Monday, July 7, 2008

The Next Installment of Blood Is Thicker Than Water

Chapter 1: In Which Abigail Causes Myself to Leave the Peacefulness of Abernathie for New Orleans

Before I begin this narrative in earnest, I must apologize to the reader for my chapter titles. I fear my titles are long and wordy, and describe a shade too much the chapter’s content. I have consulted the works of several great writers on the subject of titles, and I have discovered that Mr. Charles Dickens generally titles his chapters with a phrase that denotes their content; however, I am concerned that my personal choices may be repetitive to my attempts to narrate. I beg the reader to consider my inexperience and to ignore any chapter titles that do not please them. I also hope that my naming conventions will improve as I warm to my narrative. Yet, I simply can not bring myself to entitle this opening chapter as “Abigail’s Unbridled Spirit” or “The Passions of Youth,” or some equally odious and melodramatic alternative. Sincerely, I hope the content of the chapters adequately apologizes for the lack of creativity in naming them.

This tale begins for me in my hometown of Abernathie, Vermont. Abernathie is the scenic country village where we of the Raintree family have been held in high regard for over 75 years. I understand that there are long family dynasties in Europe, but for those of us of the Yankee persuasion, 75 years is rather a lengthy time period. Because the United States has a shorter history, I believe we escape the undesirable side effect the Europeans have of considering themselves historically above their fellow citizens to boot. We know that money and ingenuity, not time and social standing, make the difference in the caliber of a person. If Abernathie can be said to have a higher society, its core is the family of Raintree.

I was born to Dwight and Pauline Raintree, and was named for my mother, although I have always been called Polly to avoid confusion. Father was a respected lawyer, a favorite nephew of the self-made Theodore Raintree of mail order catalog fame, and when Father retired, my brother Melrose inherited his legal practice. Melrose and I had another sister one year my elder, Josephine, who is currently in Boston, the light of the society known as Mrs. William Townsend. For purposes of this narrative, Josephine is irrelevant, and perhaps the less I mention of Josephine, the better, for I am certain to portray her in an unfavorable light.

Abernathie slept, like all towns its size and evolved slowly, if at all, from the town I grew up in as a little girl. In my youth, the farmers tended their apple orchards. Every year a flood of workers would pick apples for the farmers, and the harvest air was pregnant with the smell of ripe Jonathans. As a little girl, I would sometimes visit the orchard we owned and watch the workers, after a long day of picking, dance to the music of someone’s violin, drinking hard cider outside of the bunk houses, a bonfire fending off the chill autumn air.

Abernathie also had a beautiful church, mostly because the Raintree family had donated the stained glass windows. Mama had them imported from Germany. They depicted various scenes of the crucifixion. A long window representing the Last Supper was my favorite because of Jesus, hands folded, head tilted, his eyes reading and understanding my thoughts. All in all, such peace as Christ needed we could achieve in Abernathie and the little girl I was wondered why Christ appeared so sad.

Abernathie remained the same in the most respects as I aged. There was a short time when I was in love, but Willie returned to Boston with Josephine, not me, and then all of Abernathie became strange to me. I knew Christ’s despair then. The long walks on late harvest nights no longer sparkled with magic. I began to doubt the Lord had a plan for me. To fill the emptiness inside of me, I began to read voraciously. While my mind was improved, I must say that my general appearance was not. I was never as beautiful as Josephine or Mama, and I began to hunch over my books, to neglect my meals, and to look in general like a pinched spinster. My appearance only served to make me understand my role as I realized that I was abandoned by my own chance at marriage. As I read, I discovered that I had a terrible weakness for mysterious occult tomes, Indian lore, and general drugstore supernatural hoopla. Of course, if anyone asked me if I believed, for example, in mediums, spirits, or the Jersey devil, I would laugh. But I personally do not see, gentle reader, why we should discount these things, when there is so much of the spiritual world that we do not understand.

I confess sheepishly and reluctantly to you in the pages of this narrative that I rather found some of the ideas of incantations and spells appealing, and while I hardly would believe that I could become a conjurer or a magician, anything as nonsensical as that, still, experimentation hurt no one. I became adept at reading Tarot cards, studying the bumps on one’s head, and amusing myself with such soothsaying as might be socially passable for a night of harmless parlor tricks. I occasionally tried to find the answers to what seemed to me to be a pointless life in my fortune telling, but since I did not enjoy the depressing answers that looking into my own future seemed to give me, I abandoned those pursuits. Mostly, I read and occasionally walked out at night, and developed an odd reputation.

The War Between the States touched Abernathie very little. Melrose was a dashing young ensign in our navy and was involved in the occupation of New Orleans. When he returned to our town, he brought with him a new wife. Laura was a slight scandal in Abernathie. Of course, money insulated us from a major scandal. Laura was Creole: beautiful, impeccably mannered, with a touch of French in her accent. Her parents had much disproved of her match with a Yankee, so she and Melrose had eloped. I liked this daring young woman and we soon became fast companions. She was the one who invited me to stay with Melrose and herself after my mother died. Of course, I accepted.

My niece Abigail was born on my twenty-third birthday at 4 in the morning. She was christened in the church at Abernathie with Jesus’ forlorn face gazing at me as I promised to be her godmother. I was more skeptical about Christ. He had heard the citizens of Abernathie whisper about poor, plain Pauline Raintree, and He had done nothing. I had prayed to him about my loneliness and He had said nothing. I regarded our Savoir much more skeptically than before, although this was not a thought I shared with my family. My life now rested in helping Melrose watch over his wife and daughter. The only luxuries I allowed myself were my deepening interest in the occult, my increasing experimentation in ritual, and a larger than average leather bound library.

1 comment:

Cat said...

This is gorgeous thus far. Can't wait for the next installment.