Fiction, History, Lidi, Original Story, romance, Story, Unwritten Hope

The Fourteen Laws of Bristershine Part 3

The Symbol of the Bright Star Shine

Bright and early came the day of my secret undercover mission. Thunder rumbled and lightning flashed, rain hammering the windows like angry villagers. I groaned, falling back against my covers.

“Miss Abigail!” Dorothy pulled my blankets off again. “The day grows old! Get your lazy behind out of bed this instant.”

“What, might I inquire, is the time this lovely morning?”

“Four thirty-two, Abigail. Be thankful I let you sleep in an extra two minutes. Now show your gratitude and help your old Dorothy with the breakfasts!”

“Actually, Dorothy, Mrs. Verlesk has given Abigail a bye today,” said Mindy bitterly. “She may go back to sleep until the Mistress tells her otherwise.

“Really?” I mumbled. “Splendid.”

Thunder cracked, scaring me so as to propel me out of bed. I landed on the floor with a thud. Everyone laughed at me.

So I ended up getting dressed anyway. Mindy didn’t give me one thing to do, so I helped Dorothy after all.

“Master Gregory is a peculiar one, don’t you think?” Dorothy kneaded the bread and I fried eggs.

“Sure. He’s not like most people of his status. He’s actually…nice. Not snobby at all.”

“I think he likes you, Abigail.”

I choked. “Dorothy, that is absurd! He is courting!”

Dorothy looked confused. “No, he isn’t, dear. I inquired. Yesterday, in fact.”

I stared at her. “He’s not courting anyone? But I’m a maid, Dorothy. He can’t like me.”

She frowned. “Dear me, child, have you not been listening to a word I’ve been saying? Master Gregory is not like them!”

“He insists that I call him Carson,” I said quietly.

Dorothy tapped my arm. “There you go, Abigail.”

“Well, so what? It can’t last for long, and anyway, I’m waiting for Paul to return.”

Dorothy smiled gently. “You just do whatever your heart tells you, Abigail, and trust that the Lord will lead you the rest of the way.”

We worked in silenced the rest of the morning, and then I was summoned by Mrs. Verlesk to the empty parlour.

“I’m about to take off, Abigail.” She put something in her purse and slung in onto her shoulder. “You know what you are to do, I trust? And if he leaves in the carriage, you must ride after him on one of the horses. Remember, Abigail, he must not know that you are tailing him. this is very, very important.” She gripped my chin in her hands, tipping my face up to hers. “He worries me, Abigail.”

For the first time, I noticed that her eyes were the exact same hazel colour as mine, with one large blue speck in the same place. She released me.

“But, Mistress, I have not been on a horse in my life!”

She turned around. “Oh, don’t be silly. I know you rode with Paul Johnson last summer, and you did quite alright, indeed.” She shot me a knowing look and then disappeared.

I sank into the cushioned chair by the fireplace. So she knew about that. I laughed. Good old Mrs. Verlesk.

“Oh, and Abigail—” the door opened again and she poked her head in. “Abigail! You are supposed to be finding my husband, not sitting around! Don’t think that this free day is actually free!” She folded her arms across her chest.

“No, of course not, Mrs. Verlesk! Right away, ma’am. Please forgive me, Mistress!” I jumped up and curtsied, holding my position until she spoke again.

“Very well, but don’t forget your purpose, Abigail. I am counting on you.” The statement was more of a threat than a reminder. “You may rise.”

My legs screamed in protest, and I almost fell.

It took no time at all to find Mr. Verlesk. He was in his study; I was just in time to see him shut the door.

I ran and got my mending basket, sitting in the spare dining hall with a full view of that door. I got through exactly one stitch before it opened again.

He walked out, saw me with my head bent over a purple dress, and didn’t say anything. I grabbed a dusting rag from under a shelf, and followed him to the door, stopping to dust random things along the way. I hid in the unused closet as he pulled on his hat and raincoat. The doorman held his umbrella for him as he stepped into the rain.

I growled under my breath. Please come back, I begged silently. I ran to the window, and watched in horror as he got into the waiting carriage.

“No!” I cried. But as the driver flicked the reins, it was evident that I was going to have to follow.

On horseback.

In the pounding rain.

I passed Lucy as I sprinted to the servant’s quarters. “Whoa, Abigail! Where’s the fire?”

“No fires in this weather, Lucy,” I called over my shoulder as I streaked by. “But I have to go!”

I yanked my jacket on and grabbed my umbrella. I had no time to lace up my boots. I would have to ride in my shoes. Gritting my teeth, I raced back out again, and didn’t stop running until I reached the stable.

“Remember me, Vesuvius?” I asked breathlessly as I opened the stall door. It was all coming back to me now, the passive instruction Paul had given me. We had been riding many times together after that first day. I put the bit in, not bothering with the saddle since we had always rode bareback. I led him to the mounting block and got on.

But I wasn’t wearing a riding skirt. My dress rode awkwardly up my thighs, exposing my legs to the horrid rain. I had no idea how to steer the beast, let alone do it with an umbrella, so I was forced to leave it behind. I could hardly see two feet in front of me.

Fretting, I picked up the reins. Paul said that squeezing with your legs was the way to go, but how hard? experimentally, I applied a little bit of pressure. Suddenly I remembered that Paul had always clicked at the horse, and that seemed to work for him.

“Come on, Vesuvius!” I clicked my tongue against my cheek. he snorted, shaking his head and spraying me with more rain. not that it made much of a difference. “I don’t have time for this!” I exclaimed. I kicked him in the side.

The next thing I knew, I was facedown in the mud.

I don’t know how long I laid there, soaking in the summer rain. I heard Vesuvius galloping away, and then it was just me and the storm.

“Abigail!” came a cry from very far away. I spit the dirt from my teeth and tried to stand, but I couldn’t feel my legs. I opened my mud caked eyes, and found I could see better, here on the ground. Mr. Verlesk’s carriage was nowhere in sight; I had failed.

Strong hands gripped me under my arms, pulling me upwards. All at once, the feeling in my legs came back—and I instantly wished it hadn’t.

“Whoa, steady there!” said my rescuer as I sagged back toward the ground. I was swept up into his arms, and his arm under my leg was like a knife-edged rock digging into my muscles.

But now I could clearly see his face. “Master Gregory?” I shouted over the storm.

“Carson!” he shouted back without his smile. Hunched over me, he walked quickly to the house.

“What happened, Abigail?” he asked when we stood in the doorway, dripping on the carpet.

I shook too hard to answer. Despite myself, I pressed my cheek against his warm shoulder. The pain in my legs travelled to my throat and threatened to explode into a scream. I wished he would put me down.

“Helen!” I heard him call.

“Oh, dear! What happened? Come, take her to her room! Agatha! Mary! Come help, there’s been an accident!”

I was laid gently on my warm feather bed, and Carson protested as he was shooed away. I was stripped of my soaked clothes, and then laid in a bath so hot it made me scream.

“There, there,” soothed Lucy, as four pairs of hands held me still. “It’s not really hot, you’re just cold as an icebox.”

“We must splint her legs!”

“Good Lord, look at how they’re flopping!”

I screamed again, in horror this time. stupidly, I continued to thrash in the water that was still not comfortable. I was shuddering violently, each convulsion stabbing straight to my legs.

“Somebody call the doctor!”

“There’s no need, Dorothy, she’ll be fine. We just need to calm her down. she’s making it worse!”

“Abigail, sweetie, you have to be still,” said Lucy frantically. Her words went through me without sticking anywhere; I continued to thrash and scream.

