Saturday, August 31, 2013

Zebulon - Day 123 - Historical Fiction

We worked on for awhile, and I was growing weaker all the while. Finally, I couldn't work any more and dropped to the ground, in a faint. 

The next thing I knew,  I was in the living room, lying on the couch. My sister, Rosie, was rubbing my hands and face. I could hear her calling my name, "Zebbie, wake up! Wake up!
What did you do to him, Grandpa? Did you whip him again?"

"No, Martha Rose, I didn't! We were working and he just fainted and fell."

"He hasn't had any food since yesterday at the diner, and then you whipped him last night and threw us in the cellar. Is that any way to treat your grandchildren? What kind of people are you anyway?"

"He has to learn to obey!" our Grandmother said. "Missing a few meals won't hurt him! Since he is apparently too weak to work right now, I guess I could let him have a cold biscuit and some water. Get into the kitchen, boy, and sit at the table like a human being. You're not going to mess up my living room floor with bread crumbs. The rest of you kids get outside; feed the chickens and gather the eggs into that basket over there on the kitchen counter. The feed is on the back porch. Be sure and clean the mud and stuff off your feet before you come back in. And, don't break any of those eggs like you two younger ones did when you first got here. Now get out!"

I got up wearily and walked into the kitchen. I had missed a night's sleep and I was hungry, so I was glad to get even a biscuit and water. There were several biscuits in the plate on the table, along with butter and jelly along side them. I wondered if I dared put some butter and jelly on the biscuit I picked up. Yes, I would try. I looked around, but decided that I should better do it in the open rather than try to hide it. After all, she hadn't said I couldn't.

She came back in as I was putting the spoon back on table and the biscuit into my mouth. I was sure she knew what I had done, but she said nothing. I breathed a sigh of relief and bit down into the biscuit, savoring it's flavor. When I had finished that biscuit, I reached for another, but received a slap on the hand and was refused the pleasure of eating another. 

"I said one and I meant one. Now drink some water and go take a nap. Apparently, you didn't sleep any last night, and you need to be able to work some today. I'll expect you in here on time for lunch. If you sleep through lunch, nothing till supper. Now, go!"

"Yes, ma'am," I replied, thankful that I could go rest for awhile. I went looking through the farm house for what would be mine and Les' room. When I found his clothing, I lay on the bed very carefully on my side, so that my back would not hurt, thankful for the mercy of sleep. I said a "Thank you prayer to Jesus" and went to sleep.

When I awakened, I looked out the window and saw it was approaching dusk. My muscles ached from the work earlier that morning, plus the welts on my back were sore as well. I wondered briefly if help was coming from home. It seemed we were on our own for awhile.

(To be continued)

Friday, August 30, 2013

Zebulon - Day 122 - Historical Fiction

"You little heathen brat! How dare you speak that way to me! We have been Christians for years! We live an upright life, and we have been trying our best to train your brother and sister to behave. We give to the church every week, and we do good deeds for others who are less fortunate than we are. I always take food to those who have lost a loved one. Your grandfather is a deacon in our local church. You certainly have a nerve asking us such a question!"

"But, Grandma! Putting us into the cellar for punishment; is that what a Christian would do? Beating me with a belt; is that the way to make us be good?"  My resolution to quietly take whatever was meted out had flown out the window with my good sense, and my mouth had taken over. 

"Just for that, young man, you get no breakfast!  In fact, no lunch either until you apologize for your smart mouth. The Bible tells us to 'spare the rod and spoil the child'. Your mother has molly-coddled you children till you have no respect for your elders. Well, you will find that you won't get any such rewards here! The sooner you learn that, the better. Now, get out there and help your grandpa stack that firewood. We'll see what a little work will do for you." 

With those words, she handed my coat to me and sent me outside. The snow had begun to fly and it wasn't long before my back was hurting as I bent over and stressed the welts that were there from the belting. 

In my heart, Jesus whispered to me that He was with me and to be brave. That made me feel better and I knew I was not alone. I remembered reading about Jesus being whipped and realized he had it a lot worse than me. I couldn't stop telling them about Jesus. They had to eventually hear me. I could maybe show them by my behavior. I would wait my chance and speak again when I felt the time was right.

My hands were soon blistered from handling the rough wood, and when I showed them to Grandpa, he just laughed and said, "They'll soon toughen up, boy! You have been living the life of a panty-waist! We'll have you able to do all kinds 'a things. Just keep working. How did you like that good breakfast your grandma made for you?"

"She didn't give me any breakfast, sir. She got mad and sent me outside without it."

