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Sit a bit and hear some observational stories I’ve been steeping.

Fallon Hotel – Chapter Fourteen

Foster

Chapter Fourteen

Gwen, Jeri and Andy bundled up against the chilly night air and stood on Ruth’s porch, preparing to head back to the Fallon Hotel for the night.   “Holy moley.  I had no idea it was going to be almost pitch-black out here!”  Jeri’s teeth chattered as she glanced out at the street then back at Ruth who was now cheerily lit by two handmade lanterns, made from mason jars filled with sand and tea lights, she held near her face.

Ruth smiled and wagged her finger at Jeri.  “Thank goodness for all of the extra jars from that yearly harvest from overzealous local gardeners, some wire and handy dandy wire cutters!  Now, don’t worry about returning these either – unless you’re using them for your next visit over here.”

Jeri and Gwen each took hold of a lantern and hugged Ruth with their free hand, thanking her for everything she’d provided throughout the evening.

This time, it was Ruth’s turn to fan her face, as Gwen had done earlier in the evening.  “Now cut that out.  I didn’t really do that much.  If anything, you young ladies provided me with plenty more light and warmth than my meal or those lanterns.  Now, you three get home and get the chill out of your bones.  I’ll see you soon.”

Patting Andy on the back, Jeri prompted him with a social cue.  “Say goodnight to Ruth, Andy.”  She went to lift his hand to assist the gesture, but before she could reach him, Andy raised both hands and waved.

“Night, Roo!”  He skipped just slightly ahead of the little bit of light cast from the lanterns and repeated himself.  “Night!”

Closing her eyes and shaking her head slightly, Jeri smiled.  Again, amazed by her son’s slightest, yet remarkably appropriate gesture, she felt her heart swell.  Along with the feeling of a lovely evening spent with what turned out to be wonderful company and delicious food, Jeri was thankful for the sensation of a full belly and heart.

Standing a few feet away from Jeri, Gwen inched closer until the light from her lantern crossed over into the circle of light from Jeri’s lantern, like a moving Venn diagram.  The blending of the two glowing circles somehow gave Gwen the courage to speak up to Jeri, something she’d wanted to do all day.

“M’am.  Earlier you were upset with me for telling you the story of ma’ experience at the hotel with Ezra and I’d like to say something.”  Her lantern began to swing wildly as she gestured with both hands as she spoke.

Bristling, Jeri tightened her jacket around her neck, more against whatever Gwen was about to say than against the cold.

Sensing Jeri’s stiffness, Gwen chose to come closer to Jeri, rather than step back.  “You made a comment about how much a person might decide to believe.  Well, my Aunt Adelaide taught me a quote of William Wordsworth’s that I choose to live by, where he said, ‘What we need is not the will to believe, but the wish to find out.’ and I feel like maybe that’s the tactic to take with the business of Ezra.  I don’t quite know ma’self what to think or really believe, but from all that’s happened, I do know that I have a tremendous wish to find out.”

Jeri sighed.  Initially she was completely prepared for a defense attack at hearing Ezra’s name, but her resolve weakened at the wise words coming out of the young woman’s mouth.  Who was she to say what was or wasn’t really happening at the Fallon Hotel?  She could barely understand the concept of modern technology and how information was transmitted from one computer to another, or even how a phone worked for that matter (technology that had been around since the late 1800’s) – so maybe she shouldn’t be so dismissive about the odd and unexplainable happenings at 11175 Washington Street.  Just because she couldn’t comprehend or explain what was going on, didn’t mean that her opinion of it all held a whole lot of water.

“Gwen, I don’t know what to believe, but maybe you’re right.  It probably wouldn’t hurt to have more of an open mind and, if nothing else, the simple desire to figure out what’s going on.  I’m sorry.  That and I think I owe you an apology for my rude behavior earlier, too.”  She hung her head and loosened the grip on her collar.

“Oh, you don’t have to apologize.  None of us remembers to put on our manners pants when we’re stressed.  I’ve just taken a liking to you and Mr. Andy here, and since we’re all in the same boat, or hotel – it’s like we’re family, under the same roof and all.  Like it or not, this is our home and like Dorothy said, there’s no place like it.”

