Yet Another Fallen Star
By: JoAnn L Hill
La Vita, Chapter #7, last four paragraphs
"Come on, LaVita, come on!" Vince broke in. "Let's get with it, Sis. What's it going to be? Don't hold us in suspense any longer."
"OK, you ready? Here goes. This is it. From the day we get on that train until the day I die, my name will be Jewel Ann Roberts."
Emily sat quietly with a slight smile on her face. Vince had to respond. "Jewel Ann Roberts. Wow, that's kind of pretty, don't you think, Mama?" Emily nodded in agreement.
"It fits you alright, LaVita, I mean Jewel. You've always liked all those sparkly little glass pieces you've picked up, things that looked like jewels, so it really does fit you all right, and it's pretty soundin', Yeah, Sis, I think you did alright there."
Emily was still quiet, but smiling. She would have to absorb all this for a while.
Jewel felt good about their conversation. It went well she thought. I do think my decision to wait on telling them of my intended southern accent was a good idea. I'll save that for another day. One thing at a time is always wise.
Being early spring at the lodge, there was still a bit of snap in the air. When the sun peeked through the tall evergreens, it filled the air with a wonderful scent like a thousand pine-scented candles. The air was cool enough that a roaring fire in the fireplace was still a necessity toward evening. Charlie and his part-time helper were dragging a sled-like raft of small logs up the mountain to be cut into fireplace-sized chunks. They used a hefty mule to tow the load. Charlie had rented the outfit, including the mule, from a neighbor down the mountain.
Charlie was tired, and his negative thoughts were not helping.
I get beside myself at times, as there is so much work here at this place. It seems none of us ever catches up.Vince and Jewel are putting in long days of work-far more than should be expected of young'uns, that's for sure.They aren't complainin' a great deal. I'm surprised really. Emily, oh my Emily, she's looking so thin. I know this is just too much for her. And then I cut her short when she starts to complain a-tall, as I don't want to hear it 'Fraid when it comes to patience, well, I'm just not one to have much. She gets down to that kitchen about four every morning, and she's there till eight o'clock at night most the time. Somethin's got to change, but I just can't figger how it can. We're all going to be plum wore out, I fear. I think we've got to spend next winter in Anacortes.That'II give us all a chance to rest up a bit and see what happens. I know Emily sure don't want to go back out on Guemes next winter. We won't do that Vince and Jewel need to get back in school, too. They're gettin' way behind, 'specially Vince. That boy would go back to the island at the drop of a hat.
Yet Another Fallen Star
Emily is expectin' a sizable crowd for supper tonight. Guess I'd better stop at the pump and slick up a bit afore I go in.
People were arriving for spring hunting season for a few game birds and a number of small animals. It was too early for the fishermen, as the streams were still running high. Now and then, fur trappers were among the guests; they added a different dimension from the city dwellers and other tourist folk. The trappers were of a hardy nature-rather course in demeanor, but nonetheless colorful and interesting entertainment for the other guests-and most of them loved telling their wild stories. The clientele welcomed the warmth and atmosphere that was created by a lovely crackling fire in the huge fireplace. The main room of the log construction was substantial, rustic, and elegant in its own way. Several sofas and easy chairs in pleasant forest colors rimmed the fireplace. Gas wall lanterns hung in appropriate areas and illuminated the dining tables, along with candles that jewel made. There were end tables scattered among the seating area, handmade from local wood. They were rustic, heavy pieces of furniture highly polished with oil by Jewel's young hands. There were no alcoholic beverages served at the Marble Mount Lodge, but neither was there a rule that said guests could not bring their own, so that's what they did. The satisfied patrons seated themselves near the fireplace and partook of their various beverages as they became acquainted and enjoyed the mellow mood of the warm, homey, comfortable setting. Most of the people staying were gentlemen, all eager to share their skills at hunting, but several brought their wives, who had gathered at the far end of the room.
A few of the patrons' rooms were located on the ground floor, but most were upstairs. There was a lengthy staircase with steps fronted with rough-hewed boards leading to the upper floor. A pole banister protected its clientele on the outside wall, with the other side anchored to the existing wall. The banister was supported by shapely finished branches, resulting in wonderful sculptural shapes that cast dancing shadows on the far wall of the great room. The interesting shadows were enhanced by the flickering light reflected from the fireplace below. The steps were wide and comfortable for the stairway's numerous users.
