This story is super unrealistic. But, I don't care because it was very special to me when I wrote it. Reading back through it now, I'm like "This doesn't really make sense..." But, I love it. Because it's special. And, that's all the matters.
So, don't expect anything to come of this story. Because I wouldn't even know where to begin to work on it again. But, I was proud of it when I wrote it and it's really not halfway bad. So, you get to read it,.
Hope you enjoy!
Henry Carter closed the hood of his car with a sigh. He knew there was no use looking since he couldn’t do a thing about it.
Great he thought I’m in the middle of nowhere and my car breaks down. He hadn’t passed a town for over twelve miles. Guess I had better start walking.
As he started in the direction he’d been driving he pondered what he was even doing on the back roads of Northern New York. Everyone said he was the best there was, so why was he here? Why was he driving from lecture to lecture along the little used roads of his home state as if he thought his big chance would be just around the corner? When he had lost his job nine months ago he’d thought the chance to speak to others about his passion would do him good. Thought it would be good for him to get away from all the stress. He and Sally had agreed on it together, deciding it was for the best.
But now, he was getting tired of the empty rented rooms, the lonely diner meals, and the phone calls to his family. He missed his wife and children. He wanted to hold his granddaughter in his arms and tell her just how much he loved her, not talk to her on a piece of metal and wood, with miles of wires between them. He wanted to kiss Sally and tell her being apart from her was never a good thing.
But instead, here he was, walking along a dirt road, hoping it led somewhere. After three miles or so he was beginning to give up hope when he spotted a farm house. He practically ran to it. It was a large house, two stories with a wraparound porch and a barn sitting neatly next to it. He went to the door and knocked, hoping- even praying- that they had a phone.
His knock was answered by a woman in her forties, perhaps, dressed in a plain dress with an apron tied around her middle. She smiled.
“Can I help you?” she asked.
“My car broke down, a few miles back,” he explained. “The radiator’s shot. I was wondering if I could use your telephone.”
“Oh, dear,” she said. “We haven’t got a telephone. But, if you come inside, you can ask Jenny and maybe she can fix it and I’ll get you some lemonade.”
She walked away before he could be polite and refuse so he followed her. She led him to the kitchen.
“Do have a seat,” she said, pointing.
A young man was sitting at the table and a strange girl was leaning over the stove. Well, the girl herself wasn’t strange, it was her clothes. She was about thirteen and dressed as a peasant; long, homespun dress, dirty apron, worn shawl around her shoulders, and a cap on her head, some of her brown hair falling from it. He knew it was rude to stare, however, so he concentrated on the glass of lemonade the woman served him.
He was just bringing it to his lips when another girl came running into the room. She was dressed like the other girl but Henry didn’t think she had bothered to put her hair- a shimmering auburn- in her cap at all; it hung loose around her shoulders.
“Oh, please,” she said in, what he considered, a strange accent, “don’t let ‘em get me.” She dashed through a door to the left, which, from the peek he got before the door closed, led to a closet of sorts.
Henry heard the heavy footsteps of booted feet before the young man, maybe sixteen-years-old, dressed in a blue, soldier-type uniform, entered the kitchen the same way the girl had. He wore heavy boot and a sword at his side. Henry could feel his commanding air as he entered the room. Things are getting weirder and weirder.
“Where is she?” the young man demanded.
“Who, sir?” the first girl asked, eyes wide with confusion. She too used the strange accent. “I haven’t seen anyone, sir.”
“I know she came in here and I intend to find her, even if I have to tear this place apart.”
He moved to the pantry, a partially enclosed room off the kitchen, and stuck his head inside. As soon as he did, the girl ran from the closet back the way she and the young man had both entered. She was stopped at the door by another young man dresses as a soldier, he was probably fifteen. He grabbed the girl, who struggled and tried to get away.
“I thought you said you hadn’t seen her,” the second soldier said.
The girl continued to struggle. “Lemme go. I didn’t do anything.”
The first soldier crossed from the pantry over to the girl. “Lord Claybourne just wants to talk with you. There’s no need to run away.”
The girl struggled against the second soldier’s grasp. “I won’t talk to him. I won’t.”
“You’ll do as you’re told,” the soldier said, tightening his grasp.
Henry was thoroughly confused by all that was happening. He assumed it was a common occurrence though because the woman just watched them thoughtfully. She was obviously interested in what was going on but not confused or startled. He wondered if he had stumbled upon a madhouse.
A door off the kitchen, leading outside, Henry guessed, opened and a young man, around the same age as the others and dressed in homespun shirt and pants, entered.
