, Michael, I intended to look her over when we got home. Sissy, how are you feeling?”

“I guess I’m okay, Papa. I hurt a little in a few places. But I’m okay.”

“Well, we’ll take a look at you, in a minute, we’re almost home.”

“You do have some bruises,” Papa said, sounding angry. He pressed on her cheek.

“Ouch,” Sissy cried, jumping back.

“Seppe!” Mom cried, “don’t hurt her!”

“Sorry, honey, I wanted to see if it was as bad as it looks. I didn’t really mean to hurt you.”

“It’s okay, Papa,” Sissy said, gently rubbing her cheek.

“Seppe, she’s got bruises on her arms, too.”

“I see that, Meggie. Maroni must have yanked or squeezed her hard, or both.”

“Listen, Papa, Mom, I know it’s late and I’ve been bad and I have school tomorrow, but I need to do something very important before I go to bed tonight. It’s about the trial tomorrow and the final hearing in the Knudson custody case. We worked really hard making up a list for Mr. LeFevre with all the reasons why Knudsons should keep Garryd and Sven. I was supposed to give it to Paul, but I never had a chance to. I need to take it over to Mr. LeFevre.”

“Sissy, Mr. LeFevre is a very well-known competent lawyer. I am sure he doesn’t need your help.”

“Oh, please, Papa, we worked very hard on it, the kids from Van Vleck drive and the kids on the bus and my class and Mr. Sharpe’s class and Lyssa’s class and Lannie McKeever’s class and other kids, too. I want to help Garryd. We all do. Please let me take it over, please Papa.”

“Don’t beg, Maria, it is unbecoming. You mustn’t beg.”

“Seppe,” Mom said.

“What must I do then, if something is very important?”

“Explain it in a reasonable, logical way.”

“Papa, you know some things aren’t always logical, like in The Little Prince. You read it to me yourself. Remember? It said, ‘One sees well only with the heart. Important things are invisible to the eye.’”

“You haven’t got that quite right, Maria. The actual quote is, ‘On ne voit bien qu’avec le coeur. L’essentiel est invisible pour les yeux.’”

“Oh, Papa, you know I can’t speak that much French.”

“Well, you got it almost perfect. Yes, you may go, but please try to hurry.”

“And Sissy, tell Mr. LeFevre I told you to show him your face and arms.”

“Okay, Mom.”

Sissy threw her arms around her father, gave him a quick hug and a squeeze, hugged her mom, and dashed over to Knudson’s. Sven answered, with Garryd coming behind in his pajamas.

“Get the box, quick!” Garryd crowded past Sven and ran around behind the house. He lifted the slate under the step of the back door. He had hollowed out a small hole. He brushed away some leaves and lifted out the box. Sissy ran to the multi-floral rose and crawled in as fast as she could, tearing her knees on the prickers. She grabbed the box, ripping her hands, and crawled back out.

“I’m taking these to my lawyer, are you coming or not?”

Garryd turned and looked at his house and then down at his pajamas. He followed Sissy.

Sissy pounded on LeFevre’s door. Mrs. LeFevre answered, looking surprised. “I need to see my Lawyer,” Sissy said.

“Sissy, you don’t need to see a lawyer. Everything is all settled.”

“No it’s not, Mrs. LeFevre. I didn’t tell the whole story. I wanted to consult my lawyer first. Besides, I have some important information for tomorrow morning’s hearing, Sissy said, waving the sheaf of papers around.

“Do your mother and father know you are here?”

“Yes.” Mrs. LeFevre opened the door and let them in. “Mr. LeFevre is in his study. It’s the first door on the left down the hall.” Sissy laughed. She’d know where Mr. LeFevre’s study was for years. But Mrs. LeFevre was treating her like a real client.

Mr. LeFevre lifted his eyebrows in a questioning way when they entered the room.

“Hello, Mr. LeFevre,” Sissy said. Garryd echoed her.

“Hello, Sissy, Garryd. What can I do you for?”

“First of all, I brought you something to help with your case tomorrow.” She handed him the 27 pages of reasons why Knudsons should keep their children, signed by over seventy kids.

Mr. LeFevre studied it for a moment. “Thank you very much, Sissy,” he said, nodding to her.

Sissy set the treasure box down in front of Mr. LeFevre. Garryd set the will box down next to it.

