Sunday, September 4, 2011
















































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Wednesday, May 11, 2011

The Hostage

Part 2

        Connie had been so devastated when she saw on TV that Kate actually was the hostage, that she was temporarily unable to cope with the reality of the situation. But gradually, she began to get back to her less than normal self. "Oh, Lord, what'll I do?" she kept asking herself.

        It wasn't as if she had never had experience with dealing with bizarre situations, yet it never failed to amaze her, the depths of the troubles she and Kate could get themselves into.

        There was a thunderous knock on the door, which completed waking her up to reality.  
        "Who is it?"

        "Just me!" Mrs. Ludley's strident voice was for once, most welcome. It sounded almost angelic to the Connie at this moment. She opened the door cautiously. "Is your sister at home?"

        "Oh. Mrs. Ludley," and Connie began crying all over again. "She's been kidnapped!"           "There. There, child," she tried to sooth her Connie's brow. Her hands felt like sandpaper. "I thought that girl looked like her when I seen th' eve-nin news just now."

        "Oh, Mrs. Ludley. What'll we do"

        "Peers to me th' first thing you belong t'do is notify th' police that it's your sister that robber's got with him."

        "You're right, of course," and she dried her eyes on her blouse sleeve as she followed her landlady to the telephone.

        The police took all of the information as Connie dictated it, then told her that they were certain her sister and her abductor were on the bus headed for Lubbock. "And we'll have our men waiting there at the station for them. You have nothing to worry about."

        "Easy for you to say," Connie moaned as she hung up the receiver.

        "Wanna come in with me and set a spell? I'm gonna watch Matlock."  Mrs. Ludley was being so sweet, Connie thought

        "Oh, could I please?" Connie was so relieved to have someone to talk with.

        They went into the parlor and watched the weekly program together. It surely did look better in color. Even Don Knotts!


        "Dry Gulch," the bus driver announced as he came to a stop and opened the door of the bus.

        "Let's go," the robber commanded.

        "But this isn't Lubbock."

        "Boy, you're sharp as a tack! Now, move?"

        Kate stumbled forward. She had been asleep and now she moved as though she were still in a dream.  "There's not even a bus station!" she moaned.

        "That store serves as a bus terminal," their driver said, overhearing her remark.

        The store was a rough unpainted structure fronted by two Sinclair gasoline pumps of the 1940's variety. It may have been painted at one time, but all of the color was now faded from view. Kate started walking toward it.

        "Hey, where do you think you're goin'?" he asked her.

        "Well, if it's the bus station there has to be a john, and I still gotta go—bad!"

        "Just hold it---come on!"

        Kate gave herself up in disgust and followed her captor as he walked jauntily down the

street of the little ghost town. Other than the "bus station, there was a saloon and a big frame building with a sign that read, "Eugene's Emporium", which must serve as haberdasher and butcher and grocer and Lord knows what else in this little God-forsaken burg. They were all similarly lacking in paint. The bank robber opened the door of a pickup truck that was standing unoccupied in front of the station and said, "Get in."

        "But that's not your truck!"

        "Oh, really?"

        Then she realized how foolish her remark had been. This man was a desperate bank robber. He had ribbed a bank, and was holding her hostage. What would "borrow" a truck matter to him? Wearily she crawled in and slammed the door shut.

        "And don't try anything like jumpin' out that door, neither!"

        That was the farthest thing from Kate's mind. She watched with keen interest as he stooped and pulled two wires from the underside of the dashboard. He certainly did have a good build. His muscles fairly rippled beneath the vinyl of his black windbreaker. It still continued to make its little rustling sound whenever he moved. What on earth was he doing that for? As he touched the two wires together, a spark flew into the air and the truck engine started with a roar. Kate hoped against hope that the owner of the pickup would come roaring out of the saloon, but, alas, such was not to be.

        It was growing quite dark by now, and soon it would be totally pitch-black night.  Stars were already beginning to twinkle overhead as the truck created a  cloud of dust on the unpaved street of Dry Gulch. Kate felt totally miserable. She was hungry and she had to go to the john in the worst possible way!