Suddenly, there was a sharp pain on the side of my head, and I knew no more.

I groaned, turning over in my bed. The motion brought stabbing pains to precisely every part of my body, and I sagged on the mattress.

“Abigail? Are you awake?”

I didn’t know who was talking to me, but I couldn’t answer. The only thing I could do was go back to sleep.

“Abigail, honey, wake up,” said the same soft voice.

“Why?” I mumbled. I didn’t hurt so much anymore, but sleep was still the better alternative. “Go away.”

“Someone’s here to see you, Abigail. He brought you something.”

He? I smiled, taking a wild guess at who it was. I had had the most pleasant dreams…

“Abby?”

I was mildly surprised. This wasn’t the voice of my blue-eyed prince. “Nell?” I whispered.

“Yes, it’s me. Are you okay? Mindy says she hit you really hard!”

I frowned. Why would Mindy hit me? I knew she didn’t like me, or anyone, really, but she had never so much as raised a hand to even stray dogs.

“Nell, you know why I did it,” said Mindy, and I was startled all over again. Her voice was the same one that had called me out of the darkness. “How are you feeling, Miss Charlotte?”

“Better,” I sighed, which didn’t say much. Saying to someone stranded in a canyon that they were doing well after climbing six feet was more sensible.

Fiction, History, Lidi, Original Story, romance, Story, Unwritten Hope

The Fourteen Laws of Bristershine Part 2

Here at Verlesk Manor, we all had our own secret recipe for pancakes. Every Sunday it was someone else’s turn, and the day after my double encounters with Carson, it was mine.

“Everybody, out!” ordered Nell, clapping his little hands. “Abby’s making pancakes!”

We smiled endearingly at him. he was the only one allowed to call me Abby, and he made good use of the privilege. One by one, everyone filed out, and he smiled at me before closing the door behind him. I knew he would keep even Mindy from entering, darling as he was.

I cracked two cartons of eggs into a humongous twelve-gallon mixing bowl, poured in three jars of milk. Next went in a bag and a half of flour, four cups of baking powder, and six cups of sugar. I only needed a cup of oil. I mixed everything together, which took near to twenty minutes, and took a taste. It was still a bit watery.

I reached into the jar on the counter for another scoop of flour. My cup hit something near the bottom, inhibiting me from getting out my flour until the thing was removed. i bit back a twinge of annoyance. People had to learn not to leave the measuring cups in the flour jars.

I reached down, my whole arm disappearing through the narrow mouth of the jar. My fingers closed around it.

It wasn’t a measuring cup.

In my hand was a perfectly round, red tablet with an embossment on it. I rinsed the flour off, and found that it was of a fat, winged naked child that took up most of the space. The disk itself was about five inches in diameter, and almost a centimetre thick. I stared at the object, my mind going blank. a zigzag line ran behind the child, and one end of it stuck out. It made it look like it had a tail.

What was it doing in the flour jar?

I flipped it over, cautious now. The backside was perfectly smooth. I took a knife and tapped it; it neither chipped nor scratched. Eyebrows scrunched, I studied it for a minute longer, before recalling that I was supposed to be making breakfast. Conspiratorially, I pocketed it and dumped in my extra cup of flour.

“Okay, Nell.” I opened the door to let everyone in. I caught sight of Mindy rounding a corner and disappearing. “Are you going to help me cook these things?”

My recipe made about three hundred pancakes, enough for everyone to have about twelve each. Though, nobody ever ate more than three, except Luke, who normally ate his quota. It wasn’t polite. The extras were smuggled to the homeless people who waited on Sundays outside the estate gates. I was glad that it was my turn to deliver them today.

We put the two-hundred-fifty extras in thirteen wicker baskets, and put the seventy-five that would actually be eaten on the rolling cart with the butter and syrup.

I piled the baskets onto another bigger cart that was excellent for manoeuvring on rough terrain. I stole out the front kitchen door, as breakfast was being served in the dining hall. The twenty paces to the edge of the woods flashed by in my headlong sprint to avoid being seen. Once in the cover of the trees, though, I slowed my pace and once again gazed thoughtfully at the strange ceramic disk I had found. I shuddered at the sense of doom I suddenly had. It reminded me of an epiphany of Armageddon.

I pocketed it again and pulled at the cart. A wheel of it caught a root in the otherwise smooth path. Before I could do anything, the whole thing tipped over, and the pancakes spilled all over the ground.

“No!” I cried, falling to my knees I had no time to blow off the dirt, so I just shoved them back into their baskets frantically.

Swarms of insects came out of hiding from underground. “Go away!” I cried. But it was too late. If I put more in now, that would just infect the others. I was forced to leave the rest behind.

Now I only had five and a half baskets, for a hungry crowd of normally a hundred.

Slowly, I shook my head. Good morning, Abigail.

Too soon, I found myself pushing open the secret gate that everyone knew about. Guilt gathered in all my pores, and I  prepared to face the crowds of potentially furious homeless people.

Since the Verlesk’s property extended almost to the edge of town, there were no trees beyond. Nothing but a strip of summer green grass separated the estate wall and the city of Euhalot at the foot of the hill. Lying in casual positions in the grass in their threadbare clothing were not a hundred people, but closer to a hundred-fifty. Someone gave a shout, and all at once the murmurs stilled; all eyes were turned on me.

I gulped.

As per usual, Jonathan came forward with a big smile on his face. “Abigail!” he said. “So nice of you to come today. And thank you,” he added, eying the baskets.

Jonathan’s face always caused me to cringe when I saw it, bony and gaunt as it was. the paleness of his skin lent his hands a horribly skeletal appearance, and his feet were dreadful to even catch sight of. they were always dirty, often scratched, and as bony as the rest of him. I forced a returning smile upon my face.

“Good morning, all.” I gave Jonathan a basket, and people lined up behind him to start handing them out. Before Jonathan left, I caught his arm. “Why are there so many people today?”

“Word got out about the pancakes,” he whispered.

I swallowed again. “Great. Umm, about that.”

His smile froze on his face. “Yes? What is it, Abigail.”

“Well, you see, something happened on the way here. the cart overturned, and I lost most of the pancakes, and I only have four baskets, you see, and it’s not enough, and I don’t know what to do—” I stopped, peering at his face. He was frowning now.

“Well.” He said tightly. He opened the lid of the basket to look at the dirt speckled pancakes. “I suppose we’ll just have to make do.”

I nodded guiltily, shuffling my feet on the grass. It didn’t take long to empty the baskets, and I left without another word.

“So how’d it go?”

Lily was the only one in the kitchen when I at last made it back. I could see she was mixing together ingredients for a cake, which was unusual. The Verlesk’s hated cake.

“Great,” I lied. “Did Mindy miss me?”

Lily nodded. “Yes, twice, to make the beds and help me with dishes. But it’s been taken care of.”

“Swell. What’s the cake for?”

Lily made a moue. “Luke is having company,” she confided. “Apparently this is the main course, and her poor heart will be dessert.”

“Now, Lily. You and I both know that Luke doesn’t eat hearts. He likes to leave them with his victims to cry over.”

“True. Too true.”

I licked a bit of batter off the side of the bowl, rewarding me with a frown from Lily. “So what are my tasks for today?” I asked her with an impish smile.

“You may begin by changing the linens in all the bedrooms,” Lily suggested. “There’s a fresh basket behind the door. and when you’re done that, there’s weeds that need pulling in the vegetable garden, oh, and don’t forget…”

When I passed the master bedroom with the laundry hamper on my hip, Mrs. Verlesk called out for me to come to her.

