Monday, July 9, 2018

The Lawrence Children: Chapter 10

Fred-O is Frightened





“They buried him in autumn
Yet couldn't hide their guilt.
Fred-O spoke what was so
Who lives half as good?”

Fred-O held onto his seat as Noah guided the horse and small wagon (they had stopped using the sleigh weeks ago to go to school) over the rough ground. Fred-O sang heartily at the top of his lungs, his beloved song, singing the same words over and over.
Ann seemed about ready to jump out of the wagon. Fred-O wondered if it was more because she was irritated with the song, or if she were overjoyed that it was spring. The bumps of the wagon weren't suiting her excitement too well – but they added a nice texture to Fred-O's song.
Fred-O laughed – Ann was funny.
Suddenly she did jump out, and started running to the cabin. Lucy was outside taking dry clothes from off the line.
“It's spring!” Ann shouted.
The words sounded good to Fred-O's ears for many reasons.
School would be out soon. And the ground was almost soft enough to truly start their treasure hunt.
Fred-O knew that's what Ann was referring to – Grandpa's treasure. Because it was all she could talk about the whole way home when she could get a word in between his singing.
“How does Mr Farrows know it's spring?” Fred-O asked Noah, stopping his song to ask his question.
“What do you mean?”
“He knew today was spring before today even came. We tell spring by flowers and animals and the sun – how does he know without looking at those things?”
“His almanac tells him,” Noah shrugged.
“And how?”
“It's predicted by the phases of the moon.”
Fred-O wasn't sure he understood better. He knew the moon controlled a lot of things according to Mr Farrows' science books. But how could it predict when spring started?
He let the thought go as they pulled up in front of the house. Fred-O jumped out of the wagon. He was ready to run to the shack and start the hunt – he was sure Ann would join him.
But Noah needed help putting the horse away.
And then Lucy had too many chores for him.
And then Vern had chores for him, too.
Fred-O ran through everything, but by the time he finished it was too dark to go exploring and Vern was ready for dinner.
Ann chattered away the whole time supper was being served, hardly quieting for Vern to pray.
“Just because it's spring doesn't mean we can just go out and start searching,” Vern said. Fred-O caught the wink in his eye.
Ann did not see that Vern was teasing. “Why not?” She sobered down a little and started eating.
Vern laughed.
So did Lucy and Noah and Fred-O.
“I think we can go up this next weekend – if that works for Lucy. And you all do what you need to,” Vern said.
Lucy nodded, “It will be good to get this mystery stuff behind us.”
“Oh! Good!” Ann said. “I know I will find the treasure.”
“You!?” Noah's incredulity turned up a notch. “I wouldn't be so sure.”
“I want to find it,” Fred-O chimed in.
Lucy cut in, “I think we are all supposed to find it together.”
“Not really Julie,” Fred-O said. “She's too little to find treasure.”
“Fred-O,” Vern said. “Even she can help.”
“By following us – that's not helping,” Fred-O grinned.
“We could say the same about you,” Noah teased as he stuck a piece of cornbread into his mouth.
Fred-O made a face at Noah as he kept eating.
He couldn't wait for the weekend. And it appeared neither could Ann or Noah.

