Monday, August 20, 2012
Melvin Tanner was walking down Main Street enjoying the beautiful early summer weather. He strolled by St. Peter's Church where he came upon the vicar and a young man planting petunias in the flower bed in front of the church. He greeted the two and introduced himself. The planting was almost completed and Vicar Willard Duesenberry left his handyman to finish the job while he and Melvin entered the church office for a cup of Alma Shrum's tasty coffee.
Alma had been the church housekeeper and cook for as long as she could remember. She loved the vicar like a son and was very protective of him. She was thrilled that her granddaughter, Kate and the vicar were a couple although their courtship was going terribly slow. Alma brought out a pot of freshly brewed coffee and a plate of oatmeal cookies that she had just taken out of the oven. One bite into the warm cookie and Melvin's heart melted. It had been 25 years since Melvin's wife passed away. He had never even considered becoming involved with another woman until now.
The vicar was interested in how the professor happened to become Cody Hill's guardian. He believed in miracles and saw the professor's tale as proof that they are possible. Melvin checked his pocket watch and realized he had taken up well over an hour of the vicar's time.
“No bother at all, Professor. I have enjoyed our chat very much and I hope you will join me for dinner very soon. Mrs. Schrum is a superb cook as you can tell by my expanding waistline.”
Mrs. Schrum entered the room just then and poo pooed the idea that the vicar was fat.
“You are too skinny, vicar. You need to put some more meat on your bones.”
Melvin chuckled at Mrs. Schrum's gentle teasing. He would like to have asked if there was a Mr. Schrum but he couldn't think of a way to say it without seeming forward. Before he knew it he had blurted out, “Mrs. Schrum, I would like very much to get to know you better and wonder if I may have another of those wonderful cookies. Oatmeal are my favorite.”
Melvin's face turned red and he was mortified at what just came out of his mouth. The vicar had never known Alma Schrum to be speechless but she just stared at the professor with her mouth open.
“Alma, why don't you show the professor around the church grounds, the roses are beautiful now.”
Alma took hold of the professor's arm and guided him out the back door to the garden. She finally found her voice and the two talked so long it was almost dinnertime and she hadn't even begun preparations.
The vicar told Alma to take the night off. He was going to ask Kate to stop over after school and together they would be able to find something to sustain them for the evening.
“Professor, the Marino Trattoria has a wonderful menu in case you and Alma are hungry a little later.”
Kate found it incredible that her grandmother had a beau. She couldn't wait to write to her mother to give her the news. The letter could wait. Tonight she was going to cook up a storm to show Will she was almost as good at cooking as her grandmother.
The vicar was standing in the doorway smiling at this beautiful girl. He had a ring burning a hole in his pocket just waiting for the right time to pop the question. Maybe tonight would be the night. Every time he planned to ask Kate to be his wife, one of his parishioners knocked on the door in need of his help. The meal was wonderful. Every bit as good as Alma's. The mashed potatoes were heavenly and the gravy was sinful. Just the way Will liked it. As he was taking the last bite of his peach pie, there was a knock on the door.
Will was called away and Kate stayed behind to clean up the kitchen and said to the cat, “I'd better get use to these interruptions if I am to be a clergyman's wife. I just wish Will would give me that ring he has been carrying around with him all this time.”
Alma and Melvin had been inseparable since the day they met in the vicar's office. Melvin stopped by to escort her to the Founder's Day picnic. Excitement spread through the whole town. Other than Independence Day and Christmas, the Founder's Day Picnic was the biggest event in Camden Corners. Alma's picnic lunch consisted of fried chicken, potato salad, cucumbers and tomatoes from the garden and two pieces of chocolate cake with fudge frosting. She also carried along her entry for the pie bidding contest, a strawberry pie brimming over with strawberries picked just this morning. Melvin's mouth was watering. He loved sweets of any kind and Alma was very good at making his favorites. He wondered why it took him so long to find a companion and then realized he was just waiting for Alma to come into his life. Alma was proud walking arm in arm with Melvin. Her dear Harlan passed away just before Vicar Will became pastor of St. Peter's Church. Harlan was the head caretaker of the church and planted many of the trees that were towering over the grounds now. It never occurred to Alma that anyone would be taking Harlan's place in her life and in her heart. Somehow she knew he would approve of her choice in Melvin. Harlan had a sweet tooth too and Alma loved baking. The vicar was much too conscious of his waistline and never had seconds of Alma's delicious treats.
As promised, everyone was having a wonderful time at the picnic. Cody and April came in a close second in the three legged race. They were beaten by Joe and Diana as Iris watched them rolling over with laughter.