She smiled at me, and commenced staring at her hands in thought.

“Yes, Mistress?” I prompted. “Do you require assistance with something?”

She looked up at me, finally. “Well, Abigail, I… you know I’ve always trusted you most out of all my servants, right?”

I blinked. “Um…no, ma’am I didn’t.”

She smiled sadly. “Well, Abigail, I do, and I have noticed how incredibly intelligent you are.”

“You…have?”

“Yes, Abigail. And as my most trustworthy servant, I would like some counsel.”

“Concerning what, madam?”

She picked at her dress. “Abigail, I have a feeling Mr. Verlesk is not being faithful to me. and, as my most trustworthy servant, and, might I add, the most tactful, I would like you to keep an eye on him when I go out tomorrow. If you see any suspicious behaviour, make a note of it and tell me.” she nodded to herself. “Do you understand, Abigail? I must know; it has been weighing heavily on my mind for the longest time now. And…well, that’s all you need to know, I suppose. You may go, now. Oh, and since you have agreed to aid me, tomorrow you may have the entire free day to keep my husband in your sight. I will let Mindiache know as well.”

I giggled in the hallway. Mindy’s name sounded just the way it was spelled: Mindy-ache. Because she’s a butt-ache. Her parents must have hated her. I was still laughing when I pushed open the door to the fifth bedroom and walked in on Carson, stretched out on the bed, reading.

“Oh, hello, Miss Charlotte.” He wore trousers and a button-up shirt that made his eyes look like the sky. I right near dropped my hamper.

“Master Gregory!”

“Carson,” he corrected, rising from the bed. “So what brings you here, Miss Charlotte?”

I looked at the floor. “Changing the linens,” I mumbled.

He moved closer. “What was that?”

I flinched, and this time I did drop my hamper. He was standing right in front of me.

“I’m changing the bed linens,” I said. “But I will come back later for these ones.”

I bent to pick up the linens that had been spilled, at the same time that he did. Our hands brushed as they reached for the same bedspread. I pulled away, refusing to have one of those moments akin  to romance novels, where the heroine and the hero reach for the same flower/book/dangerous weapon, their eyes meet, and they fall in love. I was a sucker for that sort of thing, and the quickened pace of my heart was not a good sign.

And then, of course, there was Paul.

I glanced at Carson once, though, and found him gazing at me thoughtfully. It was all I could do not to run.

“Good day, Master Gregory.”

“Carson.”

I dipped a curtsy with the speed of light, which nearly tipped my basket again. my hand fluttered uselessly as he righted it, and then I was gone.

“Stupid, stupid, stupid,” I muttered to myself.

The rest of the day passed without incident. I did the laundry, the weeding, scrubbed pots. By suppertime, I was able to convince myself that this morning had been a terrible dream. Except for the fact that after supper, he never seemed to disappear.

“Hello, Miss Charlotte,” he said when I closed the door to the cellar on a fresh bag of potatoes.

“Master Gregory.”

“Carson,” he said charmingly.

“Fancy meeting you here,” he said in the empty dining room around ten of the clock when I came in to sweep the floor.

“Master Gregory,” I replied politely.

“Carson.”

He watched me the entire time I worked, unnerving me to no end.

“May I help you, Miss Charlotte?” he asked me when I went to the vegetable garden to get some carrots for Lily’s stew.

“That’s quite alright, thank you, Master Gregory.”

Carson. Does my name repel you, Miss Charlotte?”

I blushed. “Of course not! I quite like it, sir, it is just not the way I was trained.” I raised my chin. “But, sir, I am only sixteen. Why do you call me ‘Miss?’ when you call me Abigail, I will gladly call you Carson. If it pleases you,” I added.

But he smiled, of course. “Is that a deal, Abigail?” he whispered, rocking back on his heals.

“A deal? I suppose.”

“Abigail.”

“…”

He grinned even wider. “Abigail.” he repeated.

I gritted my teeth and took a deep breath, fighting against my years of scrupulous apprenticeship. “Carson,” I got out, making a terrible face.

He laughed softly and tipped his hat to me before walking away.

The woman he had been sitting with at the tea on Friday met him at the gate, and they strolled arm-in-arm toward the house.

I had never been more confused in my life.

My, but I must have been sulking madly, for even butt-ache Mindy asked me if I was alright. I was coming back with the carrot bucket when she passed me. the joyous cries of the late-night cricket players were almost lost on the blowing wind. She said, and I quote: “Miss Charlotte, what is the matter with you? Buck up, right now. Are you alright? Yes? Then hurry up and make some butter! And when you are done with that…”

“What? Did you say something, Master Luke?” I interrupted. I stretched up on my toes, looking over her head.

“Master Luke?” she squeaked, whirling around. “Where?”

“Nowhere,” I said quietly as I stole into the night. “Nowhere at all.”

Problem one: solved; butt-pain cured. But, what to do with Master Gregory?

And by that, of course, I meant Carson.

Fiction, History, Lidi, Original Story, romance, Story, Unwritten Hope

The Fourteen Laws of Bristershine Part 1

The Big To-do

All the china teacups were as white as pure Irish cream, the gold bands around the rims polished to a shine. They were perched on delicate white plates embossed with patterns of flowers and fruits, and guarding them on each side were silver sword-like knives. The crisp silk napkins had been folded perfectly, almost blending in with the white expanse of the snowy table cloth. Each chair had been positioned just so, with the utmost care. On the silver plate in the centre of the table rested a pound of butter that was all sharp angles. The perfume of tea roses floated in the air. It did not quite block the scent of scones Lily was baking in the kitchen. As we were not required to wear shoes in the summer when no guests were present, I let the silky grass caress my bare feet when I walked around the lawn. It was hard to think that anybody would find the table setting less than perfect. Satisfied, I spun on my heel and started toward the manner to get the hot water pots. The guests would be arriving soon.

“And where, Miss Charlotte, do you think you are going?” said a knife-on-plate voice. I stumbled to a halt, looking back. Mindy Little glared at me from behind my expertly set table, hands on her slender hips. I gulped.

“I’m just going to get the water!” I called to her, not coming any closer. I indicated the floating sundial on the sea fish pond. “Noon draws near.”

She threw up her hands. “That isn’t your job, Abigail. You were instructed to set the table. Lily will send the water with Joy!”

Mindy had dove grey eyes that could harden into steel at will, and corn silk hair that made her look angelic. But she was rarely kind to anyone, especially me, and it didn’t take much to ignite her rage. This trait left much to be desired of her since she was in charge of us all.

“Does the table not meet your expectations?” I asked.

“If I were a barbarian, why, yes it would,” she snapped. “But look at these teacups! What did you polish them with, an oil rag? And my, this table cloth appears as though you chucked it on without a care!”

She closed the distance between us to stand centimetres from my nose. We were the exact same height, and were often required to share clothes, which bated her to no end.

“Abigail,” she said slowly, as though I were daft. “This is Master and Missus Verlesk’s thirtieth anniversary tea. Everything must be perfect—”

But Mindy, for once, didn’t get to finish her tirade. Mrs. Verlesk came into view, with her bratty daughter Sasha whining at her side for one thing or another. I knew not how the girl could speak in such a manner to deaf ears, for it was perfectly obvious her mother had ceased listening the moment her daughter had opened her mouth.

“Abigail!” Mrs. Verlesk exclaimed now. “Did you set this table?”

“Yes, she did!” started Mindy accusatorially. “Isn’t it—”

“Marvellous!” Mrs. Verlesk, cut in, putting a hand to her heart. “Simply marvellous!”

