Monday, October 9, 2017

The Lawrence Children: Chapter 1


Father Tells a Story




At one point in history Alex Norris' little town of Norris was a thriving gold mining town. It had a population of over 1,500 and was highly respected for the standards set by and enforced through the beliefs of Alex Norris. It was a town of wealth, of propriety, of neighborliness.
Seven miles south and outside of Norris was a small cabin, surrounded by its allotted 20 acres, surrounded by mountains and a forest of evergreens. This was the Lawrence's mining claim, a small family with six children.
A long day had just ended – Frederic Lawrence had just returned from his gold mines with his eldest son. Julia busied herself with a basket of mending. A warm smell produced by baking bread drifted from the kitchen proving she was still tying up her long day. All the children sat about the living room on benches or the hardwood floor finishing up their homework or playing respectively according to their ages.
There was Vern, the eldest. He was seventeen and had graduated from the small Norris school three years ago. He was glad to be done with that dreaded part of his life – he and school never did get along well. He already worked as much as he could with his father, helping in the mines and trapping. He loved every opportunity he had to be with his father. Julia had moved from a place where school was more of a priority than the small town of Norris thought practical. And, so she would make Vern study a little every night, even if it were only reading from the Bible and writing a small essay – which he was doing at the moment.
Lucy was next in birth, being fifteen. She had already finished her homework – she was in her last year of school. At this moment in time, she was sitting on the bench reading a novel her teacher had loaned her. It could be argued that she wasn't reading, though, as she hadn't turned a page in some time. Ann liked to tease that Lucy spent most of her free time (and more) dreaming of boys…
Julia Lawrence would always hush Ann, of course, but not before Lucy's cheeks were heated.
Ann had just had her fourteenth birthday. She loved to talk. Right now she studied only because she had to. There were always so many tales of her day that she knew everyone must know. Some of her stories happened with friends, some happened in her head. Both ways it was obvious that Ann was full of imaginative life, giving all an introduction to excitement. It would take her longer than the rest to finish her school, it seemed, as she always had more to say and so it was Mother's rule she remain quiet until she completed her school.
Noah was the eleven-year old genius of the family and even of the Norris school. He was still studying books along with Vern and Ann at this moment, but he had finished his homework long before even Lucy had. What he studied consisted of extra research – just to ease his curiosity and make sure his teacher wasn't mistaken, as he was occasionally. Noah had to be thoughtful in the way he approached Mr Farrows' to not hurt his pride. His caution was not much needed though, as he had a very likeable character that countered his brains perfectly, and Mr Farrows' was always impressed with his work.
Young Frederic (or Fred-O as he was called often, after a folk song his father would sing to the children) was just starting school. Julia had held him back a year as she felt her young adventurous boy's spirit would have been stifled in a school room. She would have liked to keep him at home one more year, but Frederic insisted his son not be held back too much as it would be hard on the young boy having to attend school with children two years younger. And so when he turned eight Fred-O found himself also coming home at night with a pile homework – a pride soon erased away with reality. School was indeed stifling for his childish spirit, but Fred-O was still thankful to his father for not having to wait an extra year.
Julie was the baby of the family. Even called baby, though she was three years old. She still contained much of her baby chubbiness, and was spoiled equally by every member of the family. Julie sat at her mother's feet playing with her little blocks of wood and cloth doll.
As all the children studied, read, and played father quietly sang a family favorite. The sound of his voice muted into the children's thoughts, making the atmosphere pleasant despite the tasks some were occupied with.

Oh, Fred-O, the brave man,
Had a plan one day.
To town he made his stand
All in God's own way.


Oh, Fred-O,
Don't Go!
That fateful day away.
Oh, Fred-O,
Come home!
Back to loved ones to stay.



Fred-O smiled as he stood
Long ago that day.
All his words sounded good -
What more could he say?

Despite poor Fred-O's words
None would know justice.
And all the men drew swords,
Inviting chaos.

Even as they killed him
His words would not go.
It was God who filled him
And said, “Speak, Fred-O!”

