Chapter 1 Crows
His teacher was talking to him very intently. Her eyebrows were going up and down, up and down. He put his hands on both sides of his head to force his eyes to watch her lips. He worked to direct his hearing to the words she was saying. He caught her last phrase: “So, what did I just tell you?”
He smiled big. He knew the answer. “You said you were very tired and you want to get home. You said I am an annoying little boy who you keep having the same problems with day after day. You said I smell like onions, and also that one of my shoelaces is untied. You said…”
“That’s enough,” said his teacher quietly. “What I said was your homework assignment is chapter 14. Tomorrow you need to bring to school a one page essay giving three reasons why King Henry the Eighth formed the Church of England.”
Tom looked puzzled. He thought for a bit. “Oh,” he said. “Okay. I can do that. Thanks.”
Miss Robinson smiled at Tom. But it was a forced and tired smile. Tom was right, she really did want to get home. It had been a long day.
Tom put his books in his satchel and stuck his head out of the classroom door into the hallway. He looked to the left. Then to the right. He couldn’t believe his good luck. There was Richard.
“Hey little buddy,” hollered Richard. “How’s my little buddy?” Richard scooped Tom up and put him on his shoulders. Tom was amused. He was in 7th grade now and Richard insisted on putting him on his shoulders. Richard was huge. Kids made fun of him because he was so big. Tom did too when he first met him. Richard didn’t care. He liked all his little classmates. Nobody could make him mad. Tom liked having a big friend. He also liked that he could always hear Richard when he spoke. What came out of Richard’s mouth was just what Richard was saying. Most people said so many things all at the same time, it was hard for Tom to sort it all out.
“I saw you barking at a dog again,” said Richard.
“Dogs are so stupid,” said Tom. “Every morning this black lab comes running up to me, ‘You’re my friend, you’re my friend, you’re my friend.’ I’m not his friend. Guaranteed. Every morning I tell him that.’”
“So when you bark, you’re telling him you’re not his friend?”
“Yes. He drives me crazy. Most dogs at least have one interesting thing to say, but not that dog. You know the big poodle from that grey house about a block from here? Whenever he sees me, he says, ‘Bring your cat the next time you come. I’ll totally destroy your cat.’ I tell him, ‘In your dreams you dog, my cat will scratch your nose right off your face.’ Then the dog laughs. He thinks it’s hilarious. Same joke every time. But pretty good for a dog.”
Richard ran down the school steps with Tom on his shoulders. Tom hunched down and tightened his knees around Richard’s neck and his arms around the top of his head. They came to the outside door. Tom hunched down even further to keep his head from smashing on the top of the door frame.
They were outside. What a relief! All the noise of all the kids’ hollerings echoing off the walls was behind them. It was spring time. Tom heard a couple of red squirrels chattering. They said, “run, run, quick, run.” He heard a cardinal. Cardinals, like most smaller birds, were hard to understand. Maybe its call was something like, “Alive” Or maybe “Hear me.”
“Going home?” Richard asked.
“Yep,” said Tom. “I have to get rid of my books. Change my clothes. Get my bike. What are you going to be doing?”
“Whatever you do. You want me to wait for you at your house?”
“I don’t know,” said Tom. “My mom always wants to talk to me about my day at school. I hope my teacher didn’t call her again.”
“My mom wouldn’t care,” said Richard.
“I thought you didn’t have a mom. I thought you lived with your dad.”
“I have a mom. How do you think I got born?” Richard laughed. He pulled Tom off his shoulders and put him on the sidewalk to see if Tom got the joke.
Tom looked at Richard. He looked at him carefully. That’s all Richard had to say. Not anything else. Nothing sad. Just a big smile from his good joke.
There was a crow up ahead sitting in the middle of the street. Richard hollered at the crow. “Get out of the street, you dumb bird.”
To Tom’s surprised, the crow answered back, “Mind your own business, you dumb Craugh.”
“What’s a Craugh?” Tom asked. The crow flew off.
“What’s a what?” said Richard. But Tom heard something else from Richard. It was the first time ever he had heard anything from Richard besides what he said with his voice. What was it that he heard? Was it Richard reacting to what the crow said to him?”
Richard put Tom back on his shoulders. They didn’t talk after that. Tom and Richard usually didn’t talk. They just did stuff together. They got to Tom’s house. Richard reached over and put him on the top step. Tom had to take a step down to open the door.
‘“I’ll wait for you,” said Richard.
His mom was in living room on the sewing machine. His ten month old sister was grabbing at the cloth material on the floor. When his sister saw him, she made happy baby sounds. “Hi, hi, hi to you too,” said Tom. “Hey mom. What are you working on?”
“Curtains,” said his mom. “No trouble in school today?”
“Mom, I never get in trouble. Miss Robinson didn’t call did she?”
“Why should she call?”
“She shouldn’t. There was no trouble, I promise.” He hugged his mom. “I’m going to do something with Richard. Probably we’ll just go down to the creek and mess around.
“Don’t fall in,” his mom told him. “Should you wear your boots?”
“Maybe. I’ll take my boots in my satchel.”
“Make sure you don’t put them back in your satchel all muddy.”
Tom changed his clothes, grabbed his boots, his satchel and a couple of cookies. Then he grabbed three more cookies and went out the door. Richard was watching something.
“Hey,” said Tom. He threw him the cookies, one at a time. “You want something to drink?” he asked.
“Nah,” said Richard. He was still watching something. Tom followed his eyes. “What are you looking at?” Tom asked.
“Nothing,” said Richard.
“That crow over there?” Tom asked.
“Yeah, that crow,” said Richard.
Tom called over to the crow in the cawing of a crow, “What do you want crow? What are you up to?”
The crow bobbed up its head and looked at him. Then it flew away.
“That’s a smart crow,” said Tom. “It can talk.”
“I thought all animals could talk,” said Richard.
“Sort of,” said Tom. “Animals don’t use words like people. You just sort of understand what they are saying. But this crow, it was like it was talking like a person, and it was talking to you like it knew you.
The two of them walked down the sidewalk together. They were an odd looking pair. From their faces, one could see they were both around 12 years old, but Richard was six feet tall and stocky. Tom was a foot and a half shorter and thin. Richard had a measured walk. Tom’s walk was a step, then a skip, then a run. He had to walk like that to keep up with Richard. But as often as not, Richard had Tom on his shoulders.
“Let’s go to that cave again,” said Richard. “Maybe the water is down so we walk inside of it.”
“That’s so cool that we have a cave right in the middle of our town. Hey,” said Tom. “I’d say that crow was following us, except that it’s always ahead of us. Dogs do that too, you know. They follow you in front of you.”
“Talk to it again,” said Richard.
“Hey crow,” Tom crowed. “What’s your name and why are you following us?”
The crow did not respond.
“How did you learn to talk crow?” asked Richard.
“I listen to them. I repeat what they say. I hear how they respond so I can sort of figure if what I said something makes sense to them.
Tom and Richard arrived at the park. Some of their friends were playing basketball.
Tom said, “If you want to play basketball, go ahead. I’ll do something else.”
“No,” said Richard, “You and me will explore the cave.”
They walked to an undeveloped part of the park and went under a walking bridge that went over the creek. They went through some high weeds and came out to a sandy area of the creek. Up ahead was the cave.
“It looks like our crow friend beat us to it,” said Tom as they could see the crow flying into the cave.
The creek had an inlet that went into the cave. Tom pulled his boots out of his satchel and put them on. Richard rolled up his pants but walked right into the water with his shoes still on. Both Tom and Richard had to hunch over to get into the cave. After walking hunched for several minutes, they saw a large cavern in front of them.
“We should have brought a torch,” said Richard.
“I did,” said Tom. He dug in his satchel and found it. He pushed the button and nothing happened. He knocked the torch against his leg and suddenly they saw crows, like about 200 of them.
“Welcome,” crowed one of the crows. “Thank you for joining us.”
Tom looked at Richard. He didn’t seem surprised. Tom was scared. “Richard, what’s this?”
Richard looked around. “A bunch of crows!”
Dear Pole (or should I call you Jill now?):
I can’t tell you how pleased I was to receive your letter. I’d given up hope that I’d ever hear from you after your family moved across the Pond. Yes, of course I’ve heard of the state of Minnesota. And from your letter, I now know it’s north and in the middle of America . Where you live sounds pretty incredible. I can’t imagine being able to walk for miles without seeing another human being (though I guess the two of us sort of experienced that before). Your restaurant sounds fun. You always did take a special interest in food. I’ve become a bit of a vegetarian since eating that stag at Harfang. I thought the only thing Americans ate were hamburgers and hot-dogs. But to think you are serving real food in a small town in Minnesota and actually making a go of it—neat!
Just recently my life became pretty interesting. I graduated from the University last Spring with an electrical engineering degree. I work for the post office in their research department. What? You didn’t know the post office had a research department? Neither did I until one of my professors found me a job in their Radiophone Service. We plan to offer a wireless telephone service to people in Manchester, maybe as early as next fall. I’m guessing it will be incredibly expensive. But, be that as it may, the reason my life became interesting is because I’m now the adoptive father of a 12 year old boy.
You know my mother. Of course you know my mother. Everyone knows my mother. She came up to Manchester because she had heard there was a young boy who was found in the train station here. He had no suit case, no identification and when asked about himself, he appeared to be mute. And one more thing: He was huge. Social services tried to find a foster care family for him, but no one would take him. I don’t know what else they tried, but they ended up putting him in a jail cell until they could figure something out. My mother heard about this child on the news and she was angry. She took the train up to Manchester and went straight to the police department demanding to see the chief constable. He was not in, and the jail officer told her she would have to come back tomorrow. Her intentions were to set all the officials up here straight and to get this boy released. But where was he to go? My mom came to my house to stay the night, and being the insolent son that I am, I asked her if maybe she could take in this poor boy. She had never heard anything so absurd. This was something that the government needed to take care of, and it was just another example of how awful our government had become.
Then, to be even more contrary, I said to her, “Maybe this is not something our government can do anything about. But it is something I can do something about. I’ll go with you to the police station tomorrow and we’ll bring him to my house.”
“You are such a difficult child,” she said to me. “Harold (that’s my dad) and I have poured our whole lives into you but you just don’t seem to get it, do you? You just don’t understand why it’s so important for us to hold our government responsible. This is not about you. This is not about just one child. This is about a whole British government system.”
I told her I thought maybe it was more important that I hold myself responsible than to hold the government responsible. I was feeling pretty good about myself when I told her that. So good, that I was amused and not angry when she responded, “You’re still a child. How could you ever take care of a child?”
The next day she did allow me to take her to the police station. When she went into the chief constable’s office, I went in with her. After she had gone on a twenty minutes tirade about the horrible thing this constable and all of England had done to this poor child, I said, “I will take the boy. I am willing to be his caretaker until his parents can be found.” At this point I was feeling like I was Saint Francis. I was thinking so very smugly about how much I had changed. Here was me, Eustace, now obviously the nicest guy in all of Manchester being that I was the only one willing to take this boy.
The constable took me and my mother back down the hall to the cell. The boy was sitting upright looking straight ahead. Something about him looked familiar. The superintendent unlocked the cell door. My mother went right in, talking at the boy as she went. “So this is how they’ve been treating you. Tell me your name young man. I want to know everything that they’ve done to you since you first arrived here. What has happened to you is unacceptable in a civilized world. Unacceptable."
The boy continued to look straight ahead. He wasn’t going to look at us. So I looked at him, closely. Those tiny eyes, those amazing eyebrows, the thick lips and thick forehead. I knew who I was looking at. This kid was a giant. A Narnian giant; of the giants who had made arrangements to eat you and me the last time we were with them.
So now what was I going to do? But I didn’t have to decide because my mother who had thought it so absurd that I would be taking this boy home with me was taking this boy home with me. She helped him put on a too small jacket, given to him by the police (or somebody). She took him by the arm and led him down the hall. She directed the constable to bring out the papers that needed to be signed and showed me where to sign. Then she helped him into my car and directed me to take her to the train depot so she could get back to Oxford.
This boy has been with me all of two days now. My boss was pretty annoyed with me when I called him to let him know I wouldn’t be in to work. He asked me if I was sick and I told him I had a family situation. “I thought you lived alone,” he said to me. “Not anymore,” I told him.
By the way, I received the oddest thing from my boss. He had asked me to get a monograph out of one of his file cabinets that he thought might be pertinent to this project we were working on. Way at the back of the file was this little gold bell hanging from an arch on a base that had a gold hammer on a chain attached to it. I pulled it out of the drawer because I wondered what it was. I asked him about it and he looked pretty sheepish. “When you’re young you do stupid things,” he said to me. “When I was in Egypt during the war, I found it in one of the government building we were occupying—and I took it. Or stole it, I guess. It’s got to be some sort of an artifact. If you would take it, you would be doing me a favor. I don’t need to be explaining to anyone how I have it and why I hadn’t turned it in a long time ago.” So I did him the favor. I’m sure it’s all of gold. It looks very magical, especially as there is some minute very precise hieroglyphic writing on the base of the arch. Next time I’m in London, I’ll bring it to that Petrie Museum. Hopefully somebody there will be able to read it. I’ll take some pictures of it and send them to you—as soon as I get a camera.
Jill, I’ve got to get going.
I’m so very pleased to be back in touch with you.
I’ll write you more the second I can find time.
Chapter 3 Beat Up
Tom had to look. Who was this girl who was so incredibly beautiful, whose slightly protruding teeth sent chills down a person’s spine? Mary Beth? She was his friend—nothing special about her. That boy who was talking to her. Tom could see he would need to start shaving pretty soon. His mustache was some significant peach fuzz.
The boy stopped talking to Mary Beth. He was now talking to Tom. “What are you looking at? Get out of here.”
“Hi Mary Beth,” said Tom.
“Get out of here,” said the boy.
Mary Beth said to him, “This is my friend Tom. He’s been my friend since we were little kids.”
The boy shifted his feet around. He looked at Mary Beth. Her hair was amazing. Each strand was a slightly different shade of brown. He loved her braids.
“I guess she does have nice hair,” said Tom. “I like her braids too.”
“Get out of here!” the boy hollered.
Mary Beth turned her head and walked away. Tom ran to catch up with her. “Where are you going?” he asked.
“Tom, you know you’re suppose to listen to people’s words. You’re only suppose to talk to people’s words. You’ve gotten really bad about that lately. You creep people out. You make them angry.”
“That kid was angry,” said Tom.
“He had a crush on me. Couldn’t you figure out that maybe he would be mad if you said to him what you did?”
“I’m baffled,” said Tom. “I just heard this kid saying so loudly how incredibly beautiful this girl was and that she had these most amazing protruding teeth. Then I looked and I saw he was talking about you.” Tom laughed. Then he laughed harder, and Mary Beth started laughing too.
“He really said my protruding teeth were amazing? Since when do I have protruding teeth?”
“He said your protruding teeth sent chills down his spine,” said Tom.
“Oh brother,” said Mary Beth. “Boys are too weird.”
“But you said he was cute and that you liked the way his voice cracked. That’s weird. That’s gotta be weird.”
“Tom, you did not hear me with my voice say that so you can’t say I said that,” said Mary Beth. “I’m serious Tom. You may not respond to what people say unless they say it with words. Or else, Tom. People think you’re odd.”
“Do you think I’m odd?” asked Tom.
“I grew up with you. So of course I don’t. This is my classroom so see you later.”
Where was Tom’s classroom? What class did he have? Oh yeah, social studies. The bell rang. He was the only one left in the hallway. To the right or to the left? To the right. He hurried as fast as he could, stretching out his little legs as far as he could. Little dogs could walk really fast with short steps. He decided to do that, fast short steps. The classroom door was shut. Tom turned the handle as quietly as he could and slunched low as he opened the door. He wasn’t going to look at the teacher. He was just going to get to his desk. Whew, she didn’t say anything. Or did she? He didn’t know. He quietly pulled out his social studies book. He was determined not to hear anything. He just opened his book and looked at it.
This was his last class. School was over. He was done for another day! He walked out into the open air. That was a good idea, taking little fast steps like a little dog. He would be home quick. Then he felt someone push him in the back. It was that boy who liked Mary Beth.
The boy grabbed him around the waist and lifted him up. “I’m going to pound you so good kid. I usually don’t pound shrimps like you but guess what? For you, I’m going to make an exception.”
Some other kids watched what was going on and were laughing. “Fight, fight,” one of the kids yelled. The boy dropped him on the ground and Tom’s books went flying. He lifted Tom up and put him on his feet. Then he smacked him across the face. More kids gathered around. Tom yelled. Then he barked. All the dogs everywhere started barking. The boy punched him square in the nose. “There’s blood. Blood. Blood. Blood,” several of the kids chanted. Tom crowed. Almost instantly a crow dove down and hit the boy with its beak. Then there were crows everywhere. The boy was covered with crows, all pecking. There were crows on the kids all around them. Tom crowed again and the crows stopped. He crowed one more time. They all flew off.
