Thursday, April 29, 2010



C 2004 By Gracie Prior

Butch could hardly wait for Mary to get in her seat in homeroom. She arrived in a crisp cap-sleeved yellow dress and was smiling so wide all her teeth showed. When she sat down, Butch startled her in his eagerness to talk.

“I am so excited about the baby, Mary. How soon before you can see it?”

“When Mom comes home. In about a week, I hope. They won’t let little girls like me go up on the floor.” Mary looked sad but said, “It’s fine with me. Dad talks to me and I help him with dinner and it’s sort of nice. I am excited to see what Elizabeth Ann looks like, though. They are going to call her Beth, like in Little Women. I hope she is a lot healthier than that. She is so little, Mom says. About five pounds. Just a little bitty thing. I think I'll call her Bitty. Bitty Brewster. Isn’t that cute? That’s all I know so far.”

“Wow, that’s neat, though, Mary. Let us know when she gets home and we’ll all give her a visit. She’ll have lots of “uncles” to protect her.”

“She is a lucky girl all right.”

Terry and Jimmy came in together. Both were smiling. Both knew the news. Mary had been very busy the night before. “Does she have a name yet?” Jimmy asked.

“Did you get any sleep last night,” Terry wondered.

“Elizabeth Ann and no. I was far too happy to sleep.”

Miss Grace hushed the class when the bell rang. All four Scribblers grinned and looked at the front of the room, reluctantly.

* * *

Butch came home to an empty house. That was very unusual. Mom and Dad were always there when he got home, to ask as many questions as possible. He called and looked around. They were nowhere to be found. He went to the kitchen. There was no note. He got out an apple and milk. His mom had drilled healthy food into him from day one and he now preferred fruit to candy. As nice and quiet as it was, he was a bit concerned. He sat down on the couch where Mom sat every afternoon watching her one favorite soap opera, ‘The Guiding Light.’

Butch called Terry. “Terry, hey. Mom and Dad are gone. They never go anywhere at this time. Dad is usually done with work and Mom always goes to the store in the morning. You want to come over and hang out. It’s too early for Scribblers but I’m lonely. We could play cards or checkers or something.”

Terry was coming right over so Butch cleaned up his snack and put a few things away. Just as Terry rode up the driveway on his bicycle, Mom and Dad came in the back door.

Butch went to his parents first. Where were you? I was worried.”

Mom looked at him quizzically. “How sweet, Butchie. We had to go to the store for extra food. Aunt Marabella and her daughter, Connie are coming for a visit. You never met Cousin Connie. They’re going to be staying for a week. I’ll tell you all about it at dinner. Terry is here. Oh, we will need your room for them. We can move you out soon.”

Terry came in and Butch glared at him. “What did I do?” Terry asked. “You called me.”

"It's not you, Terry. I'm about to burst. My folks are driving me nus." He took a deck of cards out of a desk drawer and sat on the couch and shuffled and shuffled and shuffled. He was so upset, sweat was forming on his forehead.

“Take it easy, fella. Whatever it is. Fuming won’t help. Let’s play war. Get some of that aggression out on the card game. Or on me.” Terry grinned and messed up Butch’s short hair. “Let’s play.”

(Next time: what the boys really think of the new baby.)

Friday, April 23, 2010

Chaapter XXVII. Precious News


By Gracie Prior

The car across from Jimmy’s house sped out in the middle of the night. The headlights pierced the darkness. Jimmy was up at that hour because he couldn’t sleep. He was bothered by a remark his dad had made at the dinner table about him spending so much time with his nose in books. It did no good for his mom to defend him. She was always overruled. So Jimmy was up reading a wonderful book in his bedroom with a towel under the doorway to block the light. He heard the car rev up across the street and went to the window to have a look.

Mr. Brewster had come out with a suitcase and thrown it in the car. He went to the front door and escorted Mrs. Brewster carefully and slowly to the car. Then they were gone. It was an emergency of some kind and Jimmy figured it probably was the baby coming. Mary was so excited the last few weeks; she wasn’t much good working on the script. That wasn’t like Mary, he thought. With all this excitement, he wondered if he would ever get to bed.

