Friday Fiction "Tessa"

I love Friday Fiction. Be sure to visit Pond Tales and Ponderings to find more great stories.

Here's a peek into my NaNo story "Going Home with Phoebe". In this sequel, now that Phoebe has a home, she seems to attract other "strays."Since a cougar track has been found nearby, school has been cancelled until it is found. Everyone is cautioned to stay near their homes. Phoebe's nerves are on edge when she finds something else.


No one walked to school for two weeks. Everyday, the men of the town hunted for the cougar. There was evidence of it around; paw prints, animal killed, and sharp screams in the night. Finally, Seth Grisholm shot the big cat, when it was attacking his cattle.

During those two weeks, Maseppa and Phoebe learned how to use the new loom that Zeke brought home. The big contraption took up most of the sitting room. Stan drove Deborah up to show them how to string the warp. Matthew and little Sally were glad to visit Phoebe, instead of staying inside at home everyday.

Phoebe found her box of wooden blocks. She and Matthew built towers for Sally to knock down. They played “Search and Find” while she napped.

“Phoebe, where are you?” Matthew called in a loud whisper, so as not to wake Sally. He looked under beds and tables. He looked in the woodshed, in the outhouse, and even in the potato bin. He walked back in the kitchen and wandered over to the pantry door, and heard a slight scuffle behind the wall.

There was a wide crack along the edge of the door. He put his fingers in and pulled. It popped open.

“There you are, Phoebe Johanson!” He ducked down to peer into the little room around the big chimney. “Ooooo…where’s this go to?”

“No where. It’s just a space around the chimney…a good hiding place.”

“Do you think we can go play in the barn? I’m tired of playing in the house.”

“I’ll ask,” said Phoebe. “I’m sure it will be fine, as long as stay close.”

Just when they had finished tying a rope to the rafters to be able to swing over the hayloft, Matthew’s father trotted into with the dooryard with the news of Seth Grisholm shooting the cougar.

After they left, Phoebe walked around the big loom. She gently fingered the strings of the warp, going up and down. She pulled on the board, that slid forward and handled the shuttle that looked like a little boat. All the strings were a naturally creamy white. Deborah said it was good to learn to make an even weave before having to think of any colored design.

“Maseppa, can you show me how it works?”

She sat on the bench. “It is not very hard. It is like making baskets, only softer. You remember we made the hanging beds in the woods?”

Phoebe smiled. She liked her hammock. It was so nice to be able to sleep among the ferns and look up at the starry sky. The sweet dew of morning was her first breath of the day. It was the best part of living in the woods.

Maseppa gave a flick of her hand, and the shuttle scooted through a tunnel between the threads. She caught it on the other side and pulled the damper to hold the threads tight. Pushing the levers at her feet, the threads shifted direction, and she shot the shuttle back again…pull the damper…push the levers…toss the shuttle…pull the damper. It didn’t look too hard. It would take a long time to make enough cloth to make anything.

“What are you making?”

“I think this will be a cloth for the table. I will make cloth for sewing shirt for Zeke when I learn how to do it better.”

Phoebe watched Maseppa for awhile. Toss the shuttle…pull the damper… push the levers…toss the shuttle… She got bored and decided to read more of Swiss Family Robinson. The book had dried, but the pages were wrinkled and the ink smeared in the corners of some. Now that the cougar had been shot, she supposed she’d have to apologize to Mister Phillips and come to some agreement of paying him.


“Yes, Maseppa?”

“Before you read your book, will you milk the cow now, before it gets dark? Give Ginger water and grain, too? Zeke will be late with his deliveries tonight.”

“Yes, Maseppa.” She put the scrap of paper that she used for a bookmark on page three hundred thirty- eight. She looked at the last page… four hundred seventy- four. She had never read a book that long. If she could stay up later tonight, she should be able to finish it.

She grabbed the tin pail from the hook in the storage shed, and rinsed at the outside pump. She shoved the door of the barn with her shoulder. It rumbled along its track, and the afternoon sun lit up the barn floor. Bella, their Jersey cow, mooed at her from her stall.

Phoebe tossed a couple pitchforks of hay in front of Bella. She set the three-legged stool nearby and put the tin pail beneath the swollen udder. Phoebe leaned her forehead on Bella’s side and began squirting the white, creamy milk in the pail. At first, it made a kind of ringing sound like a bell, but after the bottom was covered, the streams of milk foamed into bubbles as it hit the surface. Butterscotch rubbed against her legs and the cow’s legs. Bella tried to swat her away.

“Ouch! Here, kitty,” She sprayed a stream at the kitten’s face and laughed as it got all over her fur.

She set the pail near the door and filled Ginger’s water bucket and poured a scoop of grain in her bucket. She tossed a pitchfork of hay in the corner of her stall and gave her an extra scratch on the rump. She carelessly leaned the pitchfork in the corner, but it fell over. As she bent to pick it up, something dark moved away from her hand in edge of the pile of dried grass.

Phoebe stared at the spot. It hadn’t looked like a mouse. It looked bigger. Maybe it was a rat or a weasel. She grasped the pitchfork and dropped it deeper into the hay. Again something moved. She raised it again.

“No! Don’t git me!” The hay scattered and a young woman crawled out. Her face was dark, and her eyes were like white moons in midnight sky. “Don’t tell no one I’s here!”

Phoebe couldn’t move. Her eyes told her that this was a negro, one of those strange breed that she had heard about at school. She knew that their skin was black, but really was! She subconsciously reached out her hand, as if to assure herself that this was real. The woman sat shivering as Phoebe touched her head of tiny braids and sweaty forehead. She pulled her hand back, ashamed of her childish rudeness.

“I’m sorry. I never saw a black person before.”

“Don’t tell no one ‘bout me, please, miss!”

“Are you a slave? Are you running away?”

“I’s ain’t stayin’ long. I jes need t’ rest fer a spell.”

“Maseppa is good. She will give you some food.”

“No! Don’t tell no one! Dey’s lookin’ fer me!”

“Who’s looking for you?”

“Da bad men. Dey want t’ take me back, but I’s ain’t never goin’ back!”

Phoebe sighed. She didn’t want to leave this poor woman in the cold barn alone in the dark. “If you can get up in the loft, I can bring you a blanket and some food.” She pointed to the ladder against the wall. “I’ll be back in awhile.”

As the woman stood up, Phoebe noticed the woman’s rounded belly, and her eyes widened in recognition of her condition. “Maybe you shouldn’t climb the ladder,” said Phoebe.

“You don’ worry ‘bout me. I be fine in da loft.” With that she climbed step by step, until her black skin faded in with the dark space above the stalls.

Satisfied that the woman was settled up there, with the extra hay and grain bags, Phoebe turned to close the big door. She stopped with a thought and ran back to the base of the ladder. “Zeke isn’t home yet. You’ll have to be extra quiet, when he puts Ol’ Sam in his stall.”

The woman peered over the edge and smiled. All Phoebe could see where her eyes and white teeth. “I be fine. Jes’ don’t tell no body!”


Anonymous said...

That's right, leave me hanging, and wanting to know more! Good job!

Joanne Sher said...

Nice job with atmosphere and sense of place. And yes, I wanna hear MORE!


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