Sunday, August 29, 2004

Chapter 3, I can see clearly now

The sun streamed through the crack in the curtains. A shaft of light danced on the wall as the cool morning breeze moved the thin fabric from side to side.
A redwinged blackbird sang it's sweet song waking Beswick up from a very restful sleep.
He could hear is mother in the wash house below his window. She had the water boiling in order to start the laundry. Beswick slipped his glasses on his face, his cheek was a little sore from the blow he received yesterday. Everything seemed so much brighter today. He wasn't sure if it was the glasses that Mr Featherstone had fixed for him or the fact the sun was cutting through his bedroom.
I guess the little man and lady in the barometer house were right he thought to himself. I will have to talk to Mr Featherstone and see if he can tell me how it works.
Beswick got out of bed and slipped on a clean pair of jeans, this time without a hole in the knee.
He took his favorite t-shirt out of the drawer, it was bright white with a picture of Leonardo Da Vinci on it. Beswick read about Leonardo at the library. It was one of his most favorite places to go.
He pulled the shirt over his red hair, forgetting to take his glasses off as usual, they slipped off his nose and into the shirt. He laughed at himself and placed them back on his face. Boy everything is so clear he was thinking to himself.

Beswick ran to the washroom did the usual things he did there, spending extra time on his teeth. His mother always told him "Teeth are very important, look after them."
He slid down the banister to the ground floor. Something he was not supposed to do but then again his mom was outside.
He heard a voice from the kitchen. "Don't slide down that banister Beswick Winkles!"
"Sorry mom, I got carried away" he replied.
Beswick skipped into the kitchen and popped four slices of toast into the toaster. He went to the fridge and pulled out the fieldberry jam. From the pantry he took a jar of peanut butter and placed it on the table along with two knives and two plates.
"Mom, is it ok if I go to visit Mr Featherstone today, I have to pick up my bike and I told him I would help him around the house." he said.
"It amazes me Beswick, that children are so eager to help other people in their houses but don't seem to have the same enthusiasm to help in their own." she replied.
"Well I suppose there are worse things you could be doing, like hanging around with Cedric Whatmore and those other lay abouts" she said.
"Don't even joke about that mom, you know I don't like Cedric, he is a mean bully." He had never really told her how much of a pest Cedric was at school, and definitely not about the occurrence yesterday.
"You are right Beswick, I know you are far more mature than that group of hoodlums."
"Do you need some money today, or do you still have some left from the store?"
Beswick replied" I have twelve cents left mom, that's more than enough"
"More than enough for what, Beswick. That wont even buy you a chocolate bar!"
"It won't today mom, but one day it did. I don't need any money mom."
The toast popped and Beswick placed two slices on each plate. He poured a cup of tea that his mother was brewing on the stove, and a small glass of milk for himself.
They sat down at the table and enjoyed the best peanut butter toast Beswick had ever tasted.
Beswick looked across the kitchen to the calendar on the wall.
"I see you have a dentist appointment on Wednesday mom." he said.
"Yes I do, but don't tell me you can read that calendar from there Beswick" she exclaimed.
"Yes I can mom, it says Dentist 2:00." he replied.
"You are such a fibber Beswick Winkles, there is no way you can read that across the room, you must have read it when you came down the stairs!" she smiled at him.
"Honest mom I can read it, everything seems so much clearer since Mr Featherstone fixed my glasses." he replied.
"Fixed your glasses?. I didn't even know they were broken." she exclaimed.