Down the center of the room were three lengthy tables that Jewel and Vince pushed together to form Jewel's desired lengthy table.
"I think this will work just great, Vince," Jewel began. "Don't you
think so? See, this way more people will be together, so they can visit better than if they were scattered about."
"Yeah, sis, I think you're right. Wow, it sure does look mighty pretty tonight," Vince remarked. "You really went all out, didn't you? How come so much?"
"It's an unusually large group for this time of year," Jewel said, "and most of them are professional people-doctors, lawyers, business people. I think they were all told of Moms cooking-I caught that from listening in-and she's breaking her back in the kitchen. I just thought we should give them their money's worth. Don't you think that's wise? Then they'll come again. I wonder who that tall, red-haired young gentleman is. He certainly is handsome. He seems to be with the McFees. Perhaps he's their son."
"You'd better watch out, sis. You're way out of your league with these people. And besides, he's much older than you are," Vince warned as he tucked in his shirt.
Jewel had gathered bouquets of wildflowers for the tables. She had placed wild iris and small branches of dogwood in containers she'd decorated with scraps of wallpaper. Buttercups nestled in lacy ferns were scattered about in small vessels. She wrapped any containers she could find and tied them with ribbon. White linen napkins edged every plate, and well-placed candles cast soft light over the surface of the tables. She removed some of the kerosene lanterns, deciding they brightened things a trifle more than necessary. Everyone oohed and aahed as they took their places.
Emily stuck her head out the kitchen door to get a glimpse of
setting. She wondered where in the world jewel had learned to do all
that. It seemed as though it came natural to her, like that southern accent.
Then there was jewel herself. She hadn't stopped decorating with
tables alone. She was ready for the evening. She was stunning, there was
no doubt, and the tall, redheaded fellow named Mr. McFee couldn't
take his eyes off of her. She had swooped her lengthy light-brown hair
carefully on top her head, while a few well-placed curls dangled around
her face. Her hair did not curl naturally, but she wound it on rag strips
the evening before to curl a few straight tresses. She wore a simple but
elegant gray-blue dress she had ordered through the Montgomery Ward
catalog. After removing several unnecessary bows, she took tucks in
strategic places until the dress fit as though it was made especially for
Yet Another Fallen Star
her. She left one small pale-orchid ribbon at the neckline and tucked a tiny lavender-pink crocus in her hair. Her powder blue Colorado beads graced her neck secured on a tiny, woven-silk cord. Jewel studied avail-able fashion magazines every chance she got. Even the visiting ladies were impressed with Jewel's attire, and her talents in decorating.
Jewel was deep in her thoughts as she put finishing touches on a few items.
I have to admit that I thoroughly enjoy this part of my work here at the lodge. I love all the table preparations and the opportunity to dress up and show off a bit. I can see I'm getting a lot of attention, and it feels rather good.The morning work here I surely don't like at all, but I know Mom has all she can handle in her kitchen, so it's got to be done. Oh, I don't mind so much gathering up dirty towels and sheets, and Vince and I make up beds; but emptying those commodes is awful. I mean really awful. Vince does half. We trade off. One day he does upstairs, and the next day I take it. It's not easy carrying those things down stairs.The worst part though is when we have to empty all of them.That is one awful job. We tie a kerchief over our nose and mouth so we can keep from gagging. It's that dreadful. Dad dug a deep hole behind the outhouse with a wood lid where we can get rid of the contents.That way we don't take a chance of dirtying up the outhouse.Then we have to take clean buckets of water from the well and rinse out the commodes real good. It takes us a good part of every morning to get the job done and put the clean pots back in the rooms.This is one part of lodge running I surely never dreamed of, and I could well do without.
Charlie came in, nodded a hello to the happy group, and placed an armload of wood chunks by the fireplace. His face was flushed from the wash with cold well water. His dark hair was slicked back and looked as
if he'd run a comb through it. He was getting just a touch of gray at the temples of his dark tresses, giving him a rather mature, distinguished appearance that added to his character. He figured that he would be expected to help with the serving tonight with this large group, and so had taken extra care with his appearance, as Jewel had requested.
It took a lot of wood chopping on his and Vince's part to keep all the fires going in the lodge. Emily's cook stove took a huge amount of wood with the hours of cooking she was doing, and all the rooms had either a fireplace or a small potbellied stove. He stoked the fire with a huge
chunk of fir and proceeded to the kitchen to see how Emily was holding up. Vince had already begun to bring out steaming plates of food.
