Thursday, October 11, 2007

Friday Snipets 14

This week's snippet wraps up the THEN strand of this story with the rescue of five-year-old Briana whom we left hanging by her overall strap off the branch of a tree twenty feet above a swift flowing river.

Next week will wrap up the NOW strand in which fifteen-year-old Briana begins to find her footing as a new mother.

In last week's snippet, Briana related her dream in which she, baby Brandy and the baby's father had been caught in a flood. The father had hoisted himself onto a raft but reached back and pulled his motorcycle up instead of his girlfriend and baby with the words, "Money in the bank."

With those words, Faye, Julia and Wilma instantly knew the identity of Brandy's father and why Briana had been so carefully protecting it for over a year. He was more than ten years older than her.

There seemed to be some confusion among some of the reader's thinking they had missed something from a previous scene or they would have gotten the reveal too. But that scene was intended to set up this one. The reveal is near the end of this part.

But because of that confusion, I've been having second thoughts. I don't want readers to feel cheated or worse, stupid, when they read that scene. I am wondering if I should give the relevant character his line back in part 8 just preceding last week's scene in which Briana recounts the dream? Your thoughts?

If you need to catch up the portal is here. From there you can find part 8 where there is a roster of the characters in this scene. There are twelve people and two dogs and a cat. Well the cat isn't in the roster because it doesn't appear until this scene. I keep meaning to put the roster and some further orientation on the portal post itself but haven't got around to it.

Oh, I also want to make clear that the song Briana is singing as she hangs from the tree in parts 8 and 10 was not written by me. My research on the history of this song was among the notes and papers lost when we moved. I will relate here what I remember. My mother used to sing me this song when I was a child and I sang it to my baby sister from infancy until she was able to talk well enough to ask me to stop because it made her sad.

When I decided to use this song in this story, I asked my Mom if she knew where her Mother had learned it. Had Grandma's Mother also sang it to her? My Mom didn't think so as she remembered her own maternal Grandmother and had no memory of her singing it. She thought the song had been popular on the radio and Victrola records in the years between the two world wars. In the twenties and/or thirties.

This was in the early nineties; several years before I had the Internet. Nor did our library in Longview, Washington have it. I had to hunt through books, some of which were published a decade or more before I was born; and sheet music in a filing cabinet. I found the evidence of recordings of the song in the years decade before my Mother's birth in 1932 and further evidence that it was a popular folk-song throughout backwoods America east of the Rockies. But one source had been able to trace the song clear back to 15th century England (or it might have been the 15oos) as a song sung by the wandering street and fair singers.

It just crossed my mind tonight to do an Internet search about it to see if I could confirm my memories. I was able to confirm all but that last part which is why I couldn't be sure of which century.

At missouristate.edu I found five renditions of the song collected during the sixties. I'm going to send you to the one which sounds the closest to the way I learned it--with a slow, mournful cadence--even though I've never heard it sung by a man before and the lyrics vary quite a bit. On this page you will find links to four variations, which are worth looking at just to compare the words in the printed verses:

Babes In the Woods. FYI the left button downloads it in RealPlayer, the right button opens it in a tiny browser window and plays it with Quicktime.


Making Rag Doll Babies and Million Dollar Maybes


10

"And when it was night, so sad was their plight,
The moon had gone down and the stars gave no light.
They sobbed and they sighed and they bitterly cried.
Poor babes in the woods, they lay down and died."

Faye was listening to the mournful tune carried to the ears of the searchers congregated at the foot of the tree, eyes riveted on the spot they had last seen the singer, adjusting to the sudden dark after Travis directed Troll to switch off the camera’s light.

"We don’t want to startle her." he had said. "We don’t want her squirming around trying to see us."

"She can’t swim." Fancy’s whisper scratched the night air and sent a shiver through the group.

"No, but maybe she can fly." Travis said, his soft voice holding hope with a reverential tenderness as he peered intently into the tree and then down at the group of boulders below him. "Boys, get the climbing gear out. Be quick, but be quiet."