"Uh-oh. Sassed her, didja? She don't stand fer that from nobody, not even me. Ha! She's right bossy, she is. You'll learn, boy! She don't hold with any back-talk. Only thing is, she don't boss me! I am the boss here." 

I kinda thought maybe he was blowing smoke, cause it seemed like she did tell him stuff to do, but I wasn't saying anything. 

"Grandpa, what do you think it takes to be a Christian?"

"Well, ya gotta live right for one thing, and ya gotta do good stuff for other people. Ya have to raise yer kids right, and whop 'em when they are bad. All those things are right important in being a Christian." 

"Well, I asked Jesus into my heart last night while we were in the cellar, and now, I'm a Christian."

"You don't say! Well, I'll be! You think it's that simple? Don't you know there's a lot of rules you have to follow?"

"Not according to our preacher back home!" I could see it wasn't going to be as simple as I thought it would be to witness to my Grandpa and Grandma. It was going to take some real thought on my part, and a lot of help from God. 

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Zebulon - Day 121 - Historical Fiction

The news was hard to keep to myself, but I let Rosie sleep, for she had finally drifted off, whimpering occasionally in her slumbering. Through the long hours, I prayed for guidance to help us know what to do. 

It came to me that we should just acquiesce and agree to whatever our grandparents told us to do and eventually God would help us out of our situation. A little before the cellar door opened, Rosie began stirring and I spoke quietly to her. 

"Rosie, have you ever accepted Jesus as your Savior?"

"What? What are you talking about? You sound like the preacher at church! No, I don't believe in all that churchy stuff!"

"Well, listen, Jesus is real! He came to me last night and saved me from my sins. I talked to Him and accepted Him into my heart! I know He is real! I want you to know Him, too."

"That's just baloney! I can't believe you swallowed all that stuff."

"I'm going to pray for you, Rosie. I love you and want you to know Him, too."

"Ha! You'd do better praying for a way out of this jam we're in!"

"Listen, I've had an idea about all this, Rosie. We need to go along with whatever they tell us. I'm going to tell them about Jesus saving me, too. I think they need Him real bad."

Just then the cellar door opened and our grandmother beckoned us up the stairway. 

"I hope you all have learned your lesson about how to behave!" she stated firmly.

"Yes, ma'am," we both said, meekly. 

Then I spoke up and said, "Grandma, has Jesus ever saved you and Grandpa?"

She turned and glared at me. (To be continued)

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Zebulon - Day 120 - Historical Fiction

Even though I was hurting, I put my arms around Rosie, and tried to comfort her. She struggled, but I kept holding on until she settled down some. 

"I remember...I remember..." she whispered to me. 

"What do you remember, Rosie? Shhhh. It's okay. I'm here with you. I won't let anything hurt you. I know it's dark down here, but we're here for each other. What is it you remember?"

"I've been here before. I had forgotten until now. When I was about three years old, our Da brought me here to visit them for a week. I was so excited! For some reason, Ma was sick and he said my grandparents wanted me to visit them for awhile. The first night I was here, I wet the bed because I was so excited. Da had gone back home and left me with them." 

"What happened then, Rosie?"

"Our grandma told me that I needed to learn better and maybe a night in the cellar would help me remember that I wasn't supposed to wet the bed. I was scared and it was dark; there were creepy, crawly things that got on me and then when I got back upstairs the next morning, I was hoarse from crying. Needless to say, that didn't cure me from wetting the bed. I spent every night in the cellar. I can't believe I forgot that. Now, here I am again." She began sobbing again.

"I'm here with you, Rosie. I won't let anything hurt you, I promise." Holding her close, I resolved to get even with them. 
Then I remembered what Sgt. Finley had told me about getting even with people and how God always took care of it. 

That night as I held Rosie, I struggled with my thoughts. The Holy Spirit was convicting me of my need for Jesus; the scriptures I had been reading came back to me in the middle of that dark night. I cried out to Him, and he answered, giving me peace of mind. I surrendered my soul to Jesus on that dark night in the cellar and knew, somehow, that things were going to be all right. 

(To be continued) 

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Zebulon - Day 119 - Historical Fiction

We had never been to the farm before, and had no idea what to expect. Thirty minutes after we left town, we arrived at our destination and climbed down from the cab of the truck. Les and Marie got out of the truck bed and immediately went into the house like little lambs being led to the slaughter. They were certainly not acting normally. Rosie and I looked at one another, waiting for the hammer to fall (so to speak), and it did.

