A Ship of Pearl
by Adela Crandall Durkee
Release Date: September 23, 2106
A gentle story of generosity and respect in hard times.
It’s Release Day! Jenabooks is happy to share A Ship of Pearl by Adela Crandall Durkee. Please enjoy learning more about the book, including a chapter except and information about the author.
A Look at the Book: Separated from his family, young Eldie Craine is up to his eyeballs in unfamiliar territory- someone else’s clothes, a new school, new faiths, a new school, and new rules. And now there’s Cecilea.
Author Adela Crandall Durkee looked back to the times that her father experienced in the Great Depression and the calamity of the 1933 bank closings to create this appealing book. How did folks keep a positive outlook despite a crippling catastrophe?
A Ship of Pearl is a story that will be enjoyed and shared by young and old.
“I rolled many of the tales Dad and his brothers told into A Ship of Pearl. Besides traditional historical research, I interviewed a variety of men and women who grew up during The Great Depression. I had the rare opportunity to interview one of my father’s teachers, upon whom I based the novel’s Mrs. Bidrall. One of the families is based on tales told to me by the Pittsburgh artist, Thadeus Mosely.”- Adela Crandall Durkee
Seems like the perfect book for holiday gift giving! And even better- the authors is donating 10% of her profits to help America’s homeless and hungry.
Take a peak! Here is Chapter from A Ship of Pearl
CHAPTER 11 DOWN BY THE RIVER
A first, when I see Cecilea standing there, I think it’s one of those figments of my imagination that Mrs. Bidrall’s always talking about, on account of the pain knifing up between my teeth and through my skull, added to me trying to catch my breath with my mouth clamped shut. What was Cecilea doing out here on this dirt road to the Torrey, all by herself, looking at me, with her dress trying to escape underneath the hem of her wool coat, all pulled up tight around her like it’s the middle of January, instead of near the end of March, with the smell of spring all around? I put my tongue against the back of my tooth to tamp down the pain.
Cecilea catches a couple of stray strands of hair and tucks them back under her kerchief and away from those eyes of hers. For some reason, that little thing makes my heart leap up in my chest.
“What are you running from?” she says.
“Nothing,” I say.
I feel the blood empty out of my head and sink down somewhere under my stomach, ’cause the
first thing that comes in my head is that night in late February when me and Dallas and Ephraim were out here by the Tamarack’s house, and the second thing was lighting all those matches at Mr. Dibble’s store. Funny how guilt sneaks into my lungs and tries to strangle me, just when I think I wrestled it into the past.
Right off, I’m thinking Cecilea knows what a bad person I am. Those thoughts wipe away the real reason I’m running: Trying to beat Ephraim and Dallas to the Torrey. I just stand there with my tongue practically lolling out of my mouth like an old hound dog, trying to think of something to say.
“I saw you running. I saw you all the way from the chicken coop,” Cecilea says, which makes me feel real lame-brained.
’Course she was talking about just now. I must look like a moron. I feel the red creeping up to my face and making me hotter than running can account for. Then I see she’s got an egg in her hand, and I wonder if she’s gonna chuck it at me. I heard Ephraim say he did that to houses of people he hated, back in Pittsburgh. That’s back when people like him were flush with money and his Ma never even missed a few eggs and if she did, she just went out and got more and never gave a thought about people standing in bread lines, ’cause there were no bread lines back then. Anyways, none that Ephraim or me or Dallas knew about.
“Would you like to walk down by the river with me?” Cecilea says.
Her hand goes up to where I know those little bones are below her throat. Of course he r throat’s under about a half dozen layers, but she does it anyways, and I think about her Sunday -china skin underneath all those layers.
“Why not?” I say.
I look around behind me to see how far back Dallas and Ephraim are, ’cause one thing’s for sure, I can do without those two tagging along making sideways remarks and jabbing each other in the ribs.