Tom got up, picked up all his books and his two pencils and put them in his satchel. He started walking home. Finally there was Richard coming up beside him. “Oh Richard,” Tom cried. “I got beat up. Richard, I got beat up and all the kids were laughing.” Richard lifted Tom onto his shoulders. “My little buddy. My poor little buddy.” Tom kept on crying. “My poor little buddy,” said Richard again and again.
Chapter 4 Giants
In retrospect everyone could see it had not been a good idea to send the Narnia delegation up to Harfang to collect tribute from the Giants during their Autumn Feast. The Giants had been at peace with the Narnians for decades, ever since they surrendered at the battle of the City Ruinous during the days of King Caspian the Navigator. Each year, after the end of the harvest, two of the younger Giants would bring their tribute to Cair Paravel. Their tribute was merely a token. But it showed that the Giants acknowledged the law and authority of Narnia. And also, over the years, the Giants had assisted the Narnians in some of their larger building projects. If a jetty needed to be repaired, or a dam needed to be built, what is handier than having Giants around to help out?
But, as so often happens, an offense occurred that needn’t have happened. Giants, as everyone should know, have an extra digit. For anyone other than a Giant, what is distinguishing about a Giant is, of course, that a Giant is big. But for a Giant, it’s his six fingers (five fingers and one thumb) on each hand and six toes on each foot.
One year when the young Giants brought their tribute, a princess by the name of Avigail, decided to give the Giants a gift in return. She and her dearest naiad and dryad friends made a beautiful tapestry of Giants and Narnians together dancing under the Narnian stars and the moon. She thought it would be a nice gesture of friendship with the Giants. It was a little bit silly, being that Giants don’t dance (they’re too heavy and too big. Gravity just sort of works against dancing for Giants.) But horror of horrors, the Giants in the tapestry only had four fingers and one thumb. These two young Giants expressed their thanks for the tapestry. But both of them knew immediately that something had to be done. This was an insult; a disregard of Giantness that could not be overlooked.
As you may know, for many years the Giants celebration of the Autumn Feast by the eating of their favorite delicacies. Those delicacies included man pie, Marsh-wiggle stir fry and talking stag kabob. Since the Battle of City Ruinous, man pie had been out of the question. But Marsh-wiggle stir fry remained on the menu. Always the Marsh-wiggles would report this outrage to the proper authorities in Narnia and always the authorities would not give them much attention for Marsh-wiggles spoke of the gloomiest possible outcome for every situation. Also, it’s not unusual for a Marsh-wiggle not to see his next-door neighbor for months at a time. So it tended to be a long time before a Marsh-wiggle was discovered missing. So, try as they might, they were unable to persuade anyone in Narnia that such a crime had occurred.
I’m not going to give you the details of all that happened. You don’t want to hear and I don’t want to tell you about it. But when the Narnians agreed to the Giants’ request that this time they send up a delegation to Harfang to collect the tribute from the Giants, the whole delegation got eaten. What’s worse, every one of the Giants thought this was a wonderful idea, and delicious too. The Marsh-wiggles sighed a long and deep collective sigh. Vengeance would finally come their way.
The Narnians prepared themselves for battle. In their store rooms, they still had weaponry they had used during their last battle with the Giants. Swords, spears, arrows and basically any type of projectile was useless against the thick skin and the stone-like heads of the Giants. The Giant’s only penetrable spot was right between their bushy eyebrows.
With the first charge of battle, the only blood that was shed was Narnian blood. But then, one of the Giants tripped and the Dwarfs were all over him, binding him hand and foot with their chains.
(There are stories of kings who amused themselves at their banquets by tossing dwarfs back and forth. But these were humans and not true dwarfs. Both Dwarfs and Giants are made of the earth. Unlike the animals, their bodies are not made of carbon, but of minerals and iron. A Dwarf long dead looks not too much worse than a Dwarf long alive, and a cremated Dwarf fits in the same size box as an uncremated Dwarf.)
As the Dwarfs began dragging the downed Giant back behind their battle lines, a curious thing happened. The Giants all began hollering and weeping so hard their weapons dropped from their hands.
(Giants are of one mind, quite literally. That doesn’t mean they don’t fight with each other. Fight they do, with hammers and clubs and the largest rocks they can find to pick up to heave. But they can do little damage to each other. And the things they fight about are exactly the same things they fought about the day before and the day before that. They’re in complete agreement with each other in what they dispute. Dwarfs are somewhat different than Giants. For one thing Dwarfs are clever. And being clever, some have speculated that Dwarfs can think individual thoughts and initiate individual action--though I don’t know anyone who could give a clear example of this ever having happened. Also a Dwarf is capable of living without other Dwarfs. Granted, it’s rare, but there have been Dwarfs who have lived alone among people and talking animals. But as far as I know, there’s never been a situation where there was only one Giant. If you ever see one Giant, guaranteed, there is another Giant nearby.)
The Narnians were bewildered. In their earlier battle with the Giants, with the help of the bow of Queen Susan the Great, the Narnians had killed several Giants by hitting that one small spot between their eyebrows. The death of a Giant concerned his fellows, but not in a way much different than any soldier who loses a comrade at arms. The battle continued until one of the Giants (or was it all the Giants?) decided they had had enough and they sued for peace accepting the very humane and generous terms of the Narnians.
But never before had a Giant been captured in battle and taken from among his fellows. The Dwarfs rejoiced at the Giants’ consternation. They went forward with all their chains to trip up and capture their next Giant. But King Caspian, known today as Caspian the Wise, realized the unnecessity of such an endeavor. He figured out that it was the separation of one living Giant from his living brothers that caused them such distress.
Bravely he walked into the midst of the blubbering Giants. “Silence,” he cried out. And the Giants were silent. “We are in battle with you today,” he said, “for your improprietous meal of Narnians.” The Giant nearest Caspian began to snicker. “Silence,” Caspian called out again. But this time the Giants were not silent for they were all now snorting and laughing. “Best pie I ever ate,” said one of the Giants. At this the Giants were all doubled over with laughter. “After years of Marshwiggle, Man pie was good,” said another Giant. They started to raise themselves up, all with foolish grins on their faces. Several of the Giants looked leeringly over at Caspian. A Giant behind him began to reach towards him.
But then a brightness filled the battlefield. A lion was in their midst. A huge lion. Could he have been as large as the Giants? All who saw him could not imagine that he was smaller.
All eyes were on him. Many were filled with joy. Some with dread. All were in awe, for even the Giants perceived his Majesty.
“What shall we do with these wayward creatures?” the lion asked Caspian.
“They need to be punished,” said Caspian. “Justice needs to be meted out. In peace we sent our delegation to them and in the frivolity of their festival, the Giants consumed them. As you can see in their faces right now, the Giants have no sense at all of the hideousness of their act. With great pleasure they would eat me, today, not waiting for their festival.”
A gaffaw rippled through the army of Giants as they heard and understood what was being said about them. The Giant who had been reaching for Caspian made a motion that he would reach for him again. Aslan (for that was who it was, of course) looked at this Giant. The Giant stopped his reaching, but a leer remained on his face. Again there was laughter throughout the Giant army. But then a very high pitched cry, as steady as the call of a pond frog in the early spring, pierced through the air. Immediately the Giants faces saddened. Tears began streaming down their faces and their blubbering resumed. The piercing call was the cry of their captured companion.
“Silence!” said Caspian again. The blubbering continued.
Aslan spoke, “You heard your king. He ordered you to silence.” The Giants quieted though their tears continued to stream.
“So what shall be done to the Giants?” asked Aslan.
“I’m not sure that killing them, any of them or all of them would be the right answer,” said Caspian. “But they do need to be punished.”
The high pitched cry coming from the captured Giant stopped and was replaced by a loud gasping sound, followed by, “Help me my brothers. Help me. Help me.”
The army of Giants began to quiver and shake. They tried to lift up their feet, but they were unable to bring them off the ground, try as they might. One very small Giant was not quivering. His eyes were fixed on Aslan. “Please sir,” said the Giant. “I need to go to my friend.”
Aslan turned to him. “He is your friend?” he asked. “How was he your friend?”
The young giant looked down at the ground. “He took me for long walks. He brought me to the rivers where salmon run. He showed me the eagles so far up in the sky and he told me the eagles were always watching and that they could see everything so far away. We went to the ruins of the Giants and we saw what was left of the bridges and the fortresses that Giants had made in the ancient days. He also brought me to the bogs of the marshwiggles and I saw their teepees.
“Do you love your friend?” asked Aslan. The young Giant vigorously nodded his head and all the other Giants could be seen nodding their heads. “Larry,” cried one of the Giants. “Larry. Larry. Larry.” The cry swelled so as to be deafening. Aslan roared, shaking the earth and the Giants quieted. Tears continued to pour down their faces.
Caspian addressed the young Giant. “How old are you and what is your name.”
“Today is my birthday. I am 12 years old today. My name is Richard.”
“Would you be willing to die for your friend?” asked Caspian.
A smile filled Richard’s face. “Oh yes,” said Richard. “Yes.”
“He would,” said several of the Giants. “Richard loves Larry. We all love Larry.”
“Would you be willing to live for Larry?” asked Caspian.
Richard looked puzzled.
Caspian came to Richard and put his arm around his shoulders (He could reach Richard’s shoulders for he was still a youth and still small--for a Giant) “Would you be willing to leave your friends and your family and live among another people?”
“Tell the Giants what you propose,” said Aslan.
Caspian climbed up on a large rock. He stood and surveyed the Giants and then he addressed them. “Giants. Citizens of the Harfang. Vassals of Narnia. For many years my grandfather was held captive by the Green Lady. At that time, the Giants were in alliance with her. She made you laugh and she made you feel like you were so very smart. She told you of her plan to invade Narnia and she told you of her captive prince who she would make her puppet king. Oftentimes she would bring my grandfather with her when visiting Harfang. All could see that she had bewitched him and found this to be very amusing.
But this was the saddest of times among the people of Narnia. Every Narnian from the house of Caspian to the Dryads and Naiads, to the valiant mice and chattering squirrels, to the cleverest dwarfs and the befuddled bears, all the Narnians had pain in their hearts for their prince so heartlessly taken from them. But though these were the saddest of days, these were also days of learning and of beauty for us. Our saddest songs and our most beautiful poetry were written during the days of the Lost Prince.
“What you have done and what you have become is not good. You delighted in the evil schemings of the Green Lady. It was she who taught you to cannibalize. To eat a fellow creature made in Aslan’s image, is an unspeakable crime. A sin that demands justice, that demands propitiation. Therefore, it is my desire that you have one of your own taken from you, separated by space and by community, to work out a quest for the betterment of all Aslankind. And only when that Giant’s mission is finished will he be returned to you so as to share with you the goodness that you lost while in companionship of the Green Lady.”
“No,” cried a Giant. “No, it can never be,” cried another. “No, no, no.” filled the air. And then came the sobs that went on and on and on. Caspian stood and Aslan watched. But Richard walked over to Aslan. His face was bright while Aslan reached up and placed his paws on Richard’s hands.
Something was happening to his hands. Then something happened to his surroundings.
Richard looked about. He was now sitting on a long wooden bench in a large noisy room. He looked down at his hands. He gasped. He only had four fingers and one thumb on each hand.
He pulled off one of his boots. Whew. Still six toes!
Chapter 5 Interpreter
“I’m not going to school today,” said Tom to his mother. “I told you, I get beat up. I’m not going to get beat up again.”
Tom’s mom did not know what to do. His dad was gone. His dad was always gone. He was still in the army. When all the other soldiers came home from the war, Tom’s dad stayed on. He was a captain in the army, but he didn’t command any men. On the rare occasion when he have leave, he would barely be home when there would be a long black car in front of their house waiting to bring him back to the field.
“What can I do? What can I do?” his mom kept saying. Couldn’t she say something else? It was giving Tom a headache.
“I’ll go to school tomorrow,” Tom said. “I just can’t go today. “I’m so puny. Anyone can beat me up. I wish Richard was in my class instead of that special class. Richard’s talking a lot now, mom. I’ve always been able to understand him but now other kids can understand him too. Pretty good at least. I think he’s smart. He’s super good at remembering things and finding places.
Just then there was a hard knock at the door.
“Hi little buddy. I didn’t see you at the playground so I came back to get you,” said Richard.
“Okay mom,” said Tom. “I’ll go to school. I know I’ll be late and so could you write me a note?. Could you write a note for Richard too? He doesn’t have a mom.”
“I have a mom,” said Richard. “I told you I have a mom.”
Richard started crying. Or at least tears were coming down his face. Big tears, coming fast. Tom was fascinated. He had never seen anyone emotional without hearing them say lots of things. From Richard he again heard nothing. Tom caught himself. He was so interested, he forgot to be nice.
“I’m sorry Richard. I know your dad, or sort of. He likes my teacher and I see him when he comes by our class. Your dad’s young.”
“That’s not my dad,” said Richard. “He takes care of me. He’s nice to me. He talks to me lots.”
“Where is your mom?” asked Tom.
“Back home,” said Richard. “So is my dad and all my friends. And Larry. Larry’s my really good friend.”
Tom didn’t like to hear that. “I’m your really good friend too,” he said.
Richard smiled big. “You’re my little buddy.” Richard picked Tom up and put him on his shoulders. Tom’s head was about an inch from the ceiling.
“You’d better put me down until we get outside. It’s hard to get out our door when I’m on your shoulders.”
“Okay,” said Richard. “I want you to meet someone today.”
Tom’s mom handed him his note and the two of them went outside. Richard started going left. The school was to the right.
“We’ve gotta go to school,” said Tom.
Richard looked up. Then he grabbed Tom and put him on his shoulders again. “Okay,” said Richard. “I’ll tell them we’ll meet them after school.”
“Who?” asked Tom. “How are you going to tell them?”
“That crow,” said Richard. “That crow there,” he said pointing to a crow in the middle of the street. Tom greeted the crow and then said to it, “Thanks for helping me yesterday.”
“I see you. I know where you are. I’m watching you,” said the crow.
“Oh yeah, yeah, yeah, crow. I’m watching you too,” said Tom. He crowed three times, “I’m watching you. I see you. I’m watching you,” said Tom back to the crow.
School went not so bad. Every time Tom stepped out of his classroom, Richard was there. No bullies in sight when Richard was in sight.
All day the teacher was telling him he was doing really good. Not with spoken words. Tom kept in mind what Mary Beth had told him. Only respond to spoken words. Sometimes he could get himself to only listen to spoken words. He did good on his papers. He raised his hand and answered questions. Just like a normal kid. That made him feel good. “I am a normal kid,” he thought to himself. “Except I’m so little.” He wondered if Richard was such a good friend because Richard was so big. “Some kids used to not like Richard. He is ugly. I really like Richard.” He must have said that aloud because the girl sitting in the desk in front of him turned around and put her finger to her mouth for him to be quiet. Tom smirked. She was so bossy.
When school was over, Tom wanted to rush home to tell his mom about his good day. Richard met him outside the classroom door. “Coming?” Richard asked.
“I gotta see my mom first,” said Tom.
Outside a crow was waiting for them. “Hurry,” it called. Tom crowed back, “I see you. I’m watching you.”
“Hurry,” the crow called again.
“We will come,” said Richard with Tom on his shoulders.
Tom said nothing as Richard followed the crow to a railroad track. For a long time, nearly an hour, Richard tromped along the track. Two trains came by, both filled with passengers. Tom could see passengers peering at them. What could this very large boy and this very small boy be up to? They came to a bridge that the track passed under. Up against the bridge embankment was a mother cradling a child in her arms. They were sitting against a couple of ragged blankets and surrounded by their belongings. The woman was looking at the crow, clearly pleased to see it. Then she saw Richard and Tom and began to speak rapidly. “My baby is sick. She has a fever. She needs to see a doctor. But we are bleeders, she and I. We are from St Petersburg. Exiles from Russia. Can you get help for my baby?” Tom listened carefully. She was not speaking English.
Richard helped the woman get up then he took her little girl in his arms. Tom looked down on the girl and smiled at her. She smiled back and made her baby sounds, just like his little sister. “You’re right, you don’t know us. But we like you. My friend is very gentle.”
“We need to see a doctor,” said the woman.
The crow said, “I can direct you to the hospital. You need to accompany the woman and her child. Tell the woman you are going to take her to a doctor.”
Tom wasn’t sure he could do that, but he said very slowly, “We are taking you to a doctor.”
The woman looked bewildered so Tom said it again, “We are taking you to a doctor.”
“You’re taking me to a doctor?” the woman asked.
Tom nodded his head. “To a hospital,” he said.
Off they all went, following the crow.
“Where do you get food?” Tom asked the woman. The woman did not understand so he said it again.
“You asked me where I get food,” said the woman, stating it as a fact. “The crow brings us food. Meat mostly, that I have to cook. And pieces of bread. We would have starved a long time ago if it wasn’t for the crow.”
