A Boy Full of Glee: A Carding Chronicle

SH-A Boy Full of GleeThe Vernal Equinox arrived yesterday at 5:58 p.m. That’s the exact moment when the sun’s rays hit the equator full on and those of us who live “up heyah” enter the warm time of year.

Officially, that is. Here in Vermont, there’s still a lot of lingering winter to get through.

And nothing reminds Vermonters of this lingering more than what we call Mud Season. It’s usually heralded by signs put up on the roads by the local crews proclaiming many of our byways off-limits to anything heavier than 25,000 pounds. That’s so the asphalt roads won’t collapse into bigger potholes.

And there’s the tire-sucking mud on our dirt roads. I guess it’s all test to see if we really want spring to come.

Up on Belmont Hill, Little Freddie Tennyson loves all of it. Of course, Little Freddie loves everything.

But most especially mud.

Welcome to Carding, Vermont where life always includes a dash of the unexpected. And you can find it any time, right here in the Carding Chronicles and in the four novels of Carding, Vermont, The Road Unsalted, Thieves of Fire, The Dazzling Uncertainty of Life, and Lights in Water, Dancing.

If you haven’t already, don’t forget to subscribe to the Chronicle by clicking the link on this page. That way, you’ll never miss a story.

Enjoy!

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In smallish towns like Carding, Vermont, there are certain people who seem to capture everyone’s attention. There are eccentrics such as Amos Handy with his ubiquitous Bermuda shorts and wild Hawaiian shirts, worn in all but the very coldest weather. There are folks such as Diana and Stephen Bennett who own the Crow Town Bakery, Andy Cooper over at the general store, postmaster Ted Owens, and Stan the town-truck man who have earned renown from their well-run businesses. And there’s Edie Wolfe who is remembered by older folks as the daughter of Senator Danielson Wolfe and by younger folks as the executive director of the Carding Academy of Traditional Arts.

But these are all adults, people who have had time to etch their personas into the town’s collective unconscious. It’s unusual for that to be the case with a child.

But then I’ll bet you’ve never met five-year old Alfred Tennyson or, as everyone calls him, “Little Freddie.”

His parents, Lee and Christina Tennyson, certainly never have. “I sometimes wonder if he was sent here from an alien culture to observe us,” Lee once muttered to his wife.

“I still wouldn’t change any part of him,” she whispered back.

“That’s for sure. Life wouldn’t be half so fun.”

To start with, there’s Little Freddie’s physique. In general, the Tennysons are considered a rather sylphlike family. The men are lean and the women graceful. On Christina’s side (she was born a Ballard) of the genetic equation, the women are curvy. In fact, Lee has been caught making eyes at his own wife on more than one occasion, as if he is still trying to commit all her peaks and valleys to memory.

Little Freddie, on the other hand, is built like a football tackle. There’s not an extra ounce of fat anywhere on the child. It’s just that you’d never mistake him for a gazelle.

But that’s not what gets folks to smiling whenever he’s around. You see, Freddie is a boy full of glee. Everything delights him—milkweed fluff, kittens, icicles, falling leaves, Houdini the Tennysons’ obstreperous goat, blueberry muffins, books from the library, sleeping, waking—it all makes Freddie squeal with joy.

On one hand, his energy sparks up every corner of the Tennyson household. On the other hand, his parents are often exhausted and sometimes they worry that Freddie’s many loves will make it hard for him to focus long enough to learn how to read or count or master the skills he may need in the future.

His pre-school teacher has been ringing that alarm bell for a while now. “All he wants to do is play in the sandbox,” she said. “He needs to learn how to focus.”

But Lee and Christina aren’t willing to put their son in a box. It will all come together when Freddie’s ready, they tell one another.

Now today is the first full day of spring, a time that’s marketed with pictures of daffodils and nesting birds. But while flowers and feathered creatures may be happening in some places, here in Vermont, spring is announced by the “scree” of  returning redwing blackbirds and the tire-sucking mud of thawing dirt roads.

Still and all, today is a beautiful day, full of cobalt skies and the gurgle of water from the melting snow. Freddie, of course, loves it all and couldn’t wait to clamber into his mother’s pickup truck when he was released from school.

“Water. Sap buckets,” he said over and over again as they picked their way up Belmont hill. The ditches on both sides of the road barely contained the runoff and the brook licked the underside of the bridge that connected Hooke Road to Belmont Hill.

He stretched himself as tall as possible in his seat when his mother geared down to tackle the slope of their driveway, praying she’d make it to their back door without getting cross-threaded in the the ruts that reappeared every mud season. Freddie loved the challenge but Christina not so much if the tight grip she has on the truck’s steering wheel is any indication.