With their two cents worth, Cecilea will think I’m a dope, if she even ha s a doubt left. Not a sight of ’em. They must’ve ran through the field hoping to cut me off, ’cause even if Ephraim stayed back with Dallas’s slow running, which I doubt he’d do, they’d still be in my eyesight. The road between the school and here is flat as a tabletop and straighter than a barber’s edge. Only thing to hide a person is the shadows of the trees.
Cecilea and I head out down the path she came on, which I know all about because it’s the same path Dallas and Ephraim and I sneaked down a little more than a month ago. I just got caught up in all my rememberings and lost track of where I was, which is part of why Cecilea got me off kilter. ’Course ifI’m as honest as I should be, that’s only part of it.
The path winds down through her father’s hayfield and past the pasture, which is pretty much empty ’cept for some new quack-grass poking through the ground and some violet leaves unrolling, andabunchofstiffsticksofdeadQueenAnne’slacefrom lastfall.Inacoupleweeksit’llbeallpurple and yellow and green, and with the Tamarack’s black and white cows tramping and chewing everything in sight. The place’ll be peppered with brand-spanking new Holstein calves a-bawling ’cause they lost their mama in amongst them all, and the cows will be out here mooing low to their babies and throwing their heads against their stomachs, with a big old rope of spit landing smack on their backs. Daddie’ll be sending me out here for dandelion greens. I feel lighter in the knees just thinking about all the greenness coming.
For now, Cecilea and I just walk, not saying anything. I try to think of something to say, but I’m empty, so I pick up a stick and switch at the dead Queen Anne’s Lace and the new grass. Cecilea slips the egg into her coat pocket.
“I was gathering eggs for Mother,” she says without turning her head to me.
She talks all hoity-toity like that, saying every syllable clear as a bell, same way as she plays the piano. Nobody ever says ‘huh?’ to Cecilea, even though her voice is soft.
“Oh,” is all I can think of to say.
We just walk along like that, looking straight ahead, not saying a word. Sometimes she wobbles over my way and bumps her hand against my free one, or maybe it’s me doing the wobbling; then quick, like there’s static electricity between us, we both step away. I make a sort of ‘sorry’ grunt, and Cecilea says, “Pardon me.”
“You talk so much when you are with your brother.”
I have nothing to say to that, so I just shrug and look at her sideways to see if she’s looking at me, which she is, and that gives me that electricity feeling again, only stronger, like I ran chest -first into an electric fence. I start searching my brain for something smart to say. I’m still running on empty.
“My sister Theresa is leaving for the convent when the school year’s out,” she says.
I just nod. Dope.
“She’s going to be a nun,” she says.
I have no idea what she’s telling me. I mean, I hear her words; they just make no sense to me. Least now I have a question to ask. In the back of my head, something Ephraim said is prickling at my brain. “What do you mean, she’s gonna be none?”
“No,” she says, and I can tell there’s a laugh underneath. “A nun. You know the women who wear the black and white habits?”
“I thought those were sisters.” Ephraim’s story about Theresa and Margaret going away to be sisters comes up to the front part of my brain. “Is Margaret going, too?”
“No.” Cecilea looks at me; her eyes are the color of cool lake-water reflecting fall leaves. “I mean yes, sisters are nuns. But Margaret’s staying here on the farm. Papa needs her help. What makes you say that?”
“You should wait to hear things from the horse’s mouth.”
Cecilea’s eyes flash more green than blue at me. I think about saying she’s not the horse’s mouth but I saw Daddie swing a conversation around to safe territory enough times, to know to tread in a different direction. Besides, I had so many questions popping up in my head, they just started spilling out.
“Why’s Theresa want to do that? Seems like she already knows how to be a sister.”
“She loves the Catholic Church. She’ll be married to Jesus.”
That sounds crazy to me, Jesus never got married when he was walking around on this earth, why would he marry a bunch of women all covered in black and white, looking like those penguins I saw in the National Geographic? I guess there’s no accounting for those Cat-lickers.