They came to the hospital and Richard took Tom down from off his shoulders and gave the baby to her mother. At the front desk was a nurse to whom the woman began to speak very rapidly. The nurse could not understand her so Tom spoke. “This lady’s baby is sick. She has a fever. But both the baby and her mother are bleeders.”
“What is your name?” the nurse asked the woman.
Tom asked her her name. She understood him immediately. “Anastasia Nikolaevna,” she said.
More questions were asked and Tom interpreted.
“Can I go home now?” Tom asked the nurse.
“Who are you?” the nurse asked him. “You look like a little English boy. How do you know Russian?”
Tom shrugged his shoulders. He didn’t know. “I gotta get home,” he said. “My mom will be really worried.”
Tom and Richard left the hospital. The crow was waiting for them. “Thanks Tom,” said the crow.
“Good job little buddy,” said Richard.
Tom wasn’t sure what it was that he had done. He just needed to get home. Back on Richard’s shoulder he went.
His mom was at the front door. She looked scared. “Where have you been? You need to come right home after school Tom. You know that. I was so worried.”
Chapt 6 The professor
(Sorry, I have to call you Poel. I’m just so excited. Lately it’s almost been like I’ve been back in Narnia again. The only thing missing is my Narnian partner.)
I can’t think where to begin writing, so much has been happening. My foster son is definitely a Narnian Giant. How he came to be here, I have not a clue. What he may be here for and how it is that I am the one caring for him, I’ve got a feeling Aslan is behind it!
I’m sorry, I really meant to write back to you right away. I’m a pig, I know. It took your letter, which came today, to get me back to writing. I do wish you were back in England. I don’t know if I could wish you were in Manchester with me. I’m sure there are worse towns. People in Manchester are either rich, or poor. Except for me and a few of my neighbors. Richard and I live in one of Manchester’s few middle class neighborhoods. Richard is my Giant’s name. I tried Americanizing his name to Dick but I was wise enough to desist--before he made me into a manpie, which, as you and I have heard, is delicious.
About Richard: I knew I had to get him into school. I could not afford to bring someone into my house to care for him, nor did I want to. My mother has spoiled me from the idea of having servants. That’s one area where we agree. A nice quality about Richard, at least I think it’s nice, is that he seems perfectly happy just to sit. His favorite spot is outside on our front step. Though he’s a Giant, he is not too big to sit in a chair as he is still a child—older than 10, but not yet an adolescent. Here’s what’s curious and something I hadn’t thought of until Richard arrived: when we were in Narnia and when we met Jadis in her world, we could talk to everyone. They could not have all been speaking English. So how was it we were communicating? I’ll go into that later. But with Richard, we could not communicate at all. It took me a while to figure that out because he seemed naturally to be silent. He never spoke a word in his language or in any other. Also, as I’m afraid you know, I’m a jabberer so I talked continually to him. For over a day I talked to him, thinking that when he was ready, he would reply. The expressionless look on his face never phased me especially since his expressionless face was the face of a Giant. But then he finally broke his silence and said something like, “oi da.” I asked him what he said and he repeated, “oi da.”
“You want something,” I said to him. “Tell me what you want? Do you need a drink?” I brought him a glass of water and he drank it. Then he again said, “oi da.”
“Food!” I exclaimed. “You need more food, don’t you?”
I had been giving him meals. He and I ate together. I had been giving him portions like I gave to myself. But Richard was not just a hungry young boy, he was a hungry young Giant boy. I brought a whole loaf of bread and a can of marmalade. As fast as I could make a sandwich, he would have it eaten. I had laughed when I brought the loaf of bread and Richard laughed too. It was our good joke that he wanted food, and neither of us had figured out that we were unable to communicate that idea between us.
Since then, perpetually, I’ve been trying to teach him English words. He’s not doing too bad.
Now back to getting him in school. I brought him to the headmaster of our neighborhood grammar school. He had heard all about Richard from the newspapers. The headmaster is a chap hardly older than you or I and he was quite pleased to take on the challenge. He believed Richard was one of the war immigrants that continue to seep into England. He already had three non English speaking immigrant children in his school, but they were younger than Richard. He has arranged for one of the local women to come into the school to tutor Richard for several hours each morning. In the afternoons, he has Richard sit with one of the classes.
Much to my pleasure, several of the kids took a liking to Richard. Though you and I both know how kids can be nasty to anyone who may be the least bit different than themselves; they can also at times be surprisingly accepting. Richard is a creature that is bothered by nothing. He seems to like everyone and to assume everyone likes him too, so most kids do. Like any kid, he likes to play and laugh and run (not that I’ve ever see seen him actually run, but he does a stomping sort of fast walk that works as a fairly good replacement for it.)
Okay, now get ready for this: Richard has made one very good friend at his school. This boy is as tiny as Richard is big. Richard carries this boy everywhere with him on his shoulders. And he and Richard can talk perfectly together while Richard speaks Narnian (or is it Darfang?) and the boy speaks English. Both boys are boys. That means they’re making random noises about as much as they talk. But when they talk, each in their own language, they’re having a regular conversation. To make matters even more peculiar, this little friend of Richard has conversations with all the neighborhood dogs. The boy barks when he’s talking with dogs. He appears to be always angry at the dogs, though the dogs seem to like him. I suppose that’s because he’s the only kid on the block that speaks their language.
At the University where my mother teaches, one of the professors has a renowned reputation for his studies in languages. My mother despises the man. She says he is a popularist and not a real scholar as the BBC uses him to broadcast lectures. He also writes books that a person can buy at the local book-seller; on religion I think. I went to her rooms last week and asked her if she would be kind enough to introduce me to this associate of hers. She agreed as I knew she would, for nothing pleases her more than to be disagreeable. So she walked with me straight to his rooms and knocked on his door. As he didn’t answer, she opened the door and saw him sitting at his table writing intently. “Jack,” she called. “My son wants to consult with you. Do see to it.”
He looked up at me. I could see from his face that he had resigned himself that there was no getting away from the delightful offspring of Professor Scrubb.
“Your name?” he asked.
“Eustace,” I said. (I’m pretty sure I heard him mutter, “A name you probably deserve.”)
He then came to the door and held out his hand for me to come in.
“I will speak with him,” he said as he closed his door on her.
“Do you have a question?” he asked me. “Or merely some remarks?”
The man was bald, plump, rumpled and deep voiced. Initially he looked me in the eye but I could see that his mind was slipping back to his writing. “I would like to ask you about language and how important language is to communication,” I said.
He looked amused. “Pretty important, I would say,” he said.
“Have you ever heard of two people communicating with complete ease though they each spoke to the other in a different language?”
He thought for a bit. Then he said, “I have. The early Christians, you know, at Pentecost. Everyone heard the apostles in their native tongue.”
“Oh,” I said, very surprised.
“You’ve never read your Bible?” he asked.
“I have not,” I said. “I have read the Koran; the Bhagavad Gita, or part of it; the Tripitaka. Even the Book of Mormon. But I have not read the Bible.”
“I understand,” he said sympathetically. “Your mother. I would suggest you find a Bible and read it. Then come back and we’ll talk.”
So Pole, that is what I’ve been doing with all my spare time for the past three weeks. I’ve been reading the Bible. Generally aloud and generally out on our front step with Richard. Two days ago I came across a story where a prophet named Balaam was having a conversation with his donkey. Before I met Richard’s friend, if I had come across that story, I would have set the Bible down and probably never picked it back up again. But today I read it and it seems not even something out of the ordinary—or at least not out of my new ordinary.
Letters. They take so long to get from your place to my place. I do wish you were here. But I do have to tell you something; I sort of have a special friend. I think I’m actually dating her. Can you believe it? Eustace Scrubb has a girlfriend. She is the teacher of Richard’s little friend. I’m at the school all the time because of Richard. The headmaster and I are strategizing as to how to give him an education. (So far we are not having much luck as there doesn’t seem much that he is interested in except his tiny friend Tom, and other kids.) I got to know this teacher because she is also often with the headmaster. She’s the teacher of Richard’s little friend, and apparently he is quite a handful for her.
Pole, Richard is home and hungry, so I’d better close. Thanks for your good letter. I’m so glad we are back in touch with each other.
Your one and only,
Chapter 7 Tetelestai
“Tetelestai! Finished!” was her cry and suddenly there was utter silence on the battlefield, for all life on the whole planet of Auziz was sucked away in the twinkling of an eye. Jadis smiled. She looked around, so very pleased with herself. But where was her sister?
“Stop,” she told herself. “Don’t let anything keep you from savoring this moment.”
She took a deep breath. It was better than she imagined. One word. Spoken by her, by her authority, and every creature, every blade of grass had its life snatched away. “Tetelestai,” she murmured again, this time to herself for she was now alone.
“And what else?” she thought. “No wind.” Even the wind was gone. She strode back into the palace and into the Hall of Images. This had always been her good place. Here sat all the kings and queens of Charn from a thousand generations preserved in all their glory. As a child she and her sister loved to come here and sit with them on the furthest chairs. No one ever told them not to come here. Everyone knew this Hall was their destiny. No one thought to ask the questions: Would only one of them find their place in this Hall? And if only one, which one?
Jadis lifted the square pillar at the entrance of the Hall that held the Book of the Rolls. The book fell to the floor, but she gave it no mind. She carried the pillar to the middle of the room. Like her father, she had the strength of ten male slaves. Her sister, she sneered to herself, had no strength. Her sister relied on her slaves. Jadis relied on no one.
Hidden high behind a torch mount, she found a small gold arch with a bell attached to it. She placed the arch with the bell on the pillar and then she wrote her note:
Make your choice, adventurous Stranger;
Strike the bell and bide the danger,
Or wonder, till it drives you mad
What would have followed if you had.
When she and her sister were born, her mother rejoiced. Two perfect girls, beautiful at birth. Her father was hardly interested. He had fathered many children, most of whom were about the palace. But her mother was The Queen, the true ruler of Charn with all vast empire. The kings of Charn had, since ancient times, gloried in their strength and in the hunt. At one time the kings had been the philosophers. Some were poets and musicians. Governing was a drudgery left to their queens. Kingship was hereditary. The queens were chosen from among all the peoples of the world for their abilities. The Council chose the queen. It was the duty of the king and the queen to produce a male heir. Thus, the birth of two daughters meant nothing to the king. But even he could see their beauty.
The queen marveled at her two daughters. From the day of their birth, she wondered how there could ever be one to surpass them. She determined that a son would never be born, for her daughters would both be glorious and sovereign.
The two girls were so alike, no one, not even their mother, could tell them apart. They were named Jadis and Jardis. But one moment Jardis would be called Jadis and Jadis would be called Jardis. Or perhaps it was the other way around. Their nursemaid had an indelible mark put inside the hairline on the back of one of the girl’s heads. The one with the mark she called Jadis.
On their tenth birthday, the King came in from a hunt. The white stag had been spotted. It had taken the King a full forty days to run him down. Dressed just in a loin cloth and carrying only a knife, the King chased the stag. His hunting party included one hundred slaves and 20 of his own sons. The job of the slaves was to keep the king supplied with water and food, and to have a bed for him if he ever chose to lie down. The job of the sons was to keep up with their father. Like his father and his father before him, the king only hunted by running after his prey. Animals are faster than men, but a man has a will that allows him to run when his body tells him he can no longer run. While still a young boy, the King would run down rabbits. In his teens he could run down foxes. As a man there was not prey that he could not run down and then kill with just his knife. The white stag was the prey of legends and the legend was that the white stag was born when the world was born.
On the fortieth day of the hunt, the king was alone. His sons had run well. Only on the thirtieth day did his sons begin to drop away. And only on the thirty ninth day did his last son finally leave the King. The one hundred slaves with their horses and their spy glasses had done magnificently. But magnificently was not enough for this forty day hunt.
For days they had been in the savannah, but now they came to a wood. Not far into the wood was a brook and next to the brook stood the stag.
“Hail, greatest and least of the kings of Charn, greatest and least of the Auzizian people,” said the stag. The King was annoyed. Magic was outlawed, and talking beasts were integral to the magical traditions of Charn.
The stag continued to talk. “At this moment every system in your body is about to shut down. You need to take a drink.”
The King, without thought, obeyed and brought his mouth down to the creek.
“You must also have nourishment. Ignorant man that you are, you have no idea that the mushrooms all about you are sweet like honey and contain all the nutrition your body must have. Even the smallest Azzusian child knows mushrooms as food, ready to be eaten. But you are the King and thus are not privy to such common knowledge. So above you are cherries, ripe for you, though it is not the season for cherries.”
The King took the cherries not marveling at their perfect flavor and texture.
“You need to sleep as your forty days without sleep is far beyond the capacity of a man’s brain. But first you need to listen. The people of Auziz were created with a strength of will. Of all peoples of all worlds, the people of Auziz were most joyous and spontaneous. Whatever you chose to do, you could do, and do it well. To observe the beauty of your dances and your music brought joy to all the heavenly hosts. But as your generations continued, your dances became more intricate and more spectacular, while the beauty of your dances dimmed. Your singers and your songs became more skilled, but less joyful.”
The King continued to pick and eat the cherries. He needed something more to eat, something other than cherries. He looked at the mushrooms around the tree. He wondered if he could eat them.
The stag continued to talk. “So now, here you are. The culmination of milleniums of Charn discipline. Better than your father; better than your father’s father; so much better than your great grandfather—so great is your purposefulness.
The stag looked at the King. He knew the King was no longer able to hear him but still he continued. “Most pathetic of all creatures. Nothing you have ever done has ever benefited anyone. Nothing you have ever done has even benefited yourself. Cursed you are, for a curse is all you have left to give. But where there is life, a choice can still be made. You have two daughters. What will you do with them? Teach them your ways and your traditions, and all in this world comes to nothing. Teach them of goodness and beauty, and this world may have another 500 years, years in which beauty can be reclaimed and joy may again return to this planet.
The king plucked up a mushroom. Could it be edible? It’s smell: Was it a good smell? Was it a poisonous smell? He began to bring the mushroom up to his mouth. But then, it was like he suddenly awoke. He leapt at the stag, stabbed and killed it.
Fire. How would he make fire? Where were his slaves? “I guess it’s raw meat for me,” he said aloud as he began the work of skinning the stag.
By week’s end, he was back in the palace. He decided to give his full attention to the twin princesses. It was time for them to begin learning to discipline their will. The Queen objected to what she called his “harshness”. She understood nothing. He did not expect her to understand anything. She was merely a prime minister. He was the King and he, the King, was going to make one of his daughters the Queen—Queen of Queens, Lord of Lords.
He thought to himself, “It always takes two to make one Great One. Two daughters--one Great One.”
Before the King’s intervention, the two daughters were as one. Just as others could not tell them apart, they could barely distinguish themselves from the other. In the morning they rose at the same time, ate at the same time, learned the same things in the same way. They rarely talked to each other, but when they talked to others, typically one would begin a sentence and the other would finish it. Never were they apart from each other and seldom were they not touching.
But in one day, the daughters separated. One became the champion of the people. One became The Queen.
Battle began and great was the slaughter on both sides. Jadis laughed at the destruction. Jardis bit her lip and said the destruction had to be.
Each side was relentless. But finally the rebels prevailed and into the Great City of Charn poured their hordes.
Great was their rejoicing as they rushed up to the steps of the palace with Jardis at their lead.
Jardis found herself soaring high in the air, far above the trees.
She called out, “Caw, caw, caw.” Soaring beside her were ninety nine crows.
Chapter 8 Shopping
Saturday! No school. Tom looked around his bedroom. There in the corner on the floor were his Saturday pants. In the window sill was his torch. He pushed the big red switch on the side of the torch. It worked. The batteries were still good. He could smell coffee from the kitchen downstairs. And bacon frying. He loved bacon. They didn’t have bacon very often. Was something special going on? Was someone coming over?
Tom dressed and ran downstairs. “Good morning mom,” he said as hugged her. He didn’t see his little sister. She must still be sleeping.
“Mrs. Rogers and Mary Beth are coming over for breakfast,” his mom told him.
“Mary Beth doesn’t play anymore,” said Tom. “I think she thinks she’s too grown-up. But she’s still my friend,” he said. “At school she still talks to me. She even walks down the hall with me. A lot of kids tell me I’m odd, but Mary Beth doesn’t. She’s gotten so tall. Mom, when am I going to get tall?”
“Probably never too tall,” said his mom. “Your dad is not very tall, you know.”
The sound of the knocker at the front door had Tom leaping across the room. “Come in, come in,” said Tom. Mrs. Rogers and Mary Beth, both dressed way too nice for a Saturday, were at the door. Tom heard Mrs. Rogers say, “This little boy is still just a little boy. It’s funny how boys and girls are so different.” Tom looked at her mouth. Then he looked at Mary Beth. He grinned and nodded to her. He knew Mrs. Rogers hadn’t spoken this, but he couldn’t help saying to Mary Beth, “Are we so different? Just because you are a girl?”