Looking around, we saw a well-tended farm with fences that were maintained and not falling down, like I had expected them to be. I saw fields with stubble on them where some kind of plants had been harvested, finding out later that it had been Burley tobacco. I also spotted a big barn and saw chickens pecking around in the barn yard. 

We were not allowed to linger in the yard, but soon were hustled into the house, where my grandma gave my grandpa a silent nod, where upon he removed his belt. All at once, I knew what was coming, because I had had that very thing done to me before. It dawned on me then that was where my Da had learned his habit of beating us. My grandma held my little brother and sister so they had to watch.

Grandpa Shane O'Hanlon grabbed me by the arm and began giving me lashes with his belt. I had determined that I would not cry, but it was more than I could bear, and so finally broke down after five lashes. He then said, "That is for striking your grandmother with a kettle. You and your big sister come with me, now." 

Taking each of us by the arm, he took us to his wife, our Grandma; she opened the door to what I found out next was the cellar. There was one lone bulb over the stairway. The switch was inside the kitchen, and she took us down the shadowy stairs, where the coal furnace was located, and pieces of old furniture were stacked. She then went back up the stairs and turned out the light. 

Rosie began screaming. (To be continued)

Monday, August 26, 2013

Zebulon - Day 118 - Historical Fiction

However, that didn't stop Rosie and me from running over and pulling the two kids up and hugging them, defiant of our grandma. Little did we realize or even care that we would pay for it later on. 

However, they were restrained in their smiles and were anxious to be seated again. Rosie and I looked at one another; we realized that we might be in for rough sailing for awhile, at least, I thought, until Sgt. Finley rescued us, somehow.

Rosie and I sat down next to our grandpa, who had said very little until now. 

"Well, kids, I guess we'll be taking you home with us today. Seems you have no place else to go, and now you are in trouble with the law, having run away from home. Does Ellen know you are here? No? Well, she is going to rue the day she crossed my Martha, isn't she my dear wife?"

"Most certainly, Shane! And this young man as well! You realize he is the one who hit me from behind with the pot from the stove! I have some plans for you, young man, and I'm sure you won't enjoy them." 

Millie was standing by, trying to pretend she wasn't hearing the exchange. I could see the moisture in her eyes, and I gave her a look that told her that we felt her betrayal deeply, hoping she would spend some sleepless nights because of her actions. I also wished she would be able to somehow still help us, but didn't hold out much hope for it.

We ordered breakfast, and when she brought it, it tasted like sand in my mouth, but if I had known what lay ahead, I would have eaten it like a condemned man (aka the condemned man ate a hearty breakfast). Instead, half of it was left on the plate. 

We all got up then from the booth, and went outside for the trip to the farm. My grandma took me by the arm with an iron grip; Rosie came along without anyone holding on to her. 

When we got out to the street, there sat an old farm truck and I wondered how we were all going to fit inside it. Les and Marie climbed into the bed of the truck and Rosie and I were wedged in between our grandparents inside the cab. It was a tight fit, and there was no escape. 

(To be continued)

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Zebulon - Day 117 - Historical Fiction

That was a miserable night we spent in the jail cells. Fortunately, we were in adjoining cells, and there didn't seem to be anyone else in the back area. I'm sure that only a deputy was out in the outer office, probably to answer the phone. 

They turned out the lights, so that there was only the light coming in through the transom over the door. Rosie had been afraid of the dark ever since she was just a little girl and everyone in our family knew she kept a night light near her bed. I could hear her softly sobbing a good part of the night until it finally stopped and she must have drifted off to sleep. I kept assuring her that everything would be okay. She did confess to me that she had done the shoplifting more than one time, but that she would not try it again. 

Next morning dawned cold and grey outside. We each had a cell window that looked to the outside, and I awoke shaking, not from the cold, but from fear within my very inner being. I didn't realize that I was under conviction from the Holy Spirit, and He was stressing the fact that I really needed Jesus in my life. Besides which, I was fearing the upcoming confrontation with my formidable grandmother, thus having both outer and inner fears. My life was a mess, to say the least.

The sheriff's deputy came in and let us go to the bathroom in the jail, and then after we each had gone in and used it, he took us down the street to the Lucky Plate Diner where we had met Millie. 

She was at work again, and also sitting at the same booth as the night before were our grandparents and two siblings. Les and Marie started to jump up and run to us, but were restrained with a single look from our grandma. Uh- oh! This looked really bad. 

(To be continued) 

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Zebulon - Days 111 - 116 -Historical Fiction

Listening as the quarters clinked into the phone, I pretended to be looking at the snacks on the counter. 