        "Hell's bells!" the kidnapper said suddenly. "This damn thing's purt-near outa gas

        "Well, you can always go back and get some."

        "Yeah, you'd like that, wouldn't you?" He started driving down the road and eventually entered the highway leading to Lubbock. "We might just as well stayed on the bus, if you're headed for Lubbock," Kate observed

        "We're not headed for Lubbock, Bird Brain, I'm just lookin' fer a car or truck t'git some gas out of."


        They were passing through the desolation of the surrounding countryside by now. After a few minutes of this quiet driving, the truck gave a mournful cough and the engine died.

        "Well, that's it. Git out. We gotta walk."

        "I can't walk. I'm tired and hungry and I've still gotta go t'the bathroom."

        "Well. We can solve one of yer problems, at least. Go chonder behind that cactus an' do your job.

        "You have to be out of your mind!"

        "You can't have t'go very bad, or you'd jump at th' chance!"

        "Well---all right. But don't you look!"

        "Don't flatter yourself. And don't get any bright ideas about runnin' off, cause these parts are just ful of rattle snakes."

        That certainly did not make for a tranquil respite, but at last she had some temporary relief! Then she began speculating what the robber's bladder was made of. Probably cast iron: and stolen cast iron at that!

She walked back to the road. He was nowhere  in sight. Then, as if in answer to her question, he came out of the darkness from the opposite side of the road.

        "Down this way," he directed her.

        Connie's wedgies were too large for her feet, with the result that she kept turning her ankles. As it grew darker, it also grew progressively colder. The old raincoat gave her little warmth; and she was brutally hungry. She had nothing since a meager breakfast of coffee and half a stale doughnut. That seemed eons ago, She was thoroughly miserable.

        "Look! There's lights"

        She glanced ahead, almost in  a stupor. The only reason she had any interest in the fact that they had spotted a house so quickly was that she might be able to sit down soon.

        "Say, mister, what's your name anyway?"

        "You can call me Dave, why?"

        "Well, I can't go on calling you 'Hey, you.'"

        "Why not? I hope you don't think I'm dumb enough to give you my real name."

        "Well, I'll tell you mine. It's Kate Quaker."

        "What kind ova dumb-ass name is that, anyhow?"

        'It's my real honest-t-goodness name, that's what it is!" She replied hotly.

        "Ok, then, Miss Kate Quaker, you stand right here and keep a sharp lookout while I circle around the' house  t'see if they's a truck or a car."

        "What do I do if someone comes outa th' house?"

        "Gimme a whistle."

        "What if I can't whistle?"

        "You sure as hell better whistle!"

        "Aw right, awready, I can whistle. I was jest kiddin' you."

        "It ain't funny."

        He left her there, all alone in the blackness. Even though he was not exactly what you'd call a friend, he was all she had, and now, without him, she felt terrified. He had been gone what seemed ages when she felt something slithering across her toes in Connie's wedgies. It was a rattler, for sure. She let out a blood-curdling shriek. Instantly the light on the front porch came on and a man with a rifle came out and peered into the night, trying to see where the sound had come from. He was bare footed and clad only in a pair of faded overalls.

        At about the same time, Dave came from behind the house with a bucket full of gasoline in his hands. Taking Kate by the hand, he literally dragged her from the scene.

        'Who's that out thar'?" the farmer demanded.

        In answer to his query he heard only the sound of two pairs of feet running down the dirt road.

        Kate felt as if her chest would burst wide open as she gasped for air. "Oh, please stop! I can't go any farther."

        "That was real cute back there," Dave growled now; "yellin' so's you could get that guy out there t'shoot me!"

        "I screamed because a rattle snake ran across my toes, I'll have you know!"

        Dave continued tugging at her arm. It felt as if it would come out of its socket eventually if he continued to do so. Meanwhile, most of the precious gasoline was sloshing out of the bucket and onto the ground as they ran towards the truck.