Oh boy! how was Beswick going to explain about the glasses, the fight, the spilled soap!
"They fell off my face into the gutter and the lens popped out mom" he said.
He wasnt lieing, they did fall off and get chipped. "Mr Featherstone asked if they could fix them
I said that would be nice and thank you."
"If they could fix them? Who is they?"she asked
"I guess he was talking about him and Mr Biggles" he replied. Her face looked puzzled. "Mr Biggles is his cat. I think he talks about the two of them like they are friends or something."
"Well that was very nice of them wasn't it." she said.
"Yes mom it was very nice".
After breakfast Beswick did the dishes and poured his mom another cup of tea. The water was boiling hard in the wash house and Mrs Winkles would be working hard to make the money they needed to live.
Beswick kissed her goodbye and ran out the back yard down the alley. He knew at this early hour any bully worth his reputation would be fast asleep.
He skipped down the street listening to the birds singing in the trees. Across the street was a squirrel chattering at a nosy cat. The Newspaper racks were full of the days news. He could read the headline from here. "Flooding Subsides weather change for the good". As a matter of fact he could read the entire story from across the street!
"That is certainly extraordinary" he thought to himself.
There were still puddles in the street, as much as he wanted to splash in them he knew his canvas runners wouldnt keep the water out.
As he reached the corner he grabbed the lamp post and swung around, changing the direction he was walking. If he continued straight on this road he would end up at the library, his favorite place in town. But he had to go to Mr Featherstone's house across Pine Street. He turned the corner and saw Mr Featherstones house. He could see Mr. Biggles pacing in the window. There was no sign of his bike though. As he came closer to the house he noticed the mailman walking down the street.
"Hello Mr Johnson" Beswick shouted.
"Hi Beswick" Mr Johnson replied.
They met each other just outside Mr Featherstone's house. Mr. Johnson was just about to put the letters in the mailbox when Beswick said "I can take those in"
Mr Johnson smiled. "I am sorry Beswick, but the law states I must place these in the mailbox and not give them to anyone else. Otherwise you are tampering with the mail, and that is a criminal offence. We cant have you commiting crimes now can we?" he smiled and dropped them in the mailbox.
Just as Beswick pressed the doorbell, Mr Biggles jumped down from the window. He heard the footsteps of Mr Featherstone in the house and the purring of his new friend Mr. Biggles.
Beswick looked over his shoulder to see if Mr. Johnson had left then he took all the mail from the mailbox to hand it over to Mr Featherstone.
The door opened and standing there in the usual grey pants with cuffs turned up was Mr Featherstone. He was wearing a green button up shirt with a cardigan over it.
He scanned over the guest at the door and smiled with delight at the shirt Beswick was wearing.
"Excellent choice of shirts indeed!" He grinned. "Come in Young Master Beswick, come in!"

Chapter 2, Twenty seven cents

The warm shirt felt so good on Beswick's cold skin. A pair of grey sweatpants would take the chill of his legs too. The bundle of his soaking wet clothes sat in a puddle on the bathroom floor.
He picked them up one by one and wrung them out by twisting them tightly, something he had seen his mother do countless times before. He mopped up the rest of the water with his shirt and wrung that out too.
He picked up the contents of his jacket pocket, twenty seven cents change from Mr Ridley's store, one chipped eyeglass lens and his fathers pocketwatch. The watch hadn't worked in many years but that didn't matter to Beswick, it used to belong to his father and now it was one of his most prized possessions.
Beswick slipped the items into the pocket of the sweatpants, gathered up the damp wrung out clothes and went to the kitchen.
Mr Featherstone had just hung up the phone. Turning to Beswick with a smile he said"Well your mom knows you are alright, she said not to worry about the soap just yet because she has enough for today!"
The soap!
"But I do worry about the soap Mr Featherstone" he said "I have to go back to Mr. Ridley's store and see if can lend me some"
"Now now young Master Beswick, you are not going anywhere in this weather. Lets put those clothes on the clotheshorse by the fire. You sit down here at the table and have a nice hot bowl of porridge."
Beswick squinted through his broken glasses at the surroundings in the kitchen. There was a fireplace burning at one end of the room. An old iron pot was merrily bubbling away over the flames. A small table with two wooden chairs was against the wall. Glass jars lined a shelf above the table, each one neatly labeled, but with broken glasses, Beswick couldn't read any of them
The counters and cupboard were all neat as a pin. The stove had a pot of porridge and the familiar smell was making his mouth water.
Mr Featherstone went to a closet and pulled out the clotheshorse. He set it up in front of the fire and placed the wet clothes on it neatly, being sure to keep the nylon jacket away from the hot side of the fire.
Beswick sat at the table and Mr. Featherstone scooped out bowls of porridge for them both.
He placed them on the table along with spoons, a jug of milk and a bowl of brown sugar.
"I hope you don't mind brown sugar, young Master Beswick, that is all I have."
"Not at all" replied Beswick.
The black cat had come and started snaking its way around Beswick's legs at the table. It started to purr so loud it made Beswick laugh.
"I see Mr. Biggles likes you." Mr. Featherstone chuckled.
"Is that the cats name, Mr. Biggles?" Beswick asked.
"Yes, Mr. Biggles is his name, and an extraordinary cat he is, indeed" Mr Featherstone smiled.
He sat at the table and after pouring some milk, and sprinkling what seemed like far too much sugar on his porridge, he took a big spoonful and popped it into his mouth.
"Don't just sit there Master Beswick, eat up!" he grinned.