“I’m not your playmate anymore,” Mary Beth said to him.
“That’s all right. You are my friend. I like it that you’re still nice to me.” said Tom. “At school and stuff.”
“My mom and I feel really bad you got beat up,” said Mary Beth. “That’s why our moms decided to get together with us this morning.”
“It was too scary,” said Tom.
“It’s scary for me too,” said Mary Beth. “I can’t believe I sort of like him.”
“What?” said Mrs Rogers. “You liked that boy?”
“His name is Bruce, mom. I guess I did. I do not like him now.”
“His name is Bruce?” said Tom. “That’s hilarious. Bruising Bruce. Bruce the Bruiser.”
They all sat down for breakfast while the two moms talked. They knew all about Bruce’s family and how Bruce’s father and his three uncles all had a drinking problem. They knew that Bruce’s mom had recently gotten religion and was going three nights a week to that new Methodist church. (It was a rollicking church.) They felt sorry for Bruce but they decided something had to be done. These big boys should not be beating up little ones like Tom.
Tom was indignant. He wasn’t a “little one.” He broke in. “I have friends you know, who help me,” said Tom. “Richard could take on ten bullies at once. Then when Richard’s not around, the crows…”
Mary Beth was kicking him under the table.
“The crows?” asked Tom’s mom.
“I heard all about the crows attacking,” said Mrs. Rogers but she didn’t say it with her voice. “I’m surprised Donna (Tom’s mom) hadn’t heard about it. Maybe I should tell her.”
“There are sure a lot of crows around,” said Mary Beth.
“I like crows,” said Tom. “They make so many different sounds. Some people think they just make a cawing sound but they make clicks like this (Tom made a clicking sound with his tongue) and this. (He made a sound like a bell made out of wood).”
“Enough about crows,” said Tom’s mom. “You ladies want to get to your shopping. I wish I could join you.”
“I’m not going shopping,” said Tom. “You go shopping, mom. I’m going to hang out with Richard today. If there’s a problem, his step dad or adopted dad or whoever he is will be there. His dad’s name is Eustace. That’s a worse name than Bruce.”
“I think I will. I think I’ll join you,” said Donna. “Would you mind? I’ll need to get the baby up and get her dressed.”
“That would be wonderful,” said Mrs. Rogers. “But we should telephone this Eustace to ask him if he wouldn’t mind looking after Tom.”
“Mom!” said Mary Beth. “You can’t just call this guy. Tom’s twelve years old. He doesn’t need a babysitter.”
Tom was startled. He heard an urgent cry from his mom. “I don’t think I want to go shopping. I can’t leave Tom. What can I say? I’d better say something quick. What can I say? Something could happen to Tom again. What can I say so I don’t have to go shopping with them?”
He felt bad for her. He needed to say something. “Mom,” said Tom. “It’s all right. You can go shopping. You should go shopping. I’ll do fine. I’ll be with Richard.”
Mary Beth looked at Tom. She knew she didn’t have to speak to let him to tell him she was impressed. Tom was soothing his mom instead of his mom soothing him. He was starting to grow up. Just a little bit.
Tom was out the door and off to Richard’s house.
Richard was on the front step of his house and Eustace was reading to him.
“Richard,” yelled Tom.
“Hey little buddy,” said Richard.
“Hi Tom,” said Eustace. “Richard and I are reading the whole Bible. Do you want to join us?”
“No,” said Tom.
“Have you ever read the Bible?” asked Eustace.
“No,” said Tom.
“I’m watching you. Watching you. Watching you,” said Eustace, but not with his voice.
“You want Richard to come and play with you,” said Eustace, this time with his voice.
“Yes,” said Tom.
“Watching you, watching you. I see you,” said Eustace.
“What are you, a crow?” said Tom to Eustace.
“I beg your pardon?” said Eustace.
“I’m watching you, I’m watching you, I’m watching you,” said Tom sarcastically. “That’s what crows say.”
“Are you saying that I’m saying I’m watching you?” said Eustace feigning a look of surprise.
Tom was about to call him a liar. Of course that is what he was saying. He stopped himself. He remembered what Mary Beth said, “You can only respond to people when they say words.”
“Okay,” said Tom. “Sorry,” he said.
“Watching you. I’m watching you. Watching you,” said Eustace.
This guy was going to drive him nuts. “Why are you watching me?” Tom said.
Eustace was quiet for almost a minute. Richard was paying no attention to what was going on. He just sat.
“Richard tells me you talk to dogs and you talk to crows,” said Eustace.
“I don’t like dogs,” said Tom. “They’re always talking to me. I just answer them back, once in a while. Crows talk all the time. They talk among themselves mostly. But if someone gets too close to them, they say, ‘Watching you. I see you. Watching you. Watching you.’ Just like you were saying.”
“I didn’t speak that,” said Eustace. “I may have been thinking that. Can you read minds?”
Tom looked at him puzzled. Then he said, “I hear what people say. I hear everything people say.” He paused. “Sometimes it’s hard for me to hear what people say with their voices.”
“Richard says you can also understand people who speak in different languages,” said Eustace.
Tom thought. Richard was his friend. Should Richard be talking about him so much? Richard was his friend. Maybe it was all right for him to talk to Eustace.
“As I told you, I hear what people say. I think most people only hear the words that other people say. A lot of people tell me I’m odd, but they don’t tell me that with their words.” Tom started to cry. Suddenly Richard was aroused. “My little buddy,” he said. He picked Tom up and started to put him on his shoulders. But since they weren’t going anywhere, he decided to put him down on the step in front of him and put his hands on both of his shoulders.
Eustace spoke to him in French, “You do not need to be sad. God has gifted you with glossolalia.”
“With what?” Tom asked him.
Eustace tried to figure out if Tom answered him in French or English. He couldn’t tell, but he did understand Tom. He asked Tom what he had just said to him.
“With what?” asked Tom again.
Eustace still couldn’t tell what language Tom spoke, but it gave him a sense of déjà vu. He felt like he was back in Narnia again.
Chapter 9 Fight
“You guys can go,” said Eustace.
Tom’s face burst into a smile. He grabbed Richard’s hand to pull him along. “Come on,” he said. Richard stood up and lifted Tom onto his shoulders and headed down the street.
Tom turned his head and waved at Eustace. “Goodbye Mr. Eustace,” he said. “It was nice meeting you,” he called.
“I’m sure it was,” said Eustace.
“Mr. Scrubb actually,” he said to no one. “My name is Mr. Scrubb. Not much better than Mr. Eustace though,” he muttered.
Tom and Richard were so happy. They were free to do whatever they liked. Together, going to the park and the sun was shining. Tom barked as loud as he could. Richard howled like a wolf. Every dog for blocks around joined in the noise. They laughed and continued barking and howling. One dog must have bolted from his master for he ran up to them trailing a leash. He jumped up against Richard. Richard laughed. “If you bite me, little dog, you will break your teeth,” said Richard.
“He won’t bite you,” said Tom. “He likes how you howl.”
Richard howled again, then Tom howled. The dog dropped back a few paces.
Richard tried looking up at Tom on his shoulders. “I like him,” said Richard. “Why’d you tell him to go away?””
“Sorry,” said Tom. He barked. Then he howled. The dog ran up in front of Richard, almost tripping Richard which would have sent Tom flying. Tom shook his head. “Dogs are so stupid,” he said. “But I won’t tell him to leave.” Tom grinned as he thought of something. “I really should tell him to go back to his master. But you like dogs, so I won’t, but I really should, you know.”
Up ahead they saw a circle of men. They heard angry voices.
“Call me a Paki, will you? You scallies. Filthy pongos.”
“Hey raghead, hit me. Hit me again.”
“Let’s get out of here,” said Tom.
“No,” said Richard. He walked over so they could see what was going on. Seven men, several in tattered army uniforms had surrounded an Indian man in a postal uniform. All the men had their arms raised in a boxing stance. Their fists were clenched. The Indian man struck out and landed a glancing blow on one of the men. Two men behind him hit him in the head, knocking off his postal hat.
“Take our good jobs, will you?” shouted one of the men. “Go back to your own country, rajah.”
The Indian man struck another man, this time squarely in the mouth. The man stumbled backwards and fell to the ground. Blood was all over the Indian man’s fist. The other men closed in on him.
“Tell them to stop,” said Richard to Tom. “Tell your people to stop.”
“What?” said Tom.
“Tell your people to stop.”
“These are men,” said Tom. “I’m a kid. We gotta get out of here Richard.”
“Stop,” shouted Richard.
A couple of the men turned to look at Tom and Richard. “Beat it, you kids,” one of them said. “This is not your business.”
Richard pleaded with Tom, “Please tell them to stop. There are too many against the dark man. He could be killed.”
Tom lifted his head and screamed. Such a scream! More like an air raid siren, but louder, more piercing. All the men, included the Indian man, put their hands to their ears.
Then Tom said to them, “Go home. Go to your homes.”
“We have no homes,” said one of the men. “We are the homeless ones. The forgotten soldiers from the war.”
“I have a home,” said the man who had been hit and was still on the ground. “Back in Newcastle. I had hoped the war would get me out of the coal mines. But no luck.”
“Not with these Pakis taking our jobs,” said one of the other men. “Good jobs with the post office. Those jobs should go to us.”
Tom looked at them. He could hear their anger turning into fear.
“Everybody needs to be nice,” he said to them atop Richard’s shoulders. He couldn’t think of anything else to say. Then he remembered what his mom said to someone for whom she felt helpless to help, “God will take care of you,” he said to the men.
“Will he?” asked one of the men.
“He takes care of the sparrows. You are more valuable than many sparrows,” said Richard. Richard had been hearing the Bible from Eustace. Eustace wasn’t sure if Richard had heard anything that he read, but he had.
The tattered men began walking away. The Indian man made them a slight bow. “You saved my life. Thank you my young friends.”
Tom saw the man was injured. The man looked at his hand and tried to move his fingers. A bone, maybe two, had been broken. He looked down at his chest area and stomach. Many blows from many fists had landed against his body. His head was throbbing.
“My house is close,” said Richard. “My dad will help you.”
Tom heard the man express alarm. “You don’t need to be afraid of his dad. His dad is kind.”
“He took me in,” said Richard.
The Indian man looked closely at Richard. “You are the boy from the train station, are you not?”
“I am the boy,” said Richard.
“Where are you from?” asked the man.
Richard did not answer. Tom wondered too. Where was he from?
Richard put Tom down and went over to the man. “You can put your arm around me. I will help you to my house. Tom went to the other side of the man so he could help too, but Tom was too small, so he took the man’s hand as they walked to Richard and Eustace’s home.
Eustace was still on the front porch reading his Bible when he saw them coming up the street. He jumped up and ran to them.
“What happened?” he asked as he took his place on the other side of the Indian man. The man was about to collapse. It was a good thing he had arms on either side of him to help him. Down the sidewalk, up the stairs and into the house. Eustace and Richard let him down into the overstuffed chair in the living room. Eustace telephoned his girlfriend. Amazing things, telephones. The operator got her on the line and he told her about the injured man. “There’s no way you could come over and help me is there?” he asked.
“Shouldn’t you call the police?” she asked him.
Eustace wasn’t sure. Most of the police now were soldiers back from the war. He worried they might not be sympathetic to this Indian man in the postal uniform. Why had they given him that job? With so much unemployment, wasn’t making an Indian a mailman like putting a target on his back?
In hardly any time, there was a knock on the door. Tom ran to open it. He always ran to open the door. He wasn’t thinking that this was not his house.
It was his teacher.
“Hi Miss Robinson,” he said.
“Tom! How are you?” were her spoken words. “I am so tired,” was what Tom heard.
Eustace came over to her and took her arm. “Thank you so much for coming. I’m so happy to see you,” he said. She smiled. She was happy to see him too, Tom heard her say. She was so very happy to help him out. During the war she had helped at the hospital. She looked at the Indian man in the chair. His eyes were closed. Quietly he was speaking. Miss Robinson bent down her head and turned her ear to hear him. Tom could see she could not understand him. Tom said, “He’s saying, ‘Thank you, praise you, Vishnu for sending Vamana to help your humble servant.’ He’s saying it over and over again, like he’s chanting or something.”
Eustace grinned. “Vishnu is the Hindu god of protection and Vamana is his dwarf avatar. He may think you are his dwarf avatar.”
“I’m a kid,” said Tom indignantly.
Richard agreed. “Tom is not a dwarf,” he said. “Dwarfs are not my friends. Tom is my friend. My good friend.”
“As good as Larry?” asked Tom. He was kidding Richard, but Larry was not to be kidded about. Richard stood very still. Tom went over to Richard and reached as far he could to put his arms around him. “I shouldn’t have said that,” he said to Richard.
The Indian man opened his eyes. “Little boy and big boy,” he said. “You saved my life.”
“You have hurt your hand,” said Miss Robinson. “You have a bad cut. I will wash it with a some boric acid. It looks like you broke the bone in your hand for your little finger and maybe the bone for your ring finger.”
“They were hitting him all over,” said Tom. “In the stomach. In the chest. I saw two men punch him in the back of the head.”
“How did you help him?” asked Eustace.
“I told the men to go home. They were all around him, hitting him. Richard kept telling me to tell them to stop. How could I tell them to stop? I just got mad and yelled at them to go home.”
“So it was you that I heard,” said Eustace. “I heard this air raid siren that didn’t quite sound like an air raid siren. As I listened, I could tell it was a child’s voice. You have quite the vocal cords Tom. How did you learn how to do that?”
“I just told them to go home,” said Tom. “As loud as I could.”
Eustace looked up towards the ceiling. “I think you told everyone to go home,” he said. “I remember thinking when I heard your siren, “I am home. Why should I go home?”
Miss Robinson said, “Me too. ‘Go home,’ I heard. I thought, I can’t teach in Manchester any longer. I need to go home.” Then she said without her voice, “What an odd boy.”
Tom looked at her with anger in his eyes. “I am not an odd boy,” He said in a loud whisper.
Eustace interjected. “You are a boy who saved a man’s life. You and Richard together. You have done a very good thing.
“Elaine (Miss Robinson) God has blessed Tom with the gift of glossolalia. When he speaks, everyone can hear him and understand him. When he listens, he can hear and understand everything anyone says, whether they speak words or not.”
“Our scriptures too speak of the gift of glossolalia,” said the Indian man. “He is not an odd child. He is the divine child. He is a god.”
Richard looked down at Tom and laughed and laughed. “He is not a god. He’s my friend. Aslan is a God. Aslan is a lion, not a boy. Tom is like me. We’re boys.”
Eustace looked at Richard. Giants loved to laugh. He had seen them laugh. At Darfang. Eustace was excited. Adrenalin pumped through his system.
Chapter 10 She remembered
Like waking up from a long sleep, Jardis slowly regained a sense of who she was. “Caw, caw,” she cried out. Life was good. There was lots of carrion floating in water and ripening in the sun.
“Caw,” cried the crow next to her. This was a new crow. Jardis had never seen him before. “Caw, who are you?” asked Jardis. “Where are you from?”
The new crow said, “Life is good. The sun is warm. Lots of carrion.”
Jardis was bewildered. She asked him again, “Where are you from?”
“Life is good,” said the new crow.
Another crow answered, “He came from that boat over there, up on that mountain. That’s what I’m surmising.”
Jardis had been watching that boat. She had seen a man looking out from an open window. She knew from the smell and from the noise that the boat was full of animals. And people. She remembered people. She thought, “I was once a person.” She remembered when she was a little girl. Where was her sister? She remembered when she was always with her sister, doing the same things, thinking the same thoughts. Now she was a crow, one with all the crows, doing the same things, thinking the same thoughts.
She remembered her mother, always so busy, checking on her and her sister, asking them questions, finding out how far they had progressed in their studies. She remembered their nursemaid. She was the only one who could tell Jardis and her sister apart. They would try to trick her, but she always knew.
She remembered when she became Jardis and her sister became Jadis. At breakfast one day, the nursemaid called her Jardis. Before that day they were always called Princess. One name for two little girls, except when visitors came. Then they were Jardis and Jadis but no effort was made to distinguish one from the other.
She remembered the day her father returned from the hunt. He was so thin. His face looked like a skeleton’s. From that day, from early morning to late at night, their father was with them. Life became hard. He pushed them through every deprivation: no sleep, no food, no music. And running, running, running. Their mother tried to intervene. “They need to have their studies,” she said. It was to no avail. Until one morning, Jardis told her father she was not going to run with them. Her father shrugged, and off he went with Jadis.
Jardis was moved to a new place in the palace. She hardly saw her sister again. Her soul was torn in two. Jardis remembered feeling so lost, so alone, so utterly alone. Her mother never came to visit her. Maybe she was prohibited from visiting her. In the palace people were wary of her. They would speak to her politely but Jardis could always see the fear in their eyes when she came into sight.
One day she went outside the palace. What a glorious day that was. It was the day of friends.