“That fat cop and his friend were wrecking the cabin looking for treasure. I think we’ve found it.”

“Why didn’t you say so while we were at the police station, Sissy?”

“I wanted to talk to you about it. I was afraid the cops would just take it all away. There’s a diary, and I wanted to read it before the cops took it. And there are pictures, and I wanted to see them. And, most important, there’s a will, and I wanted you to see it, because I don’t trust the cops.”

“Sissy, I think it is safe to trust the cops, all except Officer Maroni, and I don’t think anyone has trusted him for a long time.”

“Please, can we just look at everything before we turn it in?”

“All right, Sissy, but not tonight. You two go home and go to bed. This stuff has been waiting a long time. It can wait a little longer.”

Mr. LeFevre turned the dials on his safe. “I’ll tell you what, I won’t look at this stuff myself until you can see it, too.”

“Oh, Mr. LeFevre, that’s wonderful. Here, put this in with it,” she said, carefully handing him the crushed wadded paper from her pocket. Mr. LeFevre opened it, without using gloves.

“What does it say?” he asked. Sissy and Garryd studied the paper that Mr. LeFevre had spread out on his desk. It had lots more hands than either of the other two.

“I could take it home to my father,” Garryd suggested.

“Please do. He can return it tomorrow morning.”

“There’s one thing I wish you would look at tonight, Mr. LeFevre. Would you just look at the will? I can’t understand the words, but I think it might be important.”

“All right, Sissy, I will. And Sissy,” he said, as she headed for the door, “come over here a minute.”

“Oh, yeah,” Sissy said, “Mom wanted me to show you my bruises. Not the ordinary ones I always have from playing in the woods, but the ones Officer Maroni gave me.” She winced as he touched the one on her cheek.

“I think he’s going to regret having done this.” Mr. LeFevre said, angrily.

Chapter 26, P365-07W

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Drafts: Frog Haven Chapter 24

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, Chapter 14, Chapter 15. Chapter 16, Chapter 17, Chapter 18, Chapter 19, Chapter 20, Chapter 21, Chapter 22, Chapter 23

Chapter 24: The Right to Remain Silent

“You are under arrest,” Maroni repeated, “for the malicious vandalism of this property.”

Sissy stared at him, her lips quivering, trying to hold back tears of outrage. She wanted to scream her innocence, but repeated to herself, You have a right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you. And, she thought, I have the right to make one phone call.

“What were you doing here. Did you find anything?”

Sissy said nothing. She kept her lips tightly pressed together.

“Do you know something? Have you seen anything?”

Sissy stared at the fat cop. He had a big red pimple on his chin. His eyes were little and black and beady, like a pig’s. No, not as nice as a pig’s.

“Say something, kid,” Maroni said, shaking her, hard.

“I have the right to remain silent,” Sissy said, her voice coming out high and squeaky. Se hoped she didn’t cry.

“Shut up, kid,” Maroni said. He smacked her hard and she fell to the floor.

“Let’s see if we can make her talk, Maroni,” the skinny guy said. He picked her up and twisted her arm behind her back. Sissy screamed, more in rage than in pain, and bit the skinny man on the arm.

He bellowed and boxed Sissy across the ear with the open palm of his hand, hard. Sissy head rang and her teeth rattled. She staggered and grabbed the desk to keep from falling.

“Hit her again, Lynch, she’s resisting arrest,” Maroni laughed nastily.

Sissy’s skin was burning and her ears were ringing and she felt dizzy. Lynch hit her on the back of the head and she started to sag a little.

“Stop that!” yelled a voice. It was Paul LeFevre. He and Marc were charging into the room, fists flying. Paul attacked the fat cop and Marc attacked the skinny guy who was holding Sissy. The skinny guy dropped Sissy’s arm to ward off Marc’s attack. Sissy stomped on the skinny guy’s foot and bolted for the door. Before Sissy could make it, the fat cop slammed the door.

“Accomplices,” he said. “I see the big picture now. A whole gang of you has been wrecking the cabin. Well, you are all under arrest.”

“No,” cried Marc, “we didn’t do it!”

“Don’t say anything, you guys, don’t say anything at all. We have a right to remain silent. We have a right to a phone call. We have a right to counsel. Zip your lips. Anything you say can and will be used against us.”

“Good grief, Sissy, you sound like a recording of a TV show,” Marc commented sarcastically.