The boys unbarred the shack door. All the siblings sat on the floor, with the map in the center on the floor so that everyone could see it. They had brought a compass, shovel, and lunches.
Fred-O had to stand on the tips of his toes and stretch his neck forward – it was hard to see past everyone else. But he could understand the map was so simple it didn't make sense.
“Well, we are certainly at the starting place,” Vern said. “Here's Grandpa's shack – not sure what else to do.”
“We walk straight – that way,” Fred-O said, pointing out of the cabin. It's what the map said, after all.
But Vern didn't seem to be convinced. Yet as a group they went straight using the compass as a guide. They turned left. And then right. And then left again. Before going straight just a bit more.
“This isn't leading anywhere,” Noah said.
“It has to,” Ann said. “Grandpa wouldn't have composed a map for no reason.”
“How do you know?” Fred-O asked. “You never met him.”
“Because people just don't make blank maps for fun,” Ann said.
“Actually,” Noah informed Ann. “I've read about people whose hobby is map making and they make fake maps for various reasons -”
“Noah,” Ann rolled her eyes.
“Shall we dig?” Vern put his shovel into the ground. Fred-O stepped as close to Vern as he safely could. There was nothing special about this ground – just an open space in an open field.
“I don't understand why we had to make all those sharp turns,” Lucy said. “Why couldn't we have just walked straight? Unless there had been landmarks at those turns.”
“Well, there most certainly weren't – not even stumps of a dead tree,” Noah said.
“It's not making sense,” Ann said. She was actually starting to sound like she doubted the whole mystery.
But Fred-O was certain they would find something. He kept his eyes on Vern's shovel as if that would somehow help.
Vern was still digging. The ground was hard so it took him a bit to break into it – and then the hole took awhile to grow even a little.
Finally Vern stopped digging. “There's nothing here.” Vern put the shovel on the ground and sat down by it, wiping sweat off his forehead. “I think this was just some silly thing Grandpa did.”
Lucy said, “Well, this is a nice place to have a picnic – the sun feels nice.”
Ann wasn't ready to give up though. Lucy and Vern lay out a blanket as Ann and Noah took the map from Vern and ran back to the shack. Fred-O followed.
“Maybe we need to measure the lines – every eighth of an inch represents a step?”
“Or a mile, or foot, or yard? Ann, we can't know what it stands for at all. And what if a quarter inch or a half inch is the number to gauge it?”
Ann shrugged, “We have to start somewhere.”
And so the three children used Ann's method measuring the lines, using a compass to go straight, and measuring the distance with their steps.
Noah soon gave up after multiple tries, testing out all of his and Ann's theories.
“I think Grandpa just liked playing with minds,” Noah proclaimed sitting between Lucy and Julie.
Fred-O stayed with Ann. He could tell his sister was growing frustrated. “No – it has to be real.” she insisted.
“I think so, too.” Fred-O told her, smiling. He wanted to be encouraging. And he wanted to find treasure, too.
But Ann didn't seem comforted by his support.
“Let's take a break for lunch,” Lucy told everyone.
“I don't want to eat yet – I still have some ideas.”
“No,” Vern added onto Lucy's words. “We'll take a break. It'll refresh our minds, Ann. Maybe after we eat we'll see things clearer.”
Fred-O was glad to stop. He believed the treasure was real. And that Ann and he would find it. But he was hungry, too.
As they ate everyone discussed the details of the map thoroughly. Not that there was much to discuss. Fred-O didn't have much to say – his mouth was much too full of food.
“Normally you can rule out everything that is not possible and be left with a correct solution,” Noah sighed. “Except ruling out leaves you with nothing in this situation.”
Julie and Fred-O finished eating before anyone else. Everyone was too busy talking – and it was all boring. No one was figuring out much of anything. So the two little ones got up and started walking away.
“Keep an eye on Julie,” Lucy called after Fred-O.
“OK,” Fred-O answered. He smiled and took his little sister's hand, walking slowly with her. They went toward Grandpa's shack. Maybe he and Julie could discover the secret. He asked Julie, “Do you want to search for Grandpa's treasure?”
Julie nodded, holding tightly to Fred-O's hand.
They walked in through the shack and Fred-O sat down on the floor to think. He was finding that he couldn't think any clearer than the rest of his siblings. “You have any ideas, Julie?”
Julie ran around the inside of the shack, picking at the small piles of junk, broken chair leg, and old rug.
“No,” she answered.
“Maybe we aren't supposed to start from the front of the cabin,” Fred-O thought out loud. He lifted himself up. “Julie, let's go outside to the back for a second.”
Julie shook her head, “No. I don't want to go outside.”
“Come on – it'll be fun!” Fred-O pulled on her arm, trying to lead her out with him, but she threw herself down onto the floor making herself heavier.
“No,” she said.
Fred-O gave up. “Be good. I'll be just outside.”
Julie ignored him, going back to playing with her findings. She threw the rug over her head, “I'm hiding.”
Fred-O walked around the cabin. There were some trees on one side and behind – but after that the terrain looked just the same as the front. You could go straight for a long time and not come across anything unique.
He could try anyways -
A scream made his thoughts stop and feet start.
Julie!
Fred-O ran as fast as he could back to the shack. As soon as he reached the doorway his eyes searched frantically, but Julie wasn't inside! The shack was empty. He ran back out and all around the shack. “Julie!” He called out.
His little sister wasn't answering.
Fred-O started crying, feeling a sudden tremble overcome him. Lucy would be so mad at him. He had to find Julie – but just as the land went on for a mile in every direction without a path to treasure, so was it empty of a little girl.
Where could she be?
Fred-O wiped his eyes and ran back to where his siblings were picnicking.
They heard him crying and everyone dropped their discussion rising up quickly. Lucy and Vern asked, “What's wrong, Fred-O?”
“I can't find Julie,” tears streamed down his face through his voice. “She's lost.”


Make sure to return the second Monday of next month for the continuing installment of the Lawrence Children! 


Father Tells a Story posted 10/9/17
No More Good-nights posted 11/13/17
Lucy Learns to Live posted 12/11/17
Never Know, Noah posted 1/8/18
Grandpa's Mystery  posted 2/12/18
Ann Finds Answers posted 3/12/18
Vern Lead's An Adventure posted 4/9/18
A Friendly Visit posted 5/14/18
A Real Clue? posted 6/11/18
Fred-O is Frightened  posted 7/9/18
Good Job, Julie! posted 8/13/18
Hello, Life posted 9/10/18

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