Never had she encountered friends before: someone separate from herself who was not required to serve her; someone who spoke to her for no other reason than because they liked her; someone who she could learn from and learn about; someone with whom she could work, and sing, and laugh. This very tall, this very regal, this very beautiful young woman found friends everywhere--among the old and young; the poor and simple; the blind and the strong. Hardly did she encounter anyone without that person becoming a friend.
She remembered when she learned of the rebellion that was being planned against Charn. Great injustice had been wrought against the people by the new Queen. Always Jadis was building. She needed workers and she took them from wherever she chose. Always there were battles that had to be fought. Charn was an empire that ruled without mercy. Jadis took soldiers from the best of the young men. Just like the old queen. And the queen before. Only more so.
Justice was not Jardis’ concern. She only took the place as their leader because her friends insisted she was their leader.
She remembered when the war began. She hardly remembered the victories. In battle after battle, the rebels won. But she did remember her companions. She remembered each one who lost their lives. She wept for each one.
She remembered climbing the steps of the palace with her vast army behind her and…
now she was a crow, among crows, crows that were her friends, in a new world covered with water and the sun shown brightly as she pecked at the bloated antelope, and life was good.
Over the years, accidents occurred and many of her friends died. But neither Jarvis nor any of her comrades in arms (for that is who the other crows were) grew older. At one time they could speak with the people, and all people could speak to each other. But then God pulled the power of tongues from humanity and languages had to be learned. The power of tongues remained with Jarvis and her companions, but, as they were crows and though they could make many sounds, they could not speak languages.
At times they were useful to people. A prophet of God was sent out to the wilderness. God directed them to feed him as he lived by a creek. Always they were the clean up crew for whatever died.
Many wars, many lands, many civilizations. And then one day she saw, walking beside a stout, short, talkative bespectacled woman; someone very tall, very beautiful and very regal. Like all crows when they are around people, Jardis crowed, but she stopped her crowing as she swooped down to look.
Chapt 11 Go Home
“See you later,” said Richard to Eustace. “Me and Tom are going to the park.”
“Grab something to eat,” said Eustace.
“Not hungry,” said Richard.
Eustace smiled. “You will be hungry.”
Tom climbed up onto Eustace’s kitchen counter and stood up on it. He was looking through Eustace’s cupboards. “Do you have cookies?” he asked, “Richard loves cookies.”
“Don’t I know,” said Eustace. “I do have cookies. They’re ones that Miss Robinson made for us. Go over just one more cupboard.”
“Oh!” exclaimed Tom. “They’re raisin-nut. Those are my favorites.”
Tom turned around. His face was very red. “Wretched, uncouth little boy?” he said demandingly as he looked down at Miss Robinson. “Why are you always mean to me?”
“You may not call Tom names in my house,” said Eustace glaring at his girlfriend.
Tom took four cookies, jumped down from the counter and handed three of the cookies to Richard. Then they were out the door heading for the park. The Indian man rose out of his chair to say goodbye to the boys, but they were gone before he had a chance. Elaine, in tears, followed them out the door. Eustace let her go. He had other things to think about. He started to go back to the Indian man.
Then, “Ass,” he said to himself. “Eustace, you are still too much like Eustace.” He ran out the door leaving the Indian man by himself.
Elaine was walking with her hand to the side of her face to hide her sobs. Eustace came up and touched her arm.
“I am very, very sorry,” he said. “I am an ass. Now you know. I’d been trying to keep that from you.”
Elaine turned her head from him. He kept on talking. “I come by it naturally. If you had known me earlier it would have been evident to you immediately. Nowadays I generally hide it better. I am sorry.”
Elaine’s sobbing was less. She listened.
“You are a special person to me. You like to be kind. I know that. I see that every time I am with you. Kindness does not come naturally to me but God has been good to me. He’s shown me I could think of someone besides myself. He’s helped me to understand how others think and how others feel.
“My job at the post-office is to figure out how to make use of radio waves, or, as scientists call them now, electromagnetic waves. I believe there are other types of invisible wave things out there. I think that in the past, people used those other waves as their first medium of communicating with each other. I think people still use those waves today for communicating, but not like they used to. I think animals always use those waves for communicating.
“The brain of our little friend Tom is like a human brain from the past. His brain’s first medium of communication is not from sound waves (what scientist call mechanical waves), but from what I postulate to be a third type of wave. I call them glossolalia waves.”
Elaine looked up. She had been so emotional, she only heard bits of what Eustace had been telling her. “It’s like Tom can read my mind. It’s so frustrating because he reads my mind better than he can hear my words. I tell him something and he doesn’t hear me. But he hears everything I’m thinking; things I wouldn’t want any child to ever hear. It’s so confusing. It makes me tired.”
“I understand,” said Eustace. He smiled to himself. He did understand how she felt. The new Eustace. The post-Narnian Eustace. The Eustace who could understand beyond Eustace and beyond what Eustace wanted. But now he (whatever Eustace he might now be) wanted something very badly. Ever since he had heard Tom’s siren to go home, he felt obsessed to see this professor Lewis again. He had to see him right now, this afternoon. If Elaine would help him, it could happen—not very likely, but it could happen. Did he have the temerity to ask her?
“Elaine,” he said. “I have a request of you.”
She smiled at him.
“I’m telling you now you should tell me no, for my own good. It’s a bad request. A preposterous request that no sane person would ever make of another person.”
She was still smiling. He understood her. He liked her.
Elaine knew, and her girlfriends had told her, Eustace was not much of a catch. She could do much better, her friends said. Eustace had dark curly hair, hair he was already losing. He had black glasses and some sort of minor acne. He was pudgy and was incapable of looking at anyone when speaking to them. But he understood her, and she had been so sad just a moment ago when it seemed like their relationship ended.
“Okay,” she said.
He told her his request.
She agreed, his request was preposterous.
They went back to his house. Eustace helped the Indian man into his car; promised to find him a job in the post office’s research department and brought the man to his own home.
Then he was off to Oxford--150 miles away as the crow flies. Elaine stayed at his house. Just in case. Just in case something happened to Richard. He was only a boy after all. Eustace promised her he would be back before the sun went down.
Back on the sidewalk Richard said to Tom, “She did not say that to you in words.”
“Are you sure?” Tom asked.
“I know when words are spoken.”
“Then how did your dad hear what she said?” asked Tom.
“He did not hear. He understands how you hear.”
Just ahead of them was a crow. Both Tom and Richard looked at the crow very carefully. “Who are you crow,” Tom crowed out.
“Thank you for coming,” said the crow.
“I see you. I’m watching you,” crowed Tom to the crow.
“Thank you for coming,” said the crow again.
Richard picked Tom up while continuing to walk. He held him high with his face towards his face. “What are you guys talking about?”
“We don’t know,” said Tom. “Just crow talk. The latest thing with crows is to say, ‘thank you for coming.’
“Where are we coming?” Tom crowed out.
“You’re coming with me,” crowed the crow.
“We’re going to the park,” crowed Tom.
“To the park with me,” crowed the crow.
“With Richard,” crowed Tom up in the air with his back to the crow. “Richard is my friend. We are going to catch crayfish. Richard won’t mind if the crayfish bite him. He has hard skin. But he needs to be fast. Crayfish are fast.”
“That’s a lot of crowing,” said Richard to Tom as he put him back down on the sidewalk.
“I like talking to crows. They help me. When you aren’t around, crows look out for me.”
“So does Mr. Scrubb. He looks out for you.”
“He’s a nice man,” said Tom. “He never says mean things to me.”
Tom ran and Richard did his Giant gait to keep up with him.
When they got to the park, there were kids everywhere.
“Richard, Richard,” called out several of the kids.
Richard smiled big. “Hi Craig. Hi William. Hi Bruce.”
“Bruce?” Tom looked up. He came to a quick stop.
“Hi Richard and Richard’s little puny friend,” said Bruce.
“This is my friend Tom,” said Richard.
“I know Tom,” said Bruce. “Crow boy,”
Crows began cawing, “I’m watching you. I’m watching you,” they were all saying as they circled round flying nearer and nearer.
Bruce put his arms over his face. “Crow boy, call off your crows. I’m not going to hurt you.”
Tom crowed, “My friend Richard will take care of me. Thank you crows.”
“Thank you for coming,” they all began crowing. Then one crowed. “Come to the cave. Thank you for coming.”
“They want us to go to the cave,” said Tom to Richard.
“Okay,” said Richard.
Tom looked anxiously about. What could he say? He barked. Then he howled. Then he crowed. “I’m with Richard,” he told the crows.
“Don’t be scared, little buddy. It’s all right. I’m with you,” said Richard.
“Richard is with me,” crowed Tom.
“Thank you for coming. Thank you for coming,” crowed all the crows.
Tom and Richard walked up to the stream. Tom pulled off his shoes and rolled up his pants. Richard watched him and then did the same. “Forgot my boots,” said Tom.
“Me too,” said Richard.
“Do you have boots?
“We wear boots,” said Richard.
“We who?” asked Tom.
“All of us,” said Richard as he walked up the stream.
Several of the crows flew into the cave ahead of them. Several others stationed themselves on the ground surrounding the entrance of the cave.
Richard crouched down and bent over to enter the cave. Tom followed. He had to bend over too.
As before, they went almost a hundred yards and then came to a large cavern filled with crows. “Welcome,” they all crowed. “Thank you for coming.”
Chapter 12 Warnie
It is so annoying having to wait so long for your letters. I thought over in America you had some way of expediting the mail—like the pony express. Couldn’t you pay just a little bit more for your postage and have your letters sent that way? Though I’ve heard that in the northern regions of Minnesota, everything that goes out between September and June must be transported by dog sled. Regardless, it sure would be good to hear from you again now that Narnia has re-entered my life.
This Narnian intrusion has addled my brain. That little boy I was telling you about was with my Giant this morning when they saw some ruffians beating up on an Indian postman. The little boy yelled at them to stop. But as I’ve told you, he has this otherworldly way of communicating. When he yelled, it was a piercing sound, like an air raid siren. Everyone who heard this scream, including me, had this intense desire to go home, or maybe it was to go where you belong, or go wherever it is that you ought to be. The yell had its intended effect; the ruffians took off. But for me, hearing the yell made me feel like I had to see my Oxford professor friend again. That’s when I sealed my fate by asking the favor: I asked Elaine if she would stay at my house and take care of Richard while I took off for Oxford. She agreed. I think that means it’s all over but the shouting between us. I’ll let you know as soon as we set a date for the wedding. (That’s a joke, you know. At least I think it is.)
I got in my car and arrived a little after noon. I went to Professor Lewis’ rooms where I had seen him previously. He wasn’t there because it was Saturday. I then went to my mother’s house. (She refuses to get a phone, so I couldn’t call her.) She wasn’t there either. “I am so stupid,” I said to myself.
There was a little pub nearby called the Eagle and Child. I went there to get something to eat. I also ordered a Coca Cola. (I love Coca Cola.) There was only one other patron in the place--a rather stout and rather drunk middle-aged man. He calls over to me, “You look like you could use something stronger than that to drink, young man.”
I ignored him, of course.
“What’s your problem, young man?” he said while walking over to my table carrying his pint. I looked at the bartender for help and he just grinned, “Meet Warnie,” he said to me.
I stood up and reached out to shake his hand unoccupied hand. “I’m Eustace,” I said.
“I’m sure you are,” he said to me. “Glad to meet you. You’re the lad with questions about glossolalia.”
“Don’t be so surprised,” he said to me. “I recognized your name. My brother said you would be back. You’ve finished reading the Bible?”
“I have,” I said. “You’re the brother of Professor Lewis?” I asked.
“I am,” he said. “Also his host. His chronologer. His secretary.” He paused, waiting for me to reply.
“The Bible,” I said. “You were asking if I read the Bible. Yes I did. Mostly out loud.”
“This was a good assignment your brother gave to me,” I said to him. I told him about Richard’s little friend Tom who talks to dogs and crows and who appears to be reading minds, but who actually hears what people are communicating through a medium of communication other than spoken words.
“Like Jesus,” he says to me.
“Yes,” I said to him, “That’s right! Like when Jesus said, seemingly randomly to the Jewish people who were questioning him, ‘Why are you trying to kill me?’ When he spoke of forgiveness of sins to the paralyzed man, the Bible says something like, ‘He perceived they had questions within themselves.’ Also, the answers he gave to questions were often different than the questions that had been spoken. In one place he told about certain people hearing his voice and other people being unable to hear his voice.”
I went on. “How about that prophet for hire who had a chat with his donkey, and the bad serpent at the start of the Bible. You can’t tell me snakes and donkeys are able to speak words. At the Tower of Babel. Maybe when God scrambled the language there, maybe what he did was pull this other much better medium of communication from man.”
Warnie got up. I wondered if he had heard enough of my babblings. “Do you mind if get my papers and take notes while we talk?” he asked.
Except to you and the Penvensies, I’ve never talked to anyone about our Narnian adventures. I’m guessing you haven’t either. It’s too unbelievable for anybody who hasn’t been there. But I began telling him everything, and nothing that I said elicited any special response. He just wrote and wrote and had another pint. I looked at my watch. It was past 4 o’clock.
“Where is your brother?” I asked him. “I need to get going.”
“He walks on Saturdays. His good friend Charles Williams is here from London so I’m guessing he will be getting here late.”
“Here at the pub?” I asked him.
“That’s where he comes after his walks. But you were just telling me about the emerald lady you met on the stone bridge. How tall did you say she was?”
“She had to be like seven feet,” I told him. “She was beautiful. Her voice was like music. When she spoke, you were captivated.”
“Yes,” he said. “I’ve seen her. I know what you mean.”
“You’ve seen her!” I said. “No. You haven’t seen her. You don’t understand, she’s from a different world.” I was so disappointed. All my enthusiastic talking. Had it just been to some friendly drunk?
“Your adopted son is from Narnia and he’s here. So why is it so surprising that this lady is also here?”
“She can’t be here,” I said. Being so very tall and so very beautiful would get people to talking a bit, I would think.”
“She has gotten people talking,” said Warnie. “I’m surprised your mother hasn’t told you about her.”
“My mother?” I asked.
“Professor Barbara Scrubbs who teaches modern literature.”
“That is my mother,” I said.
“The lady and your mother are inseparable,” said Wernie. “They’ve been in the newspapers recently promoting the standardization of education in England. Your mother has a peculiar cause for someone in the humanities. She wants to get rid of all books in the tax supported schools that do not have a useful and practical purpose.”
It was like I had a panic attack.
I told Warnie goodbye, rushed to my car and took off back home. What if my mother came to visit me while I was gone and had brought the witch with her? She would recognize who Richard was at once. What would she do to him? And why on earth was she on earth? I tried to think how unlikely it would be for my mother to come to see me at this exact time, the only time I had ever been away from Richard since he came to live at my house. But I wondered, why was I so insistent on seeing Professor Lewis immediately? What had I needed to tell him, or what was it I had to know?
I drove fast. I nearly ran over two bicyclist and I nearly got run over by an omnibus. A copper stopped me and gave me a lecture. “Please, just give me the ticket,” I begged. It cost me forty quid for speeding and another forty for disrespecting an officer.
I drove up my street. The sun was mostly down and the lights were on in my house, and through the front window I saw my mother, the witch, Elaine, two other ladies, a young girl, and Tom, very sober and very determined.
Sorry, not until I get a letter from you will I write the rest of the story.
Chapter 13 Séance
Alberta loved her Friday night séance, as she called it. A small group met at the Temple of Anthropocity. She opened the door between two pubs, climbed the steep stairway and walked the long hallway into a room lit so dimly as to strain anyone’s eyes. Alberta wore glasses so thick, she had to have special frames made to accommodate the lenses. She looked around as best she could and saw the usual adepts seated in a circle. She pushed herself into the circle and found her chair, the only empty one. What were they mumbling? She didn’t know. Everyone seemed to be mumbling or moaning or humming something different. Tonight she had heard they were going to have a guest teacher. She was fine with that. All their guest speakers said pretty much the same thing. Nothing is at it appears. Only when you discard the truth of everything you have learned and everything you seen will you be able to learn what is truly the truth. The truth is a secret. But you all are in luck, because I have the secret and you will be able to comprehend that secret if you perform my prescribed rituals. And, by the way, you are a god. Through your inner self, you can do anything and be anything.
It was hard work being a college professor. These college students nowadays were so obtuse, especially all these young men back from the war. They were such literalists. The dogmatism of religion had gotten ahold of so many of them. Alberta taught the newer poets. She loved E. E. Cummings and Wallace Stevens. What they wrote could be interpreted to mean whatever was meaningful to the reader. She also taught John Donne and George Herbert. And William Shakespeare. She had so many students in her Shakespeare classes, her dean wanted her to teach nothing but Shakespeare. “God forbid,” she told him. “Shakespeare was an amuser, an entertainer. He used every trite trick in the literary trade.” Though of course, as everyone else knew, it wasn’t Shakespeare at all that wrote those plays and sonnets. Alberta appreciated George Herbert. He was a master of the allegorical. He used the religious language of his day to speak of own inner turmoil and of romantic love. But then her students; most of them were back in the Middle Ages. They dogmatically, and sometimes tearfully, insisted that Herbert’s words were literally of the crucifixion of the god-man. Absurd. So absurd.