"(Cough, cough.) Hello, Annie? Is that you? Listen, honey, check and see, (cough, cough), if I left that iron turned on, would you?" As she waited, she turned and looked at me.
"Do I know you, little boy? You look kinda familiar to me."

"Er, no ma'am, I don't think so, less'n you know Frankie Slemons. That's my father. Do you know Frankie?"

"No, I reckon not." Turning back to the phone she said, "yeah? I did? Well, okay. Thanks. (Cough, cough) Now you behave while I'm away, and don't be spending no time with that no-account boy! See you when I get back!"

I ran into the bathroom near the phones and nearly threw up; I thought, 'boy, that was a close one!' 

We were going to have to be careful, that was for sure. I washed my face with some cold water, and used the bathroom. I needed to get back to Rosie, or she'd be wanting to know what had happened to me. We needed to talk. I had to warn her that we belonged to Frankie Slemons, a name I had made up, I thought. 

"Hey, sis!! I need to call you by your middle name, so that old woman with a cough won't be able to make sure she knows us." I told Rosie about the near calamity, so she agreed for us to use different names than what we were normally called.

Soon we were back on the bus and it was rolling along on its way to its destination. The woman we were being careful of went to sleep and the kid running up and down the aisle had finally run out of energy, too. Two hours later, the curious woman exited the bus, and I breathed a sigh of relief.

Three and a half hours later, our stop was called, and Rosie and I were the only ones to get off. We had eaten our sandwiches soon after the curious woman had left the bus, and I knew I was going to be hungry again before long. 

We looked around.. we were in Hickston, Kentucky. I thought, 'Boy, this place is aptly named, cause it looks like a hick town, sure enough." We were going to stick out like sore thumbs, and I wondered how we were going to find out about our Marie and Les this way without raising a lot of questions about ourselves. 

We had to decide where to begin. I had thought about seeing the law people, like the town Sheriff or police chief, but wasn't sure what we could tell him. He could be a friend of my grandparents, and would likely spill the beans to them. We couldn't say a lot to people, because they would recognize us as out of towners. We stood under the awning of the drug store where the bus had stopped, and were beginning to receive some curious looks. 

Spotting a greasy spoon diner, we crossed the street and entered. The waitress spotted us as we sat down at a booth, and, coming over with two menus, greeted us with, "Hey, Cutie Pie, what can I get for ya?" She was looking at me when she said it, of course. 

Taking the menus from her, we smiled and we shook our heads like we needed a few minutes to decide. She told us she would be back in a few minutes to take our order. We looked at them and decided to split a burger and have water to drink. Rosie had been watching the TV show, "The Real McCoys" and decided that the people in Hickston talked that way, so we decided to imitate their speech. 

When the waitress came back, Rosie placed the order, and the waitress, whose name tag said "Millie", looked at us a little funny, then said, "y'all ain't from around here, are ya?"

"Well, we are here visiting our Aunt, uh, Mary. She just came a few weeks ago and is going to pick us up down the street later." I was making it up as fast as my mind would go. "She told us to come in here and have a sandwich or somethin' while we waited. So, here we are."  I smiled at Millie.

"Okay, kid, ya got it!" 

She took the menus and left, going over to the short order cook. A few minutes later, the food was brought over to us and she sat down at our booth. 

"Okay, kids. Spill it, and, the truth this time." 

We leaned in close to each other, conspiratorially. I looked around to see if anyone was noticing us. Apparently, it was not out of the common for Millie to join the customers in conversation when the place was not busy.

I looked at Rosie, lifting my eyebrows; she shrugged her shoulders, and said, "Well, you see, it's like this....uh.. do you know a Martha O'Hanlon?"

"I know about everybody that lives here about. Why? What about her?"

"Well, uh, we're looking for her place. Can you tell us where she lives and how to get there?"

"Yes, but what for do you want to see that old battleaxe? She don't do nothing for nobody, especially not kids."

Ah, we knew right away that we had found an ally. So we began to feel some safety in confiding to her. 

"See, she's our grandma, our Da's mother," I explained, "and she came to see us a few weeks ago. Then awhile later, our little sister and brother disappeared from the playground after school. We think she might have kidnapped them."

Millie had been leaning forward to catch every word we whispered to her and now she leaned back against the booth.

"Land o' Goshen! You don't say! We need to talk to our County Sheriff just as soon as you all finish eating. He's a good friend of mine and he'll help you. Everybody knows what a harridan that old woman is! Her husband is even worse, though, so we're gonna have to be careful. He has a lot of influence in the county." 