Lips twitching, I stepped out from behind Mindy and curtsied as deeply as I could. Such curtsies were normally reserved for the Queen, but I tried to make a habit of living in the moment. “Thank you, Mrs. Verlesk.”

Mindy stood gaping in a dreadfully unladylike manner. She dropped like a rock when she realized Mrs. Verlesk was staring at her, awaiting an accompanying curtsy.

When the party of two went out of sight, I skipped off to get the water.

The Verlesk Manor sat on the top of a large hill, and the tea was to be held in the back garden. I happily ran up the hill, floating on Mrs. Verlesk’s praise. Ah, but what a lovely day it was. it was not too hot or cool, and the breeze was just enough to rustle the tearoses below. If I stood on the tips of my toes to see over the looming pines, I could see a bright carriage advancing from the foothills. But, being a servant, there was rarely any time to admire such things, so I pushed open the back door.

In the kitchen, the other servants had the oddest expressions on their faces. Twisted, like masks. I regarded them in a way that openly questioned their sanities before reaching for the kettle on the stove.

“We heard what happened outside,” said a small, shy voice that was on the verge of laughter. It was little Nell, who rarely ever spoke but was sweet as a thimble. “Miss Mindy looks like there’s a bee’s nest in her bonnet.”

The entire kitchen erupted with the suppressed laughter. The maids attempted to mimic Mindy’s shocked expressions, which brought on new waves of guffaws.

“Great job, Miss Charlotte,” said the chef’s assistant Jaebok, who couldn’t see the bright side of a candle. “I’m sure Ms. Mindy will be in good spirits now. Maybe I’ll be serving all your heads on a platter for the next tea.”

“No, Jaebok. It is not your head I will be requesting,” said Mindy, stepping from behind the door that we all thought was closed. She glared at me as she said this. I tensed, held in her fiery gaze like a matchstick. Everyone was frozen in various stages of what ever tasks I had interrupted. “But that is not why I have come,” she continued.

A silent groan permeated the kitchen. Mindy had her about-to-give-a-lecture voice on. I sat down on a little bench beside Nell while the water pot grew cold in my hands. This was going to be a long one.

Thanks to Mindy, Lily had to hastily re-boil the water, and though we were not late, we did miss the beginning of Mr. Verlesk’s speech. We servants were required to stay out of sight unless our presence is requested, but some of Mr. Verlesk’s speeches took hours and we were never needed then. Mrs. Verlesk encouraged us to watch from behind the garden hedge if we wanted. Poor Lily had to stay in the hot kitchen, and Mindy would never be troubled with our affairs. Nell, Jaebok, I and some other maids huddled behind the hedge, speaking to one another in hushed tones about the guests we could barely make out behind the branches.

“My, Master Luke is looking especially arrogant today,” Helen commented with a whispered laugh. “I wonder whose soul he had for breakfast this morning.”

“I reckon it was that of poor Carla,” Jane suggested, pointing out the sulking girl. “I wonder why she hangs on him so. Does she not know he will never look at her as more than his next fix?”

“I think not, but I beg of you, let us not speak of him,” said Jaebok. “Little pitchers have big ears, you know.”

Dorothy snorted. “What pitchers? These roses? My, you do fret nonsense.”

“Indeed,” said Gretchen, “but the boy does have a point. We, as the servants of this household, must watch what we say in the presence of…well, no one in particular, really.” She laughed heartily.

“Shhhh!”

We were still, eying the party on the green. Mr. Verlesk droned on, the guests merely pretending to be listening. “And now,” he was saying, “I would like to demonstrate to you our accumulated wealth by presenting to you the maids of this house!”

We leapt to our feet. “What is this?” exclaimed Lucy. “When has Master Verlesk ever requested our presence at one of his speeches?” We hiked our skirts and hustled out of the hedge.

Mindy gripped my arm. “Abigail, he doesn’t mean you. You may be a maid, but you are not on the staff. Go back behind that bush.” She shoved me.

I sat back limply in the grass, watching my friends and Mindy parade in front of the guests. My chest tightened with longing.

In the direction of the peach tree orchard, footsteps thudded on the thirsty earth, loudening at an alarming rate. With a gasp, I hurried in the other direction. I looked once over my shoulder to find a shadow drifting in the peach trees, which was a big mistake. When I turned around again, I was too late to stop myself from running smack into the tall stranger in my path.

“Master!” I exclaimed, wide eyed. “Forgive me! I was not watching where I was going—”

“Well, that’s quite alright,” he said. His soft, kind tone of voice made me look up at him in surprise. He was young, perhaps seventeen, with curling golden hair and soft blue eyes. He smiled gently at my look of shock. “It doesn’t seem to be your fault; may I ask who you are running from?”

“Um—I—I’m not sure, really. I was hiding, and someone was coming, and I didn’t want to get in trouble—” I stopped. I was speaking as though he would care. “But anyway, I really must be on my way. and again, I apologize, Mr…”

“Gregory. Carson Gregory.” He smiled again. “But you may call me Carson. I am only seventeen, in truth, and the title of ‘Mr.’ or ‘Master’ gives me the impression that I am absurdly aged.”

I nodded, curtsied, and started back toward the hedge. The mysterious figure was gone. “But wait!” said Mr. Gregory. “What is your name, maiden?”

I curtsied again. true, I was not in traditional maid’s attire, as Mrs. Verlesk insisted we be dressed as regular people. I thought about lying to him, but that had only caused problems for me in the past. “I am a maid, not a maiden, Mr. Gregory, and my name is Abigail Charlotte.”

He bowed gallantly. “It is a pleasure to make your acquaintance.”

The way his eyes shone when he said this, I wondered if it really was a pleasure meeting a red-headed maid’s apprentice who had almost knocked him over. Maybe it was the friendliness in his eyes or his kind manner, but I found myself asking him what he was doing out here, anyway.

“My uncle’s speeches bore me to death,” he whispered. “I had to get away, and these gardens are certainly lovely. I suppose I must be getting back soon. It sounds as though he has finished.”

To my horror, I could make out the sound of faint applause beyond the trees. “Oh, no!” Without another word, I was off again.

I grabbed a teapot off the cart and stood with the other maids, ready to offer more when the teacups ran low. My heavy breathing attracted curious looks from the servants, but no one uttered a word. I scanned the cups.

My eyes came to rest on Master Gregory, who was seated beside an attractive young woman, talking animatedly. She laughed merrily and placed her hand over his. For a moment they just stared into each others eyes, and I felt an inexplicable sense of disappointed.

“Abigail!” hissed Mindy. “I think that man over there would like some more tea.” She said this with a jovial smile, but the malice lacing her words was unmistakable.

Walking as gracefully as I could, I poured tea for many more people, who seemed to have all run out at precisely the same time. All except Master Gregory’s, at least. He and his companion hadn’t touched theirs. I kept my eyes down when I passed him.

At the head of the table, the Verlesks were engaged in conversation with Sasha and Luke, which was odd. Luke was usually flirting with some hapless girl or piteous Carla, and Sasha usually just picked sullenly at her food. Naughty maid that I was, I drifted closer on the pretence of offering more tea. I had grown accustomed to being invisible.

“Tea?” I inquired of a gentleman sitting near them, all the while listening to the conversation.

“Please, do!” Sasha was exclaiming, clapping her hands in delight.

“Yes, I agree.” Luke nodded as though in thought, but I knew he was most likely just checking to make sure his gloves were still impeccably spotless. “You and father need a break. And I hear the ocean is particularly blue this time of year.”

