Monday, January 08, 2007

Crows and Critters--Part 1

Happy Monday, BGs. First, a note y’all won’t want to miss. After reading today’s post here, please visit Novel Journey for the first of a two-part interview with Sue Brower, fiction acquisitions editor at Zondervan. It's a very informative interview. Sue focuses on the business side of things--something we novelists need to be reminded of as we pursue our art. Art doesn't live in a vaccuum. In a few weeks I’ll be running my own interview with Sue, and we’ll be discussing in part any follow-up questions to her interview with NJ.

Now, for today and tomorrow here on Forensics and Faith—guest blogger Ruth Seamands, my mom—telling a two-part story in her own inimitable humor. (If you missed the posts about her 90th birthday party, check back to October 6 and 10.) You asked for her … you got her. Heeeeeeere’s Mama Ruth!
Hi, everyone! My darling, beautiful, red-headed blogger Brandilyn said that some of you were interested in hearing a little more from me. Now, that's enough to stir up some parts of my old brain which have been rather dormant lately. I needed stimulation, so thanks for even thinking that I may have anything to say to you. Of course, I am full of stories. All I need is a new audience.

I'm not sure how far back or forward you'd like me to go. So methinks maybe a peek back into the late 1940s might be something different for you. This time period would put me back in India, during our days on the mission field. I can still see my big old stone house with twenty-pound langur monkeys pounding over the roof every day. Plenty of holes for the monsoons to pour through. Vast living room with ten double doors—and no screens. It was just after WWII and screen wire was not available. Lots of guests from America visiting India to "cheer up the missionaries." One day it went like this: (Names have been changed to protect the frightened.)

Somebody at my door kept clearing his throat, which was my doorbell. "Salaan, Mem-sahib." A tonga driver put his two palms together in greeting. His one-horse shay stood at my steps. "I brought you some guests from the station, Madam." He spoke in Kanarese, which told me he didn't know English. If he had, he'd have been proud to speak it.

I answered in his language. “From the station? Today?”

A portly American stepped forward, taking command off the situation, holding out his big hand to shake mine. "You're Mrs. Seamands."

I nodded. I already knew that.

“I am Congressman Charles Crow, and this is my wife, Susan."

"Oh, Congressman, I thought you were coming tomorrow. . . I could have met you in our jeep. So sorry. . .”

Mr. Crow brushed aside my apology. "It isn't your fault. We got an earlier plane."

"Well, come on in. My ayah will soon have your room ready. Meanwhile, please sit here and I'll get us some tea."

They nodded and smiled and sat on my droopy couch while I paid the tonga walla and dismissed him. Turning to my guests, I hoped to make them feel welcome. "It’s so nice to have you visit us from America. I do get lonely for home folks sometimes." I brought in the tea tray. Strong Indian tea, boiled with milk, spices, and whole cardamom seeds. "Estation tea," we call it because that's what we always get on trains at every station. "Here you are." I passed them large cups full of this special tea. "And try some of these biscuits--uh, cookies. The British out here call them biscuits, but they are American oatmeal cookies. I just made them."

They both seemed quite thirsty. "This is very good tea--and I love the cookies," exclaimed Susan. "I never dreamed I'd have oatmeal cookies in India." They put their cups back on the tray.

I was pouring a second cup when an enormous black-faced, white-mouthed monkey loped from the guest room through the corner of my great living room, and out the front door. Susan Crow’s eyes bulged. She screamed, quickly covered her mouth with one hand and lifted both feet off the floor. "D---do they live here with you?"

"Not with my permission! Don't worry about that monkey, Susan. He's probably as scared of you as you are of him. Because we don't have any screens yet, they sneak into the bathrooms when they find outside doors open. They like to eat the soap."

"Eat the SOAP?" they echoed in unison, their cultural horizons widening with every passing second.

I shrugged. "I guess it's because they don't have any toothpaste."

Charles Crow boomed--if a crow can boom, "Eat the soap? I thought that monkey had rabies! He was foaming at the mouth."

"No, they like soap. Sorry, you will probably find teeth prints on your new bar of soap. It was my last one. Just keep your outside bathroom door closed."

Susan quavered, "M--maybe it's not a good time to stay here, Charles."

He patted her shoulder and whispered, "We'll face it together, Dear."

I smiled at them, remembering how I first felt when I came to India, to this place, and faced all the critters I now encountered every day. "Don't worry, it's a good time. This is usually a pretty quiet place—”

Before I could finish defending my living quarters, we heard a great crash and yell coming from the wall. That was followed by a series of heavy whacking sounds and more shouts. Susan whimpered and drew her feet off the floor again. "Char--Charles. . .!"

The rotund VIP, skilled at taking charge of any trouble, jumped straight up. "WHAT WAS THAT?"

I sighed. "Oh, that. It's just my noisy husband. He's in the storeroom," I pointed to two doors in a side wall, "killing rats …”

Read Part 2


Jannie Ernst said...

Thanks so much, Ruth! Can't wait for tomorrow. It reminded me of my own days on the mission field in deep, dark Africa!

Brandilyn, it's all clear now! You are getting your writing talent from your mom! Fess up!

Kristy Dykes said...

I laughed OUT LOUD at your last sentence. Hilarious! Oh, man, Ruth, you have the gift! Thanks for sharing. Can't wait until tomorrow.

Tina Helmuth said...

You are a gifted storyteller, Ruth. I can't wait until tomorrow. Thanks so much for your willingness to share.

Tina Ann Forkner said...

Mama Ruth, what a fantastic story. And that couple sounds adorable. They were so supportive of each other. Poor Susan. :)

I'm sure I speak for all of us when I say, may we have more please?

Tina Ann Forkner said...

Oh, and second Tina was Tina f. That's me. Sorry Tina! I forgot to say which one I was when I saw you on the board. Nice name. :)

~michelle pendergrass said...

Oh wow. This sounds so much like when I moved from just outside of Chicago to back-woods Missouri.

Rebecca LuElla Miller said...

Great story, Ruth. Your writing is outstanding--I can see these people, hear their voices.

You had me laughing, too. A wonderful way to start the week.


D. Gudger said...

Love it! My brother-in-law is Indian, so I'm enjoying your stories!

Rats... sounds like rural Pennsylvania!

Dineen A. Miller said...

ROTFL!!! Foaming monkies. Who'da thunk?

Anonymous said...

I nodded. I already knew that.