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

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