        "You'd have been better off stealin' the car," Kate managed to get out now.

        "There was no car."

        "Well, then, their truck. It certainly would beat what we have now!"

        "Didn't have no truck neither. But I don't fancy tryin' t'get away from the cops in a John Deere tractor."

`All of a sudden the absolute idiocy of the situation hit Kate so hard that she burst out laughing.

        "What's so damn funny?"

        "You are! I can just see you driving us down Route 62 in the tractor as the police closed in on us!"

        They had reached the truck and Dave had to cope with the problem of pouring what little gasoline left in the bucket into the gastank of the truck.

        "You're wasting most of it," Kate said calmly.

        "You know a better way?"

        "Well, you might try rollin' up that magazine on the front seat and using that as a funnel."

        "OK, run and git it

        Kate didn't exactly run, but she did manage to get to the cab of the truck, reach for the old Life

Magazine and begin to roll it up before  Dave snatched it angrily from her hands.

        "Grandma was slow!" he exploded.

        "Yeah, and so're you and molasses in January!"

        "Hey! This really works!" he was amazed that she was able to tell him anything that he didn't already know. "Come on---le's go!"

        Back she crawled into the truck. It took some doing to get the thing started after its being b one dry, but eventually the engine coughed, sputtered and finally began to run smoothly.

        "Where we headed?"

        "Halfacres," he said moodily, "Not that it's any of your business."

        "What in the world's in Halfacres?"

        "Well, unless I miss my guess, a gas station."


        "I seen a sign back there that said it's five miles and you'd just better hope we got enough juice to git us there!"

        Kate immediately began praying as hard as she knew how, "Please, dear Lord, don't make me have to walk any more tonight!"

        She attempted to survey the b lack landscape as they drove along into the night. Hopeless. Then, out of the gloom she began to discern a neon sign. It was a service station!

        Dave drove under the metal awning and an attendant came out wiping his hands on a greasy rag.  ":Yeah?" he said.

        "Fill 'er up."

        "Y'all from around here?" the man wanted to talk.

        "Yeah," Dave lied.

        "Where 'bouts?"


        "I never been t'Lubbock."

        Kate could not believe that anyone could live this close to a big town and never had been there!

        Dave kept his eyes averted as the man continued to pump fuel into the thirsty tank.

        "That comes to fourteen dollars and sixty-nine cents."

        Dave handed him a twenty-dollar bill and got back into the truck.

        "Hey, wait'll I git your change---"

        "Keep it," Dave shouted as he roared out back towards the highway.

        Andy, the attendant, went back into the station shaking his head at his good fortune. People around these parts didn't often tip at all, let alone that much of a tip.

        `"We interrupt this program to bring you the following special news bulletin," a voice said from the television which he had left blaring forth as he waited on Dave and Kate.

        Pictures of the pair he had just waited on were flashed on the screen along with the story of the bank robbery and the request that anyone having any knowledge of their whereabouts contact the nearest policed station.

        Andy did what he felt any law-abiding, self-respecting citizen should do: he dialed the local sheriff (who just happened to be his cousin) and gave him the information, "Which way was they headin', Andy?" the sheriff asked.

        "Looked t'me like they was headed back ta-wards Sixty-two," Andy replied, "but I cain't be sure."

        "OK, Cuz, we'll git right on it!" And he hung up the phone with dire misgivings. Why in the hell did this have to happen to him, when he was all alone and not one single deputy was available if he needed help, His sorry assed cousin, Andy would just get in the way. No, he'd just have to do this all by his own self!

        "Uh-oh!" Kate said a few minutes later when she happened to look back and said a blue light flashing, "I think you better pull over!"

        "Well, you ain't me!" Dave said angrily as he floor-boarded the accelerator. The old truck lurched forward menacingly, but it was just not up to the task Dave had demanded of it. Soon the sheriff's car was pullin' alongside and a voice came booming over the loud speaker: "Pull over!"