“Why are they called sisters, then?”
“Because a nun’s a sister to every person on the earth.”
Cecilea seems so darned happy about her Theresa going to the convent, she just keeps talking about what it all means and when Theresa is leaving. Her eyes are back to gold flecks on blue -green again. I stop listening to the words and just watch Cecilea talk, her hand waving in the air, her cheeks all rosy, and her hair coming loose from her kerchief, fanning out around her, with the afternoon sun shining through it. She sure does look pretty.
I’m glad when we get to the river, ’cause now I have something to talk about. The river is all swollen and flowing fast, on account of all the snow thawing. Elderberry bushes are just turning pale green under winter’s brown. The smell of wet clay and musty old cattails reminds me how alive this place will be before Easter comes along. Something about the smell of wet dirt makes me feel happy and hopeful.
I teach Cecilea how to skip stones. She’s pretty bad at first, her stone making a fat kerplop right smack to the bottom of the riverbed. Still she catches on like nobody’s business, and pretty soon, she’s got the hang of it.
I ask her if she’s ever been fishing, which she never was, so I can talk about that like it’s a new invention. The sun dapples on the surface of the water, painting long shadows through the trees branches.
“Did you know my brother Nate caught a catfish in this river? He loved that fish and told Mama it wasn’t supper; it was his pet. He taught it to walk on land.”
“No,” she said, just like I knew she would, ’cause nobody believes that story ’cept Nate.
“Yep. Nate even named that catfish, Whiskers. He kept it in a bucket and fed it breadcrumbs and little pieces of pork rind and johnnycake. Pretty soon, Whiskers learned how to leap up and beg like any dog I ever saw. He could even roll over for Nate. Every day, Nate took Whiskers out of the bucket while he fetched clean water for him. Pretty soon, Whiskers started following Nate on over to the pump.”
“Are you fibbing me?” The flecks ofgold in Cecilea’s eyes sparkled like the light on the water.
“One morning, Nate went out to feed Whiskers and he was gone. Daddie said he must’ve leaped right out of that bucket and walked back down to the river.”
“Did your Papa really say that?”
“Yep.” I waited a second or two. I swallowed down the laughs that bubbled up out of my stomach. Nothin’ better than a good story.
“Nate still looks for Whiskers every time he goes down by the river; he whistles and calls out ‘Whiskers. Here, Whiskers.’ He’s sure that catfish will come back. Mama says Whiskers probably has a family and forgot all about Nate.”
Cecilea laughs; the kind of laugh little kids do, with her whole body getting into it; the kind of laugh you know is real; the kind of laugh that loosens up laughter inside of anyone, no matter how grumpy. ’Course, I could barely keep my own laughing back, anyways.
“A fish with a family, now that’s a good one,” she says, and laughs some more. I laugh so hard; I have to hold my sides.
I bet my lucky Indian-head nickel that I never forget the way she looks sitting there beside me on the fallen trunk of the weeping willow tree, the one that got struck by lightning last September. Of course, I keep that bet to myself, ’cause saying it out loud would be just plain lame-brained.
I think I should get going. If Ephraim gets home before I do, his mother’s gonna ask where I am. She’ll be bellowing at one or both of us, that’s for sure. I put my hand down on the willow trunk and my little finger, the one that doesn’t bend proper, touches Cecilea’s hand. Neither one of us wobbles or pulls away this time. I stay still, I don’t even dare to breathe, and I think maybe my heart stops beating a second or two. I’m staying put as long as Cecilea does. Even if it means fire and brimstone from Mrs. Moore.
The shadows pull longer than long and both of us just sit there all silent ’cept for our breathing. Cecilea stands up quick, reaches in her pocket and pulls out that egg of hers. She brushes it off with her mitten, before she puts it back in her pocket.
“I better get home,” she says, like that egg sent her some kind of message. “Mother will be looking for me.”