All heads turned when a door opened upstairs and banged against the wall. A bulky lady stood hanging over the balcony and called down in a booming voice, "Hi, everybody." She clomped down the stairs wearing hiking boots with red wool socks folded to meet the boot tops and a red-plaid wool skirt topped with a dark sweater and a bright-red knit scarf. The lady definitely liked red. It was Mary Alice, here for her planned visit from Anacortes. Emily knew of her arrival, but Jewel, Vince, and Charlie were utterly surprised, and none of the evening's visitors had any idea who the large, loud lady was. Vince was laughing, Charlie watched with his mouth gaping, and Jewel looked as if she might crawl under a table at any moment or possibly faint. Vince always found Mary Alice hilarious. He had enjoyed her from the moment they met. Jewel found it difficult to tolerate her, though she knew she must for her mother's sake. She considered Mary Alice crude and did not wish to associate with her any more than necessary.
Mary Alice came downstairs and seated herself close to the kitchen, where she could visit with Emily.
"Bet you thought I'd died up there," Mary Alice said, and gave a blustery laugh.
"I've been asleep so long. Boy, I'd never dare make a statement like that at home."
Vince was laughing uncontrollably now.
"Emily," she called out in a lusty voice, "I'm so sorry. I should have been down here in the kitchen helping you out. I totally overslept. I was worn out from the ride up the mountain."
"You just make yourself comfortable, Mary Alice," Emily said as she leaxied around the kitchen doorway. "Everything is under control." As much as Emily loved her sister, she was always so full of frivolity that she didn't get a lot accomplished. And besides that, she would take up too much space in Emily's small kitchen. "I'm fine out here. You just sit still and tell us all about your trip."
"OK, hon," Mary Alice answered as she pulled herself into the table. Vince called out, "Hello, Aunt Mary Alice. I didn't realize you were visiting."
This comment was much to Jewel's chagrin. Jewel would rather pretend she didn't even know her. Now everyone knew she was a relative.
Yet Another Fallen Star
"I wanted to surprise Jewel," Mary Alice began. "I know how much she looks forward to seeing me." And she nearly doubled over with laughter. "I got here a couple of hours ago. I rode up in the mail wagon with Clyde Dillard. The main line coach brought me up to where the Dillards live, down a piece you know."
"I'm surprised that Clyde would do that, bring you up here," interrupted Vince.
"Well, Vince, Mort fixed up one of his family members for burial down at the mortuary, and Clyde still owes him, so this is part of his payback. That Clyde had the gall to say as I was climbing in, `My God, Mary Alice, you're big as two people!' And I told him, `By God, Clyde, you old geezer, I'm as smart as two people.' He had the nerve to tell me he thinks Mort owes him another fixin' for burial for haulin' me up here, since I'm so big; so I told him, `Clyde, you old fart, if there's another burial fixin', I'm hopin' it's you.' Now that shut him up. With that, we both began laughin', and he boosted me into the wagon for the trip up."
By now Vince had almost laughed himself out of his chair, and Jewel was grimacing with embarrassment. The young man Jewel had been conversing with inquired of Jewel who the big lady was, and Jewel implied casually that she was a friend of her mother's. Emily stood in the doorway drying her hands and marveling at the scene, grinning but biting her lip over the language Mary Alice had used. She retreated to her kitchen.
People were jovial and once again conversing. A few still sat in amazement, but they soon began visiting, and there was no doubt that they were delighted with their meal. Mary Alice filled her plate, heaping it with good things. She had been looking forward to Emily's cooking all the way up the mountain. She lifted her plate and retreated to the kitchen to keep Emily company while Emily continued with preparations.
As soon as she saw Mary Alice enter the kitchen, Emily turned to her and said, "Mary Alice, you know I love you dearly, and I want you always to come and visit us no matter where we are, but you've just got to watch your language, especially when you're here at the lodge and in front of the kids. I'm afraid you really embarrassed Jewel."
Mary Alice quipped, "God, Emily, was I swearing?"
Emily said nothing for a few minutes but returned an icy stare. Finally she began, "I don't recall you swearing like that as we were growing up, Mary Alice. Where did this come from?"