Beswick sprinkled a little brown sugar on the porridge and a small splash of milk, he knew milk was expensive and not to be wasted. He blew on the porridge to cool it off and slipped the spoon into his mouth. The scent of brown sugar teased his nose as the spoon slipped under it. The warmth of the porridge spread through his body with each bite. Down his throat, into his tummy and slowly spreading through each of his limbs. His bones, which seemed to be chilled with the cold rain started to thaw, the colour came back to his face and the familiar twinkled popped back into his eyes.
Mr. Biggles had jumped up onto the table and sat beside him staring intently.
"I think Mr Biggles would like to know what you were doing outside, in the rain, wearing a broken pair of spectacles and pushing a broken bike." Mr Featherstone said, "And come to think of it so would I" he grinned.

So Beswick recalled the tale of going to get some soap, being picked on by the bullies, knocked down, losing his glasses only to recover them with a chipped lens. He explained how they broke his bike and he had to go back to Mr Ridley and see if he could borrow some soap until he could figure out some way to pay for it.

"That is dilemma, indeed, young Master Beswick" rubbing his chin as though he was deep in thought, "Yes quite a dilemma!"
Beswick looked at him a little confused. "What's a dilemma, "he asked.
"Oh, dilemma is another word for a problem" smiled Mr Featherstone, "you will have to forgive me, sometimes I forget I am talking with an extraordinary young man."

"That's twice you....." Mr. Biggles jumped onto Beswicks lap, cutting his sentence short. Beswick looked down with a smile and started to pet Mr. Biggles.
"So you have the other lens for your spectacles then?" Mr Featherstone asked.
Beswick nodded and pulled the contents of his pocket out onto the table.
"I think we can fix those spectacles Beswick, would you like us to try?"
"Yes please." he replied, removing his bent frames and handing them over to Mr. Featherstone.
The room was very blurry without his glasses.
He saw Mr Featherstone get up from the table and go to a drawer on the other side of the room.
Beswick couldn't see what was going on but within a few moments, the drawer was closed and he was returning to the table.
"There you go" he said with a smile, handing the glasses back. Beswick put them on, they were so clean, the images in the room seemed so much brighter than before. They were better than new, in fact even the chip was gone!
"How could you fix them like that?" Beswick exclaimed.
"How could I fix them any other way, young Master Beswick?" he replied.
"Is it magic, Mr Featherstone?" he asked.
"It is what it is, Master Beswick. Nothing more, nothing less. I asked if we may fix them and you said yes, so that is what we did."
Before Beswick had a chance to respond, Mr Featherstone asked, " How did you expect to pay Mr Ridley back for the soap you were going to borrow?"
This caught Beswick totally of guard. "I am not sure." he said. Maybe I could do some chores for him like sweep up or stock the shelves."
"You are not afraid of hard work then?" Featherstone asked.
"No Sir," replied Beswick. "I may be just an ordinary boy but I can work as hard as a man!"
"I have no doubt of that at all young man, none at all."
"Would you consider working for me young Master Beswick" Mr. Featherstone asked.
"I can see Mr. Biggles really likes you and cats are such fine judges of character."
"I couldn't pay you a lot of money but you will end up with something far more valuable if you are willing to work for it."
Beswick replied " I would like to work for you Mr Featherstone, but I really need to get some soap for my mother, and all I have left is twenty seven cents."
" So Master Beswick, young man of character" he smiled,"If you could purchase soap for twenty seven cents, then you could work for me, and the money would no longer be an issue."
"Yes sir," he replied" But soap costs much more that twenty seven cents!"
Once again Mr Featherstone smiled." You are quite bright for such a young man. Do you think there was a time when soap could be purchased for twenty seven cents?"
"I imagine many years ago, you could buy lots of things for twenty seven cents."
Mr Featherstone chuckled out loud. He got up from the table and went to a door at the far end of the kitchen. He opened the door to a pantry and on the top shelf surrounded by cleaning products, brooms, brushes and mops, was a cardboard box. He reached up and took the box down. He blew the dust off it and brought it to the table, carefully closing the pantry door behind him. He put the box on the table.
"Take a look" he said to Beswick.
Beswick took the box and read the label. " Smith Brothers Chemically Pure Borax Soap"
The picture on the box was of ladies in long dresses with their hair done up high and fancy.