“What is going on?” he demanded. “Unhand my daughter.”
“Keep out of this, player,” the first soldier said. “This is none of your concern.”
“I believe it is,” the young man said. “You barge into my home, terrorize my family, grab my daughter by force, and you say it’s none of my concern?”
“If you have a problem with Lord Claybourne’s orders,” the first soldier replied, “then you are free to take your family and leave here any time.”
“I will,” the young man said, stepping toward the girl. “Give me my daughter and we shall be gone by the morrow.”
The second solider gripped the girl even tighter. Henry thought if he didn’t loosen up soon he was going to bruise her. “He said you were free to take your family, player.”
“Aye, and so give me my daughter.”
The first soldier snorted. “We’re not fools, player. We all know this girl is no relation to you.”
There was silence in the room for a moment. Suddenly, yet another young man, dressed also in homespun, came through the outside door.
“You are right that she’s not his blood daughter,” he said. “But she is indeed his daughter by law. Unhand my wife.”
Henry was shocked. He’d already been having a hard time believing that the girl was the young man’s daughter, but this man’s wife? He knew people married young sometimes- especially in these backwoods towns- but these two couldn’t be more than fourteen. He watched with interest to see what would unfold.
The first soldier snorted again. “Your wife?” he scoffed. “I have a hard time believing that.”
“It’s true,” the girl spoke up.
“Keep out of this,” the second soldier said, giving her a shake.
“Do that to my wife again and I’ll break every bone in your body,” the young man said. He stepped toward the two.
“Keep back,” the first soldier said, drawing his sword.
Everyone seemed to have forgotten about the first girl, the one who had been standing by the stove. No one but Henry seemed to notice her as she picked up the frying pan and moved toward the one with the sword. She raised it over her head and-
“Look out!” Henry exclaimed, surprising even himself. But it was too late. The girl brought the pan down and the soldier crumpled to the floor. No one seemed to notice, though. Everyone turned to Henry.
“Who are you?” the second soldier asked, letting go of the girl. The first soldier got up, not looking like he’d been hit at all and five other children came in from the other room. They were about the same age as the others, except one girl who was a little younger.
“I’m Henry Carter,” he replied, bewildered. “My car broke down and I wanted to use the telephone but she told me you didn’t have one and I could talk to Jenny. I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to interrupt. I don’t even know what I interrupted.”
“Oh, my,” the woman said with a laugh, “I forgot about you. You must think we’re crazy. The children are writing a play and this helps them think everything through.”
“A play?” Henry asked. Plays were something he knew about but this had seemed so much more intense. He guessed it was because it was in an actual kitchen and not on stage.
The young man who’s been sitting at the table laughed as he stood up. “That’s right. Meet the Centerville Misfits, Centerville’s own acting team,” he said with a flourishing bow. “I’m Luke Carson, writer, director, and stage manager. Like Mrs. Wilcox said, we haven’t got a phone.”
“Then what do you do when your car breaks down?” Henry asked.
“Jenny fixes it,” Luke said as if it were the most obvious thing to do.
“I really don’t mind looking at it for you,” the girl said.
“I could give you two a ride,” Luke offered.
The girl called Jenny went to change out of her costume and then she, Henry, and Luke climbed into the young man’s car and set off down the road. While they rode, Henry asked them about them about the Centerville Misfits.
“There’s twelve of us,” Luke said, “but I don’t act. Not in major parts anyway.”
“Are you all siblings?” Henry asked.
“Heavens, no,” Jenny laughed. “It’s bad enough having just Luke for a brother.”
“So, you two are siblings?”
Jenny laughed again. “No, there’s two Lukes. My brother Luke plays Lord Claybourne. You haven’t meant him yet. And then, Jane and Justin are my cousins. Jane was the young woman who beaned Brock- well, I mean, she didn’t really hit him, it was just acting- with the frying pan and Just is the soldier who was holding me so tightly.” She rubbed her arm. “I’m going to have to tell him to go easy next time.”
“Brock Jennings is the general,” Luke continued, “or, as Jenny just put it, the one who got beaned. Mr. and Mrs. Jennings are my adoptive parents. The young man who claimed to be Jenny’s husband is Brody Jennings and their ‘father’ is Bryce Jennings. They have one other brother, Dallas, and a sister, Gracie. They weren’t in the scene you saw. Then there’s my sister, Jessie, and another of our neighbors, Marty, who’s only eleven.”
Henry nodded, not sure he got any of it.
