Monday, April 9, 2018

The Lawrence Children: Chapter 7

Vern Lead's An Adventure


Vern allowed himself to eat his porridge slowly, enjoying the taste and warmth of every bite. It wasn't often that he could just sit and eat and think of nothing stressful.
But he allowed himself that pleasure on most Sundays.
I should –, stressful thoughts of all he needed to do broke free through his mind.
But no – Lucy said even the mind needed a break. He slaved over books and work the entire week. Sure, there was always more to do. But he still lost much sleep over what he was able to do.
All the children sat around the table eating noisily, talking and laughing and singing. He enjoyed his own silence – not speaking. But the others' sounds felt like a soothing tonic – happiness was good.
But then someone said his name.
Vern sighed, knowing he'd need to answer back.
“Do you think we can still visit the shack today?” Ann asked.
Vern smiled finding talking wasn't that bad after all, “Sure – who all wants to go?”
A chorus of “me's” rang around the table.
Even little Julie stood up and started dancing on her bench, raising both hands and shouting “Me-me-me!”
Lucy spoke, “The children need to finish their chores first – and homework.”
“I finished mine yesterday,” Ann said.
“Me, too!” Noah said.
“I couldn't finish mine 'cuz I need help,” Fred-O said, with a half whine.
Vern said, “I'm sure Lucy will help out –”
“Or you could,” Lucy said. “I have a lot to do today.”
“How so?” Ann asked. “We washed all the laundry, scrubbed this place sparkling, and did so much cooking yesterday. I am so tired from all of it.”
“There's always something more to be done,” Lucy said, mimicking Vern's own thoughts.
“We all need breaks,” Vern told Lucy. “Even you – you haven't even sat down to eat your breakfast. Take a seat and eat while I read the Bible.”
Lucy did as she was told – but half reluctantly. Vern felt slightly worried – Lucy wasn't acting normal. But he pushed the thought out of his mind, figuring she was probably just in some mood.
“Fred-O, want to get me father's Bible?”
Fred-O jumped up excitedly. All the younger children seemed to love to touch their father's Bible, so Vern let them have turns bringing it to him.
“Today we will read from first John, the first chapter,” Vern said. And then he began to read over the words, occasionally looking over the children's faces.
Lucy appeared worn out, stressed, and tired. But she was paying attention to the words – even seeming interested at times with the mentions of God's words concerning His Glory, light, and sin. She leaned against the wall, also holding on to Julie, trying to make the small girl sit still. Vern doubted Julie heard anything he was reading.
Ann was not mentally in this room – Vern could just easily guess where she was – in another shack on this property looking for treasure and solving a murder. The girl was obsessed, but at least she was happy.
Noah, ever present smile on his face. His elbows were planted firmly on top the table, his chin in his hands, and his whole upper body leaning toward Vern.
Fred-O fidgeted, moving all about as he finished eating his own food. Vern did not know whether to think his littlest brother heard or not, for he was sure this was Fred-O's normal manner even in school, and the boy received decent grades.
Vern finished reading. “Well, finish up what Lucy has for you all and then we'll head out to the shack.”
Ann jumped up, “Lucy we'll need to bring lunches!”
“You all will be gone that long?” Lucy asked.
“Aren't you coming?” Vern asked.
“I don't know if I should,” Lucy said. “It's a long walk for Julie, and there's so much to do. Besides, it's rather a waste of time. To be honest I don't know if Ann should be so enthused with this murder scandal.”
Vern shook his head, not even wanting to address the last part of her words. Couldn't she see it was harmless, a good way for the children to heal? “I'll carry Julie,” He said at last. “The fresh air will be good for all of us.”
“I guess I'll pack lunches...” Lucy's voice trailed off. She scraped her bowl clean and rose. “You can do the dishes, Ann.”
“Why do I have to do them?” Ann questioned.
Vern interceded before Lucy could snap, “So we all can leave sooner. And I'll help Fred-O with his homework. That way we'll all be done in no time.”
Fred-O jumped up from the table leaving his dirty bowl where it sat and running off to get his English books.
Ann made a face, and began to clear away the dishes. Neither she nor Lucy said anything.
Vern was thankful for that – today was supposed to be good. Not unpleasant.
Noah headed out to start on chores as Fred-O sat beside Vern, his stack of books in front of the both of them.
“So, what do we have here?” Vern asked.
“English and vocabulary,” Fred-O said. “I'm learning about phrases and clauses and I have to write an essay with indented paragraphs. In cursive.”
“You are learning cursive already?”
“Yep. And I don't like it.”
Vern laughed, “Well, this shouldn't take us long to do.”