He looked in the corner and saw a price label. Fifteen Cents! He seemed puzzled as he stared at the box.
Mr Featherstone spoke" What is twenty seven take away fifteen?"
"Twelve" replied Beswick.
"Hmm seems you have some money left over" he chuckled.
Beswick's face was beaming. He put down the soap box and finished off his porridge. My Biggles waited till he was almost done then licked the rest of the milk from the bowl.
Mr Featherstone rose from the table and was about to put the bowls into the sink, when Beswick took them smiling and started to wash them. Mr Biggles snaking around his feet as he stood at the sink.
Beswick went back to the table. Picked up fifteen cents and gave it to Mr Featherstone. He placed the remaining twelve cents in his pocket along with the watch.
"I will give you a ride home in my car" Mr. Featherstone said. "You can pick your bike up tomorrow when the rain subsides."
"How do you know the rain will subside tomorrow" Beswick asked.
"The barometer on the wall says we are in for a change, see." He pointed to a little wooden house on the wall with a tiny man and a lady. One seemed to be walking into the house with an umbrella, and the other was walking out of the house with a watering can.
"How on earth can they know if it is going to rain tomorrow?" Beswick asked.
"Just because we don't understand how things work doesn't mean they won't work does it now?
You will learn the secrets of the man and lady in the barometer, along with many other secrets that will unlock your mind." Mr Featherstone replied." This is how you will get paid if you work for me. Come on now Master Beswick, I am sure Mrs. Winkles will be happy to see you, and tomorrow you can come back and get that bike."

Friday, August 27, 2004

Chapter 1, Beswick Winkles, an ordinary boy.

It had rained for almost three weeks now. The puddles had turned into ponds, the water in the gutters attempted to brink the shores of the road. The gloomy grey skies were overshadowed by a dark black ominous cloud. Beswick was riding his bicycle back from the store with a few groceries his mother had sent him to buy.
Beswick was eleven now, more than just a child but not quite a teenager. He wore a light nylon jacket, a few sizes too big and his jeans were torn at the knee. His canvas runners were soaked from the torrents of rain showering over him.
His bicycle had no fenders and a rooster tail of water sprayed up his back, not that fenders would have kept him any drier on a day like this. On the front of the bike was a basket that contained the milk, bread and soap his mother needed to do the laundry. The rain ran through his red hair and streamed over his glasses, it was a wonder he could even see the road let alone the boys on the corner.

A shout rang out from the corner. "BEESWAX, BEESWAX WINKY!"
As cold as Beswick was, his skin wrinkled from the cold rain, an even colder chill ran up his spine to the hairs on the back of his neck!

"BEESWAX, you running errands for your mommy?" The tall round shape of Cedric stepped off the corner. Cedric Whatmore was the biggest meanest bully Beswick had ever come face to face with. The first thought in Beswicks mind was to run Cedric over, but Cedric being the size he was would have probably even stopped a car!
Maybe he could steer around him and continue on his way.
As he started to veer to the other side of the road the rest of the boys stepped onto the road. They locked arms!
"Red rover red rover, BEESWAX come over" they all taunted.
Beswick had little choice, he pressed back on the pedals to apply the brake, the bicycle slowed to a stop just in front of Cedric Whatmore.

Cedric grabbed the bag from the front of the basket.
"what's in here Beeswax?" he said with a sly grin on his face.
"Just some things for my mom that's all, now give them back." replied Beswick.
Cedric just grinned. "Think you are big enough to tell me what to do?" he sneered " Your just a little worm, a worm in the ground just like your daddy!"