"You're right. It's something I acquired later in life. Mort has a couple of fellows who come in to help him when he gets an overload. I've worked down at the shop right alongside of them, and I'll tell you, Emily, they swear like troopers. Guess it makes the work easier. And I picked it up as a way of survival, I guess. I don't ever swear even a tiny bit when I'm over at the Wickenses'. Victoria would have kittens. So if I can turn it off at their house, then, Emily, I can turn it off here. I guess I just got too relaxed. I'm sorry, sister, that I embarrassed you and the kids, and it won't happen again. Can you forgive me, Emily?"
"Of course," Emily answered. "You know I can. Now eat your supper before it gets cold, and save room for a slice of wild huckleberry pie with whipped cream on top."
Emily was busy with dessert plates. She had placed the cut slices of pie on the warming shelf above the cooking surface of the large cast-iron woodstove, where they would heat nicely while she whipped a huge bowl of cream. Vince and Jewel had painstakingly picked the tiny wild huckleberries. It had taken all of the previous afternoon. Jewel was upset when they finished, as her hands were stained purple; but Emily rubbed them with raw oats and tomato juice, and Jewel was back to normal. Vince decided he would keep his purple hands as proof of his berry picking. This was one of Emily's most loved pies. Huckleberries weren't available most places, but they flourished in the Washington State Cascades. Her crusts were prepared with lard and a touch of bacon grease, so flaky and tender that they almost floated to your mouth. The word had gotten around, too, and people were traveling to the mountain lodge just to enjoy her wild huckleberry pie, still warm from the oven. She was serving many hikers each day that dropped by for pie and coffee.
Vince stuck his head in the kitchen to see if it was time to serve des§ert and coffee. "Where's the old geezer who brought you up, Auntie?" he inquired of Mary Alice.
"He went on north to deliver some mail to one of your neighbors, and then he'll pick up Joe Lynch and take him back to Marble Mount. He puts in long hours, that old snit."
Mary Alice and Emily were relieved that Vince retreated back to the table to finish his dinner. They hadn't visited for such a long time, and this could be their only chance for serious conversation.
"Emily, you're not looking well. You're awfully thin. I know you must put in terribly long hours, but when haven't you? Is life treating
you OK? And please tell me where Jewel's accent came from. I know she had it on our last visit, but she certainly has it down now."
"I'm not at my best, Mary Alice," Emily responded. "Vince and Jewel have been amazing with their help. They've been more help than I ever dreamed they would be, and Charlie has all he can do. The lodge is just way too much for one small family. But I'm going to give it all I've got as long as we're here. As for Jewel's accent and her personality, I have absolutely no idea where any of it comes from. She's a good girl, though, and a hard worker, but she's set in her ways, I'll tell you. When she makes up her mind to something, well, there's no need to try to change her, because you'd be wasting your time. She gives Vince a real run for his money. Jewel looks frail, but she surely isn't. She's good at getting right over a snit, though. Vince tends to brood. I try to give Vince as much sympathy as I can-maybe too much. But the poor guy never wins with Jewel."
"What about you, Emily?" Mary Alice questioned. "And what does Charlie think about all the work you have to do? Does he talk about it at all? Is there a way out?"
"One thing at a time, sis." Emily began topping the warm pie slices with the whipped cream. "Well, as you know, Charlie is the one who makes all the decisions in our household, though he is getting a lot of suggestions now from Jewel, which he doesn't like much. He hasn't come up with any kind of an answer about leaving here. I know he's hesitant in breaking the lease we have on the place; but I think that if someone with proper help could come in and take over, he'd take a little loss. That wouldn't bother me at this point. We need to get down where Vince and Jewel can get in the whole school year, not just a little in the middle. They missed school the whole year our first winter here, and of course Vince missed the following year when we were out on the island. He's a bright boy. I know he can catch up if given the chance. I guess Charlie doesn't think school is important. Vince wants to play football now, too. That's a good incentive to get him back at school. He's grown so much and filled out enough that he may be able to do that. He's eating well. I know Jewel wants to finish high school. She needs to be in school and around girls her own age. She's growing up way too fast, or at least she thinks she is."
"Yeah, I sure can tell that," Mary Alice answered. "She certainly sparkles in the eyes of the fellows, doesn't she? There's no doubt that she's a fine-looking girl, real pretty, but is she old enough to handle it?
And can't you just tell Charlie that you've had enough and have to move into town, Emily?"