His bed in his room was soft and inviting. He got in and fluffed up the pillows. Then Jimmy prayed a short prayed for Mary’s Mom and the baby. It was all he knew how to do. He had been reading stories from the black book called The Bible. A picture of a shepherd leaning way over a scraggly crevice and reaching his arm out to a sheep that was caught between the rocks especially touched him. The picture was frozen in that reach and Jimmy was moved by it and the caption, “I am the Good Shepherd. The Good Shepherd cares for his sheep.” Jimmy also read storybooks. Besides books about knights, he loved animals, and one of his favorite animal books was ‘The Wind in the Willows.’ He thought Mr. Toad was so funny, but he loved Mole and Ratty the most. They were different, but such good friends, just like he and Terry or he and Butch. As he reread his favorite part where Mole finds he is home for Christmas, Jimmy’s eyelids finally got so heavy that they would not stay open.

The birds chirped and sang the next morning. Jimmy’s head hurt from lack of sleep. The birds didn’t care. They just sang as though it were the most perfect day. Jimmy put on the clothes he had laid out for school last night. He went downstairs and nodded at Mom and Dad. Dad was drinking hot coffee and looking grim. His dark hair was combed and groomed so that the teeth marks of the comb could be seen. “Good Morning,” Jimmy said.

Dad looked up from his coffee and nodded at Jimmy. I’m going to be late tonight. You help your mom with Cindy and Beth. I want to hear a good report about you tonight. And don’t run off to that club till you have your chores and homework done.”

“Yes, Sir.”

Mrs. Falcon moved behind Jimmy and took her hand and pressed hard against his hair for awhile. She came in front of him and made sure he could see her smile. “We’ll do fine together, won’t we Jimmy?”

Before Jimmy could answer, the phone rang. He jumped to answer it. It was Mary. He smiled and jumped up and down. His prayers were answered. Mary had a new baby sister and she was beautiful, Mary said. Mrs. Brewster was fine. Mr. Brewster was tired and coming home. “Thanks for the call, Mary. Tell me more at school. You’re going aren’t you? Great. Oh, boy, oh boy. A new baby. See you Mary.”

Jimmy ran to get his books. Mr. Falcon looked at his wife and announced, “That boy is certainly not right.”

Jimmy heard his mom reply, "It’s true he’s not normal. He’s far above that and I’m going to see that he stays there." Then his ears picked up the clanking of dishes in the sink.

(Next week, come back as Butch has new problems coming his way.)

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Chapter XXVI Mrs. Mable


C 2004 By Gracie Prior

Mrs. Mable Anderson sat under a wide green and white striped umbrella that was in the midst of a cement patio. Her hair was snow white. Her dress was white lace over pink satin. Butch thought the old lady was over dressed for the occasion. She looked very nice though, much younger than ninety. The Scribblers walked baby steps down the big hill, escorted to her table by a servant. “Mrs. Anderson, I am Butch NcNeil and these are my friends who are writing a script for the Sesquicentennial.”

Mary, Terry, and Jimmy came over and shook Mrs. Anderson’s hand. Jimmy gave her a lovely bouquet of spring flowers wrapped in green paper. “These are for you, My Lady,” he said.

Mrs. Mable turned a warm smile on Jimmy. “Why how lovely they are, young man.” She waved to the servant. “Adele, please put these in water and bring them right back. We shall get them spruced up so we can all enjoy them. Now then, children, what can I do for you? Please sit down and we’ll have a chat.”

They all sat down and Mary answered, “My mother, Mrs. Donald Brewster, called to ask if we could talk to you about your experiences in Harrisburg. What was it like to see the first cars? How have things changed? Tell us little stories about the businesses that would interest the town.” Mary had her notebook ready to take notes and the others followed suit.

“The first car.” Mrs. Anderson smiled and paused. “It was such a quiet little town when I was a girl. My sister and I walked from our house at the edge of town to the general store that is right where Murdock’s is now. We saved our money for a long time and bought a little bag of peppermint candy for a few pennies. It lasted a long time. Sometimes our mother would give us a list and we took a big canvas bag and got groceries for her. We always enjoyed the walk back. Once we got home, there were chores to do. Going to the big store was like a holiday for us.