Beswick could feel the rage starting to overtake him. He had never really known his father who died in a mining accident when Beswick was only two.
"You take that back!" he shouted. His anger had far outstripped the fear he felt a few minutes earlier.
Cedric would have no backtalk from anyone he was challenging so he punched Beswick square on the chin. Beswicks head snapped sideways and his glasses flew into the gutter. The boys all cheered Cedric on. "Smash him! Grind the worm into the ground!"
Beswick lunged up at the hulk of a boy. Cedric stood his ground and threw him into the gutter right on top of his glasses.
Then he tore open the soap and sprinkled it all over Beswick and the gutter.
"Time to clean up BEEZWAX". The boys all laughed, poor Beswick was soaked, his lip was bleeding, he couldn't find his glasses and the soap his mother needed to do laundry was scattered in the street.
As if this wasn't enough, Cedric and the boys smashed the front wheel of the bicycle, threw the bag with the bread and milk at him and turned and ran away.

The rain did a good job hiding Beswicks tears. He wasn't crying because he was hurt, he was crying because he was angry.
He was angry at the bullies for picking on him. He was angry at the mine for taking his father. He was angry at the town for only letting his mother do laundry to try and make ends meet. But mostly he was angry at himself for being an ordinary boy!

If I was stronger, I could have stopped Cedric, he thought. If I was faster I could have gone around them! If we had money then I wouldn't have to go to the store and buy soap.
The soap! Oh No! How could he go home without the soap. His mother had no more money, she needed the soap to make more money.

Beswick decided he would go back to the store and talk to Mr. Ridley, surely he would give Beswick some more soap till he could pay for it.
He fumbled in the gutter, water up to his elbows feeling for his glasses. He found them, twisted, one lens missing. He twisted them back and put them on. Closing one eye he continued to look. The other lens was there on the sidewalk, chipped but still usable. He slipped it into the pocket of his nylon jacket and scooped up the soggy bag of bread and milk.
The bicycle wheel would turn and catch on the brakes where the boys had warped it. It couldn't be ridden but he could push it back to the store.
Beswick looked over his shoulder at the whirlpool of suds slipping down the drain.
He could hear the laughter of the boys in the distance as the dark cloud drew closer.
A flash of lightning made him look up into the driving rain.
He was wetter than he had ever been before. His shirt dripped water down his back, his jeans clung to his legs as he walked, making it harder than ever to push the broken bike.
He had six blocks to go before he reached Ridley's Store ad the bottom of the hill.
He just rounded the corner of Pine Street when he heard the first crack of thunder.
His mind was playing the same thoughts over and over again." An ordinary boy, if I had only done this... or even that..... if I wasn't so small I could have..."
The water was running into his ears, he tilted his head to let it trickle out.
"Young Master Beswick" a voice called out from the street.
He looked around to see if he had heard someone or if it was his mind playing tricks on him.
"Young Master Beswick!" the voice echoed, this time with more urgency "Come in out of the rain!" "I hardly think you mother would be too happy with me if I was to let you drown"

Beswick squinted through the one wet lens at the doorway across the square. A short man wearing a flat cap and a tweed jacket was waving him over. As Beswick came closer he could see the woolen plaid scarf around his neck, the grey trousers were too long and had been rolled up in cuffs around the ankles. A black cat with the bluest eyes Beswick had ever seen was snaking around the mans legs. Beswick swore he could hear the cat purr, but that would be impossible with the rain dancing on the tin roof.
Beswick pushed the bicycle over to the door and rested it under the eaves.
He recognized Mr. Featherstone as one of his mothers customers. She had been doing laundry for him as long as he could remember.
Mr Featherstone ushered Beswick in taking the soggy bag of bread and milk from him and placing it in the kitchen.
"Here are some dry clothes" he said "get changed in the bathroom and I will call your mother to let you know you are alright."
Mr Featherstone patted him on the shoulder with a smile. "Once you are cleaned up you can sit down to a nice bowl of hot oatmeal and we can talk about your glasses and your bike." "Don't you worry none, Young Master Beswick, I will tell your mom you are fine and we will have time to chat and maybe even discover what an extraordinary young man like you is doing, pushing a broken bike out in the rain!"