“We’ll take care of everything,” Sasha put in. “Or you could call Grandma to come watch us.”

“But, Luke,” protested Mrs. Verlesk. “You are barely nineteen, and Sasha’s only twelve. How can we leave you alone for a whole month?”

“Now, Wanda,” laughed Mr. Verlesk. “What do you think we hired the nannies for? The children will be fine.”

“I’ll have some tea, Abigail.” Mrs. Verlesk motioned me over absently. Disappointed, I poured tea for all four of them and left.

“I think our master and mistress are planning on leaving somewhere,” I announced in the servants quarters that night. “Somewhere near the ocean.”

“Indeed,” said Lucy in surprise. “Have you not heard? Master got offered a job near Bristershine, but Mrs. Verlesk insists that the place is a madman’s town.”

“So Master is trying to convince her to take a trip there to prove what it is really like.” Helen giggled. “But I have been there, as a nanny once. It is simply marvellous! I would like to see the look on the Mistress’s face when she sees the beauty of it.”

“So what you’re saying,” I cut in. “Is that they are most likely going to move? But what will become of us?”

There was silence. “I suppose we will be left unemployed. I don’t think they intend to keep us if they can get some new servants in Bristershine. Mrs. Verlesk likes to keep the help local,” Lily said after a pause. She shrugged, but her shoulders sagged. “Oh, well.”

“Now, Lily,” said wise old Dorothy. “You cannot be sure of that. you are a wonderful cook. They always keep the good ones.”

“No, they don’t.” Lily seemed sad. “They have moved to at least five different towns, and they only employ ‘the good ones’ in the first place, and all of you came here when I did.”

I sat on the edge of my bed, with its nice feather blankets and pillows like wheat bags of cottony snow. Before working for the Verlesks, I had worked for a kindly old lady named Bernice Featherstone. When she died, they turned up almost right away to take some of her servants, but I was the only one who did not yet have a new master. Bernice’s recommendations had attracted employers like fleas. But I had only been here for a year, and already I was going to have to leave? I had only worked for two houses so far, and they had both been extremely pleasant, but I feared I would not be so lucky next time.

Sasha stormed into the room then, startling us all. We hastily stood up and curtsied.

“Abigail! Come help me undress for the night!” she ordered, pointing a bony finger at me. I jerked imperceptibly. I followed behind her at a cautious clip.

“Has Wendy taken ill?” I asked once I had closed the door to her vast room.

“No!” she whined, the sound grating on my ears. “I don’t like Wendy anymore.”

“Oh. I see.” Sasha often decided she didn’t like people for no apparent reason. I doubted Wendy took any offence.

I loosened Sasha’s stays and took the blue ribbons out of her hair. She didn’t say a word as I slipped her lace nightgown over her head.

“Is that satisfactory?” I asked her when I was done.

She nodded. “Yes, quite. You may take an hour for yourself outdoors, Abigail. It is a splendid night to be out, don’t you think?”

I smiled at her. “Yes, Miss Sasha. Thank you.” She nodded at me with a small smile. I curtsied, and made my smooth way out of her room. When I was in the silent hall, I clicked my heels together and sprinted out the back door.

I ran to the creek, cloaked spookily in darkness. The night birds chirped happily, and the water bubbled blackly like an uncertain joke. “Good evening, pretty creek,” I said with a bow. I kicked off my shoes and dipped my feet in the cool water.  My skin prickled.

I longed to jump in waist deep, but I didn’t want to get my dress all wet and drip in the house for Helen to clean up. Along with her random inspirations of dislike, Sasha enjoyed giving out random byes. I didn’t want to stir up any petty jealousies.

Despite the garden noises, it was oddly silent here. A feeling of peace drifted down on me like a warm blanket. I breathed in the smell of soil and blossoms and herbs, and warm summer air. When the sounds of humanity were taken away, you were left with nothing but this. It was just the way I liked it.

An hour wasn’t much, but it was something. I stretched out along the bank, staring at the stars. They were hard for me to see, but I thought I could make out the Pole Star over the treetops. Bliss, is what it was.

“Hello there.”

I sat bolt upright. “Mr. Gregory?” I stammered incredulously.

“Yes, it is I.” He stepped into sight. “How do you do, Miss Charlotte?”

“Um.” I struggled to my feet. “Quite well, thank you. May I assist you with anything? I mean something?”

He shook his head. I couldn’t see his face very well. “No, I was just wandering. Are you hiding again?”

I blushed. “No, Master Carson. I was given an hour of time to myself. I came to enjoy the peace.”

“I see. So, am I disturbing your peace?”

I kicked myself mentally. “No! I mean, of course not. But may I ask you something?”

“Certainly.” He took a seat on a felled tree that served perfectly as a bench. I thought of pointing out that his suit would be soiled.

“Why did you not leave like the other guests? It is quite late to be visiting.” He was so unlike other young men he regressed me through years of training.

“Mr. Verlesk is my uncle,” he told me. “I may stay for as long as I like.”

I blushed deeper. “Yes, of course. Forgive my boldness. I must be on my way.”

“Wait, Miss Charlotte!”

I paused. “Yes, Mr. gregory?”

“Must you really be leaving? I really could use some company.”

I scrunched my eyebrows. “As you wish, Master Gregory.”

“Carson. Won’t you have a seat, Miss Charlotte? How long have you been out here, may I ask?”

I awkwardly perched on a different tree bench with his lady friend in mind, the rough bark pinching my skin with wizened claws. “Just fifteen minutes, I think.” I didn’t volunteer more information than I felt I had to. I still wasn’t sure what he wanted with me.

“I see. So how long have you been working for my uncle and aunt?”

“Almost a year. It was about this time last summer that a friend of mine showed me this place.”

“it is quite lovely.” He gazed at the water. “Have you ever been canoeing?”

I blanched. Why would I want to do that? “No, I haven’t. Have you?”

“Yes, many times. It is quite enchanting, especially in the spring. Where I come from, there are blossoms all year long on most of the trees, and the waters are always pristine and clear.”

“That sounds pleasant,” I said sceptically.

He laughed, and it ricocheted back to us from a thousand different places. “You don’t believe me. I must take you some time.”

Was he forgetting that I was a maid? “Sure?”

He laughed again, further deepening my sense of utter confusion.

“Do you hear that?” I said suddenly, standing up. “I think it is Master Luke! I’m sorry, I really must be going! Thank you for the visit!”

And I took off, in the opposite direction of the manor.

It was a while before I realized I was going the wrong way. I took a roundabout way, making sure to stay clear of the creek. I gave it such a wide berth that it took me the rest of my hour to get back.

The memory was still clear in my mind, of my first day on the job. Paul had found me after my first falling out with Mindy, crying in the broom cupboard.

“Hello, you’re the new maid, right?” he said when he saw me there.

I quickly wiped my tears. “Yes. Do forgive me. how do you do?”

He kneeled in front of me. “I’m fine, Abigail. I’m assuming you met Mindiache?”

Her name, of course, made me giggle. “No wonder she’s such a miserable—”

He held up a hand, green eyes twinkling. “Now, now, Miss Charlotte.”

I grinned. He helped me out of that broom cupboard, and as it was our break for afternoon tea, we walked arm-in-arm to the stable together, never ceasing our meaningless chitchat.

“Want to go for a little ride?” he asked me when we stood outside the stall of Mr. Verlesk’s horse Vesuvius.

“I’ve never been on a horse before,” I said nervously.

“Are you scared?”

“Yes.”

“Well, then you can ride double with me. Come on, I want to show you something. It will help you deal with Mindiache.”