“Come on, you kids, march. You’d better cooperate, or we will add resisting arrest to the charges.”

“You can’t do that, we’re only children,” Paul said, looking very small. Paul was really a tiny kid.

“Oh yes I can, watch me.”

Sissy gave Paul a sharp look. Maroni shoved the kids out the door. He kept pushing them, shoving them through the pasture away from where they lived and out toward Goode Street. A rock suddenly pelted the side of Lynch’s head. He screamed and clutched his head. A half-second later, one hit Maroni in the neck. He bellowed in anger and whirled toward the woods.

“Scatter,” screamed Sissy. Maroni whipped out a gun and fired three shots over their heads. The children stopped dead in their tracks, even Sissy. She didn’t want to be shot.

Lynch had disappeared into the woods. By the time Maroni had the three kids marching down the road again, gun in had, Lynch reappeared holding Garryd under his arm, kicking and biting. “Cut it out, kid,” Lynch said, throwing him to the ground and kicking him. Garryd leaped up flailing fists and feet, but Lynch smacked him down again.

“Good fight, Garryd,” Sissy said, ‘Thanks, thanks a lot! But you’d better just come along before they really hurt you bad.”

Garryd got up and ran over next to Sissy, “You better not touch her,” he hissed at Lynch, or I’ll kill you.”

“I’ll kill you first, brat.”

“Garryd, shh. We have a right to remain silent. Anything we say can and will be used against us. We have a right to a phone call we have a right to cou . . .”

“Never mind remaining silent, kid, just SHUT UP!” Maroni hollered.

“But you haven’t read us our right,” Sissy objected.

“I said shut up!” Maroni shouted, slapping Sissy across the face. Her face stung and burned. She clamped her mouth shut.

It was a long, long walk. Finally, they were shoved, not into a patrol car, but into a windowless van with beer bottles rolling around on the floor. It smelled like pee and really dirty clothes.

“Are you going to take them in? Maybe we could just beat them up and give them a really good scare. That would be fun.” Lynch rubbed his hands together.

“Naw, let’s let them take the rap for wrecking the cabin. No one will believe they didn’t do it. They admitted they were there. Even that goody-goody partner of mine heard them say that.

The kids hunched together in the back seat, not daring to talk for fear they’d be overheard. Both men started to smoke and Sissy started coughing violently.

“Shut up, kid,”

“She can’t help it, cigarette smoke always makes her cough,” Marc said.

Sissy threw up.

“Riding in smoky cars always makes her sick. She has to sit in front with the window open,” Mac continued, without pausing.

Sissy threw up again. The van turned into the police station and jerked to a stop. Maroni yanked Sissy roughly out of the van.

“You’re going to pay for that, kid!” Sissy stared at him, shooting daggers of anger out of her eyes. “Get out here, you little punks,” Maroni growled. Marc, Paul, and Garryd jumped out and stood beside Sissy.

Inside the station, the man behind the desk said, “Who are these kids and why are you here off duty?”

“I caught these kids vandalizing the old Williams cabin.”

“Why were you there off-duty?”

“I got a lead . . .”

“You should have reported in and gotten into uniform or better yet, let someone on duty take the call.”

“But Sarge, they might have gotten away . . .”

“We would have gotten them eventually, with fingerprints and all. Well, I guess now that you’re here, you may as well fill out the paperwork and call their parents. Sit them down over there and go get into uniform. It’s almost time for you to go on duty anyway.”

“I want to go home first.”


“Yes, sir!” Maroni walked out of the waiting room into the back of the police station. A few minutes later, Officer Harrison came in the front door. Sissy ran over and tugged his sleeve.

“Those guys have been wrecking the cabin, Old Man Williams’ cabin. They are trying to blame it on us, but we didn’t do it. You’ve got to get over there before his accomplice destroys the evidence. We watched through the window, we saw everything. They wrecked stuff, and they left their fingerprints all over everything, so you can prove it. His name is Lynch, can you go over and stop him. He might not be smart enough anyway. But just to be sure.”

“Whoa, whoa, wait a minute . . .”

“Oh, please, please Officer, there is not time to lose. Please go, and hurry.”

“Don’t worry, kiddo, if those guys really did what you . . .”

“They DID!”

“Then there is no way they could destroy all the evidence, short of burning the cabin down. You don’t suppose they’d do that do you?” he asked, more of himself, than of Sissy.