With a deep breath, she started to trundle up the hill, the steering wheel jerking in her hands every so often. She skirted one soft and muddy spot only to hit a pothole hidden in the bottom of a puddle and so on and so on. Finally, with a judder of the truck’s front end, she pulled into the barn attached to the Tennyson home. With a deep sigh, she set the brake and leaned over to undo Freddie’s seat belt.

But the little guy was already out of his harness and marching across the barnyard to stand at the top of the driveway. 

“Mom, what makes all the holes and mud so bad?” he asked.

Christina waved her arms in a circle. “It’s been really cold for a very long time,” she said, “but now all of the snow and ice is melting. You know how the ground gets hard around Thanksgiving time when it freezes?”

“It wrinkles when it does that,” Freddie said.

“Yes, wrinkles,” Christina agreed. “Well, all that cold is coming out of the ground now but only a little at a time.” She grabbed a stick from the edge of the yard and jabbed it into the soil. It didn’t sink in more than an inch. “See, only the top is soft while everything underneath is still frozen so when the snow melts, it can’t soak into the ground. But the water’s got to go somewhere so it runs down the road.” They took a few careful steps to the top of the driveway. “As it travels down hill, it takes some of the dirt with it. Eventually, you get holes and when we drive over the road, our tires sink into some places but not into others so we get ruts.”

“And lotsa mud,” Freddie said in a very serious tone.

“Yes, lots of mud. Come on, I’ll make you a snack,” Christina started to say but Freddie was already marching toward the back of the barn.

“Not hungry Mom,” he called over his shoulder.

Christina’s face crinkled up in a question mark. Freddie was always hungry. “Okay, if you say so,” she said doubtfully.

Freddie was outside all afternoon. Every so often, Christina spotted him leaving the barn with a shovel or trowel in tow. She could see the full length of the Tennysons’ infamous driveway from the living room, and she checked on him often from there. Once she walked out to stand at the top of the road to remind her son to “keep an ear out for your father’s truck so you can get out of the way.” 

Freddie nodded “yeah, yeah” but never looked up from his labors in the mud.

I sure hope he isn’t making the road worse, she said to herself as she walked toward the chicken coop to check for eggs. Though I’m not sure how it could get much worse.

It was twilight before Christina spotted the headlights of her husband’s truck. He’d been thinning a wood lot of dead trees and had picked up their older son, Scott, on his way home. She rushed outside to make sure Freddie was out of the way only to find him standing at the top of the driveway, tools abandoned in the snow off to one side, his arms crossed firmly over his chest, his eyes fixed on the truck coming up the hill.

Christina turned to watch with him, and noticed that Lee’s headlights weren’t zigging and zagging to avoid the potholes and washboard areas. She glanced down at Freddie. His face was rapt and instead of his usual freeform gaiety, he looked serious.

“Did you hire someone to work on the driveway?” Lee asked as he stepped out of his truck.

“No.” Christina looked down at Freddie. “That was your son’s doing. He’s been out here all afternoon.”

“Really?” Lee turned to look down the hill but it was too dark to make out any features. “What did you do, Freddie?”

“Fixed it,” he said, extending a pair of muddy gloves as evidence. 

“How did you learn to do that?” Lee asked.

“Sandbox,” Freddie said. Then he started toward the house and the beckoning lights of the kitchen. “I’m hungry, Mom. Can we have cookies and ice cream for supper?”


Remember, you can visit Carding any time by scouring the archive of older stories or by reading one of my four Carding novels, The Road Unsalted, Thieves of Fire, The Dazzling Uncertainty of Life, or Lights in Water, Dancing.

Thanks for stopping by.

A Boy Full of Glee

The Vernal Equinox arrives at 5:58 p.m. today. That’s the exact moment when the sun’s rays hit the equator full on and those of us who live “up heyah” enter the warm time of year.

Officially, that is. Here in Vermont, there’s still a lot of lingering winter to get through.

And nothing reminds Vermonters of this lingering than what we call Mud Season. It’s usually heralded by signs put up on the roads by the local crews proclaiming many of our byways off-limits to anything heavier than 25,000 pounds. That’s so the asphalt roads won’t collapse into bigger potholes.

And there’s the tire-sucking mud on our dirt roads. I guess it’s all test to see if we really want spring to come.

Up on Belmont Hill, Little Freddie Tennyson loves all of it. Of course, Little Freddie loves everything.

But most especially mud.

Welcome to Carding, Vermont where life always includes a dash of the unexpected. And you can find it any time, right here in the Carding Chronicles and in the four novels of Carding, Vermont, The Road Unsalted, Thieves of Fire, The Dazzling Uncertainty of Life, and Lights in Water, Dancing.