That’s way Alberta loved her séances. There were no dogmatists here. And it wasn’t just the privileged young male. Within their circle were the poorest of the poor and the very rich. The highly educated and those with no education. Two within her séance were world renowned movie stars. Another was a lord in Parliament and another a vicar. The lady she always sat next to was a prioress. A hunched back man who was so huge he required two chairs was their acknowledged leader.
It’s a bit of a wonder that Alberta knew the background of any in the circle, for it was forbidden to speak of one’s life in the outside world, the artificial world, the world of smoke and vapors. But Alberta was a curious woman and she made it her goal to find out things. Besides, she was not a believer. She was here for the therapeutic value. She loved it when their guest was a native American who came with his two teenage sons. They had a powwow for them and the whole circle danced up and down, and called upon the Great Spirit as the man and his boys beat their drums.
Tonight their teacher was an ancient woman with the voice of a rusty door hinge. She told them that they were the ones who would be privileged as no other people on earth, for she was going to call forth the one anointed to bring all humanity to that long prophesied promised land. This savior had bequeathed life and happiness on two previous worlds. As her work in these worlds was completed, out of her great kindness, she had accepted Earth’s invitation to come and breathe an advanced and abundant life into this world’s humanity. Then the woman said, “Conflict will arise, greater than in all the wars this world has ever seen. But out of the conflict there will arise a remnant, the like of which has never been seen.”
She pulled out of her handbag two earthenware vials and poured the contents of these vials into a large mortar and put the mortar on a table in front of her. She took a pestle and began to grind. “Come thou fount of joy and blessing,” she creaked. Then she spat into the mortar and continued to grind. “Come thou force of life evolving,” she spat again into the mortar. The others in the circle chanted, “Between the worlds, within the woods,” they said altogether. Alberta joined them, listening carefully to what they would chant next. She smiled to herself. This was a new experience. Typically each person in the circle chanted or moaned their own words. Now they were chanting the same words together. “Come thou blessed. Come thou chosen. Choose us now thy bidding do.”
Grind, grind, grind, spit. Grind, grind, grind, spit. The old woman was getting tired. She looked as if she was about to collapse.
Then, a loud crack and a shaking. Then a flash, brighter than the sun. The old woman feebly raised both her hands in triumph. Alberta was impressed! She clapped. By herself. What a wonderful display. She would have been embarrassed to be the only one clapping, but Alberta was never embarrassed. She was a confident woman, so she continued clapping, and she heard another person clapping beside her. She looked. Now who was this? Was she a newcomer? She hadn’t seen her in the circle, but the light had been so dim. Alberta extended her hand. “Welcome,” she said to the woman.
“Welcome,” said the rest of the circle in unison.
”My dear,” said the woman to Alberta. “My friends,” she said to the people of the circle. “I’m so pleased to be with you. So nice of you to ask me to come.”
The woman was beautiful, and very tall. Alberta thought to herself rather smugly, “We have another movie star with us, how nice.”
Alberta said to the woman, “So pleased to meet you. That was a magnificent display, wouldn’t you say? The best I’ve ever seen here.”
Chapter 14 From another world
“Welcome, thank you for coming,” crowed all the crows. Again and again. It was so dark in the cave.
Tom and Richard were still standing in water. The crows seemed to be everywhere; behind them, above them, on either side.
Tom liked crows, but not crowds. Too many voices. Though a mob of crows generally all crow the same thing, they did not crow it at the same time.
Tom backed up tight against Richard.
Then one crow crowed, “We welcome you, boy of Craugh. We welcome you boy who hears and speaks.”
“I’m not a Craugh,” said Richard. “The crow called me a Craugh. Tell her I’m not a Craugh.”
Tom crowed, “He’s not a Craugh.”
Tom looked up at Richard, “You understand crow talk?”
“No,” said Richard. “But I can understand certain things. She spoke as my people speak.”
Tom thought maybe he should be worried. His people? “Why do you say, ‘my people?’”
The crow said, “Where I am from, the Giants are the Craugh. I have Craugh in my ancestry.”
Richard looked down at Tom. “I could only understand a couple of her words. What did she say?
“She said where she comes from the Giants are the Craugh, and she said she has ancestors that are Giants.”
“That cannot be,” Richard replied. “You are a crow.”
“I am a crow now. But many years ago I was not a crow. Nor were my companions. Most of the crows here with us are crows, from the earth, born of eggs. But forty, minus one, of the crows here, along with myself, are from another world, Azuah.”
Tom did his best to repeat back to Richard what he had heard.
“I don’t understand,” said Richard.
“Like you. We’re like you. You are not from Earth. Once Earth had Giants. But no more. So I know you are not from earth.”
Again Tom interpreted for Richard. He did not have to interpret for the crow, for the crow understood Richard’s words.
“Was it through magic that you are now a crow?” asked Richard. “Were you cursed?”
“I was cursed. I am now a crow, by magic. But to be a crow is not a curse.”
“Who cursed you?” asked Richard. “Why were you cursed?”
“My sister,” said the crow. “There was a great war where we fought against each other. She fought for power. I fought for my friends. There was so much death. There seemed to be no way to stop the war for I knew my sister. She was the heir of our father. From our father she learned to never concede. Never to compromise. So I braced myself to win. And we did, me and all my friends, and all nameless hordes who followed us. As we strode up the palace steps to take possession of what we had won, my sister spoke an unknown word—a word that sent myself and ninety nine of my companions to this earth to live forever together; for the natural processes of this world’s time does not affect us.”
Tom did his best to translate all this and Richard did his best understand it. He did understand part of it.
“I know a forever person,” said Richard. “In our world there is a forever lady. My mom and dad said there was never a time when she was not. We Giants say she is our friend. But I don’t think she is a friend of the Giants. She laughs at misfortune. Bad things that happen are her favorite jokes. We Giants, we laugh. All the time we laugh. But I knew, all the Giants knew, of course we knew, that laughing at misfortune was bad. But we thought it was clever. The lady made us feel clever whenever she was around.”
Tom was getting restless. He whispered up to Richard. “Let’s get going. Let’s go do something.”
“I need your help,” said the crow. Several other crows crowed, “We need your help.” Then all the crows were crowing, “We need your help.”
“Why do they need your help?” Tom asked Richard.
“What do you mean?” asked Richard.
“The crows keep saying, ‘I need your help. I need your help,” said Tom.
“They are not asking for my help. They are asking for your help,” said Richard.
Tom was exasperated. “Help you what?” he said to them. Then he shouted, “What help?”
All the crows were silent. The one crow spoke again. “I need you to help me talk to my sister. My sister is now on earth. But she is not from earth. Just like your friend Richard is now on earth, but he is not from earth.”
Tom started getting scared again. He had been interpreting what the crow had been saying to Richard but he had not been listening. Not very closely. Richard was his friend. That’s all he cared about. But...
“Richard,” said Tom. “You’re from Earth, right?”
“No,” said Richard. A drop, then a bunch of drops of water started falling on Tom’s head.
“I’m from Earth,” said Tom. “I take care of you,” he said to him. “You know that.”
The crow spoke again: “My sister is a lady. Because I’m a crow, she can’t hear what I say. You need to tell her what I say.”
“I can do things like that,” said Tom. “Like I helped that one lady.
“You did,” said the crow. “She and her daughter are very grateful to you. They have their own flat now. And that’s because of you.”
“What happened to her daughter’s lump?” asked Tom,
“I don’t know,” said the crow. “When you’re a crow, some things are hard to find out.”
A new crow came flying into the cave. “Here. Here. Here,” crowed the crow. “Here. Here.”
Voices came from the entrance of the cave. “Tom! Richard! Are you in there? Tom! Richard! Can you hear me?”
“Who are these guys?” asked Tom.
“I don’t know,” said Richard. “Some man. Or some men”
They could hear splashing footsteps coming into the cave.
“Should we answer them?” asked Tom.
The crows were again quiet.
“What do you want?” Tom yelled back at the voices.
“Thank God,” said one of the voices.
Another said, “Are you safe?”
“Of course we’re safe,” said Tom. “What do you want?”
“We heard two boys were lost in a cave. We’re the police.”
“Oh boy,” said Tom. “That was fast.” He called out “We’re just exploring this cave.”
Tom and Richard began walking back to the entrance of the cave. They saw the lights of half a dozen torches coming towards them.
“We’re just exploring,” said Tom as they came closer. Two men put their coats around Tom and Richard as they walked them out of the cave.
“Where’s your mums?” one of the policemen asked.
“My mums shopping,” said Tom. “His dad is at home. Probably reading.”
About twenty kids and several mothers were outside the cave. One of the kids said, “We saw you go into the cave and then you never came out. We tried calling for you. Then we heard all these crows.”
“He’s the crow boy. The little kid is the crow boy,” said Bruce who was part of the group of kids.
“Shaddup,” said one of the mothers. “Just keep your mouth shut, Bruce.”
A policeman told the kids and moms they needed to disperse. Another policeman gave Tom and Richard their shoes and socks and told them to put them on. A third took out a pencil and his pad. “What are your names?”
“Tom O’Shannessy,” said Tom. “He’s Richard.”
“He can speak for himself,” said the policeman. “What’s your name, son?”
“Richard,” said Richard.
“What’s your last name?
“Scrubb,” said Tom. “His name’s Richard Scrubb.”
“That’s very dangerous going into that cave like that. You should know better than that. You didn’t even bring a torch,” said the first policeman.
To the other policemen he said, “Thank you men. Bill and I will take care of things now.”
“What’s your address, boys? We’ll take you home. We need to talk to your mum and dad.”
“Bother,” said Tom. He was mad. “We didn’t do anything. Who says boys can’t explore a cave? Just leave us alone.”
Tom took Richard’s hand and began walking away when suddenly Tom heard words he had only heard teenagers use before. He didn’t know what the words meant. But he knew he was in for it. So did Richard, though he hadn’t heard what Tom heard.
“He didn’t mean that,” said Richard, looking the policeman in the eye. “Sorry. Right Tom? You’re sorry, right?”
“Yeah,” said Tom. The policeman was still using lots of those words. “I’m sorry,” said Tom. “I shouldn’t have said that to you.”
“You’ve got quite the mouth on you, little man,” said the policeman. “We’ll see what your mum has to say about you disrespecting an officer of the law.”
Chapter 15 Three ladies
Elaine wondered if she had been played for a fool.
It didn’t matter. She didn’t have anything else to do. Saturdays were the worst days, living in Manchester. She shared the top half of a house with two other young women. Her school had made the arrangement. But the other young women were not teachers. They were both stenographers at businesses downtown. They also were best friends and had lived together since after the War. Their third roommate had gotten married, thence the vacancy which Elaine now filled. She had her own bedroom. She also had taken over one half of the kitchen table where she graded papers. Her roommates had their own world, leaving Elaine to find her own.
Elaine gathered up her students’ papers, put them in a briefcase (Quite an extravagance, her briefcase. Teacher’s pay paid the basics. Yet out of her own pay she had purchased the briefcase.)
She walked the three blocks to Eustace’s house. His house was distinguished by its large window enclosed porch.
“He must make a lot of money,” she said to herself as she opened his front door. In the porch was a table with two kitchen chairs and also two very sturdy upholstered chairs. She put her briefcase on the table. The porch gave a good view of the neighborhood. It was a much better place to grade papers than in her flat.
Eustace had told her that Richard was always hungry so she went into the kitchen to see what food there was. Men were funny. The things they bought. One shelf in his cupboard contained nothing but tins of tuna fish. The next shelf up was all corn flakes and Quaker Oatmeal. In his refrigerator were six half gallons of homogenized milk. That looked good. She hated dry condensed milk--the only milk she drank since moving to Manchester. She found a glass and then found her cookies. Her cookies were so good with real milk!
She went upstairs. Everything was neat but nothing was clean. Two little containers of baking soda for teeth brushing were on the back of the sink; one for Eustace, one for Richard. But no soda had been used for scouring out the sink. Probably the sink hadn’t been cleaned since Eustace moved in.
One of the rooms was Eustace’s study. She had never seen so many books. She liked to read. Something good to read. That could make for a nice day. She looked at the titles. Shakespeare. He had about twenty books by him. She had to read Shakespeare in high school. That was not going to happen again. All those math books. They couldn’t all be text books. Was he reading them for fun? H.G. Wells, Jules Verne—science fiction, no thanks. Blaise Pascal, Soren Kierkegaard, weird names. Rudolph Steiner: Someone had tried to get her to read one of his books before. The book made no sense. In all his bookshelves she couldn’t find a single novel, not even one by Charles Dickens.
She was about to go back downstairs and work on grading papers when she saw an open letter on the desk. “Dear Scrubb.” She probably shouldn’t read it. She turned it over to see who it was from. It was signed, “Until we meet again in Narnia, Jill aka Pole.” She turned to the front of the letter again: “I never thought I would ever say this, but can’t tell you how much I miss you.” That’s probably enough. She didn’t need to read any more. She read on: “Or maybe it’s just my longing for Narnia. Especially since moving to America, it seems like every day I remember our time there more vividly. I’m so excited to hear that you may have a real Giant straight from Darfang sitting across from you at your breakfast table.” Elaine put the letter down. She had read enough. She felt like she was in a haunted house. Giant. Richard? He was one huge kid. But she knew Richard. He was the nicest boy. He was the only one who seemed to be able to tame little Tom.
She went back downstairs and into the porch. She dug out her red pencil and began grading her students’ essays on King Henry VIII. She made lots of corrections. She wrote an explanation for each correction she made. She was pleased to see that after she was done with a paper, it frequently had more words on it written by her than written by the student. She took no short-cuts when grading papers. She pulled up Tom’s essay. Good for Tom. He’d remembered to put his name on his paper. There was an arrow at the bottom of the page. “See picture on other side.” She turned the paper over and there was a crowned and bearded King Henry the VIII sitting on his throne. Or at least attempting to sit on the throne. She sympathized with Tom’s efforts. It was hard to draw a picture of someone sitting.
The porch had wonderful windows. Quite a ways off she could see two women walking up the sidewalk. One was a stout woman with a determined walk, her body bobbing from side to side. The other was very tall and walked with the elegance of a queen--like a queen trained in ballet. As they came closer, Elaine could see they both wore dresses in the fashion of the victory suit. It may have been the same dresses that they wore but the one dress was elegant while the other was disheveled. The stout woman was talking with great animation. The tall woman smiled, appearing to be interested in all that was being said. She saw them slow as they came to Eustace’s house and then turn up his walk. The stout woman opened the door and walked right in. The tall woman followed.
“Who are you?” Elaine was asked by the stout woman. Then the woman called out, “Eustace, do come. I’ve brought a guest.”
“Eustace is not here now,” said Elaine.
The stout woman looked Elaine up and down. She clicked her tongue. “Are you his girlfriend? Why is it that you are here and Eustace is not?”
“I am not his girlfriend,” said Elaine. “But I am his friend. I am staying at his house doing him a favor. Eustace had to leave for the day. He has a boy he takes care of. He wanted me to stay at his house to watch the boy.””
The tall woman looked down at Elaine and smiled approvingly. “You’re a lovely young woman,” she said.
“Thank you,” said Elaine surprised and very flattered.
“So where did Eustace go and where is his boy?” asked the stout woman.
“Eustace said he had to go to Oxford to see a Professor Lewis,” said Elaine.
“Professor Lewis?” the stout woman snorted. “That boy. He’s such a disappointment. Of all people, why would he want to see Lewis again? When did he leave and when did he say he would be back? But it’s his boy we want to see. Where is his boy?”
“He went to the park. He went with his little friend.”
“When will he be back?”
“Soon, I expect,” said Elaine. “His boy is always hungry so I expect he will be back by lunch time.”
The tall woman stood had an aura of contentedness, of peace. Elaine spoke to her, “By the way, my name is Elaine.”
“Jadis is my name,” said the woman. “I am so very pleased to meet you. My friend here is Alberta. Or Professor Scrubb. She teaches English language and literature at Balliol College in Oxford.”
“And the mother of Eustace,” said Alberta. “Much as I’ve so often regretted it.
“I had such hopes for him,” she said. “At age ten he knew the industrial output of every country in the northern hemisphere. And he could tell you the potential industrial output of every country in the southern hemisphere.”
“He must have been an amazing young man,” said Jadis. Elaine looked to see if Jadis was making a joke, but by her face she could see that she was not.
“I blame myself,” said Alberta. “I should never have allowed those frightful children of my brother’s to come and stay with us. They were family so I agreed as a favor. I had thought Eustace could be such a good influence on them. He was just like a little adult as he rarely was around other children. My husband Harold and I tutored him ourselves for we knew from the moment he was born that he was an exceptional child. But all for naught, all for naught. Now he’s become so common. He has no sense of his destiny to be one of humankind’s benefactors.
