Hanks felt very lonely. Mom had a sick headache and was resting. She had this headache since she got home from taking Snort to the hospital again, a long time ago. Mom was always sad when Snort was gone and the hospital wouldn’t let the family visit him. They told mom Snort felt so bad when they left that it wasn’t good for him for them to visit. That didn’t make any sense to Hanks at all. Snort looked happy and smiled a lot and showed them how he raced down the hospital hallway to chase nurses. Hanks caught a ride on Snort’s wheelchair when she visited him. They had fun.
It made mom cry and have sick headaches when she had to wait so long before she could see him again. He is after all, just a little boy. Dad went to work. He would go in the morning even before the birds started to sing and get the big brown horse named Frank and put him in front of the wagon that carried all of the bottles of milk. Then dad and Frank would go all along the Big Lake and to the resort homes and all over town and leave milk bottles on the front steps for the families. Dad did this until after lunch. Then he came home and took a little nap and went back to make ice cream and work at his desk doing things dads do to make their business work.
So dad was no fun except when he brought home ice cream or gave Hanks a ride on his shoulders so she would be tall enough to see the fire works at the beach on the 4th of July. Mom was resting in a dark room. Snort was having fun racing down hallways at the hospital in his wheelchair. Dad was with the horses or at his desk or making ice cream. Hanks wasn’t doing anything at all.
She got the quilt mom made for her from under the dining room table and went to her bedroom to lie on her bed and be with what she called My People. That meant she began to dream. And Bradshaw might join. Who knows? It was always magic and Hanks wasn’t sure where Bradshaw was waiting for her.
First of all Hanks created 4 sisters. Every one needed to have sisters and all Hanks had was one brother. Of course, there was Bradshaw. But right now Hanks was creating My People. There was a Mother but no Father. Hanks was number 3 sister.
Number 1 sister was called Pansy and she gave piano lessons to help feed the family because there was no father to help. Number 2 sister was Lil and she had a dog Jack. Lil and Jack went to neighbours houses and gathered up other dogs and took them to the field where they could run and play and always made a lot of noise. Hanks went with them often times and she would play chase and pull and hide behind bushes and laugh and have a grand time with her sister and all the dogs. Sometimes the people who owned the dogs gave them a fresh baked apple pie or a loaf of bread or some home canned peaches. Mother made those things too, but it helped a little when there wasn’t very much money.
Vi was sister number 4 and she read out loud when the family sat around a small fire in the fireplace before going to bed. They usually ate pie or some other treat while listening to Vi read really great stories. Rose was the youngest. She climbed up in the lap of first one sister and then another and they gave her a lot of cuddles and snuggles. Hanks rather wished she could have some of that loving too, but she was too old and too big to fit on anyone’s lap.
Hanks was sitting very quietly listening to the story when she noticed out of the corner of her eye that Jack was creeping slowly toward the girls. Jack knew he wasn’t allowed in the living room by the fireplace because there wasn’t a screen to protect him from getting too close and maybe burning himself. Hanks watched carefully, not wanting him to get too close, but wanting him to come sit on her lap. Jack had a warm sweet little tummy and Hanks love holding him and rubbing him and hearing him make little muttery sounds that meant he was content.
Just when the story was getting really good Jack gave a leap and landed right on top of Hanks. Jack barked and Hanks laughed and Mother came into the room to see what all the fuss was about. Pretty soon everybody was tumbling all around the room laughing and rolling about, not Mother of course, but dog and girls and the book…..the book flew out of Vi’s hands and landed in the fire! It burst into flames.
The girls just stood by and watched, astonished at the sight of the flaming precious book. Books cost money. Lots of money. And this family didn’t have enough money to buy very many books. They stopped laughing and playing and stood quietly watching the book become ashes right in front of them. Jack stuck his tongue out, began panting and wagged his tail in delight. He felt part of the family and no one was telling him he had to leave the room.
When the book was fully burned away everybody sat down, including Mother and continued to stare at the fireplace. The embers were burning very low. It was getting dark in the room. Jack fell asleep beside Hanks. She had her hand on his warm tummy. Let’s each of us tell a story, said Mother. Let’s one begin with some lines, and then say who takes the next lines, until we have our own story to tell. Vi, you start because you were the one reading.
Once upon a time, began Vi, there was a lonely old man who lived by himself in a hut in the woods. He trapped rabbits and squirrels for his food and picked berries and drank water from a spring that made a tiny river nearby. At night he sat in his only chair with a small candle lit and carved animals out of wood he had found during the daytime. He made beautiful tiny deer, lovely wolves, he made beaver, and skunks and beautiful birds. Pansy it is your turn:
He lined up all of his beautiful animals on a shelf he had built on one of the walls of his one room home, began Pansy. One night when he was carving and smelling his catch of the day simmering on the spit over the fire he heard music way in the distance. It seemed to be coming closer. He pulled his attention away from the bird he was carving and listened intently. It was beautiful music. Like a flute, like many flutes, like maybe, your turn Hanks:
Like birds, said Hanks, the music was like the flute of birds coming together to fly over his hut. They were on their way south where it would be warm for the winter. Because it was going to be snowing soon and they needed to get someplace safe and warm. The birds flew right over the old man’s hut and landed in a tree just a little way away from him. Your turn Lil:
The old man picked up a hand full of corn he had put aside to grind up to make corn cakes and went quietly out his door and walked toward where he could still hear the birds. Now it wasn’t so much music but more like chattering and calling to each other and making a racket. He scattered the corn around the tree and stood quietly watching until one or two of the birds flew down and began to peck some food for their dinner. Others followed and the corn was soon gone. Rose, what happens next:
The birds landed on the lonely old man’s shoulders and then his head and he stretched out his arms and they flew to him and he held them like they were his friends, said Rose. The old man didn’t feel so lonely now. He looked at all the birds and laughed and thought that he could remember how they looked so he could carve some just like them with the wood he had in his house. In fact, he had a very big piece of wood and he decided he would make a very big bird instead of the tiny ones he had been making. Mother, you finish, said Rose.
Mother smiled. It took the little old man all winter long to carve his beautiful new bird, but in the spring it was done and he decided to come out of his hut and take it into town to show all the people. Everyone in town came to the park where the little man was displaying his bird. It was so very beautiful. They just all stood around and admired it and said oh my this is lovely and asked him where he had been for so long. Hanks do you have an idea? asked mother.
Hmmmm, said Hanks…..yes I do! It was getting to be a hot day so somebody offered the man a cup of water. The water spilled all over his face and dirt began to dribble right down his chin and onto his shirt. He took off his hat and ran his hand through his hair and it settled down a bit and then he took off his coat and rolled up his shirt sleeves. A little girl walked up to him and said, Are you my daddy?
Yes I am said the man who wasn’t really so little or really so old. He picked up the little girl and together they walked toward home. The beautiful bird stayed always in the park and the little girl and her daddy and mommy lived in a house in town together. The end.
Everybody sighed softly then gently got up and headed off to sleep. Jack trotted along beside Hanks and jumped up on her bed. He rubbed his eyes on her pillow and turned around 3 times making a nest for himself. Then Hanks crawled in beside him and put her hand on his soft rump. The two cuddled together in Hanks’ bed, sleeping soundly all night long.