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



Frederic stopped singing, and there was silence for a few moments.
Noah dropped his book and let out a loud yawn, “Father, will you tell us a story?”
Vern snapped, “I am trying to concentrate on this paper.”
Frederic ignored Vern's words and replied to Noah with a smile, “What story should I tell – one where a rattlesnake almost ate my pouch of gold, but then I strangled it and made it show me the way to unimaginable treasure?”
Ann looked up from her books and joined in the laughter that erupted in the room.
“That never happened did it?” Fred-O asked.
“Of course not, silly.” Lucy said, laying her novel down – she still hadn't turned a single page since opening it.
“Naw,” Noah said to his father. “I want to hear about Grandpa's treasure.”
Vern and Lucy groaned.
“I've told that story so many times,” Frederic laughed. “You could probably tell it better to me at this point.”
Noah and Ann laughed – Ann was allowed to laugh, just not speak about things until her school was done.
Lucy said, “I'd rather hear something new, even if it were false.”
“Even if it were false? I've always thought you prefer what's not real to what is,” Noah jabbed at Lucy's book.
She stuck her tongue out. “Still, I'd rather hear something new.”
“You have anything to say on this, Vern?” Frederic asked his eldest.
Vern shrugged, “I have to finish this assignment from Mother, so I probably won't listen anyways.”
“So, no insight on the story of the night?”
“Whatever Lucy doesn't want,” Vern turned back to his Bible, ignoring the glare from Lucy.
“Well, it would seem the majority are in favor of Grandpa's Treasure.”
Several cheers sounded as books snapped shut. Even Julia set down her work and picked up the baby, snuggling her into her lap for the story.
Ann looked to her mother, silently asking if she might close her books to listen.
Julia nodded toward her daughter.
Ann smiled, hiding her books behind her back.
Frederic's stories were something that they all loved and looked forward to each night. He was an enthusiastic story teller who could bring words to life simply by opening his mouth.
“It was back in 1865 when our small town of Norris was first founded that my father first came to this land and claimed one of the first mines. He would tell me stories, just as I tell all my children stories. He would tell me how he was friends with Alex Norris – he even had to beat sense into the man several times.”
“Was the man not smart?” Fred-O interrupted.
Lucy snapped, “Don't you know? He was the man that founded Norris. How can an idiot create a town?”
Fred-O acted as if he had not heard Lucy, keeping his face and question directed toward his father.
“Yes, Alex was a smart man. But he and your grandpa did not always see eye to eye.”
“Why not?” Fred-O asked.
“Because they were two different people?” Noah suggested.
“Exactly,” Frederic smiled.
Fred-O still looked perplexed, “But, Father, you and I are two different people and we don't fight.”
Frederic laughed, “Very true. Let's hope it stays that way.” Frederic messed Fred-O's hair into a swirl of chaos.
“To continue the story, Alex was a worthy man. And a good friend to Grandpa. Just as Grandpa beat sense into Alex, Alex would have to give Grandpa a licking time to time.”
“Grown men don't do that,” Ann said shocked.
Frederic winked.
The children smiled, settling back for the story. Just as details always expanded and grew, they never knew what was true or pure imagination. But they chose to believe most to all of it. Even Vern and Lucy.
“Alex Norris did not want any saloons in his town – sadly that didn't work out. In the short time he lived there five were built.”
“How were they built if he did not want them?” Ann and Fred-O asked.
“Men would lie to him, telling him they intended the land for other purposes. One man even said he was going to use the land to build a church. Not many truthful men lived, much like today I'm afraid.”
“We do not have that many saloons now.” Vern said. “But we don't really have a good church either,” Vern added, laughing.
Frederic did not comment on Vern's words about the church. It was well-known that Frederic and the pastor of the Norris church did not get along. Their family would occasionally attend church for social events, or even go further away to Harrison. For the most part Frederic said the church was full of do-gooders who were more interested in controlling others' lives instead of perfecting their own. “No, thankfully my father was able to oversee several of the saloons shutting down in his days – there is a good story or two. Anyways after Alex Norris was murdered my father changed. I can barely remember what he was like before Alex. I have vague memories of his smile – I imagine it was like yours, Noah.”
Noah smiled, a charming twist of the lips that guaranteed an immediate friendship from anyone.
“Who killed Grandpa's friend?” Ann asked.
“It isn't known – just that he was robbed of his wallet and left alongside the railroad tracks leading to Bozeman. Such a poor end as the man was rich yet had nothing worth being robbed in his pockets. I hardly remember – I was very young when my father told me Uncle Alex was killed.”
“That is sad he died,” Ann said.
“It is,” Frederic's tone grew serious.
“Did you know him well?” Fred-O asked.
“Yes – but I do not remember him.”
“I think he must have been a great man to be good friends with Grandpa.” Fred-O said, even though he had never met his Grandpa.