Vern hoisted Julie onto his shoulders. She giggled and grabbed for his hair – it was growing a bit long for his preferences, but made perfect handholds for Julie.
Noah and Fred-O carried the lunch pails, but they were still able to keep up with Ann as all three ran ahead.
Lucy walked slower than the rest of them, bringing up the rear.
Vern took a look to make sure she was fine – a small smile rested on her face and her eyes were roaming all over the mountain side. She seemed happy.
So, Vern kept his focus on the path in front of him.
It didn't take long to reach Grandpa's shack – it was built less than a quarter a mile away. Just happened to be in a direction they rarely went, so most of the kids had never really been in it.
Ann reached the shack first.
Vern felt himself catching onto Ann's excitement. Happiness was a contagious oddity.
Ann came running back past the boys to Vern, “The door is locked shut.”
“To keep snow and animals out,” Vern said.
“Oh,” Ann skipped next to Vern. “You walk slow.”
“You think you can go faster with the baby?”
Ann laughed and changed her words, “What do you think we'll find inside?”
“Dust and spiders and maybe old furniture,” Lucy said.
Vern turned in surprise to see that Lucy had caught up with them. “Lucy is probably right,” Vern admitted.
“I think we are going to find a clue, too.” Ann said, certainty threading through her tone and even manner.
“We might even find the treasure!” Fred-O shouted from ahead.
Lucy laughed, “I think you all are getting ahead of yourself – the map starts at Grandpa's shack. No treasure inside. But away from it.”
They reached the shack door. There was a pile of firewood in front, covered in a light sprinkling of snow. Behind that the door was bolted with a large beam. “We are lucky there isn't a drift against this door,” Vern announced. “Or we most certainly couldn't go in until spring.”
Noah and Fred-O set the pails on the snow-covered ground by one of the walls of the shack. Vern handed Julie to Lucy and then gave the pile a couple quick and hard kicks so that the wood would become loose. The boys along with Ann began to move all the firewood away, throwing it out onto the ground behind them.
“No, need to make a neat stack anywhere,” Vern said as he tossed a couple pieces away. “We will have to put it all back against the door before we leave.”
The wood was at last moved and Vern was able to raise the beam away from the door.
The door was cleared, ready to be opened. “Everyone ready?” Vern asked.
Even Lucy seemed excited now as they all gathered waiting for him to open the door.
Vern threw his body against the door. It wasn't stuck too much – just enough to give him a little trouble. After the third try the door swung open sending Vern falling inside onto the shack floor.
Everyone laughed as Vern picked himself up.
They stepped over the small incline of snow into the shack.
“It's dark in here,” Ann said.
“One window doesn't allow for much light,” Vern pointed to the only window in the shack.
“Plus it's dirty,” Lucy added, letting Julie down on the floor.
The shack was exactly as Lucy had described it, minus there weren't any spiders visible, just lots of dirt and dust and spiderwebs.
There was a broken chair, a broken crate, and an old rug on the floor. The fireplace was full of cold ashes, above it hung an empty mantel save for a half inch of dirt. Small twigs scattered over the floor, crunching under their feet.
“There's some things!” Fred-O pointed to a small pile of junk in a far corner. “Bet there's treasure in that.”
Noah laughed, “Bet there's not.”
“Why don't you have a look,” Vern said. He went to open the window, to let in more fresh air.
Fred-O and Julie ran over to the pile of odds and ends.
“Doesn't look like there's much here,” Ann said.
Lucy found a broom behind the door, “Imagine living in this small shack – only one room. It would be so miserable.” She started sweeping at all the dirt, making a pile of it in the center of the room.
Noah picked up the broken chair and crate. “Would make good kindling,” he grinned.
“Want to shake out the rug, Ann?” Lucy asked.
Vern watched Ann respond. She wasn't hiding her disappointment at finding the shack so bare. But she obeyed, picking up the ragged rug.
Dirt fell to the floor. Vern noticed a crack in the floor under the rug.
“Looks like there's a trap door under this,” Ann said.
Vern moved away from the open window to the trap door. There was a small rope handle for pulling up. Vern grabbed it and yanked – it was harder than one would have thought, as the door hadn't been opened in a while. The wood had swelled together from age and weather.
But it finally came loose – meanwhile everyone gathered around to look in.
Nothing but darkness.
“Probably their cellar,” Lucy declared. “At least Grandma had some extra space besides this one room. It would have been hard to be organized in such a small space.”
Vern felt Ann shudder next to him, “It's so dark though – I would rather be more crowded up here than go down there.”
“Perfect place for rattlesnakes in the summer,” Vern agreed. He let the door back down and Lucy swept over and around it as Ann took the rug outside, shaking it well.
She came back in, her disappointment no longer evident. “Once the dirt is gone it has some elegant colors!” Ann held the rug up in the light from the open door.
Sure enough, it was very colorful – though faded, mostly reds and blues, old pieces of thick cotton materials.
“I bet Grandma made it,” Ann said as she lay the rug back over the trap door.
The place looked decently clean – less dirt and more organized.
Fred-O had gone back to his small pile of treasure – old bottles, bent silverware, scraps of material, even part of a rusty knife blade.
Lucy spread a blanket over a section of the wood floor, “Well, I'd say let's eat.”
Vern nodded his agreement, “I'm starved – all this dust would make anyone want to eat a ton.”
“Never heard of dust making someone hungry,” Noah said.
Vern laughed at Noah's confusion as Noah tried to make sense of what he'd said. “Oh, it's not exactly the dust – but the thought of all the work that went into putting the dust here in the first place. All that work makes me tired.”
Noah's confusion only increased, “But dust wasn't put here by work, but lack of work. Laziness.”
“That can make one equally tired,” Vern said.
Everyone laughed, sitting around on the clean blanket as Lucy passed lunch around.


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

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