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Donna Winters

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Member Since: Sep, 2009

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Featured Book
Just Folks: Earthy Tales of the Prairie Heartland
by Jerry Engler

Fiction short stories predominantly humor, irony, with some history, nostalgia and poignancy. Many are in rural settings. Earthy implies close to the earth..  
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Chapter 5 from Fayette - A Time to Leave
By Donna Winters
Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Rated "G" by the Author.

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Spring 1886 in Upper Michigan poses new challenges for Violet Harrigan and her widowed mother. As they prepare to open a boarding house in hopes of supporting themselves and Violet's younger brother and sister, work gives way to frolic, and then to memories of her beloved father who passed away a year earlier.

 

 “Celina! Look!” Violet cried. The moment her friend turned toward her, Violet let the pillow fly.
Celina ducked, covering her dark head with her arms.
The pillow sailed past her into the hallway, hitting Violet’s mother soundly in the midsection.
With lightning reflexes, Lavinia caught the pillow, stepped into the doorway of the boarding house bedroom and fixed a stern look on Violet.
“I’m sorry, Mama! I didn’t mean—”
Before she could even finish apologizing, her mother’s offended look changed to a mischievous grin and she sent the pillow back to Violet with a well-aimed toss of her own.
Violet caught it easily but before she could return the shot, her mother had picked up a second pillow from the stack on the bed and rushed toward her, a determined look in her brown eyes.
“You naughty girl!” She laughed, and began spanking Violet’s derrièr with the feather pillow.
Giggling, Violet spanked back.
Celina came after her friend to give a pillow spanking of her own.
“Shame on you, Celina Legard!” Violet laughed, swinging the pillow at her.
Lavinia followed suit. “Yes! Shame on you, Celina! This is all your fault!”
Moi? Au contraire, Madame!” Celina protested. Unable to withstand the assault, she collapsed on the bed in laughter.
Violet turned again to her mother, trading pillow whacks with her until they, too, fell on the bed in a heap of giggles.
When the laughter had died down, Lavinia sat up, wiping happy tears from her cheeks. “I haven’t laughed this hard since … ”
Violet knew what her mother was thinking. She hadn’t laughed this hard since Papa died. But Violet wasn’t about to give voice to those words. Instead, she said thoughtfully, “It was good to hear you laugh again, Mama.” 
Lavinia smiled and gazed down at her fondly. “And it was good to hear you laugh.”
Celina propped herself up on an elbow, her blue eyes twinkling. “And to think it was all my fault!”
Violet giggled. “Yes, your fault, Celina!” She pushed her friend’s elbow out from under her and the two of them laughed some more.
Still smiling, Lavinia rose to her feet and wagged a finger at the two. “I guess I’ll know who to blame if our work isn’t done on time.” Turning serious, she reminded them, “This boarding house is supposed to be ready for guests in two days. We still have to clean the place thoroughly, air all the towels, sheets, blankets, and pillows, and make up all the beds, not to mention moving our belongings from Mama and Papa’s and unpacking them.” She referred to her folks’ home next door where she and her children had been living for several months.
Violet hopped to her feet, observing with a smile, “At least these three pillows have been aired!”
Celina rose and scooped up an armful of bed linens. “Come, Violet. Help me air these sheets outdoors. I will not be the cause of delay for your mother’s new boarding house business!”
Without hesitation Violet sprang from the bed, grabbed some blankets, and followed her friend downstairs and outside. The smell of furnace smoke and the clang of hammers on pig iron again filled the air after months of idleness. The birth of Hope Fayette and the meaning of her name had indeed signified a change for the better. With the furnaces hungry for fuel, Celina’s father and brothers could again sell their charcoal, bringing enough money for her oldest brother, Augustus, to get married and buy the Sac Bay house that Violet’s family had left vacant nearly a year ago.
Here in Fayette, furnace men were returning to work and needed a bed to sleep on and meals to eat. Her mother had arranged with the Jackson Iron Company to reopen the boarding house that had been closed by the Lindbergs before their move to Wisconsin. But her mother couldn’t do it alone. She was relying on Violet’s help to make the business successful. As Violet shook a blanket in the fresh air blowing in from the harbor, she was determined not to let her mother down.
For the rest of the morning and into the afternoon, she and Celina helped to air the linens, dust the furniture left behind by the Lindbergs, mop the floors, and wash down the kitchen walls. Meanwhile, next door, Rose and Grandma McAdams had been packing trunks and crates. By late afternoon, all was in readiness for the move.
Guy, Dan, and Joseph, who had spent the day catching fish for the evening meal, returned to carry belongings to the boarding house. Soon, Dan’s trunk had been hauled to the attic where he would have his own, private quarters. The ladies’ trunks and bags lined the master bedroom on the first floor, off the kitchen. The parlor, with its bare floor and sparse furnishings, echoed with Violet’s footsteps when she passed through to open the front door. There, Dan and Joseph were waiting with a chest of household goods—the maple chest with the heart that her father had carved into the lid. The sight of it sent a pain of longing into Violet’s own heart. 
Guy entered behind Dan and Joseph with a heavy crate. Setting it beside the chest, he stooped to pick up the whistle that lay on top, and turned to Violet with a sentimental smile. “I remember well how your papa could chase cares away with the tunes from this whistle. When he played, everybody danced!”
Dan came alongside and drew the whistle from Guy’s hands. His brown eyes thoughtful, he studied it for a moment, then put it to his lips and began to play The Galway Piper, stopping the instant he saw his mother enter the room. 
Though her eyes glistened, she smiled and insisted with words and gesture, “Play on, Son!” At the sound of the first note, she lifted her skirt and began the heel-toe dance of the jig, her face lighting with pleasure.
Guy cast off his black beret and took Violet by the hand. Then, as they had done since childhood, they too danced the jig. 
Celina, who had gone outdoors to bring the laundry in from the line, quickly set clean clothes on a bench and took up the jig with her nimble younger brother, Joseph.
Violet couldn’t remember the last time her feet—and her heart—felt so light. The room awhirl with dancers, she could see her father smiling down from heaven and hear him clapping time to the rhythm. For the next few minutes, as long as the whistle was playing, Papa’s spirit was right there, flooding her with happy memories that banished all sadness. 
Too soon, the jig was up. Her mother, a little out of breath, brushed a loose strand of brown hair from her rosy cheek as she approached Dan. “I’d forgotten how good it is for the soul to dance. Thank you for reminding me, Son!” Patting her brow with her handkerchief, she gazed at the crate and trunk. “I suppose we must get on with the unpacking now, but promise me, Son, that you’ll play for us again real soon, won’t you?”
“Of course, Mama!” With a satisfied smile, he polished the whistle on his shirtsleeve and carefully set it back in the crate.
As Violet bent to pick up the laundry that needed folding, she heard the front door open, followed by the panicked voice of Rose.
“Mama! Come quick! Something’s wrong with Grandma!”
 


 

 

 

 

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