From her position in the middle of the group, Faye watched as Brandon and Jason, retreating several paces away from the tree, pulled lengths of looped and knotted rope from pouches attached to their belts and huddled over them with Travis. She heard their intense whispers but could make out few words and most of those floated to her on the night air like arcane spells. Carabineer. Double-loop seat. Travis gesticulating and the boys nodding solemnly. And then Brandon followed by Jason slipped loops of rope over their feet and drew them up to their crotch and cinched them in with another loop around their waist. They checked each other’s work and then exchanged terse nods with Travis and the three of them walked back toward the group under the tree.

"Climb as quietly as you can until you can talk to her face to face. Then get her attention gently and explain how important it is she not wiggle about. Then we can train the light on you and I’ll send Jason up to assist."

Brandon signaled Snow to sit and stay and with deft motions swung himself into the tree. The rest of them waited in silence, straining their ears for the sounds of his progress. But those sounds were covered by Briana’s sad song:

"And when they were dead, the robins so red
Took strawberry leaves and over them spread
And all the night long, the branches among,
They mournfully whistled and this was their song:
Poor babes in the woods, poor babes in the woods."

The song ended and there was a collective gasp from the group as a figure, dark limbs flapping the air, seemed to drop out of the sky and float in front of Briana. "Are you an angel?" Even Briana’s speaking voice was musical, the pure tones of curiosity and acceptance carrying effortlessly on the night air.

"Lights." Brick said to Troll in response to Brandon’s signal. And at a nod from him, Jason swung himself into the tree.

"Houston, we have a problem." Came Brandon’s voice garbled with static over the walkie-talkie in Brick’s hand. "Our little canary has caught herself a cat. Over.’

"I bet it’s the kitten that followed me to the bus stop this morning." Faye said.

"Houston copies, Apollo." Brick said into the walkie-talkie. "Stand by." Brick put a hand to his forehead, removed his hat and snugged it back down. "This complicates things." He muttered to his feet. He toggled the walkie-talkie.
"You’re going to have to pass the golden fleece to the Argonaut. Over." he said.

"She calls it Feisty." Brandon answered. "She’s got it tucked inside her shirt and both arms wrapped around it. Won’t let go for the world. Over."

"Ask her if she thinks she can not wiggle no matter how much it tickles or struggles or scratches. Explain why it’s so important. Over."

"She says ‘Yes’, Houston. Over." Brandon answered after a brief exchange with Briana.

"What do you think, Apollo? Over."

"She’s a fighter, Houston. I think she’s got the right stuff. Over."

"OK then. This is what you do. Take off your shirt and cinch it around her waist so the cat can’t escape down her leg. Then button her shirt to the top. Including the collar button. Over."

"All set, Houston. Over."

"Is the Argonaut in place? Over." Brick asked.

"Affirmative, Houston. Over." Jason’s voice, thin with stress, answered. Faye could see his silhouette against the sky, straddling the branch above Briana.

"Proceed as planned. Over." Brick then turned to Troll and directed him to shine the light onto the jumble of boulders that crowded the bank beneath them and curdled the water nearly to mid river. Then to everyone’s astonishment he leapt off the bank onto the nearest one and clambered from one to another until he reached the one directly under Brandon and Briana.

Meanwhile Brandon had eased another of the looped rope harnesses onto Briana and secured it to his own so that they were tethered together, as with an umbilical cord, belly to belly. He leaned his head down so she could reach up and clasp her hands behind his neck. With one hand bracing her back, he gestured to Jason with the other. Jason grasped the desiccated branch that skewered her overall strap with both hands and gave one sharp tug. It broke loose with an audible snap that reminded Faye of the sound the Thanksgiving turkey wishbone made when she and Julia had performed that childhood ritual from the time they were Briana’s age until Julia left for Nam. [note: not sure if the Vietnam war fits the new time line I worked out this summer during 70 Days of Sweat so this might change.]

"Hope he made a good wish." Julia said surprising Faye, not with her uncanny way of thinking the same thing as her twin, but because she had never set much store by wishes since her return from Nam, had in fact often scorned her sister for doing so.

