11,041 vagabonds plus:
found petrified tea leaf diary
[excerpts of un-earthed long lost diary of a Professor Montrose K. Higgens, noted meek Twentieth Century Archeologist]
Tuesday, June 18th, 1929
Pretty much same as yesterday, although stagnant dust down here in central catacomb more irritable to my inner ear. Dressler, claiming more credit than ever since discovery of first stoned tea leaf, in all his heaving bulk like Babe Ruth on a hot dog eating binge in the dugout, is irritable as always. His wheezing after shuffling only a few feet is monotonous, although I suppose I could always find him useful in future as a canary in a mine. A 380 pound canary.
Worth noting?: on way down stone steps, in the beam of my torch, never noticed it before, discovered puzzling hieroglyphic of one-eyed magpie grasping some unfamiliar writing tool in its beak. What in the Sam Hill did magpies and script have in common thousands and thousands of years ago? Puzzling.
Wednesday, June 19th, 1929
Beloved, Oh, I miss your smile. And sweet clear blue Summer afternoons dancing with you, Beloved, on the rotted gazebo like nobody was watching. And, in the night, the way you gasped when shooting stars fell.
Thursday, June 20th, 1929
Nothing to note today, except, I suppose, I thought I heard humming similar to ‘ Camptown Ladies’ from the mummy’s tomb behind me. Dressler thinks I’m a wing nut. Can’t say I blame him, but sweet mother-of-pearl it surely raised the hair on the back of my neck. Turned work bench facing tomb. Will start carrying loaded gun tomorrow.
Friday, June 21st, 1929
[Last known entry. Indistinguishable smudged ink mostly, except..]…and Dressler all bent out of shape [smudged] caught me using his toothbrush clearing away finer debris from my prized discovery. I said brushing brings out the finite green tint like his [smudged], and I’d buy him a new toothbrush once we sailed back to States in October, but he remains humorless and catatonic, sat reeking of kerosene with those deep vacant eyes.
Tomorrow, Saturday, I’m going to pry open the hummer’s tomb, shove him in, and nail the lid.
father and son
Out on the lake, following a night of vicious storms that drove the son into the safe haven under the cover of his father’s bed, with nary a pebble to cause a ripple, the young son closed his eyes for a moment thinking the summer was going to last a thousand Junes. The slight breeze off the lake carried the smell of pine. Yet, the father saw a ripple of sullenness in his son's face as the empty fish pole slacked motionless in the boy’s hands.
‘Son, did I ever tell you the time I was fishing with Ernie in this very boat and she sprung a leak?’
‘No, Pa, what happened?’, the son said, leaning forward.
‘I says I says Ernie, quick drill another hole to let the water out before we sink, I says.’
Somewhere, in that split second, a tree fell in silence.
In the woods, leaning against an uncomfortable fallen tree, the father taught the son to prepare the fish for the clean black skillet. Cleaning fish seemed silent to the son, unlike the sounds of his mother in the kitchen, the knife slicing through hard butter and clinking against the porcelain dish, or the steady beat of chopping cool cucumbers on the countertop. The son imitated his father and the father smiled his approval. The boy sleeved the knife into the hard brittle leather and handed it to his father.
‘No, son. Keep it. It’s yours now.’
In the after hours, in between the clean sheets, the son awakened for a moment by the light of the sleepless smile of a white moon, and thought of the sinking boat and Ernie and giggled. The father had cast a line in the son’s memory and he could always reel it in later if he needed.
now the real danger begins
After devastating 30 foot rough waves snapped the mast of her boat, Wild Eyes, Abby Sunderland, the courageous teen sailor, was rescued from desolate waters by a French fishing vessel. Now comes the greatest adventure - sailing with Frenchmen whose only companions these many months were an otter and a young walrus.
a paintings worth haiku
A thousand words, heh?
I’ll brush a Summer mural
with a sharp pencil
the live ghost of willow manor
The Times has it wrong. I’ve seen the shameful item on page C6. Here’s the truth, dammit. You’ve seen the photo of course? The “million dollar shot” I call it. I’ll explain why later. Shall I refresh your drink? No? Here’s what happened:
It was a cold and stormy night. I was sitting in the library of stately Willow Manor, admiring framed sepia photos on cherry side tables and walls - photos of the departed, curious wedding day pictures and such. I noticed since my arrival Lady Willow is pale, like she’s been frightened by the vision of a ghost. Sure enough…
‘You’ve seen something haven’t you?’
Lady Willow pushes aside the ceiling-to-floor quilted curtain, specially shipped from Turkey by illegal tradewinds, as rain pelts the singular library window, her reflection somber, the streaking water falling like sorrowful tears.
‘Yes, in a way,’ she answers vaguely, with her back still towards me.
The answer was not good enough, for getting to The Manor, a hamlet in the mist, can only be conquered in the last mile by mule or camel. The local stable, run by a fellow resembling Buster Keaton, was empty except for an oil spitting motor scooter. I borrowed it, tried to memorize puzzling directions by Buster to the Manor, put my terrified dog hunkering down in the rear basket, and splashed along a narrow path wearing old WWI goggles into no man’s land. I only went there for the book we were to write together, comedy vignettes sprinkled like salt into her amazing recipes.
‘In a way,’ I barked in reply. ‘What have you seen?’
‘I’ve sensed coldness on hot summer days, and over these many weeks a presence, shifting curios, those framed photos faced down, uninvited visions, awful smells…like burnt magpie feathers. Right here.’
‘Only in the library?’
‘Yes, and missing books too.’ She turned to me as I sat opposite. ‘Will you do me favor?’
‘If I can.’
‘Spend the night with me, here, in the library.’
I nodded. ‘We’ll still need some proof. If we could only photograph the invisible. I do have my camera and…’
‘I have an idea,’ she says, eyes ablaze. Leaving the library, she returns shortly with an old bucket. ‘We’ll sit here and just wait, yes sir, be sure your flash is at the ready.’
It was a long night writhing in that chair. The storm grew worse, swishing branches against the window, the wind the sound of a woman in hopeless grief, my poor dog whimpering at my feet afraid of the dark. The caked, black oil on my sock from the motor scooter is itching like mad. Me and my dog sitting alone with this mad woman by the faintest candle light, poised with a bucket, worth a photo itself if I didn’t have just enough juice for one flash.
At about 4AM, I guess, she nudges me awake out of a dreamless sleep. I have to straighten my head with my hand, my neck is locked. Her lip at my ear she whispers, ‘movement by the north shelf, fallen book on the floor, it’s show time.’
‘Get ready,’ in a breathless voice.
And then it’s all like in a movie. My eyes trying to adjust to the dark, she flings the bucket…full of white paint…in the general direction of the shelf and yells, ’now!’
I’m disoriented. ‘What now?’
‘Take the bloody photo!’
Yes, I still shudder at that expression of disbelief; caught red handed. That frozen moment of sheer surprise for the ages. Who was that woman splashed in white paint? I don’t know. Was it her I heard crying in hopeless grief instead of the wind? Maybe.
But she is gone for good it seems. And so are those splattered white treasured books, ruined, amongst them a crumbling Balzac, a delicate Proust, a first edition Chekov.
Yet, she’s unfazed. Just yesterday she phoned. The mist has lifted from The Manor. Flowers springing up in soil once thought forever barren. Now - watch the dog scoot and dive under the couch when I say ‘Willow Manor.’
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