        Dave continued to ignore the law and pumped at the gas pedal furiously.

        "Pull over, now!" and the sheriff pulled in front of the truck, forcing Dave off the highway. The truck bumped along over extremely rough terrain. All those lonely miles of empty, flat wasteland they had passed, and he had to pick the one spot that was littered with rocks and boulders!

        The truck ran snack into one of the larger boulders, breaking both headlights and giving Kate quite a considerable shaking up. They were plunged into inky blackness. Dave backed the truck up and started again, trying to avoid the big rocks. But it was futile. With a sickening thud and a bone jarring crash, the truck came finally to rest at what had to be the great-grand daddy of all boulders.

        The sheriff's car lights were directly behind them. "Git outa th' truck, an' keep your arms up-hands above your heads." As the voice boomed from the loud speaker, Dave tried to think what he could try next.

        Before she really had time to think, Kate found herself out of the truck with Dave's arm around her and with the familiar piece of steel in her ribs. "This is so romantic," she said sarcastically,

        "You try anything funny, an' I'm gonna plug this broad" Dave threatened. Kate felt her heart turning cartwheels.
`       "Now, just a minute,"  the sheriff drawled.

        "Just back away from the car, an' don't try anything cute, or I'm warnin' you1'

        "No, Sheriff, don't try anything cute, or otherwise," Kate pleaded for her life.

        So the sheriff had to step aside and watch as Dave and Kate drove away in his official police car. But he was not unduly distressed, because he knew these parts like the back of his hand, and he knew, also, that the old Hobson ranch was less than a mile away. He began walking with determination in the direction of Hobson's now, and within fifteen minutes was borrowing the telephone to call the authorities in Lubbock. Finding a marked police vehicle was a piece of cake for their well-equipped rangers and it was a matter of a few hours before Dave was apprehended and Kate rescued.

        "Oh, Darling, I've been worried to death," Connie was jabbering when Kate was finally safe at the police station where Mrs. Ludley had driven the elder Quaker to get her kidnapped sister.

        "Oh, I'm all right. It really wasn't all that bad."  Kate was looking a trifle wistfully, as Dave was taken away in a squad car. Most of the money had been recovered, except for the cost of the bus tickets and gasoline. The truck was returned to its owner, a little the worse for having come in contact with that boulder, but the insurance covered that. Kate had, all in all, rather enjoyed her interlude  from her usually hum-drum existence, and would not even discuss pressing charges against him. Dave really had a great body, and he really had not been such a bad guy to her. Given different circumstances, she might even have fallen in love with him.

        "Let's go get some groceries, I'm starved!"

        "But Kate, we still haven't got any money. That is, unless you got the check cashed before that horrible creature abducted you."

        'He was not horrible!"

        "Never mind," Mrs. Ludley said, feeling very motherly, "I got some right good collard greens an howg jowls back at th' house, an' yer as welcomed t'em as rain in August."

        "Manna from heaven!" the sisters crooned with delight.







Friday, March 18, 2011



                                                       A Fantasy


                                                               Frank Imbragulio



  It looked exactly like a dollhouse.  I had passed it each day when commuting to and from Southern Mississippi during my senior year, and the other three riders in the car with me and I often speculated on the kind of people that inhabited it. If it were lived in at all, that is. The color was dark brown and there was lots of gingerbread on it. There were yellow shutters on the windows, with tulips cut out of the side panels. I always thought like something out of "Hansel and Gretel". Not once, in all of the times we came and went, had we seen a single sign of life in the little house. Yet we all felt there were real people living there, because there always seemed to be fresh looking curtains hanging in tiny windows; the lawn freshly manicured; and often, that winter, there was a spiral of smoke coming out of the dainty chimney, on the side that we could see.

          And now. I stood there, upon the front porch, having just rung the doorbell. Its little ping-ping sounded like an oriental percussion instrument of some sort. I listened intently. There was no sound, other than the lingering echo of its two notes. Should I ring again? While I was trying to decide this, the door was opened soundlessly, and there stood the cutest little doll-like lady I had ever seen, looking me squarely in the face.