I remember Mr. Farmer, the banker, was the first person in town to get that new fangled contraption called a car. It went up and down the streets making more noise than had ever been heard in these parts before. Great puffs of smoke came out the back, and it rumbled and shook and near scared the dickens out of Sister Maude and me. But in time, more cars came and we all did finally get used to the new monsters. I never drove one myself, but little Maude was a brave girl and when she was older, she gave in and got one.”

Mrs. Mable sipped her lemonade like the ones Adele had brought them all. The flowers made the table a visual feast.

The children listened and took notes for several hours till Mrs. Maude was tired and Adele said they had to go, but could come back at any time.

* * *

Diary Man,

Today was so cool. We met an old lady who was just amazing. She talked on and on about the old times in Harrisburg. I think she liked all of us. We’ll be going back again for more stories. We want to be sure we get all the good stuff she knows. We definitely want to work that noisy rattly car into our play. I just love that part.

Mom and Dad have been getting on my nerves lately. Even though we have the club and privacy, all I get when I go into the house is, “What did you do in your club today?” If we wanted them to know, we wouldn’t need a clubhouse. Not that we have anything to hide. We’re good as gold. It’s just - it would be nice to be treated that way. Suspicious grownups. I’ve had it up to here (note Diary Man I’m pointing to my head.) Mrs. Frumpstead brought cookies as a way to spy on us. Mary figured it out. I thought she was just being nice. Not much gets by Mary. Too bad she’s hung up on Terry. Still, I’m glad we’re all such good friends. I know she would do anything for me. She would. Butch

Friday, April 9, 2010

Chapter XXV. The Towel Game


C2004 By Gracie Prior

The trees were wearing their stark black coats and frost still hung in the air. It was late in April and time for the annual gym show. Terry was very happy because his group would be tumbling and he would also get to participate in his homeroom activity. This year Mrs. Osgood said it would be either partners’dancing or the towel game. He hoped it would be the towel game, but he really didn’t care. He loved all the parts of the program. His meet in Lindville in December had gone well and several small ones were a success. Each time, Mrs. Osgood added new, more difficult stunts. Terry’s favorite trick was to jump on the trampolette, snatch the open newspaper from Mrs. Osgood's assistant, and finish his flip. That looked flashy.

The living room was a mess. Dad had spent the day on the downstairs bed, and it hadn’t been cleared up. He was relieved that Dad spent most nights in his own bed. The miracle held, at least for now. He grabbed his jacket and called out, “Mom, I’m going to Havenword. See you at dinner.”

He walked to the clubhouse and found he was the last one to arrive. Mary sat on the lawn chair and Butch and Jimmy were on the straight chairs. “Guys,” he greeted.

“Hey, Terry,” Butch answered. “Mary is reporting on our progress about the Sesquicentennial. We are going to talk to a Mrs. Mable Anderson. She is ninety years old. The city was still pretty young when she was born. She remembers Harrisburg before cars came. She remembers it before there were trains.”

“We should bring her a present. If she is going to talk to us, perfect strangers, we should get her flowers or something.”

“We’re scheduled to meet her at two 0’clock tomorrow. I know it will take a Saturday, but we need to get busy. Jimmy, you go ahead and get the flowers. We’ll take the money out of our club fund.” Mary folded her notes and smiled.

“Great job, Mary. Who has something written for the script?” Butch looked around and waited.

“I have taken it on myself to write a preliminary, first draft, non- binding script. It’s all about pioneers, and ladies in long dresses and men with beards and straw hats. I’ll finish it and bring it to meeting next time,” Jimmy said.

“Now that were all here, does anybody know what Mrs. Osgood decided about the gym show?” Terry asked.

“I heard that we’re all going to do partners’ dances and the sixth grade girls will do the towel game.” Butch cleared up the table and arranged the papers in folders. “At least that’s what Barty at school told me. He wanted to do the towel game. He’s not happy.”

Mary had her head in her hands. Terry thought he could see a tear in her eye. “What’s up, Mary?”

