Thanks so very much for your support of “The Girls of Haviland.” The book will be available for sale at the North Salem Middle School book fair this week. Vin D’Aquino will be interviewing me this Wednesday for his local television program, “One on One with Vin D’Aquino.” The program airs on Mondays on Comcast Channel 22.
I will be speaking about the research I conducted for the book using archival issues of The Brewster Standard and The Putnam County Courier at the Brewster Library on Saturday, December 9 at 1:00, and at the Mahopac Library on Thursday, December 21, at 3:30.
Here’s another sneak peak of the sequel:
“I can’t stay in the dorm!”
I wanted to go home. No I didn’t. I wanted my room back.
Florence shut the door to the room so Evangeline couldn’t snoop on our conversation. “Why are you so late? Evangeline didn’t even want to let me in to my own room! I had to get Betty to come down and insist that a third bed be moved in for you, Jay, but then Helen showed up at 7:30, furious that she got kicked out of the room she shared with Nathalia last year, because Mercy got here before her and claimed the bed. Now we’re stuck with her!”
“You mean you’re stuck with her. And it’s not my fault I’m late.” I pointed to the school’s entranceway, still clogged with cars and wagons. “Traffic is backed up all the way down Gleneida Avenue.”
“Well, we all managed to get here on time. Now I’m stuck with those two snobs. Thanks, a lot!”
“I’m sorry, Florence. I had no idea. Listen, I’ve got to get out of these wet clothes, so I’d better get going.” Dejected, I picked up my sodden bags.
“Don’t go around with the puss on, feeling sorry for yourself. Wait here while I grab my raincoat. I’ll drag this trunk down there for you.”
We sloshed our way through the mud leading to the Fowler House. Carcasses of deer, rabbits, raccoons, and turkey vultures swung from tree branches, dripping blood tinged water in the mud. Hills Brothers coffee cans, riddled with bullet holes, topped every fence post and tree stump.
“This isn’t going to work.” I grabbed the knocker and rapped it against the front door a few times. Once it was opened, six dogs charged us.
“Run!” I yelled. Teeth bared, the dogs jumped at us until we were corralled in a circle, trying to fight them off.
A skinny old lady wearing a coonskin cap opened the door. She placed two fingers in her mouth, and gave a shrill whistle. The dogs backed off, just a bit, still growling. Foamy drool dripped from their exposed gums.
“There’s two more, Hazel!” she called. “It’s a sin having students move in on our Lord’s Day of rest. A sin against God, and I’ll not have it!”
“At least let them in out of the weather, Tillie.” A short, plump lady descended the few stairs leading from the house. She approached us, lifting her skirt up to her knees, and holding a huge umbrella over her head.
“Call off your dogs!” yelled Florence, above the barking. Her fingers dug into my upper arms.
“Sorry, ladies,” The short lady shooed the wet mongrels up toward the house. “They’re watchdogs, not used to so many visitors!” She summoned us in with her free hand. “I’m Miss Hazel Fowler, and that’s my sister, Miss Tillie Fowler, at the door. Come inside.”
From behind, the sisters resembled a hot dog and a hamburger.
The stink of cat pee hit me the moment I set foot through the door. And no wonder, for cats were crawling along the head rests of the sofa and Queen Anne chairs set before the fireplace. Cats tiptoed in and out through the rows of galoshes lined up inside the entryway. An orange tabby slinking around my ankles was wearing a knit bonnet tied under its chin!
“Oh God, look at that!” I nudged Florence in her ribs and pointed. Mounted above the fireplace hearth was an enormous moose head, its head turned, the dark lips set in a ghoulish grin. All four walls were covered with deer mounts, stuffed raccoons, pheasants, turkey vultures, and what I thought might be a bobcat. One of its paws was raised, claws outstretched, ready to pounce.
“Look at its eyes!” Florence whispered out of the side of her mouth. “I think it’s watching us.”
Several needlework bible verses were displayed among the dead animals. One read, “If anyone curses his father or mother, he must be put to death. Leviticus 20:9”
I thought of how many times I had cursed Da when he was alive.
“Here, let me take those wet things for you, ladies,” said Miss Hazel.
We tentatively removed our coats.
“Sit by the fire and dry off while I pour tea.”
I checked for cat droppings.
Miss Tillie, dressed in black, was seated in a rocking chair close to the stingy light of the window. She looked up from her bible. “Afraid you ladies made a trip for nothing in this rain,” she said. “At last count, there were ten students settling in upstairs.”
“Well, then, we won’t be wasting any more of your time.” I rose up from the seat upon which I had never fully sat down.