“Yes, I agree, Fred-O.” Frederic paused. “After Alex died Grandpa drew into himself. He tried to cleanse the town that had started out with high ideals of Alex's. He mostly succeeded. Many of the saloons were shut down. And he was better at detecting liars than Alex had been. The town was full of greedy people that liked to hurt others – and as my father drew into himself it seemed he found more strength to cultivate a difference and not mind the nasty things people said about him.
“But even as the town's reputation of morale and wealth spread, so my father continued to pull away from society. For being as an involved man as he was he was terribly close to being a hermit.
“Not a man knew him apart from his work in the gold mines and in the town, and as an old friend of Alex's. Of course many thought we was also a crazy old-hermit that just barely managed to help reform the town. But I think part of the reason he was so withdrawn was because he was secretly investigating the murder of Uncle Alex.”
“Did he tell you?” Fred-O's eyes popped wide.
“No,” Frederic shook his head. “But he did tell me this -”
All the children, even Vern and Lucy drew close for this part of the story. For family secrets intrigued each and everyone of them.
“To never sell the land. And to study the map, for there were great secrets that would impact my future.”
At this Fred-O stood up and ran to a cabinet and grabbed his father's Bible. For this part of the story had been told many times and he knew just what his father needed.
Frederic opened his Bible and took out a piece of folded paper. He unfolded the paper and held it up in the dim light for all the children to see. “This was the map your Grandpa gave me before he died.”
“How old were you when he died?” Fred-O interrupted once more.
Frederic looked to his wife, “Let's see...we had Vern. And Lucy. Ann was a baby – I was in my twenties?”
“You were twenty-three,” Julia answered, her arms tight around the baby.
Frederic nodded, pleased with the answer.
“Did you find the treasure?” Fred-O asked.
Vern, Lucy, and even Ann and Noah laughed mockingly at Fred-O. For they all knew the answer to Fred-O's latest question. As did he.
“No,” Frederic answered as if it were the first time he had been asked. “I looked, but could never understand the map. I searched many times, but finally gave up years ago.”
“Why would Grandpa make it so hard to understand?” Ann asked.
“And why did he make a map instead of telling you where to go?” Noah added.
“Good questions – all ones that have played through my mind several times. As to the first, my father was not an educated man. Thus is makes sense he would draw up a map that only he could comprehend. As to the second? I have often wondered if the map even lead somewhere – perhaps Grandpa only meant to create a mystery so I'd never want to sell the place? Or maybe in his old age, he thought it would be a fun idea to leave a treasure map for his son? As I have said before, he was strange and none knew his mind, if he even did.”
Vern said, “He possibly could have left no treasure, just a map to tease you.”
“I am afraid at times that is the only reasonable conclusion. And too much like him. He was a very interesting man with quite a sense of humor.”
Fred-O's and Ann's eyes showed despair at this conclusion. Non-existent treasure was not exciting.
Noah said, “I think he truly hid something. But it's just hasn't been time to find out what or why yet.”
Frederic smiled, “You could be correct, Noah. And as you remind me most of my father, maybe your mind is most like his? Maybe the treasure is waiting for one of you children?”
Vern looked up suddenly, “We never have looked for it.”
Lucy laughed, “Yet we have heard the story so many times.”
Frederic joined in the laughter, “How strange. When spring comes maybe it will be time for you all to prove your hunting skills better than mine.”
Fred-O jumped up excitedly, “Ooooohhh! I will find it!”
Frederic laughed, “I'm sure you will.”
Julia rose from her rocker, a sleeping Julie in her arms, “But now it is time for bed. Thank your father for the story and tell him good night,” Julia commanded the younger children.
Sighs rose around the room.
Vern and Ann resumed their studies while Lucy opened her unread book once more. The rest of the children went around to say good-night, and the house became silent.
All were eager for the months to slip away into spring. But had they known what lay in the close weeks ahead they would have forgotten about treasure and wished for something else entirely.

Make sure to return the second Monday of next month for the next 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

6 comments:

  1. How neat! I'm looking forward to reading more. :)

    -Karis

    ReplyDelete
  2. Interesting start! Noah is wonderful; I do love child geniuses. :D

    Also, I tagged you for something over on my blog! Don't feel obligated if you don't want to, but if you do, here's the link: https://thessalexa.blogspot.com/2017/10/the-cake-flavored-books-tag.html


    Alexa
    thessalexa.blogspot.com
    verbosityreviews.com

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks! If I do say so myself Noah is one of my favorite characters... along with Vern and Lucy... wait. Never mind But thank you ;)

      Thanks! I'll check it out!

      Delete

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