Maroni returned to the room dressed in his uniform. It didn’t fit well, and bulges of fat and black hair were showing between the buttons of his shirt.

“Is that girl feeding you a line of bull? We caught her RED-HANDED vandalizing the cabin.”

“Just how stupid do you think I am?” the blond cop said.

The front door burst open and Sissy parents, Mr. And Mrs. LeFevre and Mr. And Mrs. Knudson walked in. Guy and Michael bust in behind them.

“That’s the man, that man right there,” yelled Michael, pointing at Maroni. “He was hurting Sissy.”

“Yeah,” agreed Guy, “We saw him. Only he wasn’t wearing his police uniform. He had another man with him, a skinny guy. They were wrecking the cabin and said they were going to blame it on Sissy. They twisted her arm hit her a lot and tried to make her tell where some treasure [MNS1] was.”

The Sergeant who had been standing behind the counter walked out and said, “All right, all right, what on earth is going on here?”

“This gang of kids has been vandalizing Williams’ cabin and is trying to put the blame on me,” Maroni said, angrily.

“He’s lying,” screamed Paul. “He’s saying it exactly backwards.”

Paul’s father walked up to Sergeant McNair. “Hello,” he said, formally, extending his hand. “My name is Claude LeFevre. I am an attorney with LeFevre, Barnes and Tate.” He reached into his pocket and pulled out a card, handing it to Sergeant McNair.

“I will be representing these children and pressing charges against Officer Anthony Maroni here,” waving his arm toward the fat cop without bothering to look at him. “Can we sit down and discuss this in a civilized manner?”

Sergeant McNair led them to a large conference table. “You, too,” he said to the fat cop.

“Let’s start at the beginning. Maria, can you tell us everything you know about this case?”

Sissy started at the beginning, telling Sergeant McNair everything she could remember, except about the treasure and the will. She wanted to talk to Paul’s Dad about that first in private. Almost at the end of her story, Officer Harrison came in with lynch, the skinny accomplice, in handcuffs.

“I found him at the cabin with a T-shirt trying to wipe fingerprints off stuff. I gave him a good scare and he admitted wrecking stuff, looking for some treasure Officer Maroni told him was there.”

Sissy gave Garryd a quick sharp look and Garryd nodded.

“Well, I guess that settled that, as far as the children are concerned. Is that right, Officer Harrison? Sergeant McNair?” Mr. LeFevre asked.

“Why, yes, of course. The children are free to go. They should, however, stay away from the Williams’ property. Trespassing is still against the law,” said Officer Harrison, looking steadily, first at Sissy and then at each of the other children. Garryd was signing frantically to his parents and they were nodding solemnly.

“Okay, kids, go home and go to bed. And stay out of trouble.” Sergeant McNair said.

[MNS1]I don’t think he ever actually said this. Maybe it should be deleted from here (or added there?)

Chapter 25, P365-07W

Friday, February 02, 2007

Drafts: Frog Haven Chapter 23

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, Chapter 14, Chapter 15. Chapter 16, Chapter 17, Chapter 18, Chapter 19, Chapter 20, Chapter 21, Chapter 22

Chapter 23: In the Cabin Again

Finding the wells was easy. There were two of them, right behind the cabin. Sissy had run over them before when she had fled the cabin with Paul LeFevre. Now the covers were both off [MNS1] and lying upside down on the forest floor. Maroni and his friend had looked there already. They had loosened some of the rocks around the top of each wall and they were lying on the ground here and there.

“Glad I’m not running through here in the dark or not watching where I’m going,” Sissy commented.

“Which is the north well?” Garryd asked. “I should have brought my compass.”

“Well, the sun rises in the east . . .”

“and sets in the west . . .”

“And it’s headed that way,” Sissy said, pointing. “If my right is east and my left is west, my nose is north and my seat is south.”

“That must be the north well, then,” Garryd said. The north well was the larger of the two wells. The south well was small enough to step over, but the north well was about 5 feet across. The kids lay on their stomachs and looked down at the stones for one that might have rubies. “If it really had rubies,” Garryd commented, “the cop-crooks would have taken it just for the rubies. Look,” he continued, “down there. That rock had red things on it. They look like jewels.”