"Oh, Mary Alice," Emily said with a deep sigh, "how I wish I could, but you know his temper. He's upset already; he would come apart with the mention of giving up this place and moving to town. It's got to be his idea. I might end up being one of your patrons at the mention of such an idea. His temper is definitely worse when he's under pressure like this. I learned early in our marriage that it wasn't wise to rile Charlie. He has come close to striking me, but he never has, mainly because I back down. I avoid that kind of a situation. Vince has talked to Charlie a little about moving down to town, but Charlie just gets angry. Those two really lock horns sometimes. It worries me. Vince is showing signs of an out-of-control temper too, and this troubles me a great deal. Charlie's paying Vince a little now for all the work he's doing, though. I think that's good. Vince is real frugal with his money. Here about three weeks ago a fellow was staying that was selling oil stock down in Texas. Vince thought it was a real fine-looking investment and bought stock in the company with some of the money he had saved up. The fellow was real impressed to see a seventeen-year-old boy invest like that, and so was I. Vince loans money to Jewel now and then. Oh, he charges her a little, so he can make a profit on the deal. She's always buying things from the catalog. The only problem is she very often spends more than she has. So if she doesn't pay him back, how's he going to profit? That boy's going to amount to something someday if his temper doesn't get in the way, but he needs school badly."
Vince, Jewel, and Charlie appeared at the door. They were each carrying stacks of dirty dishes and were ready to serve pie and coffee.
"Why don't you grab a plate of pie and go sit while we get things clewed up and serve dessert," Emily told Mary Alice. "This little kitchen is going to be a mighty busy place. We'll visit some more later on while I do dishes, OK, dear?" It didn't take more conversation to talk Mary Alice into a piece of that pie. She grabbed the largest one she could find and headed to her chair in the dining area.
Lying in bed, Jewel's mind raced as she thought about the evening.
I just don't think the evening could have gone better for me. Well, maybe it would have been a little better if Mary Alice hadn't shown up, but I don't think her visit really hurt She did provide entertainment for our guests. Meeting Red was definitely a fortunate thing. He seemed impressed with me. Mr. Hamilton told me that Red thought I was gorgeous, and honest too. I'm sure he doesn't realize I'm not quite fifteen years old. Well, what they don't know won't hurt them, as the saying goes. It seems that Mr. Hamilton, down at the end of the table, was telling Red about my finding the diamond ring a week ago. I can spot sparkling things a mile away. I've been doing it all my life. I'm always looking. Well, we were on a hike that day, and I was looking carefully, and there at the edge of the rocky path was this bright spot of light way too bright for a mica rock or anything like that. It was a ring, a large solid-gold man's ring, and it had a huge diamond. I have never seen anything like it before. I put it in my pocket, and when we arrived at the little store at Marble Mont, I asked if anyone there had lost something of value. A nicely dressed young man in expensive-looking sports clothes immediately came forward and said he certainly had. So I asked him to please describe the article he'd lost, and he described the ring right down to the tiny inscription on the inside, so I knew for certain it was his. I have never seen such a happy man. It made me feel good all over just to see him so joyful.
It turns out Red was so impressed with the fact that I had found a diamond ring and returned it to its rightful owner that he asked if he might write letters to me, and if perhaps sometime down the road we might get together in Anacortes when we eventually move down. I told him that was very sweet of him to ask, and I would look forward to hearing from him. I need to improve my writing abilities, and I need to get older real fast.
Author Bio This is my first book. It took me a very long time, five years to be exact, mainly due to the fact I knew so little about writing. I had great help over those years, a fine friend who had been a university level English teacher. She was tactful, but direct, and I learned. I must have challenged her patients many times. Our arrangement was a trade, no money changed hands. I had been a university level art teacher, my main expertise being watercolor. She found me and indicated she wanted to learn my media. We were a perfect find. I don't believe my book would have been possible without her.
This story had been on my mind for many years, family stories and some experiences. I was an only child, with only one disinterested cousin who was a great deal older than I was. I needed to tell the story if it was ever to be told. I felt it was interesting enough to be a book, so began to take down notes as I sat in doctor's offices or stood in lines. Finally I began to realize my techniques were slow and outdated and with the encouragement of my husband, I bought a lap-top
This was where I would say my writing began, but not with our trials and errors My typing skills were negative. In all my years of painting, teaching and entering shows, there had been no need to type. I had taken a short typing course, years before. That was my first goal, improve typing. I lost text, whole chapters magically disappeared. Frustration was a constant companion, but finally it all became easier. It became a reality. I was writing a book!