If you haven’t already, don’t forget to subscribe to the Chronicle by clicking the link on this page. That way, you’ll never miss a story.

Here’s a sample of tomorrow’s story. Sure hope you’ll stop by.

SH-A Boy Full of Glee

The King of Cups: A Carding Chronicle

sh-king of cupsThere are eccentrics and then there are eccentrics.

Some, such as Amos Handy, make a wonder out of being curmudgeonly. Mostly they just like to play at the appearance of gruff and strange because it keeps silly people at bay.

But others, such as Warren Eaton, don the trappings of eccentricity because they feel it gives them permission to be annoying and irritating.

As Carding’s town manager, Paula Bouton has to restrain herself from making loud eye rolls whenever Warren appears in the town offices.

Like today.

Welcome to Carding, Vermont where life always includes a dash of the unexpected. And you can find it any time, right here in the Carding Chronicles and in the four novels of Carding, Vermont, The Road Unsalted, Thieves of Fire, The Dazzling Uncertainty of Life, and Lights in Water, Dancing.

If you haven’t already, don’t forget to subscribe to the Chronicle by clicking the link on this page. That way, you’ll never miss a story.

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Carding’s town manager, Paula Bouton, sighed as she flipped over her daily calendar page. It was just a week until the first day of spring and like everyone else in town, she was straining for the new season to begin. 

There were reports of the annual arrival of redwing blackbirds up in the marshy area of Half Moon Lake, and Andy Cooper had seen a Canada goose swimming in one of the quiet curves of the river.

The birds were a sure sign of the change to come.

Even though she’d never tell anyone, Paula also checked the phase of the moon. Nearly full. 

It had been a relatively easy winter but the combination of a full moon with the imminent arrival of spring often made for outbreaks of fevered behavior around town, and she liked to be prepared.

Next was the morning police report, usually a good indication of how her day was going to go. It was pretty light. The pesky goat named Houdini owned by the Tennysons had been found wandering the green with his harem in tow. A couple of high schoolers had had to have their car pulled from the mud that had puddled in one of the town’s more popular make-out spots.

“Happens every year,” Paula said, shaking her head.

She also noticed that Horace McQueeth had made his annual in-drag-stroll down Meetinghouse Road at midnight which, of course, meant that the owner of the Carding Inn had made his annual complaint about McQueeth’s indecent behavior.

Paula smiled. She liked Horace. “I wonder what he wore this year,” she thought.

Just then, a sharp rap on her door made her head snap up. “Come in.”

Her smile faded as her guest stepped over the threshold. “Miss Bouton, I know you’re not busy,” Warren Eaton said.

“What can I do for you, Warren?” she asked.

“I want to reserve the community meeting room for this Saturday,” the stocky man said. Somehow, Warren always reminded her of a boxing promoter with a questionable reputation.

“What’s the meeting about?” Paula asked as she pulled up the community room’s scheduling spreadsheet on her computer. Warren Eaton nodded to himself. He had known she was going to say that.

“It’s for the King of Cups Society,” he said, his voice radiating importance.

Paula stared at him in silence. As Carding’s town manager, she’d been on the receiving end of a number of strange requests but this one was…well…strange even for Warren Eaton.

She smiled. “Um, Mr. Eaton, I think I need you to tell me a bit more about this society of yours,” she said.

Ever since Paula took on the job of administering her hometown’s business affairs, Warren Eaton had been a constant thorn in her side. Every year at town meeting, he stood up to represent “the hundreds of oppressed taxpayers in Carding,” a platform that gave him the opportunity to suggest enormous cuts to the town budget. 

And every year, he was the only one who voted in favor of them.

Last summer, he’d formed a group to protest mowing the grass in the town’s seven cemeteries on the grounds that the dead didn’t know any better so why waste the money. The five members of the group sprawled among the graves for hours until the sun set and the damp soaked through their clothes.

Then they dissipated like dew in the morning, never to be heard from again.

Warren regularly brought lists of books he wanted banned to the local librarian, and his outrageous opinions concerning alien life forms had become such a nuisance in the Crow Town Bakery, Stephen and Diana Bennett had barred him for life.

“Oh, it’s not my society. No, no, no,” Warren said. “The King of Cups Society is international in scope. It’s important, you know, very important.”

Over Warren’s shoulder, Paula spotted librarian Jane Twitchell walking down the hall, and silently begged her to look into her office. At first, Jane slid right by but Paula’s prayer must have hit the right deity’s desk because in the next moment, one of Jane’s bright eyes peeped around the corner.