“Oh, they’re garnets. There are lots of those in the Adirondacks. Last summer, when I went camping with Lyssa, we collected tons of them. Dr. Taylor says they are semi-precious stones. I still have some. I was going to make people jewelry as Christmas presents from them but I forgot.”

“How are we ever going to get that rock out? It’s too big and heavy.”

“Hold onto my legs and let me try.”

“Well, okay,” Garryd said, doubtfully. He peered down into the well. It was a long ways down to the dark water at the bottom.

Garryd held Sissy’s legs tight. Sissy hung upside down in the well and grasped the big stone. To her surprise, it came right off in her hand. It surprised her so much she almost fell in. Garryd flung his whole body on top of her legs, grasping them with all his might, and managed to stop her fall. She wiggled up, still holding the rock. It was a thin curved shell of a rock instead of a whole boulder. Sissy laid it carefully on the ground and then looked at her legs. Garryd had held her so tightly that there were big red welts where his hands had been.

“Thanks for not letting me drop, Garryd!”

“You scared me. I thought I was losing you.”

“Well, let’s do it again. Hold me in a slightly different spot, okay?”

Garryd held on again and Sissy leaned over and looked into the hole. She saw nothing. She reached her hand in and discovered that it was deeper than it looked. Way in the back of a long tunnel, she found a small metal box. It was so deep that she couldn’t grasp it. She tried over and over, grunting with the effort. Garryd was grunting too. Finally, she caught her nails in the crack, pulled it forward slightly, and was able to grab it. Holding it tightly, She wriggled back up, with Garryd helping.

This box was smaller and thinner than the other box. It had a keyhole with a silver button. Sissy pressed the button and the box opened. On top was a paper with pictures of hands. A tiny key was taped to the paper, up in the left-hand corner. The tape was yellow and loose, but it was still holding. The kids studied the paper.

“I think this tells that this is the key to the money box and that the box is hidden in the bathroom. We already knew that,” Garryd said.

“But we didn’t have the key. Let’s see what else there is.”

They looked under the paper with the key and found a folded paper made of thick parchmenty stuff. They opened it. It said, “Last will and testament.”

“This is the will,” Sissy said.

“No kidding.” They tried to read it but it was full of big words, so they put it aside to look at later. Underneath, the found letters, pictures, and a diary. The picture on top was a stern but kindly-looking tall grey-haired man with his arms around two children, a taller girl with long blond braids and a smaller boy with sandy colored hair.

“I wonder if this is Judson Williams and the two kids who lived upstairs,” Sissy mused, holding up the picture.

“Sissy, let’s look at this stuff later. Those guys might come back. I think we should get out of here.”

“Good idea, Garryd,” Sissy agreed. “Only, I wonder how Mr. Williams expected anyone to find the will or the treasure. Maybe he left a note inside the cabin, probably in the desk.”

“Who cares? We’ve got the key, the will and the treasure now, why do we need the other message?”

“The fat cop might find it and figure it out.”

“So what? We’ve already got the stuff.”

“Then he will blame everything on us and it will look like he’s right. Anyway, I’ve just got to know. Besides, it might be something important. Come on; let’s just go in for a second, okay? No, wait, that might not be safe. Why don’t you take the box with the key and will home, and I’ll run in and check. Go the long way, through the woods, don’t let anyone see you. If I don’t catch up with you, hide the box in a very safe place, okay?”

“Okay, but be careful. Watch for those guys, and if they come, make sure you get out before they see you, okay?”

“Don’t worry, I’ll be careful.”

Garryd left, skirting the back side of the lower pond, and disappeared into the woods with the box. Sissy ran into the cabin and went right to the desk. Then she remembered she didn’t have her gloves. She went back outside and got a stick and looked around and listened. She poked around on the desk with a stick. Then she looked at the papers on the floor but saw nothing that seemed important at the moment.

Finally, she decided to look in the woodstove. The papers in the woodstove were pretty wadded. She looked out the window toward the road. The coast was clear. She took off her shirt to use as a glove to protect against leaving fingerprints. She picked up each wadded paper with her shirt and poked them open to see what they were. The fifth one she opened was a sign language message. As she tried to pull it open without touching it, the screen door slammed. Using her shirt, she shoved the wadded paper in the pocket of her cut-offs and then yanked the shirt back down over her head.

“What’s this?” The fat cop hissed in surprise. Then, recovering his senses, he said, “It’s that kid, the one who’s been wrecking the cabin!” He crossed the cabin and grabbed Sissy roughly by the arm.