          "Good morning," I said, hoping I sounded cheerily, and gave my name. I told her that I had passed the house many times and had always longed to see the inside.

          She responded as though my request were the most ordinary thing in the world, and I was suddenly aware that mine was certainly not likely to have been the first curiosity pricked by the unusual domicile.

          "My name is Anne Angle," she told me. "We've lived here for seventeen years now."

          "Where did you live before coming to Hattiesburg?" Her attitude was such that I did not think she would resent my questions.

          "Oh, all over the place, really- but do come in, and get comfortable/"
          I moved into the living room, and took in each article of furniture with great care. The neat couch and matching chairs; the ottomans; a spinet piano in one corner of the room; the fireplace with its andirons, and the mantle above, with ample space for pictures of little people, in frames. She motioned me to a chair, as she continued answering my question.

"I was born in St. Louis, Missouri, and my husband is from, San Francisco, originally."

"How did you happen to wind up in Mississippi?"

"We met when Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer put out a call for all midgets with performing abilities to come to Hollywood to audition for the movie, The Wizard of Oz. We were to play the parts of the Munchkins. All expenses were paid by MGM, so we both traveled all that distance. Well, for my husband, it wasn't very far at all---but it was for me!" And her laugh was like silvery music.

"It turned out that we both had a few bookings with the Orpheum Circuit in the last days of vaudeville. Strictly song and dance stuff. But we were very good. It was the old clichéd 'Love at First Sight' story. We were married right there in Culver City, and after the film was finished (it took only a few weeks for our parts) we took all of that money (it paid us quite a tidy sum) and began looking for a nice, quiet place to settle down. One of the other Munchkins in the cast was from right here in Hattiesburg, and sold us on the place. We came here, fell in love with the whole area, bought this lot, built this house, had three children, and here we are!"

"Your children: are they at home now?" I asked eagerly.

"Oh, no: not right now. They're all in school. Scalene goes to high school and Isosoles and Pi attend the Demonstration School out at the college. But my husband is at home- and here he is!"

The little gentleman smiled broadly, as he introduced himself: "Hi! I'm Art Angle." And he held out his small hand for me to shake. I took it gingerly, afraid that I might hurt him otherwise.

"You're no doubt thinking 'What unusual names!'" and he laughed.

I didn't want to admit it, but that was exactly my reaction. I smiled instead of saying anything

Anne explained now. "My maiden name was Wright, and when I heard Art's last name, I just about dies laughing, Wright Angle!"

"Then when we decided to tie the knot, we said if the good Lord ever blessed us with children, we would give them appropriate geometric titles. And so far we have three," Art had continued the narrative.

I was bursting to know more about their children. Were they midgets, too?"

As if anticipating this question, Anne said, "Scalene is the eldest. She is full sized. She's getting so tall that we are getting a little concerned because we made the ceilings just six feet high."

Indeed my head had almost brushed against the ceiling when I entered the room.

"But, Isoceles and Pi are like us- midgets. And Pi is so little that even for a midget, he is very small."

"But wouldn't you like to see the rest of the house?" Art asked.

"Oh, yes!"

They both walked with me. There were three bedrooms, a kitchen (which enchanted me with all of its toy-like appliances) two baths, and a rather formal dining room. The amazing thing was that once inside, except for the low ceilings, there was no feeling of cramped quarters.

I felt that I had imposed upon them long enough, and made my preparations for departing.

"Why don't you stay and have a cup of coffee with us?" Anne asked me.

I have never cared for coffee, once breakfast is over and done with, but my curiosity got the better of me. "That would be great!"

We trouped back into the kitchen, with its blue and white chintz curtains, and its dinette set painted baby blue. I sat carefully on one of the chairs, while Anne busied herself filling the coffee pot at the sink. I noticed that Art was helping her at every step of the task and began to wonder what he did to support them.

"What kind of work are you doing now, Mr. Wright?"