Oscar, Chris Pringle, Doc McMillan and Isaac Nichols strolled through the picnickers in their Barber Shop Quartet garb singing in beautiful harmony.
Croquet and horseshoe games were being played all over the park. Some of the older fellows found a nice big tree and set up their checkers game. Kate and the vicar organized relay races for every age group. Sounds of laughter could be heard throughout the park. April Hawthorne's blueberry pie turned out very nicely and Cody bid a whole day's pay on it.
The sky began to turn a little dark and everyone started packing up after a long and happy day. Iris, Timmy Hawthorne and some of the Burke and Mackenzie children were playing tag down by the lake. Nettie found Cody and asked him to run quickly to the lake to bring Iris to her mother. He started toward the lake and April followed along with him. Just as they approached Iris and the rest of the youngsters, the sky turned very dark.
Nettie, who was watching from the picnic area had a terrible sinking feeling. She remembered looking into the crystal ball a few days ago and it looked just like the dark sky above. Oscar felt it too and wrapped his arms around Nettie. Within the next few seconds a bolt of lightning shot through the sky to where Iris was standing and struck her. Nettie screamed as Iris fell to the ground. Cody ran to her and very calmly got down on his knees and pressed gently on her chest stopping and starting and covering her mouth with his began breathing air into her little lifeless body. Diana and Joe came running.
“What are you doing to my baby?” she yelled at Cody who was continuing with this strange procedure.
She and Joe both tried to reach their daughter but their legs seemed to be glued to the ground. Doc McMillan looked on in amazement. He didn't know what Cody was doing but he could see the little girl start to move and then cry out. Cody leaned back and Iris looked over at Diana.
“Mama went back home.” she said in a weak little voice.
“I'm right here, sweetheart.” said Diana as she took Iris in her arms.
“No, my other Mama. She said I would be alright and that I needed to stay here with my new Mama and Papa.”
Doc McMillan examined Iris immediately and determined that she was in excellent health. He suggested the Taylors take her home and bring her by his office in the morning. He was shaking Cody's hand and told the crowd that what Cody had done saved Iris' life. Everyone was congratulating Cody and calling him a hero.
He turned to April, “I'm not a hero. Something or someone made me do what I did and I'm not even sure what that was.”
Nettie and Oscar were both relieved that Iris was going to be fine. Nettie was still shaking at the sight of the lightning bolt hitting the little girl. Ethel and Jonas were visibly upset too.
“There was something about that crystal ball that predicted what just happened.” said Ethel.
“That is impossible, my dear” said her husband.
The vicar joined the foursome, he had overheard something about a crystal ball. Jonas explained that they had bought it at an estate sale.
“Something strange came over me and I had to bring that thing home. Jonas tried to tell me to leave it there, but I insisted and look at what happened.” Tears were welling in her eyes.
“Now dear, I'm just as much to blame. I could have been more forceful but the truth was, I didn't really want to stop you from buying it. There was something about that thing that seemed to take over.”
“I know what you mean, Jonas. That was how it affected me too.”
Nettie agreed with both of them. She told them about what she saw in the ball and how it made her feel. She was happy it dropped and broke. Oscar then told how it appeared to almost be alive when he disposed of it in the trash.
The vicar was listening intently. “You know I am in a business where miracles are promised. Do you think maybe the crystal ball was just warning all of you of that lightning bolt?”
“Nettie, I remember you telling Cody to hurry to get Iris. You didn't mention the other children and they were all together. Is it possible you knew something was going to happen to Iris even though your conscious mind didn't know what it was?”
Cody had joined the group by this time. “Cody, you said you didn't know what or why you were doing what you did to Iris but according to Doc McMillan, you saved the little girl's life. Diana and Joe both said they were going to stop you but they couldn't get their feet to move. Little Iris seems to think her mother was with her when she was unconscious. Maybe her mother was protecting her from what she knew was going to happen. We will never know, but don't fault yourselves because you were tempted by the crystal ball. We members of the clergy don't normally advocate anything resembling predictions of the future but in this case, I think we should make an exception.”
Everyone agreed that they would not talk about the crystal ball anymore or tell the other townspeople about the strange happenings around it.
The park cleared out just as the clouds disappeared and the moon shone brightly along with several stars including one that was twinkling especially bright that night. The friends all smiled at one another as they wiped away a tear from their eyes.
After Oscar and Nettie arrived home, Oscar looked in the trash and saw that the crystal ball had shattered into little pieces. The glass was as clear and bright as could be and had lost its menacing appearance. He called to Nettie pointing out what had happened to the three broken pieces. There was no darkness or bright light shining from the remains. It looked just like what it was, a broken glass ball with no magical powers.