Monday, November 13, 2017

The Lawrence Children: Chapter 2

No More Good-nights




When spring came Frederic never took the Lawrence children treasure hunting. Life had other plans instead, drastically opposing those of what the children desired.
It all started in the dead of an October winter, just a couple weeks after Frederic told his story.
Snow covered the Montana valley so that it was impossible for Frederic to traverse to the mines, much less for the children to attend school. For days all were stranded in their small cabin.
But life continued for the few days the whole family was trapped in their home.
Julia made sure that all the children kept up their studies. There wasn't much pressuring to do with Lucy or Noah. Even Fred-O did well. But Ann and Vern were another matter – especially Vern as he thought he didn't need to do much studying as he didn't attend school anymore.
“I do not see why I have to study so much when it doesn't even matter.”
“Vern Lawrence,” Julia sighed. “You don't learn because you have to go to school. You go to school so that you can learn. And you continue learning even after school is over. That is life.”
Vern was not persuaded.
“Besides,” Julia said, letting her exhaustion show in her voice. “What else is there for you to do with all this snow?”
Vern shrugged. He would much rather help Father. But he knew he wouldn't be able to make the snow melt soon enough.
Julia nodded as if her point were proven.
Frederic spoke as he sent Vern a sympathizing look, “If you finish all your studies, why don't you go trapping with me tomorrow? I think the weather will be good enough to do so.”
Vern's eyes lighted, “Yeah!” He looked sideways at his mother, waiting for Julia to tell him no.
Instead she said, “It will be good for him to get out of the house, and away from me.”
Vern grinned.
“Good!” Frederic said, “It will be a little hard to check them with all the snow – but at least we will have furs to keep us occupied.” Vern looked to his father and smiled – taking care of meat and furs was his preferred kind of work.
Julia smiled, “It will be good for both of you. I don't enjoy keeping my boys cooped up inside, forcing them into scholars.”
“I like learning,” Noah exclaimed. “You don't force me.”
Julia laughed, “No, you are a special one, aren't you?”
Noah returned the laugh, “But I wouldn't mind going with Father.” His eyes hinted at a wanted invitation.
Frederic laughed, “I should take you, too. But it shall be so cold out. Next time, deal?”
Noah smiled, not seeming bothered by having to stay, “Sounds good to me.”

Frederic woke Vern early.
Why? He didn't have to take the children to school – snow! There was no school today. And he was going trapping! Vern moved from his shared bed with Noah as quietly and quickly as he could manage. And then he buried himself in warm clothes.
Climbing down from the loft, the warm smell of coffee saluted his nostrils.
“Good morning,” Julia smiled, directing him toward a place at the table. Bacon, coffee, and cooked grain. It was all hot, steam overflowing with delicious scents.
Vern already felt so hungry, as if he had already worked a full hard day without food.
Frederic was already seated at the table, eating.
“Eat quickly,” Julia directed. “Your father wants to be out before light.”
Frederic's mouth was full. Vern sat down and made his own mouth likewise. His father kept eating, neither confirming nor contradicting Julia's words.
Once they were finished Julia handed Frederic a large tin lunch bucket, and a canister full of hot coffee to each of them, wrapped in cloth. Frederic grabbed his rifle, and Vern took another. They were bundled up warm, prepared to meet cold and wildlife.
“Take care,” Julia kissed Frederic and Vern, Vern receiving his kiss on the cheek. “And have fun.”
Frederic nodded, returning his wife's kiss.
Vern grinned. Of course he would have fun – not being cooped inside was the first guarantee of that.

Stepping in the snow turned out to be more work than his books would have caused.
But Vern did not mind.
He enjoyed having this time with his father, and learning more about the traps and even the animals.
“Have you been finding many animals in the traps lately?” Vern asked. It had been awhile since they had trapped together, as Frederic normally checked the traps while Vern would take care of other chores.
Frederic nodded amidst his many layers, “Yes. Though not as many as I'd like.”
They had already checked a good five traps, having to dig them out of drifts to only find them empty. Half the day was over. They would be stopping to eat soon and not one animal – dead or alive.
“It seems quiet out here, doesn't it?” Frederic said, breaking into Vern's thoughts.
“Yeah,” Vern said. “Is that bad?”
Frederic grunted, “Naw, it's neither. Just an observation.”
“I like it. Feels peaceful.”
“That it does.”
“I remember Richard telling me once that trapping was dangerous work,” Vern said as if the idea were preposterous.
“Anything is dangerous. But I think it's ten times safer than the mine work. Plus, as you say it's more peaceful. But yeah – anything involving wild animals can lead to an accident.
“Oh.” Danger would add some excitement to the quiet. Not that Vern wanted it to be loud. But excitement was never bad.
Silence settled between the two men as they continued to shove their feet over and through the snow.
“One more trap, then we'll eat?” Frederic announced, though as a question.
“Sounds good.” Vern replied, breathing hard from the exertion of pulling his boots through the snow.
Before they even reached the trap Vern could tell this one was going to be different than the others.
He heard movements and groans. Something was caught, and the poor creature was still alive.
Frederic smiled to Vern.
“Finally!” Vern exclaimed.
Frederic nodded, “Hopefully it isn't just something small.”
But Frederic wasn't hoping to see what he saw.
Both of their smiles disappeared when they saw what was caught – a small bear cub. Frederic let out a frustrated gasp. “Stay back, Vern.”
“What are you going to do?” It was just a baby. They usually went for smaller animals, though not babies. Especially not bears. Not with foot traps.
“I'm going to try and let it loose. Hopefully it isn't so hurt we have to shoot it.”
Vern heard positivity in his father's voice. Most likely it would be alright once they freed the cub.
“Just keep an eye out for the mother bear. Keep the gun ready. And be careful”
Vern nodded, pulling his rifle off of his shoulder, and making sure it was cocked.
Frederic stepped toward the baby bear, and immediately it let out a groan, mixed with tortured pain and fear. “It's OK, little fellow. I'm just going to get your foot out of that there trap. OK?”
The bear growled – no, wait.
That growl was too loud for a baby…
The mother bear was on Frederic before Vern even saw her.
Frederic yelled.
Vern's brain froze even as his arms moved into action. Where was he supposed to shoot? He had to shoot, his hands knew this. But his mind said, “You'll miss!”
Rifle set against his shoulder, he aimed.
What if he shot his father?
He couldn't think.
Vern pulled the trigger.
One shot resounded.
The bear looked up, wounded. It roared, obviously hurt, but not fatally.
Vern reloaded quickly and aimed once more, taking advantage of the open face.
A second shot exploded right into the bear's face.
It stood up on its hind feet, angry. The mother bear raised her claws toward where the gunshots had come from. But the two shots had done their work. The bear toppled backward, falling beside Frederic.
Frederic. “Father,” Vern ran over to his father's side.
There was too much blood. Vern ignored the blood and pulled his father over, not looking at his face. Just his chest. It… it was moving.
A moan.
What was he going to do? His father needed help.
Vern took handfuls of snow and wiped blood off of his father, cleaning his face and neck and skin as much as he could. But the blood was just coming back. The snow wasn't helping. Frederic's warm clothing was torn into shreds. And the snow Vern had just piled onto him would make his father even colder.
“Father?”
Frederic didn't answer.
He was in too much pain. He was moaning – Vern felt sick. The bear hadn't been on his father long, but there was so much blood and his father sounded too weak.
Vern would have to carry Frederic home.
The baby bear grunted, causing Vern to remember the cub. He left his father and released the baby bear quickly, dodging its small claws. The cub ran off not giving Vern a chance to examine its wounds.
He didn't have time anyways.
Vern quickly dumped out all excess things from him and his father. With only a rifle over his shoulder, he picked up his father and started walking slowly home.
His mother would have herbs. She would know what to do.
She had to know what to do.
“Please, God. Don't let him be hurt too bad.” Vern whispered. He felt so numb with horror he didn't even notice the weight of his father.