“Kid, you’re under arrest.”

[MNS1]should they recover the wells? (at some point, for safety?) (Or not?)

Chapter 24; P365-07W

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Drafts: Frog Haven Chapter 22

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, Chapter 14, Chapter 15. Chapter 16, Chapter 17, Chapter 18, Chapter 19, Chapter 20, Chapter 21

Chapter 22: Hands

The skunk made no movement to turn its back on her or to raise its tail. Instead, it turned its head to the side and looked at her quizzically. Keeping the outhouse between her and the cabin, she backed slowly farther and farther away. When she thought she was a safe distance away from the skunk, she said, “Thank you very much!”

Then she turned and ran through the woods behind the lower pond, still trying to keep the outhouse between her and the cabin. The heavy metal box rattled as she ran.

Instead of bursting through the prickers into the pasture, Sissy ran through the woods that skirted the boundaries of the pasture until she came to the farmer’s logging road. From there, she ran along the hedgerow separating the butterfly field from the pasture until she came to the gate. She went through the gate into the butterfly field and up the steep hill at the end of Van Vleck drive. Her house was only three houses away, but instead of walking straight down the road to her house, she cut through the back yards. She ducked into the back door of the garage and got the camping shovel.

Down in the orchard, she dug another hole, right beside the fox’s grave. She buried the metal box, covering the paper with a pile of last year’s fallen leaves so it wouldn’t get ruined. She didn’t dare look at it now.

It was 5:35 when she went in. Everyone was at the table, and they were all looking at her.

“Sissy,” Papa said, “I thought you promised to be on time for dinner from now on. Family dinners are very important to this family.”

“Yes, Papa, I’m sorry Papa. Very sorry. You see, out in the woods, I ran into a skunk. At first, I was afraid to go by. But after a while, I decided to talk to it, and I went by carefully, and it didn’t spray me. I told it I wasn’t going to hurt it. It listened to me. She held up her St. Francis pendant. “See, St. Francis is protecting and helping me.” Sissy hoped Papa wouldn’t ask her which woods. There were so many woods around, but after all the trouble . . .

“Sissy, you be very careful with skunks, especially if they act strange or friendly. Skunks can carry rabies.”

“I didn’t pet it or anything, Papa, I just went very slowly around it.”

“Well see that you stay careful—I know how you love animals, but wild animals aren’t pets. The boys showed me their ribbons and said you won some ribbons today.”

“Yes, I did!” Sissy said, jumping up to get them.

“Sit down, Sissy,” her mother said. She was strict about family dinners too. “TELL us about it now and SHOW us the ribbons later.”

So Sissy told the whole story of the field days with Marc and Michael interrupting to tell their sides, even though they’d already told some before Sissy came.

Just as Mom was passing out cowboy cookies, one of Sissy’s favorites, the phone rang. Sissy was closest.

“Sissy, can I stay overnight at your house tonight?” It was Lyssa.

“Ma, Lyssa wants to know if she can sleep over tonight,” Sissy called back into the dinning room, sure the answer would be no. Lyssa was one of her very best friends, but she had business to attend to.

“There’s school tomorrow,” Mom said, as if that were the final answer.

“But it’s just the picnic, nothing important,” Marc said, “nothing important.” She wasn’t sure if he was trying to be helpful to her or obnoxious to her parents. Or maybe he knew something. . . .

“What do you think?” Sissy’s Mom asked, turning to her husband.

“Oh, I suppose so, if you girls go RIGHT to bed. You still have to get up early.”

“They said it was okay,” Sissy said, frowning in annoyance.

“Ma,” Lyssa yelled, “Sissy wants to know if I can sleep over.” Sissy couldn’t believe it. Grrr!

“No, there’s school tomorrow,” Sissy heard Mrs. Dr. Taylor yelling in the distance.

“It’s just the picnic, we won’t have any work.”

“No. And that’s final.”

“She won’t let me go,” Lyssa groaned to Sissy.

“Gee, that’s terrible,” Sissy sighed, faking a sad voice. “Maybe over the weekend you can stay over. Let’s plan it for Saturday night, it it’s okay with everyone.”

“Oh, good, you check with your parents and I’ll check with mine.”