So, we rode double on Vesuvius, all the way to the creek. In the day time, it was fascinating how the pollen and dandelion fluff floated on the sun rays, the creak slipping over rocks and under tree-bridges. Bright flowers grew along the banks, and ivies embraced the enormous tree trunks.

He reached into the water and pulled out a perfectly round blue and green stone. “Put this in your pocket,” he told me, “and whenever you feel like you could kill Mindy, touch it and think of this place. Pray for her soul, and I promise you will feel better.”

Just him saying those words made me suddenly and magically impervious to her vicious austerity. The stone sat in the drawer of my locked false-bottom jewellery box he had bought me.

Paul’s family moved that winter for a better-paying job down East, and I never saw him again.

I crawled into bed, and lulled myself to sleep by counting the sweet kisses Paul and I had shared during our time together, each one distinct and burned into my memory. And though the memories made me smile, I felt like a superheated flake pastry gone bad.

Fiction, History, Lidi, Original Story, Story

Story: Why the poles are cold

Once upon a time in a far away land there were three beautiful princesses named Azur, Casser, and Hayden. Hayden and Casser were horrible, mean princesses who wreaked revenge on any maidens whom they thought were prettier than them, so most of the kingdom was in constant misery. They plotted ways to kill their beautiful sister Azur, but their plans were always foiled. 
         One day Azur got tired of her sisters’ plots and decided to get them back. She hired a fairy to put a curse on her sisters, so that anything that they ate made them incredibly obese. Eventually, they became so fat that they broke the castle in two, and then they flattened all the farmers fields, and then they destroyed the kingdom. All the while, Azur was feeling bad for the horrible thing she had done, even though her sisters couldn’t execute anyone anymore for being prettier than them. Before they became so fat they flattened the entire country, Azur hired a flock of a million dragons and a team of a billion rope makers. Each rope maker made a rope, and Azur and all the villagers and people in the land helped to tie the ropes around Casser and Hayden. Then the dragons took a thousand ropes each and they flew to the north and south poles of the earth. Azur then became queen for her heroism and cleverness, and because her mother had been flattened. 
          Three years later, after many days of peace, there was a terrible earthquake. Azur sent one of her dragons to find out what was going on, because she couldn’t figure out how an earthquake that big could happen. The dragon came back and told her: “My families and I took your sisters Casser and Hayden to opposite ends of the earth as you asked, but they are so fat they are tilting the earth. What are you going to do, your Majesty?”
         Azur thought and thought, as the ground kept shaking and the kingdom kept crumbling down. Finally, she summoned her fairy advisor.
         “There is only way to solve this traumatic problem,” the fairy concluded. “I must charm your sisters so that they become invisible and weightless as the air, so that they float up and take the pressure off the earth. But since they have already tilted the earth, whenever the earth is in the right position, they will blot out the sun for half of the year at the north and south poles. I cannot make them invisible to the sun.”
         It took Azur a month of sleepless nights to finally make her decision. She told the fairy to go ahead with her plan, and every year after that the dragons reported that the sun was blotted out on either ends of the earth for half of every year. But they noticed that the life was not returning with the sun, and that snow covered the ground even in the middle of summer. Azur commanded all the dragons in the world to go to the north and south poles of the earth and use their fiery breath to thaw the thickening snow. but their efforts were in vain, and the poles remained cold all year long from then on out. 

The end.

2013-01-19

Book Review, Commentary, Essay, Everyday Christian, Featured, Fiction, History, Lidi, Movie Review, Philosophy, Review, Science, Technology, Unwritten Hope

A Study in Grit

  • A personal response essay by Lisa Brock

Some peoples’ lives are a plush office chair rolling down a dimly-lit office hallway, and others are a soul-forging labor up the sheer face of a hostile mountain. What people want and get out of their lives is determined by their circumstances, experiences, and reactions to the obstacles they encounter during their excursion. The characters in the novel October Sky by Homer Hickam are in an un-ending battle against their circumstances that try to thwart their success. They only get stronger as they bash through every hurdle in their way, adjusting their lives to find a way around, over, or through.

October Sky is a formidable study of the force of will and determination, the rewards that come from pushing through hard times. Sonny Hickam shows that life is a conflict of the individual versus everything around him, from other people to the environment, and even beliefs and expectations. All pose challenges to the way people go about trying to get where they are going, and what they are willing to do to get there. Sonny Hickam overcame the skepticism of his town and his family in order to embark on the path he decided he wanted to follow. Even as he pursued his dream there was always a proceeding fork in the road, or a fallen tree. The path even disappeared sometimes, but then he made a new path. Most importantly, he always got back up even if he tripped and fell. No matter how long he was prone for, he eventually hauled himself to his feet and pushed on. Neither sabotage, nor ridicule, nor alienation and resentment had the final say in where he went. However, no prize is hunted alone. Because of their successes, the advice and alternate expression of others is potentially invaluable. There is no way one person can learn all there is to know or complete every necessary task. As surely as there are situational and intentional forces working against Sonny’s rocket dream, there are people stationed along the way to give him a hand, and even to walk with him and help him with the cross he chooses to bear. Both conflict and companionship strengthen people and empower them to fulfill their goals.

As a favorite science teacher of mine always preached to our class: “Grit.” Yep, just that one word. October Sky is a symbol of perseverance and resourcefulness that casts light in the shadows of my life. It takes its rightful place among the inspirational works—songs, movies, poems, novels and short stories—in my spiritual library that inspire me to live every day, even if I only take one step when yesterday I walked a mile. No matter if I don’t get exactly where I want to go, day-by-day or at the end of my life, I have proof that I must keep moving forward. By making progress every hour, every day, I have the guarantee that I will get stronger. I will go somewhere. Individuals always get better simply by trying, even if they don’t succeed, because improvement and effort in themselves are success. I can relate to Sonny’s father’s incomprehension and scorn for his dreams, the frustration of being looked down upon for trying to work for what you want. My dreams and Sonny’s dreams are a little unheard of and a little odd to the people around us, dreams you would have to experience to believe are worthwhile. Sometimes I don’t believe in myself and the benefits of my goal, and sometimes it is hard to see where I am going. Like the climber hugging the face of the rocky, deadly mountain, I am not in a position to see the top, my goal. I only have my imagination to feel the success, and to design my path to reach it. When things happen that I do not expect, the challenge of absorbing the problem and shaping my life around it stretches my imagination and the abilities of my mind. Whatever stands in our path helps to shape who we are and prepare us for whatever happens next.

Dreamers should embrace challenges and see fallen trees in the road as an opportunity to get smarter and more spry, to have another success in our arsenal to use in times of doubt. But it doesn’t matter if your dreams are elaborate or conservative. Everybody’s lives are shaped to them, and what might look like a pile of sand to the big achiever might be a mountain of mortar to the office-chair roller. It doesn’t matter whether you are tasked with hopping over a crack in the sidewalk or swimming naked across the Arctic Ocean. What matters is that you use the challenge to move forward in your life. Even the office-chair roller needs grit to fix a paper jam.

….live every day, even if I only take one step when yesterday I walked a mile.