“So, ergo you—his plain little girlfriend,” she said looking sternly at Elaine.
“I am not his girlfriend,” said Elaine.
Jadis put her hand across Elaine’s shoulder, “I would be so very pleased if I had a son who would chose you to be his special friend. In beauty, in poise, in intelligence, I perceive you to be a unique young woman.”
Elaine knew better. Too well she knew better. She knew she was not pretty, or poised. She was a farm girl with none of the charms of the city girls. But the disdain of Eustace’s mother made her want to claim as true Jadis’ flattery.
“So, I guess we wait,” said Alberta. “There’s nothing else for us to do, but to wait. Missy, do be so good as to get us tea and a couple of biscuits. And jam. Bring us some jam too.”
Chapter 16 Delighted
“I told you my mom’s not home,” said Tom turning around on Richard’s shoulders as they turned up the walk to Eustace’s house.
The policeman glared at Tom. Tom was about to tell the policeman that he was not an imp, when he thought to ask Richard, “Is he calling me names?”
“No,” said Richard. Richard put Tom down and opened the door. Alberta was delighted to see Richard. “So here he is, Jardis, my son’s boy. His is name is Richard. Is he not everything that I said he was?”
Jadis gave Richard a delighted smile. “How are you Richard?” said Jardis.
Richard looked, and looked again. The Forever Lady. The Lady of the Green Kirtle.
“Wow,” said Tom. “You’re taller than Richard. You’re beautiful.”
The police officer was also inside the porch. He was there to put things in order. “So,” he said. “I am here to speak to this little boy’s mother. He has been a very naughty little boy.”
Elaine had been in the sitting room. She came to the door of the porch. “His mother is not here. But I am his school teacher.”
“Then I need to tell you he has been most disrespectful, most disrespectful indeed. To an officer of the law. We had to rescue him and his friend who were lost in the cave at Wilkshire Park.”
“We weren’t lost,” said Tom. “Richard will tell you. We were exploring.”
“I’m sure that’s true,” said Jadis. “Thank you very much officer, for bringing these two boys home. Your service is deeply appreciated.”
“But,” said the policeman. “He was very disrespectful and…”
“You may go now. What you did was entirely satisfactory.”
“But,” said the policemen.
“Go!” said Jadis quietly, and the officer went.
“So as I was telling you,” said Alberta to Jadis. “The Germans went about it all the wrong way. Any scientist knows it is not by eliminating the less desirable of the species that brings about improvement in the species. The more primitive will simply fall away as the felicitous aberrations of the species establish themselves. Richard has a body impervious to injury and with such strength. My son told me Richard once fell from the top step of his house onto the sidewalk landing on his head and he picked himself up as if nothing happened. His head did not even bleed. He told me that he needed to change the tire on his car. As a tease, he asked Richard if he could lift up his car so he could put it up on blocks. Without effort, Richard lifted the car for him. It’s such an odd thing that in the human species, the highly intellectual so typically have such feeble bodies. You are so much the exception: so strong of body and so strong in intellect. You are what the human species needs to become—no longer miserable ants crawling around on this globe, but supermen, superwomen. Creatures that can hold their heads up high, proud of who they are, proud of what they can be. Masters of the Universe instead of pathetic victims of a miserable fate. But you are just one person and I don’t even know how old you are. You appear to by ageless, but possibly you are beyond the child bearing stage. Now if we could…”
Tom had had enough. So much talk talk talk. Today was a Saturday. A glorious Saturday where he could play all day with his good friend Richard.
“Richard,” said Tom. “Let’s go.”
Richard didn’t move.
Tom opened the outside door. In hopped the crow.
Tom was delighted. “Caw,” he said. “Come right inside. Welcome, welcome.”
Alberta was so intent on what she was saying, she did not immediately see the crow. But when she did, she screamed a high pitched scream. Tom looked around. What was happening? “What’s wrong?” he said looking at Alberta.
Her scream continued. “Horrible. Filthy. Fleas. Horrible, horrible, horrible,” he heard her say.
“Silence,” said Jadis. The scream stopped, but as Alberta cringed back against the wall, he heard her continue to say, “Horrible, horrible, help me, horrible.”
“Caw,” said the crow. “Tom, the beautiful woman is my sister. Can you greet her for me and tell her who I am?”
What was the lady’s name? Tom couldn’t remember. “Beautiful lady,” Tom said to her. She ignored him. She was looking at the crow.
“Excuse me,” he said loudly. “My friend here, the crow. She wants me to say hello to you and to tell you that she is your sister.”
The Lady looked down at him, smiling. “You are such a clever young man,” she said. “So bright, so pleasant.”
Tom thought about that. He looked over at Miss Robinson. Was she hearing this? She was. He looked at Alberta. She was terrified. “Help me, help me, help me,” she was whimpering.
Tom said, “Thank you. And you are very beautiful. I know you are a nice lady. I am happy to make your acquaintance.” He extended his little hand up to hers. She took his hand in both her hands and shook it warmly. Her skin was so soft.
“And what is your name?” she asked.
“I’m Tom. Richard is my best friend. My mom is gone shopping with my little sister. Miss Robinson over there is my school teacher. She doesn’t like me very much.”
“I like you very much,” said the Lady.
“Thank you,” said Tom. “I like you very much too.” He reached all around her and gave her a hug. Was he too old to give people hugs anymore? Probably. He felt embarrassed.
“You are delightful,” said the lady.
The crow cawed again. “Tell her I’m her sister.”
“Oh yeah,” thought Tom. He said aloud. “The crow here is also my friend. She helps me when big kids are mean to me. She wants me to tell you that she is your sister.”
“My sister?” said the lady. She looked sadly down at the crow. “My sister is dead. She died a long time ago.”
“Caw,” said the crow. “I am not dead. But I am a crow.”
“She is not dead, but she is a crow,” said Tom to the Lady.
“You thought you killed me. Instead I became a crow,” cawed the crow.
“What!” said Tom to the Lady. “You tried to kill your sister?”
“I am a kind woman,” said the Lady. “I would not try to kill my sister. I could not kill my sister because I do not have a sister.” She smiled a big, gracious smile. She looked at Tom. Then she gave him a knowing wink. “How could a crow be my sister?” Then she laughed, a rich musical laugh. Her laugh was like sunshine.
“Do you remember?” cawed the crow.
“My friend the crow asks if you remember,” said Tom.
“Do you speak the language of crows?” asked the Lady. “Or is this a clever little boy’s imagination?”
Tom was insulted. “I am not a little boy. I am twelve years old. I’m small for my age.”
“Of course you are not a little boy. My sincerest apologies. Sometimes we older people are so very insensitive. You are a young gentleman deserving of respect. I am sorry.”
Tom had never heard an adult ever apologize to him. Ever. Except for his mom. His mom did sometimes. His mom loved him. “It’s alright,” he said. “A lot of people think I’m a little kid just cause I’m small.”
Again the crow cawed, “Ask her if she remembers.”
“Remembers what?” cawed Tom. This lady was so nice. He didn’t want to annoy her.
“Just ask her if she remembers.”
Tom sighed. “Okay,” he told the crow. He spoke to the lady, “The crow wants to know if you remember.”
“Remember what?” asked the Lady.
“That’s what I asked her,” said Tom. “I don’t know what the crow means.”
“How is it you speak crow?” asked the Lady. All but Tom realized she was speaking in a language that was not English.
Richard said, “How is it that you speak in my language?”
Tom interpreted though he did not need to interpret, “My friend Richard says you are now speaking in his language.”
“I speak his language because I am one of his people,” she said. She took off her shoe. She had six toes. Richard was overjoyed. And then he was not. “I did not know you were a Giant,” he said to her.
“My mother had Giant blood. My mother was very proud of her Giant heritage. Did you know I was with your mother in Darfang the day you were born?”
Tom was excited, “You are not from earth? Richard is not from earth. He is very sad about that, that he’s a stranger here.”
“He need not be sad,” said the Lady. “You are such a good friend to him. Giants are a close knit race. Giants think and act as one. What one thinks, they all think. I am proud to have such a wonderful loving lineage.”
“Richard and me, we think alike too,” said Tom. “Saturday is our day to do stuff together.”
“You boys run off then. You have fun together” said the Lady. Then speaking in English she said, “Elaine dear, would you be so kind as to find me a broom? I will get this crow out of your house. Such dirty animals.”
An Invited Guest Chapter 17
“That I will not do,” said Elaine. “The crow asked you a question.”
“Oh, aren’t you the funny dear,” said the Lady. “Are you making a joke at the expense of Tom here? But we really do need to get this crow out of the house. Poor Professor Scrubbs. If we don’t get it out soon, I doubt she’ll ever be the same.” She opened up the door of the porch and used her foot to prop it with her shoe, smiling at the effect that her six toes had on Elaine.
“What language were you speaking?” asked Elaine.
“I speak many languages,” said the Lady.
“But you don’t speak crow?” asked Elaine.
“I do not. Once we get this crow out of the house, Professor Scrubbs will explain to you that animals, especially animals as primitive as crows, do not have the brain capacity for language with words. Language is the great evolutionary advantage that people have over the animals.
“Yeah, that’s right,” said Tom. “Animals don’t really use words. It’s more like in pictures. You’re right Mrs—what’s your name?”
“I have many names. But I also have one name. My name is Jadis. If you would like, you can call me Miss Jadis for I have never had a husband. I am so very tall, I must scare men away.”
“I’m not scared of you at all,” said Tom. “I like you a lot. I like tall people.”
“That’s very sweet of you Tom. Now Tom, let’s you and me do what we can to get this crow out of the house.”
Tom was flummoxed. The crow had asked him to help her and the crow was his proven friend. “This is not a regular crow,” said Tom. “She really does talk using words. I’ve talked with her a lot. I don’t know how she can be your sister, but she really wants to talk to you.”
“Thank you Tom,” crowed the crow. “Could you ask her just one more time if she remembers?”
“Do you remember?” asked Tom.
The Lady, the beautiful Lady suddenly underwent a transformation. The music in her voice was replaced with a loud rasping whisper. “I do not remember,” she pronounced. “I choose not to remember. Every day I choose not to remember. ‘Forgetting what is behind, I press on toward the mark,’
“The mark?’ crowed the crow.
Tom had to get out of there. He looked at Richard. Richard was staring at Jardis with unblinking eyes. “The mark,” Tom called out. “What mark?”
“For the prize,” said Jardis. “For the power. And the glory. To search out and destroy, and destroy I shall.”
“My sister,” crowed the crow. “My only sister. My beloved sister.”
“My sister,” said Tom. “My only sister. My beloved.”
“Beloved?” snarled the witch, for witch she was; witch she had become. “Then why did you leave me? Why did you leave me alone with Father-- with his horrible tortures from early morning until late at night? You selfish cruel thing, to go off and just leave me.”
Tom tried to interpret, “She wants to know why you call her beloved since you left her alone with her Father who tortured her. She says you are very cruel.”
The crow cawed, “Tom, I can understand her. I’m pretty sure she can understand me. I think she’s been able to understand me from when she first heard my caw.”
“So I can go,” said Tom. “Goodbye. Let’s go Richard.” But Richard wouldn’t go. He reached out for Tom and held him tight. Again tears were streaming from his eyes and the tears were splashing all over Tom. Tom wriggled away. But then he came back to Richard and took his big hand in both of his hands.
“I did not mean to be cruel,” said the crow. “I was young. I did not know anything except what the two of us knew together. I did not know what it was like to be separated from you.”
“Then why did you not speak to me about it? How could you have just left me?”
“I’m not sure I knew how to talk to you. The two of us, did we ever speak to each other? I don’t think I knew you were you and I was myself. Until that Day.”
“Until that day,” said the witch. “But then you knew. Had you no compassion when you would see me come back to the palace, exhausted nearly to death. Nearly to death. Day after day after day after day.”
“On that Day, when I did not go out with you and Father, I was shunned. No one dared go near me. Not even mother. So I dared not go near you. You were now the Chosen One. I was the Abomination. The One who had rejected and thus the one to be rejected.”
“Chosen?” spat the witch. “Chosen to be feared. Chosen to be alone. Always alone. Chosen to be lied to. (Who dared to speak truth to me?)”
“You’re not alone,” said Tom. “I’m here. I won’t lie to you. I promise.”
The witch ignored him.
“You are a special child,” crowed the crow to Tom. “You do care for my sister as only a child could. I also care for her. Deeply. But she cannot understand this.”
“Oh hush, hush, hush your mouth,” said the witch. She had grabbed a book and threw it with great force at the crow. The aim was perfect but the crow was faster. She hopped from where she was even before the book left the witch’s hand.
“Oh my,” wailed Alberta.
“Help!” yelled Tom. A stream of crows flew into Eustace’s house. Several flew at the witch’s face. She swung her hands at them. One, two, three, four crows all dead on the floor.
“Stop,” cawed the Crow. “She will kill you all if you attack her.”
So much was going on, Tom’s brain was distracted. On the table where the witch grabbed the book was a little golden arch from which hung a bell. The arch was on a pedestal and attached to the pedastal was a tiny gold hammer. Tom went over to the table and struck the bell with the tiny hammer. For such a small bell, it made an amazingly loud high musical note. A beautiful sound that filled the air and then became quieter and quieter until only Tom could still hear it. Then a brightness and a warmth filled the room, and terror filled the face of the witch.
“You called for me,” said the deepest voice any of them had ever heard.
“Aslan,” gasped the witch. “This is not your world. This is the world of the Son.”
“I am the Son, manifest in the flesh of a Narnian lion.”
“Aslan,” cried Richard. His tears stopped. The Lion lifted his paws onto Richard’s shoulders.
“My boy,” purred Aslan. “You have done so well in this world of men with all their contraptions. You were the kindest of souls. Are you ready to go back to your people?”
“I am,” said Richard. “How hard it must be for people here to be so alone, to be deaf to all but language spoken.”
“People here can hear more than they think they can,” said Aslan.
“I have missed my family. I miss Larry very much. But I will miss my little friend Tom. Aslan, can Tom come back with me? I have so much stuff to show him.”
“Maybe,” said Aslan. “Maybe later. But not now.”
A mob of crows had filled the porch. “Jardis,” said Aslan to the witch’s sister. “For Jardis is your name. Your nursemaid was correct in picking you to be Jardis. You have made choices, unlike your sister. The first choice you made to leave your father was neither good nor bad. But it was a choice. Your sister made no choices. She simply did whatever was in front of her. It was not her choice to speak the forbidden word. She will tell you that you simply gave her no choice but to speak it. But since your first choice, you have made good choices. You chose to have compassion on your comrades. You made a choice to be joyful every day of your very long life and to glory in the God who made you. You also made a choice to willingly do whatever task the Father set before you, including helping little Tom here.”
“Now Elaine,” said Aslan. “It’s time you went back to the farm. You know that, don’t you?”
“I do,” said Elaine, smiling broadly.
“Poor Alberta,” said Aslan. “Pity poor Alberta. Blessed with so much intelligence. But today so thick headed with preconceptions. You can’t even see me. Or hear me. Pity poor Alberta.”
The Witch had gone into the kitchen and came back with the ice box which she heaved at Aslan with all her might. The ice box was incredibly destroyed with the metal forming a profile of Aslan.
“It will soon be your time,” said Aslan to Jadis, unharmed and unalarmed. “But first I need to speak to Tom.”
Tom had wandered into the living room. He ran back to the porch where he saw the Witch heave the ice box. “Come here Tom,” said Aslan. Tom ran to Aslan burying himself into his fur. “My little friend,” said Aslan. “That bell you rang was a special bell. It came from the creation of the Lady and the Crow’s world. It was kept in the most holy temple in their world but Jadis took it for her own. It rings the first of all musical notes, created before any world was sung into being. The mythology of her world taught that the possessor of the bell would receive life back from the dead when it was rung. That was true. But even more true, the note from the bell is the musical note of life. I am the resurrection and the life. Thus, when the note rang out, I came—called to come. Preordained to come.”
“Neato,” said Tom and Aslan laughed, gave him a lion hug and rubbed the top of his butch cut head.
“One more thing,” said Aslan, turning his head around and looking at each person and at Jardis, and then at Jadis. “The word you spoke was not a word to be spoken by anyone but the One to whom it belongs. You spoke it in vengeance. I speak it as its rightful owner.
“Tetelestai!” said Aslan.
Chapter 18 Missed Out on Everything
You would think working for the post office that I would get some sort of special consideration and I guess I did. For reasons unknown, your last letter to me found its way into the dead letter box at our post office in Manchester. You had the correct street address, but apparently Scrubb was not enough of a name for the letter to come to me. Fortunately, my new Indian friend was kept inside the building today and discovered your letter, which he delivered personally. (My boss is skeptical about hiring an Indian to work in our department. He says Indians have no natural aptitude for engineering—though, he says, they are far superior to the English in service work and he figures that before the decade is ove, they will be beating the English in cricket.