"Can we go right now? I just can't wait. I need to go to the restroom, too. Is there one in here?" inquired Rosie.

"Sure, but I think maybe I'd better let you all stay here while I give the sheriff a call and ask him to stop by for a cup of coffee." She smiled reassuringly at the two of us. 

I looked into the mirror over the tiny wash basin as I washed my hands and wondered if we were doing the right thing by bringing the law into the picture so fast. After all, if Grandpa O'Hanlon was so influential, how long before he heard about us being there. I felt pretty sure we were not in a great position, but unable to really do much about it. I knew we were just kids and it would be our word against the O'Hanlon's if we were confronted by the two of them.

By the time I left the bathroom and got back into the eating part of the diner, a tall rangy man wearing a uniform of khaki and a badge had placed his hat on the table of the booth and was shaking Rosie's hand. 

"Pleased to meet you, Miss Rose," I heard him say, whereupon Rosie giggled.

Well, I thought then that he knew how to charm the birds out of the trees, if he could impress Rosie that quickly. So, I walked up behind him and tapped him on the back. He whirled around and had my arm before I could say "Jack Robinson".

"Well, young feller, you must be little brother. A word of advice, young man, never walk up unannounced behind a man wearing a gun! It's not healthy." Then he smiled, as if to soften the warning. "Let's all sit down so's we can talk, okay? Millie, honey, how about a cup of your good coffee, hmmm? We'll sit here and get acquainted. Now, tell me why you two little strangers are in my town." 

I looked him over as I thought about what I wanted to say, but then Rosie jumped in and said, "We're here to find out about our brother and sister. We believe they were kidnapped by our Grandma O'Hanlon and brought back here."

"What?!! Oh, come now, Miss Rose, surely you can't mean that? Why, the O'Hanlon's are one of our most upstanding families. In fact, Mr. O'Hanlon is the head of our Town Council and owns this very diner we are sitting in. I just can't believe his dear wife would do any such thing as kidnap two innocent children. You must be mistaken!"

Uh - oh! Rosie and I looked at one another. Bad trouble for us now. I looked over at Millie and she looked a bit shame-faced and apologetic. Apparently she had not had a lot of choice in the matter, and knew on which side her bread was buttered. I still hoped for some help from her side. 

"Now, tell me, kids. Does your mother know where you are? Surely she didn't send you here, did she?" He looked at me with a dawning of recollection. "Are you the one who assaulted Mrs. O'Hanlon with a skillet, young man? Oh, yes, we heard about that. Seems like you are a violent young man and need to be taken down a notch or two."

He took each of us by the arm and out the door. "Millie, seems like we got us a couple of run away delinquents here. Think I'll just have to take 'em in and lock 'em up overnight. Might teach 'em a lesson. Take care of their suitcase, will you? I'll pick it up later." 

We were on our way to jail and in more trouble than we had ever in our life been before.  

It turned out that the county jail was only a short distance away and so within a few minutes, we were being taken inside a small sturdy brick building that had only three cells in the back. 

"Wait a minute! Don't we get one phone call?" asked Rosie. 

"Ha! Little lady, do you want to call your lawyer?" the Sheriff replied, taking the keys from his desk drawer. "Now, who would a couple of runaways call, anyhow?"

"I have someone to call," I replied, "and I know we have the right. Please, could I use the phone? I only want five minutes."

"Well, sonny, I guess it would be okay, but make it short and sweet. I have some calls to make, as well. A certain set of grandparents need to know I have a couple of little jailbirds sitting here in my jail."

With trembling hands, I picked up the phone and gave the operator the number of the police station back home, hoping that Sgt. Finley would be there, and not out on a call. I was praying hard, all the while. 

When they came on the line, I asked for the Sgt., but he was out working a bad accident, and they said it would be several hours before he would be back, if at all that night. I began talking to whoever was answering the phone as hard as I could, trying to tell them what was going on in Hickston, Kentucky. Finally, I just said, "Please tell Sgt. Finley that Zeb is in trouble in Kentucky and to tell his Ma. Could you do that please?"

"Sure, kid. Yeah, yeah, I'm writing it down and I'll leave a note on his desk where he'll be sure to find it." 

I hung up dispiritedly, knowing it was going to be a long haul before I got help from that quarter, and that I was in for a long night tonight and in more trouble than I had ever been in my whole life. I've heard since the saying, that we shouldn't borrow trouble from tomorrow,  because today holds all we can manage. Boy, was that ever true in our case. I had no idea what we were in for.

(To be continued)