– Lisa Brock

English 10-1 Final Exam Personal Response Essay

Featured, Fiction, History, Lidi, Philosophy, Review, romance, Society, The Ambassador, Unwritten Hope

Winter in Verona

  • A sample critical response essay

Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet is often referred to as the tale of the fate of two “star-crossed” lovers—as though “fate” was in charge. It was the characters’ choices that doomed them. There is no such thing as “luck” or “the will of the stars” or “misfortune”. However, though fate is a fabricated excuse for the hardships of man, timing is still a prevalent determining factor in the play. The timing of events unseen and unforeseen weave together to form the tapestry of the phenomenon referred to as “life”. For characters in the play and real people, the circumstances of human insignificance and intimate proximity to each ravel decree their inability to see “the big picture” for what it is (Sarah Hill, “Soul Surfer”). Therefore, impactful coincidences are seen as predetermined. One incident instigates the occurrence of another, often in rapidly accelerating, uncontrollable sequence. The play is laden with hasty decisions, contracting and pushing together events that don`t belong together, and whose forced interaction become explosive. The deaths of young characters in the play were the result a storm of their own creation. Romeo and Juliet illustrates how self-serving, malevolent choices at critical times can only lead to affliction and misery.

The events of the first scene of Act III are the crossroads where the tragedy of all major deaths in the story could have been avoided, where characters blindly take the path of revenge and destruction. Satisfying prerogatives took precedence over good judgement. After Romeo kills Tybalt to avenge Mercutio’s death, he cries out that he is “fortune’s fool”, though Mercutio and Tybalt’s deaths had nothing to do with luck. Choices by Mercutio, Romeo and Tybalt, against advice of peacekeeping, cut short their futures. Tybalt’s death at the hand of Romeo was evaded at the beginning of the play, yet he doggedly seeks out his slayer. Having been restrained when he saw Romeo at Capulet’s party, Tybalt is now on the prowl for Romeo. From the beginning when Mercutio and Benvolio are out walking, Benvolio wants to leave the streets, predicting that the heat and the mingling of rivaling parties were the kindling and the spark for a fire. Ignoring the request, Mercutio turns the conversation into a case for Benvolio’s equal aptitude for a hot temper, despite his outward geniality. Mercutio proudly deflects accusations and the grip of fear, rashly challenging Tybalt when he feels that his friend Romeo’s honour has been insulted. For Mercutio there can be no honour in seeking peace with the enemy, in turning the other cheek. Truthfully he is a believer in eye-for-an-eye justice, though he doesn’t consider that the cost of Romeo’s pride might be several lives. He blames Romeo and the Capulet-Montague Rivalry for his death, even though he is one of the strongest activists of the rivalry in his insatiable hatred for Capulets. Mercutio forgets that he prodded Tybalt until the fight was dragged into existence, and refused to respond to force and pleading on Romeo’s part to cease the duel. Nearly every action on Mercutio’s part in this scene was to the effect of orchestrating his own death. Romeo in turn forgets his initial words of camaraderie toward Tybalt in exchange of revenge for his friend’s death, overlooking the result of Mercutio’s attempt to salvage Romeo’s honour. Romeo kills Tybalt and doesn’t even pay the lawful consequences; if anything, fate is working in his interest to keep him from harm, but he squanders every opportunity to make a good decision. He deliberately centres his actions around his fleeting emotions: “Away to heaven, respective lenity, and fire-eyed fury be my conduct now.” Romeo works against every good thing that happens to him, and every bad thing that doesn’t happen to him. As Mercutio conducts himself according to his pride, Romeo acts according to whatever emotion he feels at the time.  The characters continue to lead the story down dark roads.

Juliet’s fake death in the final two scenes of Act III shows the effects of un-virtuous decisions ignorant of circumstances unseen and unforeseen. For Capulet, Lady Capulet, and Paris, Juliet is instrumental to their success and happiness. “Uncomfortable time, why camest thou now to murder, murder our solemnity?” Capulet cries when he finds that Juliet is “dead”, and indeed, her faked death is the result of untimely circumstances and will set the circumstances for deaths later on. How is Capulet to know that moving up the date of the wedding will have such disastrous effects? Capulet’s motivation is to accumulate social wealth, perhaps to put himself above Montague, and marrying his daughter to a relative of the prince is a step in a desirable direction. Though Capulet claims that “My top priority has always been to find her a husband,” social prominence is the dominant priority in Capulet’s heart. He thinks he has complete control over his daughter’s will. “I think she will be ruled in all respects by me,” he proclaims to Paris. Lady Capulet claims that Capulet arranged the sudden marriage to help Juliet through mourning, to make her happy through love. Capulet and Lady Capulet prove to think little of their daughter’s happiness. Since Capulet is more concerned with pleasing Paris than his daughter, instead of accepting Juliet’s rejection he calls her names and outright refuses to listen to her point of view. Ironically, Juliet remarks to her mother that “This is a strange rush. How can I marry him, this husband, before he comes to court me?” (translated by SparkNotes Literature Guides). However, why is Capulet adamant that the wedding take place in three days? He is concerned that people will think the Capulets did not care about Tybalt, and Capulet reasoned that “Wednesday is too soon,” but Thursday may as well have been Wednesday. What difference will one day make that Paris and Juliet are not married? Capulet, the adult, consults Paris, a youth, on the timing of the wedding, though they are equally enthusiastic. Unbeknownst to them, somewhere else in the city of fair Verona, an infectious plague will result in an untimely quarantine that will lay the foundation for the deaths of Paris and Juliet. Juliet is rightfully dead to everyone except Friar Lawrence, and she never sees Paris and her family again. The sadistic toil of fate could be imagined here. Perhaps if Capulet and Paris had been willing to move the wedding date even a few days later, Friar Lawrence and Juliet’s scheme wouldn’t have gone so awry and the winter storm could have died in place of Romeo, Juliet and Paris.

The Final Act presents the fruits of leagues of bad timing and completes the demonstration that reactive plans are no way to unknot complex kinks in time. Big secrets withhold circumstantial information from third parties to take into account when making decisions. Friar Lawrence was ordinarily a wise and careful character who advised Romeo, Juliet and Paris against hasty decisions, especially related to marriage. Why did he contribute to the haste? He wants to make progress on assuaging the Capulet-Montague Rivalry and allows Romeo and Juliet to convince him to marry them despite the circumstances. The feud has been going on for years, what is the difference in even a few more months delay? Yet the Friar marries them. The legal and spiritual matters of Act V are more important than the remedy of teen angst in Act II and are a more appropriate setting for such a risky plan. Still, the exercise of careful thought to achieve desirable ends comes too late. Previous mistakes are all converging, colliding in an acute detonation. If Romeo had learned from the consequences of his numerous actions devoid of consideration, suicide wouldn’t have been his immediate reaction to Juliet’s death. Maybe if Friar John had simply delivered the letter without seeking company, the matter would have turned out as planned, deterring three more deaths. Romeo’s murder of Paris is an enantiomer of Tybalt’s murder. In another feud-duel Paris dies, and Romeo has the blood of two of Juliet’s relatives on his hands. Again Romeo claims to love someone of the Capulet house, and within the scene kills him to whom the love was directed. Again, looking upon the face of the one he has slain, Romeo bemoans his luck: “O, give me thy hand, one writ with me in sour misfortune’s book.” After Romeo’s second murder he enters the tomb and is too inconsiderate to speculate on Juliet’s state for very long: “There is still red in your lips and in your cheeks. Death has not yet turned them pale…Ah, dear Juliet, why are you still so beautiful?” He doesn’t stop to wonder at how she died, is only plagued with insanity that she is dead. If events preceding Romeo’s death, such as the fight with Paris and Romeo’s short search for poison in Mantua, had accumulated a sufficient half-hour delay, Friar Lawrence might have arrived at the tomb in time to meet Romeo. “How long hath he been there?” asks the Friar of Balthasar, to which he replied, “Full half an hour.” As always, delay would have been favored but ironically a little haste also in the case of the Friar. A lesson belatedly practiced and a turn of events in a most untimely fashion. The moaning winter drapes its chilling darkness over Verona.

