My intended topic, as hinted at yesterday, will be postponed until further notice. Despite staring at my little "Don't Be So Chicken" and trying my best to live by the Creed of the Rooster Poster, I am not going to relate the story of Losing My Magic Feather, which could also be called Poor Self Image: Fifty Shades of Ugly. Maybe someday.
Dumbo image copyright of Walt Disney Corp.So instead, I will offer up a short scene from a new novel that is close to publication. May you never freak out over losing your own Magic Feather.
"Here we are."
Ruth pulled the leather reins back a little, and Doc came to a neat halt in front of the Victory Mercantile....I knew that I probably looked like a five-year old in a candy shop when I walked through the door, gaping at everything the way I did. The embossed tin ceiling gleamed, as did the glass and wooden sales counter. "Oh!" I said, aloud. When Ruth looked at me with a questioning glance, I added, "This is a very nice store!"
The shopkeeper heard me and responded, "Thank you young lady. Welcome to Victory Mercantile. Or is it welcome back? I'm sure I've seen you before."
I couldn't help but smile. No. He had never seen me before.
Ruth quickly interjected, "Miss O’Keeffe is visiting us from out-of-town, Gerald, from…down south…and she packed for the wrong weather. So now she needs some suitable clothing. A couple of skirts, some blouses, unmentionables, a pair of boots."
“Well," said the shopkeeper, "It sounds like you're talking about a whole new wardrobe. Did you want to purchase all these things ready made, or were you ladies planning to do some sewing?"
In unison, the Ruth and I chorused, "Ready made!" and laughed. Gerald and his magnificent mustache came around from behind the well-stocked counter and directed us down an aisle that contained everything from garden tools to digestive biscuits. At the far end, there were bolts of cloth and pattern books, hats, both plain and fancy, and some folded clothing on shelves. The door chimes sounded, again, and Gerald left us alone to look through his stock, with a reminder that, "Anything you see in those catalogs there, I can order for you and have delivered in a couple of weeks."
Ruth noticed two of her friends passing by on the sidewalk, and she excused herself in order to step out to exchange pleasantries with them. I was left to rummage through the inventory by myself. This trip into town was just what I needed, and I was relishing this time in the store. Meeting Gerald. Looking over shelves of colorful merchandise, admiring objects for which I could not imagine the use.
The pair of shoppers who had entered after us must not have needed Gerald's assistance, because he was soon back behind the counter moving around boxes and singing under his breath. I heard “by the light…of the silvery moon" in a soft, clear tenor voice. I could also hear the other shoppers talking, because they were only on the other side of the apparel display. They sounded like a couple of young women, and without trying too hard, I caught some of their conversation.
"Did you hear 'bout the fire at the Morgan place last night?" My ears perked up.
"When Daniel was with me?" replied the other woman. Evangeline!
I bent down to see if I could glimpse the women through the display shelves. From what little I could make out, one woman had on gloves and a shiny, satiny skirt, and the other woman had bare hands and carried a large parcel. Standing on tiptoe, I attempted to see over the displays, while remaining undetected by the women.
"This was pretty late. I heard that Daniel was headin' home in his wagon when he saw lightning hit a tree near one of his fields, and it quickly become a conflagration. He woke all the men, but before they could get there, he—”
Standing on tiptoe, I could just see over the shelves enough to see that the one in the fancier dress and gloves was also wearing a large hat that obscured her face. The woman who was recounting the tale of the fire was of medium height and voluptuous, wore a plain white blouse tucked into a striped cotton skirt, and she was the spitting image—the female version—of one of Daniel's three workers. I still couldn't get a good look at the fancy woman, the one that had to be Evangeline.
Fancy Woman said, "What happened next? I would have known if anyone was hurt, because they'd have summoned my father. How much damage was done?"
"Nothing lost but the hay, from what I understand. Bennett told me when he came home for a bit o' breakfast this morning that the rain came just before the fire spread out o' the field. Put it right out. He said the boss was frantic about something besides his hay crop, though. It was like he was tearing off to look for something in the woods when the men all run back to the bunks to get dry. That handsome son of his was with him, off in the woods, too."
"Did they find anything, Bertha? What did your brother say happened then?"
"Bennett didn't say, 'cause he went with the others to go back to bed. Daniel let them sleep in this morning. Bennett told us that he had the morning milking off. That's how he come to be home with the news."
By now, I had stealthily made my way to the end of the aisle so I could pretend to be looking at something up there, and so I could get a better look at Evangeline. Unfortunately, Evangeline's beribboned back was to me, but I could see that the woman was a tiny-bodied, wasp-wasted creature.
Evangeline changed the subject. "I have something even more exciting to tell you, Bertha."
"More exciting than a blazing field and a half-day off from work? Do tell."
"When Daniel left last night, there was something different in the way he acted.” She giggled. “He was so romantic, so passionate. I think he's ready to propose marriage! Perhaps he's even spoken with my father already!"
Teetering on tiptoe, so close to seeing Evangeline’s front side, I leaned out and reached for the shelf to steady myself.
The sound of dozens of tins of Prince Albert Crimp Cut cascading to the floor was loud enough to summon the dead: certainly, loud enough to get the attention of everyone in the shop. I fumbled and scrambled to grab the tins as they fell, but in my frantic attempts, my elbow smacked into a mechanical contraption, and that, too, crashed to the floor. Gerald rushed out from behind his counter to help stem the tide, and the women stopped talking and stared at me. The fancy one, the one I’d been guessing was Evangeline, wrinkled up her little nose as if to say, ‘bull in a china shop.’ Bertha spent a minute staring at me, then grabbed her friend's arm and propelled her to the door.
From The Way Back. Stay tuned for more.