I knew you had kept in touch with Lucy. That’s pretty amazing. It’s got to be more than a coincidence that she also has been talking with Professor Lewis. I will have to find his book. Maybe he’ll write about our time in Narnia too. But that would mean he would be writing about me, on the Dawn Treader. Oh boy! I try not to think about how I once was (and probably still am). You say he did change all the names of the Penvenzies, so I’m sure he would change our names too. But I don’t know. It makes me nervous. Especially after giving so much information to his inebriated brother. You said Lucy said he wrote the story, pretty straight—even including Father Christmas. But, as it is written as though it were fiction, I suppose he could do anything with our stories.
So, here’s what I found when I came in the front door of my house that fateful evening: I had missed out on everything! By everything, I mean I missed out on seeing Aslan in real life in my own front porch. The police were every place; in the kitchen, up in my bedroom, in the back yard. My mother was talking very loudly to one of the older police officers. “This is my son,” she said to him. “He is the owner of the house. Where he has been or why he has been gone, you will have to ask him yourself. He is the one who had charge of the boy who disappeared.”
Standing in the middle of my porch was the witch, still as a statue and larger than life. Tom was sitting upright on the sofa, his feet dangling several inches from the floor. I went over to him and asked him how he was doing. “Not very good I don’t think, Mr. Scrubb” he said. “Richard’s gone. He went back to his own world. Aslan was here.”
“Aslan?” I said. “A really big lion?”
“Yes sir, Mr. Scrubb. He was really big. And he liked me a lot and I liked him a lot.”
“Yeah,” I said to Tom. “He liked me too. When I don’t think anyone else could have liked me. When I was your age.”
My mom was still hollering. “Eustace, there is a dead woman in your porch. She’s in your porch. You need to be talking to the police.”
About that time the coroner came. While inches from the witch, he asked where the body was. I told him.
“Shouldn’t you lay her down?” the coroner asked. The police thought this was a good idea and two of them came over to bring her to the floor, but she couldn’t be budged. “It’s like she’s made out of stone,” said one of the officers. The coroner came over and tried to take her pulse. “Not a person,” he declared. “This is a statue. I am not amused. Not one bit. To be called out on a Saturday evening. Not amused.”
“Well is she dead then?” asked the older police officer. “Can you certify her as dead?”
“Not dead because she was not alive.” With that he turned to walk out the door, stubbing his toe on a crow, or perhaps a rock in the shape of a crow.
“My word,” said my mother. “Of course she was alive. I came up with her from Oxford, just this afternoon.”
Elaine spoke up, “Oh yes, she was alive. She’s the one who threw that icebox.” She pointed to a large chunk of mangled metal in the middle of the floor.
The police were bewildered. I was bewildered.
Finally they left, leaving the statues of the witch and the crow in my front porch. They promised someone would come by on Monday to pick them up.
As Tom’s mother and her friends were leaving, I said to Tom, “We’ve both lost our friend Richard. I don’t know about you, but I would like another friend to sort of take his place.”
“Sure Mr. Scrubb,” said Tom. “I can be your friend. What will we do?”
I told him I thought we might be able to play checkers. I then told him about this cave nearby that I’ve always wanted to explore and that maybe we could check it out. He seemed to like the idea of checkers but did not seem too interested in the cave.
I do like this little Tom. If he does come by, I’ll do what I can to not make him my research project to confirm my quirky idea of glossolia waves. Besides, if I do fall into “observing” him, he’ll be accusing me of being a crow again.
As Elaine was leaving, I thanked her, which seemed to fluster her-- as the person I had asked her to watch over had vanished.
“When will I see you again?” I asked her.
“Probably never,” she told me. “I’m going back to the farm tomorrow.”
“Tomorrow?” I asked. “You’re still teaching school. You can’t just leave tomorrow.”
“I’ll bet I can,” she said.
Then it was just me and my mom.
As she and I were changing the sheets of Richard’s bed so she would have a place to sleep, she said to me, “Eustace Clarence, you need to know, not everything is as it seems. You’re like your father. You’re a man, and men think everything can be explained. But some things just can’t. Some very unusual things have happened here today, very unusual things.”
“You’re right mom,” I said.
Then I gave her a hug and kissed her on the forehead, much to her annoyance.
So Jill, I think this is the end of this adventure. I do wish I had seen Aslan. More than anything.
Thanks again for your good letters. I’m hoping I’ll have something to write about the next time I write--unless you want to hear about radio phones. The engineering of the radio phone involves all the latest transcontinental scientific research, and the potentials for it is very exciting!
Last chapter-- The hags
The next day five very old women came to Eustace’s door. Eustace opened the door and asked what he could do for them. Their answer was to press past him as they shuffled, bent over, through his door. With much effort and many moans, they were able to push over the figure of Jardis. It landed with a resounding thud. Then each grabbed a leg, or an arm, or the head.
Eustace held the door for them as they struggled out the door and down the steps and up the sidewalk and, so very slowly, out of sight.
Through their exertions and through their magic, they brought Jadis to her long dead world, to sit forever enthroned at the end of the line of the kings and queens of great City of Charn, surrounded by its rubble.
Last chapter-- The heavenly hosts
Where was she now? Jardis was soaring high above the mountains. She could see the first of the sun’s rays piercing through the far pine forest. She looked about and saw, what were they? Angels? So graceful. So bright.
Soaring up ahead. Was it a lion? Where were its wings?
“Welcome,” She heard it say. “Beloved, for thou hast loved. No longer a crow. Now thou art one with all of the heavenly hosts.”
Last chapter-- The Giants
Not long after Richard had been taken from the Giants, the Giants came into Narnia determined to atone for their bad behavior. They gushed their apologies to anyone who would listen and they begged the Narnians to let them do something, some kindness. Initially it was unsettling for the Narnians to have these large (and not very attractive) creatures so plentiful and so near. But the Narnians listened to their king who told them that the Giants should be allowed to make amends; and they gave them tasks. The dwarfs found them useful for expanding their mining operations. The beaver had them widen their rivers and enlarge their ponds. Quite impressive stone bridges were built. (It could be that individually their intelligence was limited. But when working together, they could build anything.)
Each morning, before Caspian had his breakfast, one of the Giants would ask audience of him. “Have we done enough yet?” the Giant would ask. “May Richard return to us?”
Caspian had no idea how to answer, so he would simply smile and tell the Giant that all of them were doing wonderfully.
Then one day, Richard reappeared.
The tears of joy that were shed drenched the land like a spring rain. Nobody was more joyful than Larry.
And all the Giants’ work stopped. And they returned to their land.
But Richard, all by himself, would often come and visit with the Narnians.
One day Caspian asked Richard about where he had been during his exile and Richard told him about Tom.
“How extraordinary of a person,” Caspian said to Richard. “To stop an angry group of men with merely his voice.”
Richard looked at him quizzically.
“To be able to speak and to understand all creatures, even the dumb of birds and the squirrels. To call forth Aslan by the mere striking of a bell.”
Your friend,” said Caspian. “He was one of the gifted. One of the great ones.”
“A great one?” said Richard.
Then he laughed
(as only a Giant can laugh).
“No, no, no” he said. “Tom’s my little buddy.”
Chapter 20 Epilogue
Her girlfriends told her she had to see this guy. Their church was sponsoring a servicemen’s club at the storefront on East and Chestnut. It was less than a mile from the army base that had been set up outside of town. Initially the base was to house the hordes of Americans coming over to England to join in the war effort. But Americans like everything big, and a base that could only accommodate a couple thousand soldiers was too small for them. So instead, the base was used to house soldiers from Ireland, Scotland, Wales, and the Isle of Man.
One little soldier--soaking wet he couldn’t have weighed more than 100 pounds. No one escaped his attention and he made sure he had yours.
“Hey matey,” he would call out. “What’s your name?” If you dared to ignore him, he would call you by your name. Like, “David? Well that’s a fine name. Nothing to be ashamed of having a name like that. Oh, I see, it’s your middle name that’s causing you problems. Matey, your secret stays with me. Nobody needs to know that you’re David LeRoy, though as far as I’m concerned, I’d be proud to have such a name. LeRoy—that’s French isn’t it? Means the king. So just who is it that you are the king of?” Then he’d extend out his hand, “Mike’s my name,” he would say, “Mike O’Shannessy.”
All that Donna knew when she went to the servicemen’s club was that one of the soldiers there was funny. Donna needed some cheering up. The church had asked that the girls not come to the club unless they were there to share the gospel with the men. For anyone willing, classes had been held on how to best present the gospel. Donna thought she might be willing, but she knew she was much too shy, so she never took the classes.
“Just come anyway,” said Thelma. “Last night I could have died, I laughed so hard.” When they opened the front door Mike had already taken the stage—behind the podium which held a large Bible. A dog was sitting next to him with one paw up. “Now take that paw of yours,” said Mike, “And get that flea behind your ear there.” Then Mike barked and the dog took his paw and began to rigorously scratch behind his ear. “Hey Max, that lady has a mouse in her purse,” he said looking straight at Donna. Donna wilted. “Please, no attention. Please, let me just hide. Oh, no, please no,” she thought frantically to herself. Mike caught himself. “Maybe that’s the wrong purse. Try that purse over there,” he said. Then he barked and the dog leapt across the room, grabbed a purse in his teeth, brought it up to where the podium was and shook the contents of the purse all over the floor. “No mouse,” said Mike very sadly. “And stuff all over the place. Wow, this purse was loaded. Let’s see here. Here’s a mirror. One, two, three, four, five tubes of lipstick. A little New Testament. A very nice assortment of gospel tracts: ‘Mr Serviceman, are you ready to meet your Maker?’ That’s a good question, very good question. Here's another one: ‘Two Roads, Two Destinies, Which Road will you choose?’ Another good question.
After Mike had gathered everything back into the purse, he returned it to its owner, apologizing profusely for the dog who he said had just come in off the street, and was clearly not a saved dog. He then went over to Donna and Thelma. “How are you ladies?” he asked. “I’m sorry, ma’am,” he said to Donna. “I should have been more considerate. It wasn’t right, me picking on you just as you came in the door. What’s your name, me lady?” he asked.
Thelma chimed in. “I thought you knew everyone’s name.”
“Not until they tell me,” said Mike. “Your friend hasn’t told me her name yet. But she’s told me some other things, like she doesn’t like me very much and she wishes she had never come here.” Mike said this almost tearfully. “I should know better,” said Mike. “I’m such a show-off. I am very sorry.”
“You really don’t know her name?” said Thelma incredulously. “The boys here say you know everyone’s name and no one has to say anything. You just know it. They say you’re magic, like a leprechaun.”
“Oh yeah, right,” said Mike. “Magic Mike. That’s me. I’d like to claim being a leprechaun. I’d get that pot of gold they say leprechauns have. But I’m afraid I’m just little Mike, always broke, always looking for a friend.”
“I’m Donna,” said Donna. “I can see you are a nice man.”
“I’d like to be a nice man. I mean to be a nice man. But I’m just Mike. Plain Mike.”
This was Donna’s queue. She had never witnessed before. Now she had to. “ForGodsolovedtheworldthatHegaveHisOnlyBegottenSonthatwhosoeverbelievethinHimshouldnotperishbuthaveeverlastinglife.ForGodsentnotHisSonintotheworldtocondemntheworldbutthattheworldthroughHimmightbelieve. TrustintheLordwithallyourheartandleannotuntoyourownunderstandingInallyourwaysacknowledgeHimandHewilldirectyourpath. HewhobelievethintheSonhaslifeandHewhobelievethnotiscondemnedalready.”
“Your name is Donna,” said Mike. “And you feel much better about being here now. That’s good. I like that you are shy. I’m shy too, but I talk all the time to try to keep the shyness away. It hurts to be shy, and in this world there are enough things that hurt without shyness adding to it.”
Thelma was embarrassed and a little confused. Donna really should have taken that gospel class. What she said to this man couldn’t have made much sense to him. But what was he saying to her?
She quickly figured out that Donna and Mike had fallen in love. “That was the fastest falling in love thing that I’ve ever seen,” she thought to herself. “He’s such a little squirt. Is she sure about this?”
“Donna’s pretty small too,” said Mike to Thelma.
“Hardly taller than me,” he said.
Who could believe it? They were married three weeks later. So was Thelma. She met a soldier that same night, having wandered away from the stricken young couple.
They had a double wedding. First Mike and Donna were married. Then Thelma and Ted were married. Their receptions were together in the church basement.
Donna and Thelma’s beaus were to be deployed to North Africa.
There had been no time to lose.
Donna had been concerned about marrying an “unbeliever.” To be “unequally yoked” with someone who did not share her belief system was not something she was going to do. But Mike was delighted to get “saved.” He prayed the Prayer of Faith, asking Jesus to come into his heart. If he died he knew why God should let him into His heaven: because he had trusted in the finished work of Christ, the One who loved him so much that He died for him. He had been washed in the blood of the Holy Lamb of God. Mike forsook gambling, swearing, smoking; and went to the church meeting three times a week while holding the hand of his girlfriend.
One night together, but no honeymoon, for Mike and Ted were on the boat the next day with 1200 other soldiers heading for North Africa.
A man of Mike’s reputed talents was moved from the artillery to interrogation. In desperate times, and these were desperate times, torture was deemed a necessity to get information out of the enemy. An Egyptian who had collaborated with the Nazi’s was brought in.
“God be praised. There is no god but God. To God we belong and to God we will return. God be praised. I seek refuge in God from the accursed Satan.” said Mike.
“What are you talking about?” said his sergeant. “Is this what you think this guy is saying? You don’t even know. These people, they don’t say God. They say Allah. If you could read his mind, you would know that.”
“I can’t read minds,” said Mike. “I told them that. I just can tell what people are saying. But if they don’t want to talk, I don’t hear anything, and these are the only words this guy has said in all the time we’ve been here with him.”
“Well you didn’t hear him say God because these people don’t say God.”
“Then find me another job,” said Mike. “Send me to kitchen patrol. In these interrogation rooms, people don’t talk, at least not that I can hear.”
“So what good are you then?” asked the sergeant.
“No good at all,” said Mike.
One of the generals felt otherwise. He felt the need for his own personal jester. Just to look at Mike made him laugh.
Mike was at his side when he was talking to the Egyptian Field Marshall about coordinating their forces for the defense of the coast. Mike started singing, “Jesus the very thought of Thee, with sweetness fills my breast. But better far Thy face to see, and in Thy presence rest.” The Field Marshall looked at him quizzically. “You are a Believer,” he said, “to sing that song.”
“Believer?” asked Mike. “I sing that song because that is the song you are singing. It’s a song I’ve sung before, over in England at my girlfriend’s church—I mean my wife’s church.”
The Field Marshall began to shake with emotion. “That song is always in my heart. I did not know my singing went beyond my heart.”
The general laughed. He said to the Field Marshall, “You need to keep that song tucked further inside of you so that boys like my Mike here won’t hear you singing it. That’s the hymn of Bernard of Clairvaux, the maker of popes and crusades.”
Mike made himself useful to the general in more ways than being his fool. Before the general spoke, Mike would bring him what he wanted. Though the general was fluent in several languages, his understanding of Arabic was limited, as was his understanding of Egyptian custom. Mike seemed to understand every language and every custom so he served as the general’s interpreter. But more than being the general’s batboy, interpreter and fool, Mike listened to the general. He never gave him advice. (It never entered Mike’s head to give him advice.) And the general knew Mike heard and understood everything he said to him.
The general gave Mike the rank of captain, much to the amusement of his other officers. With the rank, came the pay of a captain; every penny of which Mike sent to his bride.
After the war was over, the general could not part with his Mike. While the other soldiers went home to their wives and to their families, Mike stayed with the general. He was given his leaves, but hardly would he be home when a message would come that the general had urgent need of him.
But then one day, so very quiet, so very far away, he heard a voice. “Go home,” it said.
“Home?” thought Mike.
“Home?” he wondered.
“I do have a home,” he told the general. “I have a wife and two children”
“I need to go home,” he told him.
The general flew him home on a Bristol Britannia. He landed at the Manchester Airport. The ground crew hurried to bring up the steps. When the door of the Britannia swung open and all that came out was grinning Mike, the whole crew burst out laughing.
Mike never had money in his pocket. He was always with the general so he never needed money. But when the general signed his discharge papers and gave him his final handshake, in the handshake was a fifty pound note.
Mike hailed a taxicab and gave the driver his address. When they pulled up to the front of his house, he gave the driver the fifty pound note.
“Blimey mate, is that all you got?” asked the driver.
“I’ll be right back,” said Mike. He ran up to his house and opened the door, “Donna,” he yelled. “You got a fiver on you?”
Tom came running down the stairs and took a flying leap into his dad’s arms. “I thought you might be coming home today,” he said.