original story by genghis
words and pictures by rhoda
the story so far: geraldine garfield, aka the kid, a hotshot reporter for the minsk times (english language edition) had found her career at a crossroads after a series of professional and personal setbacks -
including being duped by a young woman claiming to represent a worldwide gang of feral youths headquartered in karachi
and the abrupt end of her torrid continent-spanning romance with helga morgenstern,
the doyenne of international correspondents. for a change of scene, she had returned to her native north america, where, walking along the shore of one of that continent's
magnificent lakes, she met heidi jones, a young woman she had attended high school ( the north american term for gymnasium) with.
although geraldine and heidi had moved in different circles at that time, the inverse proportions of time, distance and accurate memory had acted in classic fashion, and they greeted each other with something close to ecstatic abandon.
heidi was accompanied by the three youngest of her four children, and the oldest of these, a boy of eight with the unpleasing sobriquet of dylan, watched the two matron's emotional antics with the truly pitiless gaze that only the very young can summon, and which quickly bored into the back of heidi's head.
"dylan, why don't you go look for some native american arrowheads, i know you are interested in them."
"how do you know that?"
"well, aren't you interested in them?"
"not particularly. if you want me to leave so you can talk garbage with this lady, why don't you just say so?"
"all right, dylan, why don't you run along so that i can talk to my old friend without your beady little judgmental eyes drilling holes in my brain, is that all right, john calvin junior?"
"fine." dylan turned and was swallowed up immediately by the primeval forest.
"kids these days," heidi shrugged at geraldine, reddening slightly.
"yes," geraldine agreed. "i've had my own problems with kids these days."
"mommy?" five year old hannah spoke up.
"will dylan get eaten by a bear?"
"well let's hope not. why don't you run along after him, and protect him?"
"because he'll probably throw rocks at me."
"oh, i don't think he'd do that. i have certainly spent enough time on educating him not to do such things. "
"that doesn't mean he doesn't do them."
geraldine changed the subject. she pointed across the lake. "are there any monsters in this lake?" she asked the little girl.
"i don't think so," hannah answered seriously. "but there are monsters in the woods - and ghosts too."
"and ghosts of monsters!"
geraldine smiled at the child. "sounds scary."
"don't laugh. these woods are haunted by the ghost of - the clown!"
suddenly the woods seemed a little darker and cooler. heidi pulled her jacket
a little tighter around herself.
"you must remember the stories about the clown," she said to geraldine.
"i must," said geraldine. in truth, after so much time among the cathedrals and colosseums and cobbled streets of the old world, the new world and its nameless terrors had largely faded from her consciousness.
"but why don't you refresh my memory ? wasn't there something about an abandoned summer camp?"
"oh no," heidi and hannah exclaimed together. "that's wilroy you're thinking about it."
"the clown was worse," hannah told geraldine. "much worse."
it suddenly grew even darker. a few raindrops began to fall, thwacking loudly on the big green leaves on the trees, and sending small animals scurrying through the underbrush.
"oh, dear," said heidi. "maybe we should be getting back." she awkwardly twisted the baby carriage with eleven month old woody in it around . geraldine smiled politely as it went over her bare toes.
"would you like a ride back to town?" heidi asked geraldine. she started up the trail pushing the carriage in front of her. hannah and geraldine followed.
"thank you. but you can drop me off at the old buffalo leg trail entrance."
"but - why?"
"because i'm staying at the old henderson place."
"the old henderson place!"
"don't tell me it's haunted."
"haunted!" cried heidi. "it's possessed."
"well. i haven't had any problems so far." geraldine looked around as the rain began falling harder. "what about the little boy?"
"dylan? oh, he spends so much time in the woods he's half native american.
he'll be all right." heidi maneuvered the carriage over the quivering body of a snake crossing the dirt path.
"hah!" said hannah. "he probably made straight for the car and is waiting for us right now."
by the time they reached the car - an early model duesenberg -
the rain was coming down harder and rattling on the canopy of leaves above them. there was no sign of dylan, but heidi remained unperturbed. geraldine helped heidi strap the baby carriage to the top of the car.
hannah got into the back seat with baby woody, and geraldine got into the front seat beside heidi and they started down the trail away from the lake, which was now being whipped soundly by the rain.
"you sure you don't want to come to dinner?" heidi asked geraldine.
"we've got some fresh bison steaks to throw on the fire.
they'll be ready in no time."
"why, that sounds great, heidi. i haven't had a good bison steak since i can't remember when. say, you don't mind if i smoke, do you?"
"no, why would i mind?"
geraldine took a pack of gitanes out and offered one to heidi,
who was now gripping the steering wheel tightly with both hands as they bumped down the rocky trail.
"did you roll those yourself? they look mighty tight."
"no, they were made in a factory. in belgium, i think."
"oh, i don't think i want one of those."
"can i have one?" hannah asked from the back seat.
"no!" answered her mother. "i've told you before, no smoking until you are eight years old."
"awww - hey look!" a flash of lightning illuminated the trail and the trees which pressed against it.
"did you see that?" hannah cried.
"it was just the lightning," heidi told her.
'i'm afraid i wasn't looking," geraldine told her.
"it was the clown!" hannah insisted.
"oh, i don't think so."
after that they continued their way without incident to heidi's log cabin, with the rain coming down unabated.
heidi's oldest child, eleven year old joni, was sitting on the front step of the cabin paring her fingernails with a bowie knife.
smoke was drifting from inside the cabin, where dylan was grilling up the bison steaks.
"did you do your homework?" was the first thing heidi asked joni.
"yeah. and i made myself a rabbit stew, so your new friend can have my steak."
"no need to be a smarty pants and a martyr, missy, there's plenty of steak to go around."
"whatever." joni took her cigarette out of the corner of her mouth and spit on the ground between the gap in her front teeth.
heidi glared at her but moved inside with geraldine and the two other children behind her.
the inside of the cabin was was lit by an oil lamp.
shadows flickered on the walls.
"make yourself comfortable," heidi told geraldine, pointing to a big stuffed chair in the corner.
later, after they finished the steaks, heidi and hannah took turns telling geraldine the story of the clown,
as joni and dylan smoked and sulked.
at first geraldine listened with only one ear, paying more attention to heidi than the story. a woman with four kids, she thought, quite a change of pace from helga morgenstern.
but then she began to pay more attention to the story...
"coffee?" uncle joe asked the kid.
"sure." the kid put her notepad down and shook her wrist, which was a little sore.
the flap of the tent opened wider and billy freed the shooting gallery proprietor came in. he looked at the kid suspiciously.
"although geraldine and heidi had moved in different circles at that time, the inverse proportions of time, distance and accurate memory had acted in classic fashion, and they greeted each other with something close to ecstatic abandon."
Haha. Worthy of Ronald Firbank.
This is great! Flashing By is such a mass of classics.
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