Slipping her arm though Jeri’s, Gwen shifted the weight to her left foot to match Jeri’s footfall.  Jeri giggled and skipped, as Gwen matched her step for step as they made their way down the road, like the characters from the Wizard of Oz.  “Well, then.  Lions and tigers and Ezra’s, oh my.”

With Andy skipping a few steps ahead, the trio laughed and bounced to the light of the bobbing lanterns all the way back to the Fallon Hotel.

Prior to reaching the stoop of the building, Gwen pulled a large ring of keys out of her pocket that jingled as she sighed loudly and searched for the appropriate one.  “Hmm.  I am certain that the hardest part of my every day is simply going to be searching in vain for keys to doors.”

Intrigued by the musical sound of the keys, Andy approached her and began to sing.  “There’s a pale drooping maiden who toils her life away, with a worn heart whose better days are o’er.  Though her voice would be merry, ‘tis sighing all the day.  Oh, hard times come again no more.”

Gwen smiled and touched her index finger to Andy’s cheek.  “You’re a darlin’ boy, you are.”  She clicked the key in the lock and the door swung open with an additional jingle from the bells hanging above.  Andy darted past her, still singing as he ran up the stairs.

“Tis the song, the sigh of the weary, ‘Hard times, hard times, come again no more.  Many days you have lingered too long around my door. Oh hard times come again no more.’”

“You know, I don’t even know what to say or think anymore.  For example, I have no idea what that song is or where he might have heard it, but I have never heard my son sing so beautifully.  That and the fact that he didn’t even flinch when you touched him is also unusual.  It’s as if his tactile defensiveness comes and goes when I least expect it.  What’s the answer to that?”  Jeri leaned against the doorframe.

“Stephen Foster, m’am.”  Gwen grinned.

“Excuse me?”  Jeri addressed Gwen, but stared up at Andy who stood at the top of the stairs on the second floor humming and only slightly rocking, which seemed to be more about the musical rhythm than the normal by-product of autism.

“The song.  It’s an old Stephen Foster song called Hard Times.”  Humming the same tune, Gwen tucked the huge key ring back into her pocket.

“Stephen Foster, the American composer, Stephen Foster?”

“Yes, m’am.  That Stephen Foster.”

Jeri closed her eyes and shook her head.  “While I’m deeply mystified that my son has knowledge of this song, I’m now equally baffled that a girl your age, from the United Kingdom, no less – knows not only the song, but the composer of this song.”

Displaying the toothiest grin yet, Gwen beamed.  “We were big country western and bluegrass fans, my Aunt and I.  Emmylou Harris, Nanci Griffiths and others sang this song.  But, to be fair, so did the Celtic Tenors and recently, Iron and Wine.  It really is a pretty popular song.  Pretty popular… and pretty.”

“Some American I am.  I’m embarrassed.  Then again, I suck at geography, too and probably couldn’t find Stephen Foster’s Old Kentucky Home on a very large and well-marked map, even if I tried.  I do know that the man was born on the 4th of July, though.”  Straightening herself up, she patted Gwen on the shoulder and headed upstairs.

Pulling bobby pins out of her head, Gwen started down the hall to her room.  “See, we’re all learning things, bit by bit now, aren’t we?  A good night’s sleep to you both and perhaps more will be revealed by the morrow.  As my piano teacher used to say, “The best advice is found on the pillow.”

Jeri headed up the stairs to greet Andy and wondered if Gwen was right.  Maybe a solid night’s rest would help her think more clearly.  She started to hum the simple tune of Hard Times along with Andy, deciding it was as good a start as any to opening her mind.

* * *

One thought on “Fallon Hotel – Chapter Fourteen

  • Jim says:

    Tea,,, On a bottle of exquisite champagne tonight, I am having some difficulty typing this sentiment to you. However, I would not miss it for the world… You have given me a new fixation on Tea. I love it almost as much as I love my own life. Thanks to you, I love tea so much. I need to be in the correct frame of mind to enjoy it however. Maybe you might squeak out something on your blog as to how to enjoy tea the mostess. tea bags bore me… having said this will you please instruct me on the proper presentation. your beautiful.
    Love Jim

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