Sunday, August 29, 2004

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."


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