“Okay, great! Lys, look, I gotta go, we’re eating and my hot food is getting cold and my cold food is getting warm. See you in the morning.” Sissy hung up before Lyssa could ask her to play after dinner.

It was Michael’s dish night. Marc was teasing him about a game he was going to miss.

“It won’t take Michael long to do the dishes, Marc. Stop upsetting him; he’ll be there in no time.”

“We’ll start without him. He’ll have to sit out the game.”

“I can join as soon as I get there. We always do that!”

“Not tonight, though!” Marc taunted.

“Marc, it’s garbage night tonight. I want you to collect the trash from all the wastebaskets and take it out.”

“Aw, Ma! They’ll start the game without me.”

“Then you and Michael can join in when you get there,” Papa said, walking into the kitchen with his dishes. Sissy helped clear the table and then slipped quietly away before anyone could think of more jobs for her.

Garryd wasn’t home. She dug up the grey box and slipped into the hollow tunnel formed by the branches of the multifloral rose hedge between Knudsons’ and Mancinis’. She only used it as a hideout in desperate situations, because it was so prickly that it was impossible to get in and out without getting scratched. There was also a lot of dead thorny branches on the ground, so as she crawled along, she kept getting poked in the knees and in the palms of her hands and the toes of her bare feet.

The hedge wasn’t perfectly straight, so that when Sissy got to her favorite secret hideout, no one could see her if the looked in from either end. She had cleared the dead branches off the ground and laid down a piece of Styrofoam from inside some box so that she could sit without getting poked in the rear. The thorny branches covered with leaves and flowers screened her from the outside world, but enough light came through the branches that she could see fairly well.

Finally, she sat with the grey box between her legs and cut off the twine. She opened the piece of paper and studied it. It wasn’t anything she had expected. She didn’t know what she had expected; something written or typed or something, or some form. But not these strange, carefully drawn pictures of hands and faces. She turned it around and around looking at it. There were lots and lots of hands, hands and arms and a few faces. All in different positions.

It looked familiar, very familiar, but Sissy couldn’t think why.

Then, it was like a light opened in her mind! Hands, that’s it. It’s a message written in sign language, but I can’t read it. Oh, if only Garryd was home! Sissy folded the paper carefully and put it in her pocket. She tried to open the box, but it was locked, locked tight. It was a sturdy box, and no matter how Sissy studied it, she didn’t see how it could be opened without the key. Unless some grown-up sawed it open with a hacksaw or pounded it open with a sledgehammer. Sissy wondered if she could pound it open with a rock. But she didn’t want to do that, not yet, anyway.

Sissy slipped the box between the bases of two multi-floral rose clusters, disguising it with fallen leaves and prickly branches. Then she crawled back out of the tunnel. She pulled put the paper and looked at it one more time. It might as well have been written in Chinese.

She went back to Garryd’s. He was home! She dragged him out and told him about the treasure and the message written in sign language.

“’Money,’” Garryd said, pointing to the second symbol. “’Deaf people,’ this one says. This one says ‘hole’ and this one says ‘rock.’ “If you don’t have the something . . .’ Oh, Sissy, I can only read parts of it, let me show it to my father.”

“We’ll get in trouble.”

“No, we won’t. My Dad’s not like that. You can trust him.”

Nels was smoking. Yuck! Sissy wished he didn’t smoke. Smoking was icky, icky and horrid and smelly and gross. She was ready to turn around and forget the whole thing, but Garryd marched right up and gave the paper to his father.

Nels looked at it with a puzzled expression on his face. He walked slowly to the dining-room table, studying the pictures. Elke came over and looked, leaning close, holding her hands out to the side questioningly. No one answered her. Nels was busy studying the note and the children were watching him intently. Nels took a pencil from a pencil holder on the desk and began writing words under the pictures, one at a time, until he had written an entire message:

This money is to be used for deaf people as described in my [will, testament, document]. If you don’t have the [will etc.], it is located in the hole behind the red precious ruby-rock in the north well.

The kids read and reread the message. Nels began signing to Garryd. Garryd shook his head.

“Later,” he signed. The kids took off running. They forgot to take the roundabout way to the cabin. “We’ve got to find the well!” Garryd said.

“There must be two wells,” Sissy commented. “I wonder why. I hope those creepy guys are gone.”

“Me too. We’ll have to be really careful. I don’t trust them at all.”

Chapter 23; P365-07W