“I wish I found this out when I was alone. But since you’re all here, you might as well know. When we did that game in gym, Big Betty took the taped towel and started around the circle, slow like. Then she started hitting me with it, on the bum, but she missed and hit my back. I screamed and ran around the circle but she kept coming at me. I was upset so I ran to the corner of the gym and there she stood swinging that thing in front of me until Mrs. Osgood called us back. If we’re doing that in the show, I’m out. And I wanted to do the Shottish dance, too. It’s my favorite.”

Terry put his hand on Mary’s head. “That isn’t the way the towel game is supposed to work. You were just supposed to go around the circle. “We’ll fix it. I can talk to the gym teacher.”

“No, don’t do that. I’d be even more shamed if you told her. I’ll tell her, but it won’t do any good. Once she’s decided something, it’s decided.”

* * *

Dr. Quentin,
I feel so bad. Mary has a huge problem and I can’t help her. I wish I could do the towel thing for her, but I can’t. Mary’s tough, she’ll be in the show. But too bad it has to be this way. Terry

(Next week. What Mrs. Mable has to say)

Friday, April 2, 2010

Chapter XXIV. New Frontiers


C 2004 By Gracie Prior

Dear Diary, April, 1959
I am so excited. I went to church with Mary. It was in a spooky place, not like pictures I’ve seen of church. But they sang these songs. They didn’t have songbooks or anything. Everyone just sang. The music was so, I don’t know. It hit me. That’s all I know. I would have been happy to just sing and sing. Mary gave me a Bible book to look at. It had a story about a guy who killed a giant. I’m going to read as much as I can. It’s got tiny letters, but that’s all right. I already read a story about this big boat called an ark. Mary says the stories are true. It’s like my fairy tales coming true, or they were true first. I can’t wait to read more. First I’ll do all the stories that have pictures. Then I’ll just have to jump in somewhere else. Maybe Mary can show me the good ones. When I got home, Mom was nice and asked how I liked church. Dad nodded at me and didn’t make fun. That was good. Oh, Mary’s dad prayed a long prayer at church. I’m going to pray for Dad before bed. Maybe God will help him like he did Terry’s Dad. Only my Dad’s not sick. Just mean. Better hide this. Oops. That’s all.

* * *

Jimmy, Terry, Mary, and Butch got together at Havenword for an important meeting about the novel they were writing. “I think we should put this book away for awhile", Jimmy suggested. "Mary has an idea that’s better for us to work on.”

“I heard from Mom that Harrisburg is going to celebrate a Sesquicentennial this summer and we could write the play. They are going to do a big show at the football field and they will need actors and all sorts of stuff. Mom says they don’t have a play or a script yet. If we volunteer our services early, we could do it. We could show them our other plays, so they can see our writing.”

“That’s a great idea. I’ve always wanted to work on something with history in it. Where will we get all the stuff we need to know, to put in the play?” Butch asked.

“Mom has all that in a little book and she knows some old people we could talk to for details. Plus, we can use the old newspapers at the library. If we all help getting the info, we could do it.”

“We’ll make sure we all have good parts in our own play,” Terry said. It would be just as much fun to act in it as to write it.”

“We should do both. That’s why the book will have to wait. It’s a great book, but this is important now. I vote we go for it. We do both,” Jimmy said. “Who else votes yes?”

Butch, Terry, and Mary raised their hands. “The first thing to do is to tell my mom. She will help us go to the right people to ask to do the script. After that, we look up things up and get notes. Then we write.”

As the group was just breaking up, there was a knock on the door. Butch answered it. It was Mrs. Frumpstead. She held a plate of cookies. She turned her head to see as much as she could to the right and to the left.

“Won’t you come in, Mrs. Frumpstead?” Butch asked. He held the door wide open for her.
She entered and gave the cookies to Butch. Besides looking all around, she gave each Scribbler a fake smile. Mary got the strangest look, almost a smirk. “Are you children having fun?”

“Yes, we are, thank you Mrs. Frumpstead,” Mary answered. “Sit down and have a cookie.”

“Oh, I must be going. I just wanted to bring a little surprise.” She left and went back to her house.

When they were all alone together munching cookies, Mary answered, “Surprise noted, Mrs. Frumpstead.”

(Next week the Scribblers start their new enterprise.)