Vern never forgot his mother's face. Horribly white. He knew when he saw it that there was no hope for his father.
“I brought him as fast as I could,” it was too warm inside. The cold had kept him numb – unable to feel pain. Now he could feel, and he was crying. All his brothers and sisters were staring at him. But oddly enough Vern did not care.
Julia broke out of her state of shock and started pulling the frozen, bloody clothes off of Frederic. “Girls! I need hot water. And my herbs.”
Lucy was already heating pans of snow.
Ann ran into her mother's room for the satchel of herbs.
Julia looked up into Vern's face, “You did good, Vern. We'll save him.” Seeing the little ones, she added, “Do you think you can take them away? I don't want them seeing Father like this.”
Vern walked away in response, grabbing Julie's and Fred-O's hands. He took them to the loft ignoring their questions.
Not ignoring. He couldn't hear them.
Vern tried to be strong. He tried to not cry.
But deep down it was too hard.
He knew his family would never be the same.
Julie and Fred-O stopped talking and hugged Vern as he cried. He wrapped his arms around his two littlest siblings, feeling a little stronger as they hugged him.
“Sing to us,” Fred-O asked Vern.
He didn't want to sing.
But there were so many things he didn't want.
“I don't know any songs right now,” he answered his little brother.
“The one Father always sings to me.”
Vern hugged Fred-O and Julie tighter. “OK.”
And he quietly sang the chorus of the sad folk song their family all loved so well.


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


After the little ones were put to sleep, Vern crawled down out of the loft. All night he and Julia with the girls and Noah stayed by Frederic's side.
But nothing they could do would save him.
A fever grew over Frederic. All the next day Frederic became weaker and weaker. He never opened his eyes. He never said a word.
Frederic was dead by the next night, and they were still stranded at their cabin, isolated from town and neighbors. The night he died another storm erupted, making it impossible to alert neighbors or bury their father.
Vern and Noah wrapped their father's body in blankets and put him outside the barn, surrounding Frederic with snow. In a few days when it was a bit warmer they would be able to put him in the ground with neighbors' help.
Vern didn't shed another tear after the first night. He knew he needed to be strong for everyone else. There wasn't time for him to feel sadness. But as they buried his father he was glad for the numbing cold once more. It felt so good to not feel.
Noah couldn't stop crying. As they finished covering Frederic with snow, Vern doing most of the work. Noah asked, “What are we going to do?”
“What do you mean?” Vern asked, struggling to speak through the cold air.
Noah shrugged.
“It's not the end of the world.” Vern felt as if he were lying. “We own our land. You and I know how to dig the ore and weigh it in for the gold. We can trap. We both are capable of making sure the rest of this family lives.”
Noah still cried, “Mother doesn't look well.”
“She won't for awhile.” Vern didn't want to be the strong one. But who else would?
“Do you think… th – that...”
“No. Don't even think that way. We'll all be fine.”
Noah nodded. Vern had convinced him for the moment.
Vern gave him a quick hug and whispered, just as much for his own sake as Noah's. Noah needed confirmation that they would be OK. “We are all going to be just fine. You'll see. God is still with us.”
But Vern felt as if God must be someplace else. It was all too quick, too sudden. Yesterday was supposed to be a good day – a day with a break from school to be with his father.
Not the final day of his childhood.

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

4 comments:

  1. This is really good so far! You should make a novella with these!!! :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks! I have actually considered that :)

      Delete
  2. Wow. I did not see that coming. Pretty good so far though!


    Alexa
    thessalexa.blogspot.com
    verbosityreviews.com

    ReplyDelete

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