Jenny laughed. “I know, it’s kind of confusing, what with all the alliteration. We’ve got two Lukes, Brock, Brody, and Bryce, Jessie, Jane, Jenny, Justin, and Josh, Gracie, and Marty. And there you have it, the Centerville Misfits.”
The way she said it made it sound so easy but… “Who’s Josh?” Henry asked.
There was an awkward silence. Then Jenny laughed again, this time nervously. “Oh, right, I keep forgetting, Josh isn’t a Misfit anymore. There’s his car, there, Luke.”
Luke pulled over to the side of the road and the three climbed out. Jenny walked around the car, checking all the tires while Luke leaned nonchalantly against the vehicle’s side.
“I think it’s the radiator,” Henry told her.
She nodded as she rolled up her sleeves and lifted the hood.
“Does she make a habit of this?” Henry questioned Luke.
“Of what?” Luke asked. “Oh, you mean fixing cars? Yeah, that’s what Jenny does; she fixes everything.”
As they talked, a young man, about seventeen, came walking toward them. Luke waved when he saw them and the young man waved back.
“Hey, Josh,” Luke said.
“Hey, Luke,” Josh said as he ran a finger slowly down Jenny’s back. Jenny jumped, hitting her head on the lifted hood.
“Ow!” she exclaimed. “What was that for?”
“Well, well, well,” Josh said, “if it isn’t Jennifer Wilcox, the grease monkey.”
Jenny turned around, still holding her head. She smiled. “And if it isn’t Joshua Harris, the famous thespian. Do you always go around injuring pretty girls?”
Josh smiled a boyish smile. “Who said you were pretty?” He laughed at Jenny’s shocked expression. “Come on, Jen, you know I’m just teasing. Who’s your friend?”
Henry offered the young man his hand. “I’m Henry Carter.”
“The actor?” Josh asked as they shook hands.
Henry smiled. “Guilty as charged.”
“You’re an actor?” Jenny asked, shocked. “Gee whiz.”
Henry smiled at her use of slang. “That’s why I was so interested when you said you were writing a play.”
“You’re writing a play?” Josh asked, suddenly losing all his friendliness.
“Of course,” Jenny said, “We write one every year. And when you’re ready to stop being stubborn we’ve got a dandy of a part for you.”
“I’m not the one being stubborn, Jennifer,” Josh said coldly. “And I don’t want any part you can offer me.”
Henry gathered this was the Josh who wasn’t a player anymore. And, he gathered his not being a play was causing quite some tension.
Jenny, forgetting momentarily that she and Josh weren’t alone, crossed her arm and said, “What exactly is it you want?”
“An apology would be nice,” Josh said, his voice rising.
Jenny snorted. “An apology?” she scoffed, her voice getting louder as well. “An apology for what? For killing your grandmother?”
Josh glared at her. “For stealing my part.”
“It wasn’t his fault,” Jenny practically screamed. “You know perfectly well we all thought you wouldn’t be able to do it.”
“But you didn’t wait to see,” Josh screamed back. “I know it wasn’t Luke’s idea to replace me. Bryce wanted my part so he convinced him to do it.”
Jenny snorted again. “That’s what you want to think so you can hold a grudge. You know perfectly well he would never do something like that.”
Josh turned away. “I don’t want to talk about it,” he said. “I’ll be seeing you.” He started walking.
“When you change your mind,” Jenny called after him, “come by and get your script.” She turned to Henry. “You’re right, it’s the radiator. I can’t fix it here so we’ll have to haul it back to the house. It’ll probably take me a few days but you can stay with us until then.”
“I couldn’t do that,” Henry objected. “You don’t even know me. And, what would your parents think of you bringing a strange man home?”
Jenny shrugged. “Suit yourself,” she said forlornly. “I don’t feel like arguing. Luke, you guys can go on. I’ll walk.”
“Are you sure?” Luke asked. Jenny nodded. “All right, then I’ll see you back at the house.” Jenny started down the road.
Henry and Luke climbed into Luke’s car in silence. Luke started the car and turned it around. “Sorry about that,” Luke said. “The Centerville Misfits and Josh have a sort of a misunderstanding.”
“So I gathered,” Henry said.
They passed Jenny but she didn’t so much as look at them.