Jason released the jagged-ended stick and Fancy loosed a raggedy moan as it fell and they all herd it rebound off a boulder before splashing into the river. Faye shivered again, against imagination as much as the chill as Jason scooted further out on the limb until he was over Brandon’s position. He gripped the branch with his knees, locking his ankles together underneath before letting go with both hands and reaching for the ropes that supported Brandon and Briana.

Troll’s light, which had been held steady on Jason since he first reached for the branch Briana hung from, now focused on Briana with her arms around Brandon’s neck, her face nested against his collarbone, following them as they were gently lowered toward the boulder below where Brick waited. As soon as he could reach the harness at Brandon’s waist, Brick attached the end of another length of rope to it and then clambered back across the boulders to the bank with his end of the rope. Once there he pulled gently on the rope and its two passengers swung toward him. But Brandon’s feet were yards shy of connecting with dry land when they reached the apogee of their arc.

"Brick raised the Walkie-talkie. "Argonaut, play out a couple more yards. Over."

The figures on the rope lowered until Brandon’s feet were bombarded by spray thrown off by the boulders, appearing in Troll’s light like a blizzard of diamonds. This time Brick’s pull brought Brandon and Briana straight into his chest with enough force to stagger him backwards. But he threw an arm around Brandon’s waist under Briana’s hips and sat heavily on the path with them in his lap.

Before they could sort themselves out Fancy, Cassandra and Mae Bea had fallen to their knees around them, all reaching for Briana at once, patting her back, caressing her hair, scolding her. But they all backed away when Briana squealed, "Wait! I gotta get Feisty."

"I’ll show you a thing or two about feisty, young lady!" Cassie said as Brandon unhooked the umbilical and helped Briana to her feet. "If you ever scare us like that again."

Briana arched her back and squirmed around the writhing swell of cloth over her belly.

She fumbled for the buttons at her neck with one hand and clutched at the bib of her overalls with the other. "Just hold your britches, baby." she gasped.

"Let me help." Faye reached over and undid the buttons and a furry head pushed its way out hissing and snapping at Faye’s fingers. "You have been well, and truly named." she said to the kitten who slid out into her hands blinking fiercely in the brilliant light.

"So, Briana, how did you get yourself into such a fine fix?" Jerrica asked.

"I was trying to take that kitten home to Mama Cat. Anybody can see it is much too little to be all alone in the woods. But it got away from me and got itself stuck in the tree so I had to climb up there to get it. Then I got stuck too. We were both stuck together for a long, long time." she sighed.

"Weren’t you scared?" Jerrica asked.

"Well, we started to be when it got dark. But I prayed for an angel to rescue us. And lo and behold." Briana looked up at Brandon with wonder-filled eyes

Brick laughed. "Apollo may be agile, but an angel he is not."

"Thanks for the vote of confidence, Houston." Brandon shot back.

"Actually I have more confidence in agility than in angels." Brick said.

"Well I have confidence in my dog." Brandon said as he signaled Snow to come to him for a pat and an ear rub. "We couldn’t have done it without him. I think Snow is about ready to go pro, don’t you?"

"Let’s not forget Snoopy." Jason now down from the tree, joined the group around Briana with Snoopy at heel. Snoopy was carrying the shoe and at a signal from Jason presented it to Briana.

Briana took it and threw her arms around Snoopy saying, "Oh, Snoopy did you snoop out my shoe? Thank-you, thank-you, thank-you." Snoopy wriggled with joy and slurped Briana’s cheek.

"Hey, doesn’t Snow rate a thank-you?" Brandon asked. "Let’s not forget it was Snow who found the shoe first and Snoopy who picked it up against protocol."

"Yes, yes, yes." Briana said rushing at Snow with open arms but Brandon blocked her way.

"No, not like that." Brandon said. He positioned Briana in front of Snow and said, "Snow, shake hands."

Snow raised a paw and Briana took it. "Thank-you so much, Sir Snow."

"You mustn’t encourage a search and rescue dog to play while on duty. You’ll spoil him for the work." Brandon said. "I trained Snow myself. He’s money in the bank."

"Well, you can’t spoil a kitten with too much love." Faye said, a much calmer Feisty nuzzling her earlobe. "And I believe, young lady, that you need to get that shoe back on so you can complete your mission. This little one needs her mama."

4 tell me a story:

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