From the beginning of the story, the Prince of Verona predicts that “If ever you disturb our streets again, your lives shall pay the forfeit of the peace.” In the course of these events, where are the star-crossed lovers and their “misadventured overthrows” described by the Chorus and made famous? Where is fortune’s tastelessness? Of the five dead youth, one murders two others, two are their own murderers and three are the instigators of their murderers’ fatal rage. A tangled sum, yet all parties are slain by each other and themselves. The play proves the human command of their futures, but their abuse of the responsibility leaves a legacy of death. The deaths of those so-called “star crossed lovers” are because of their ignorance and refusal to learn from their mistakes, to think critically and act in the best interest of themselves and those they care about. When faced with an issue, the characters repeatedly act out in destructive ways, and what can this result in other than destructive ends? Sometimes it cannot be known how the timing of actions will interact with the timing of other events. Romeo and Juliet is a story not of the “bad luck” of falling in love with someone whom you are supposed to hate, but of the dangers of immaturity at critical times.

ELA101.13             

Example Student (actually Lisa Brock)

March 20, 2013

Essay, History, Lidi, Nonfiction, Science, Technology, The Ambassador, Unwritten Hope

An Army of One

On Leadership in the Development of the Electroencephalogram

  • by Lisa Brock

Texting a friend doesn’t usually provoke thoughts of Alexander Graham Bell. Driving to work doesn’t always make people think of Henry Ford. In the same way, when told by their doctors that they require an electroencephalogram (EEG) scan, most people don’t consider the dispiriting, tragic story of the man who developed the technology. Like Joseph son of Jacob, Jewish-Egyptian leader of the fifth century BC, Hans Berger’s strange ideas got him into a lot of trouble. Though he often had to prevail alone, he ended up being a sort of hero. True leadership means pressing on even when someone’s peers are against them and their goals crumble around them. Despite his tragic end, Berger’s work continues to aid in the detection and diagnosis of neurological conditions today. Though he suffered in his own time, he truly was set aside for eminence in the world of functional neural imaging. Despite harassment from his peers, Berger asserted, “I openly declared that I do not hold the popular parallel as the solution.” Joseph and Berger show that some leaders are without followers, but this does not mean they are without the ambition, resourcefulness, and versatility needed to accomplish great things.

Leaders can derive ambition to pursue their goals from a variety of sources. For some it may be from the desire to gain credit, and for others it may be the desire to achieve a personal dream. For Berger, it was the compulsion to explain a supernatural experience he had. Believing that as a young man he had a telepathic connection with his sister, Berger set out to quantify psychic energy. His methods included studying changes in blood flow, temperature, and electrical signals of the mammalian – primarily human – cerebral cortex. His studies of electrical cortical impulses drove him to create a human EEG. After achieving a taste of success in this, Berger’s pursuit became a search for God, fueled by his belief that God is manifest in psychic energy. The spiritual aspect of the development of the EEG buoyed Berger during times of ostracism. Before he was orphaned by his scientific community, Berger enjoyed assistance, validation, and promotion from his peers. Feeling safe and supported in the pursuit of one’s goals is important for the nurturing of ambition. When his research produced useful results, it was easy for Berger to feel ambitious.  Then when he began to hit dead-ends, Berger sank into multiple spells of depression, but rebounded several times. In the other extreme, Berger was said to have become obsessed with quantifying psychic energy, a fanaticism that was revealed in his reports and diaries. However, passion and ambition and yes, sometimes obsession, breed perseverance. On November 30, 1910, Berger declared in his diary, “One can therefore not say that I gave this thing up lightly. Eight years! Trying always, time and again.” His decline from brilliant optimism to fatal despair is disheartening, but indicative of his devotion to his work.

Resourceful leaders take advantage of the resources of other leaders. A true leader recognizes his own limitations and acknowledges  the strengths of others. Berger used information gathered by other scientists to guide his work in observing mental energy to create a human EEG. One such scientist was Richard Caton, who used a Lipmann capillary electrometer to record electrical impulses of the dog brain. Berger was unsatisfied with this method for its lack of precision. He sought to explore experimental psychologist Alfred Lehmann’s idea that studying blood flow is the first step to understanding cortical energy transformation. Berger looked to Angelo Mosso’s work with the plethysmograph used to measure blood flow in the brain. Angelo Mosso had also studied peripheral and cortical blood temperature, leading to the discovery that temperature in the brain is independent of the temperature in the rest of the body, probably due to metabolic activity. Berger wanted to add to Mosso’s work, and studied cortical temperature as an indirect observation of nutrient metabolism. In this study, Berger adopted ideas from Max Verworn, Professor of Physiology at the University of Jena. Berger used Verworn’s concept of the balance of nutrient breakdown and synthesis for the theory that different mental states are related to changes in metabolism, which translates to changes in temperature. He then created the hypothesis that metabolic excess is used as energy for thoughts, emotions, and perceptions. Resourcefulness allowed Berger to build on the accomplishments of other’s accomplishments in order to further his goal.

At last, leaders must be versatile. Sometimes an original plan may not work out, but this is no reason to abandon a dream. Berger used at least three main methods to try and define the transformation of energy from cortical to psychic. His study of changes in blood flow was difficult and highly inaccurate, but divergence from one’s intended course of action can produce unexpected blessings. The importance of monitoring peripheral blood flow when studying cortical blood flow would later teach Berger to monitor cardiac and muscular electrical impulses when studying cortical signals. Although the blood flow study earned him invaluable insight, it did not get him directly closer to discovering how energy is transformed in the brain. He then tried using changes in the release of thermal energy, which earned him a wealth of knowledge including an estimate of the energy available to the brain. He was still not able to apply this conclusively to quantify psychic energy however, and needed to turn once again to his most important method: creating an EEG. Attempts to use an Edelman string galvanometer did not facilitate the distinction of electrical impulses in his canine subjects. When he tried using the galvanometer on human subjects, the instrument was neither sensitive nor hardy enough to produce useful results at first. Later in 1925, a primitive, indistinct human EEG was finally produced using a better version of the galvanometer. At one point, to observe the results, Berger even reversed the electrical technique and instead of observing natural electrical impulses, applied external electricity to the cortex. Even though the other two methods did not get him the end result he desired, he still gained invaluable knowledge from the unsuccessful methods. His versatility was rewarded and he celebrated by writing: “Is it possible that I might fulfill the plan I have cherished for over 20 years and even still, to create a kind of brain mirror: the Elektrenkephalogramm!”

Berger is Joseph’s wretched counterpart. Instead of being celebrated and honoured by society for his work, Berger was met with hostility and ridicule. Raphael Ginzberg, who worked with Berger, comments as follows in 1949: “There can be no doubt but that Berger was the sole creator of electroencephalography. He let nobody into the secret of his investigation. What he achieved, he achieved by his individual effort.” The EEG is humankind’s greatest scientific achievement not only because of its unparalleled importance as a neurological diagnostic tool. The greatness of the technology comes from the admirable herculean effort applied by Hans Berger to deny the mockery of his community and his insecurity in order to bring the technology to life. Only eleven days after his sixty-eighth birthday in 1941, Berger committed suicide. After dedicating his life to thankless and often disapproved work, his innovation was considered fraudulent and foolish. He never saw the positive impact of his drudgery. So while solitary trailblazing can have fateful consequences, the measure of greatness is the ability to lead alone.

Chinook Scholarship Essay

Lisa Brock

March 15, 2015