“It’s really my fault,” Luke confessed. Henry wanted to tell the boy he didn’t have to explain but he just started talking without giving him a chance to say anything. “Every year we write and perform a play. I’m kind of the director so I do the casting. Last year I gave Josh a pretty good part but, just two weeks before the performance, something happened with his family- his grandmother died- and they had to go out of town. A lot of things happened that week. It was all really crazy, but in the end, we did the play three days early and I gave Josh’s part to Bryce. And, then he came home, two days before we had originally planned the performance for. He knew the part and if we did it like we’d said first, he’d have been able to do it. He was convinced that it was all a scheme cooked up by Bryce because he wanted his part. Even after I tried to explain the truth to him he said I was just defending him. Even Jenny tired to explain it but he wouldn’t listen. It kills her to see him like this. She still thinks he’ll come to his senses one of these days. She even suggested we write him a part just in case. Of course, if he doesn’t, I have to play his part.”
“Don’t you like acting?” Henry asked, glad for the slight change in subject. He wasn’t sure what to say about the feud.
Luke shrugged. “I don’t mind it but I’d much rather direct or write a play than act in it. It’s just my personality.”
“And the rest of the Misfits, do they all like to act?”
Again Luke shrugged. “I think Josh and Jenny are the only ones who love acting. The rest of us just think it’s fun to put on the shows. We all like using our other talents too. Gracie, for instance, likes to design the costumes. Jane and Dallas design the sets. While I’m the writer, Luke is great at writing music and, for someone so young, Marty is great at writing lyrics when we need them. Jessie always does the choreography and Brody and Bryce make any props we need. Justin’s our publicity man and he handles all our ticket sales. And Brock does sound and lighting.”
“Wow,” Henry said, “you ran a pretty tight ship. How long have you been doing this?”
Luke thought for a minute. “I guess three years now. We started just after the Jennings adopted Jessie and I.” They passed Josh then and Luke sighed. “I don’t know what to do.”
Henry thought hard before answering. He hardly knew these children and the last thing he wanted to do was give them bad advice. “Have you talked it over with your parents?” he asked. Then he remembered Luke was adopted. “I mean your adoptive parents.”
Luke smiled. “They’re my parents, Mr. Carter. I only tell people I’m adopted so they don’t get confused because I have a different last name. Yes, I’ve talked with them about it and they just say I need to give it time and remember to pray for Josh and Jenny.”
“That’s good advice,” Henry agreed. He didn’t have much experience in the praying field but he did think giving it time would help. They drove the rest of the way in silence. As they pulled in front of the house and stopped the woman- who Henry had learned earlier was Mrs. Harper, Jane and Justin’s mom and Jenny and the other Luke’s aunt- came out to the porch to greet them.
“Where’s Jenny?” she asked, surprised.
Luke sighed. “She decided to walk. We saw Josh and they had an argument.”
Sorrow clouded Mrs. Harper’s face. “Those two. What’s the verdict on the car?”
“I don’t know,” Luke said. “Jenny says it needs a new thingamajig. Said she’d fix it but it’d probably take a couple days. I’ll haul it over later if that’s okay.”
“Looks like you’re stranded, Mr. Carter,” the woman said. “There isn’t a hotel around here so you can stay with us until the part comes in. Unless you have somewhere you need to be, in which case we can get you to a train or something and you can come back later for the car or have it towed.”
Henry thought for a minute. “I’m giving a lecture at Youngstown College on Friday,” he said. “So I’d appreciate a ride but, I’ll pay you for it.”
“Well,” Mrs. Carter said, “you don’t have to be to Youngstown for three days so, if you like, you can stay the night and my husband can give you a ride over there tomorrow. He has to go there anyway for something. So, there’s no need to pay us.”
“I really hate to impose on you,” Henry said. “And, I insist on paying.”
“It’s no imposition,” Mrs. Harper assured him. “And, you can argue with my husband about the payment. I’m sure he’ll refuse it though.” One of the things Henry liked about these people is that when they said something they really meant it. He was sure they really wouldn’t mind having him stay. But still…
“I don’t know,” he said. “You don’t even know me.”
The woman smiled. “‘Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some have unwittingly entertained angels.’”
“What was that?” Henry asked. It sounded familiar and he wondered if maybe it was from a play he had once been in.
The woman repeated herself then added, “That’s Hebrews 13:2.”
Henry knew then where he must have heard it. When he was a child his mother had always insisted they go to church. He must have heard it there. “I can assure you, Mrs. Harper, I’m not an angel.”
“That’s what they all say,” she replied with a cheerful smile.
And there you have it! Most of the rest of my excerpts are going to be little short ones. But, I'm really excited about the stories to come. I hope you'll continue to stick with me for them.
And, more books for writers on Monday, so be sure to stop back for that.