“Yeah, I better hightail it too. Mrs. Moore’s gonna be fit to be tied, if I’m late for supper. She hates that.”
“Why do you live with the Moores?”
“My house burned down,” I say. She probably already knows that part. Sometimes people do that: ask a question they already know the answer to, so they feel better about asking a tough one. I know what’s coming next, ’cause I’ve heard it a million and one times, so I save her some breath. I already answered the tough question so many times I lost count.
“We’re all split up, but not for long. Daddie’s gonna find us a new house.”
Cecilea just stays quiet. That’s a new one on me. Pretty soon, I’m telling her all about the chimney fire, and Itsy-Bets getting lost, and how Daddie was working second shift, so it was all up to me and Dallas and Mama. I spill my guts like I never did to anyone before. I guess all that silent space , longer than the shadows pointing the way as we walk, just open me right up. I keep on a blabbing, right up until we get to the path leading to her place.
I’m sorry I told her, ’cause now I seem like a sad-soap, just thinking about what I lost, not what I have, like Mama tells me to.
“Lots of people have it way worse than me,” I say.
“Sure they do,” Cecilea says. “You’re pretty lucky.”
“Daddie says people lose way more than we did in the fire. We still have each other. Nobody got hurt.”
“The Kerschkes had a barn fire once. They got all the livestock out, but they lost all the hay and grain. They put the hay up when it was still wet. Lots of barns burn down that way. You must be patient with hay drying and keep raking it. That’s what Papa says.”
“Good thing nobody was hurt,” I say.
I’m wondering to myself why wet hay would just start a fire, but I already asked enough stupid questions, so I keep my wondering to myself.
“Their dog burned up to nothing but bones,” Cecilea says. “They had it tied in the loft to keep it safe from other dogs. You know, because she was in heat.”
Cecilea’s eyes get all glassy lookin’, and my own sting like blue blazes, way back behind the sockets. She lowers her head, and tucks her hair into her kerchief, and even in that near dusk light, I see the color rise up in her cheeks.
All the way home, I just keep thinking about the Kerschkes’ dog burning alive, up there in the loft where she was supposed to be safe. My stomach feels like I swallowed a stone, and burped up bits of gravel and chewed up dandelion greens.
Meet the Author: Adela Crandell Durkee
Ms. Crandell Durkee is a Daughter, Sister, Wife, Mom, G-mom, Writer/Reader, Regulatory Affairs Professional, Quality Assurance Expert, Microbiologist/Chemist, Pest Control Specialist, Trained Tongue, Seamstress, Organizer, Knitter, TV Watcher, Cook, Bicycle enthusiast, swimmer, Yoga Practicer, Zumba Dancer, Weight Lifer, Camper, Environmentalist, Techno-geek, Progressive Catholic, Believer in love, and much, much, more.
She launched her 30 years of corporate leadership in new directions as a free-lance writer and consultant. Her soul is infused with health, science and quality principles, which peaks through in all that she writes.
She has two cats, four children (and their spouses) and 12 grandchildren. She describes her life as life “truly abundant”.
Adela Crandall Durkee was born in Michigan, the second of nine children. She now lives in a far north suburb of Chicago.
Her first book was a ‘read-to-me’ book, The Fable of Little Tzurie, also available on Amazon.
Connect with Adela Crandall Durkee
Ms. Crandell Durkee also writes for the Marengo Union Times and McHenry Chronicle, and her writing has also appeared at I have WherearewegoingChicago.com, About.com, MidlifeBoulevard.com, TribLocal, a section of The Chicago Tribune. She also maintains websites and write feature stories for 1st Way Pregnancy Support and the local section of American Society of Quality.
I am a writer, blogger, book reviewer, and bon vivant and encourager. I have lived my entire life in Tropical Ohio. My goal is to make friends with everyone in the world. I am writing a fiction series, The Golden Age of Charli, that presents the problems and praises, and the love and laughter of family life and retirement.
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