“You still have not answered my question, Mr. Eaton,” Paula said, raising her voice just a wee bit. “What is this meeting for?” Jane nodded, and her head disappeared.

“Do you think she’s going to call the police?” Warren asked.

“Pardon me?” Paula said.

“Oh come on,” Warren said. “I know that Jane Twitchell just spotted me in here then scurried off. Last time, she called the police to have me removed. There’s no need for alarm, you know.” He dug a rather grubby brochure from one of his jacket pockets, cleared his throat with a thunderous “Ahem,” and began to read aloud.

“The King of Cups Society is dedicated to unmasking the false practitioners of psychometry, telepathy (especially in communication with the deceased), clairvoyance, and clairsentience,” he said. 

His reading now complete, Warren refolded the brochure with all the smug attentiveness of someone sure of his superiority and put it back it in his pocket.

“Clairsentience?” Paula asked.

“Yes, that is the psychic reading of emotional states,” Warren said. Then his body stiffened, and he held out a hand toward Paula, its fingers spread wide apart like a raptor’s claw. “Ah, ah,” he growled with his eyes closed. “I see that you don’t believe me.”

Paula laughed silently, imagining how this story would grow when she retold it. “Mr. Eaton, I think one look at my face with your eyes open would tell you what my emotional state is,” she said. “Now, are you going to tell me what this is all about so that I can get on with the rest of my day?”

Warren drew himself up, his mouth pinched in disapproval, his eyebrows making a square knot in the center of his forehead. “For your information, we have invited a renowned author to visit us here in Carding. We’ll be in the news, and I hope, for your sake, that the media looks favorably on you,” he said.

“Yeah, who’s the author?”

“Arianna Terra,” Warren said, drawing out the syllables with a flourish. He pulled a worn book from his jacket pocket, and held it up for Paula to see. “Miss Terra is the author of Discover Your Psychic Intuition, as I am sure you know, the most important book on the subject ever written. She’s on Amazon. She’s famous.”

Paula tilted her head back to study the plaster on her office ceiling. It did seem a bit yellow to her. Maybe a paint job would be in order for the whole community center. She’d have to look into that.

“Warren, if you represent an organization that doesn’t believe in psychic anything, why would you invite an author who does to one of your meetings?” she asked. “Isn’t that a little like inviting an evangelist to an atheists’ picnic?”

Warren stepped back as if slapped. “It is no such thing,” he huffed. “We have simply invited her here to disprove what she says because that is what we do.”

“Does she know that?” Paula asked. Then she slapped her forehead with her open hand. “Oh, of course she does. She’s a psychic, right?”

Just then, Jane Twitchell appeared in the open doorway with one of Carding’s police officers by her side. “Hi, Mr. Eaton,” he said.

Warren flinched a little but did not move from his spot. “So, how about it? Do we get the meeting room for this Saturday?”

Paula raised an eyebrow. “How many people are you expecting?” she asked, her hands poised over the keyboard.

“Well, I…uh…don’t know exactly,” Warren said.

“Is it free and open to the public?” Paula asked. “If it isn’t, I’ll have to charge you for using the space. But you knew that, didn’t you?”

Warren deflated, and pushed the book back into its hiding place. Then he looked at Jane and the smiling police officer. “Arianna will be so disappointed,” he said as he turned to go.

“But she already knew that,” Paula whispered as she leaned back in her chair with a sigh.


Remember, you can visit Carding any time by scouring the archive of older stories or by reading one of my four Carding novels, The Road Unsalted, Thieves of Fire, The Dazzling Uncertainty of Life, or Lights in Water, Dancing.

Thanks for stopping by.

The King of Cups

There are eccentrics and then there are eccentrics.

Some, such as Amos Handy, make a wonder out of being curmudgeonly. Mostly they just like to play at the appearance of gruff and strange because it keeps silly people at bay.

But others, such as Warren Eaton, don the trappings of eccentricity because they feel it gives them permission to be annoying and irritating.

As Carding’s town manager, Paula Bouton has to restrain herself from making loud eye rolls whenever Warren appears in the town offices.

Tomorrow will be one of those days. Why don’t you join us for the weekly Carding Chronicle to see what Warren wants this time.

You’re welcome to roll your eyes if you wish.

Welcome to Carding, Vermont where life always includes a dash of the unexpected. And you can find it any time, right here in the Carding Chronicles and in the four novels of Carding, Vermont, The Road Unsalted, Thieves of Fire, The Dazzling Uncertainty of Life, and Lights in Water, Dancing.

If you haven’t already, don’t forget to subscribe to the Chronicle by clicking the link on this page. That way, you’ll never miss a story.

sh-king of cups

Author of the Carding, Vermont novels, quilt books, and book publishing guides.