"Please call me Art. Mr. Wright makes me feel so much older than I am. I'm retired," he added cryptically.

"But you're not that old," I protested. Indeed, he could have been almost any age. I placed him between forty and fifty.

Anne laughed her little silvery laugh again. "We were not so lucky." Then she went on, "After we built the house most of our savings were gone. It cost a good bit more than we had planned on., so we thought of going back on stage. But there was no longer any vaudeville: that phase of show business was totally dead. All that would have been left for us to do was work with the sideshows at fairs and carnivals. We had both done some of that work, but it is so demeaning to have audiences stare at you as if you were some sort of freak. And they can ask so many personal questions!"

My face burned at this remark.

"Oh, no," she quickly said, "you have not asked any personal or embarrassing or personal questions. She hurried on, "Well, anyway, then I found out that I was going to have a baby, Very awkward. Now, you tell what happened next, Art."

"An uncle that I didn't even know existed, died and left mea small fortune. It's enough to live comfo0rtably for the rest of our lives."

"So the only thing we're lacking is friends. The neighbors still think of us as sideshow freaks, I'm afraid."

I realized then that this must be the reason they were both so eager to show me their charming little home, and their reluctance to let us go so soon. Anne handed me a blue willow pattern cup and saucer, and began pouring hot coffee, steaming into the cup.

"Cream and sugar?" Art held the matching pieces of China in his hands.

"Yes, please," and I helped myself to both. Even the cloth napkins were blue and white checked gingham, as was the tablecloth.

As soon as I had finished my coffee, I made my excuses and left them, promising to return soon for another visit.




          My second visit was not unannounced. I phoned them before driving down to ascertain that they would be at home and not otherwise occupied. Their genuine and sincere delight in hearing from me, was all the assurance I needed. I had purposely chosen Saturday, being determined to meet the children.

          As I drove the familiar highway to Hattiesburg, and then following Fourth Street towards the college, I was filled with a sense of déjà vu. How many times had I ridden this same route as a student?

          I walked up the little winding walkway to the beautiful front door. The oriental ping-ping of the doorball was answered this time by a great hulk of a girl. She almost totally filled the doorway.

          "Hello! I'm Scalene." Her voice was deep, resonant and musical. She was not a pretty girl at all, and her size seemed absurd in the tiny frame of the doorway. Her eyes were too far apart, and her mouth was wide, with a distinct downward slant. Her auburn hair was almost exactly like her mother's, but somehow, on her, it seemed all wrong. I tried not to let her see my disappointment. After all, not many people are as nearly perfect as every feature of her parents' were.

I told her my name.

"Oh, I know all about you," she said. "Come on in; Mother's expecting you."

The little parlor was a scene of domestic tranquility, and the pretty picture that met my eyes will remains with me always. The two most exquisitely beautiful children that I had ever seen, sat on the floor before an open fire, playing at a board game. Anne sat doing needlepoint in her chair. The aroma of something delicious wafted in from the kitchen.

Many midgets have the appearance of ill-fitting arms and legs; their torsos are too long or short for the other parts of their bodies; but the Angles were beautifully proportioned (Scalene being the exception).

"Ah. My friend; how good it is to see you again!" Anne's greeting was warm and happy.

"And the very same to you!" I said, meaning each word.

"And these are our children: our pride and joys. You've met Scalene already, and this is Isocolies- and Pi." She pointed to each child, who stood up immediately and shook my hand, solemnly. The little girl was beautiful, as I have said, but Pi was an absolute vision of loveliness. His hair was so shiny black that it seemed to be made of wet glass. Hers was blond. But both were absolutely flawless. They had great brown eyes, dainty little mouths, and the tiniest hands and feet I had ever seen, except on babies. Their tiny shoes reminded me of those you see on Barbie dolls.

We sat and chatted a while, then Anne excused herself saying that she had to put the finishing touches on lunch, and of course I was to stay for that. I had not asked where Art was, but was now told that he was downtown at the Court House, taking care of some taxes and would be home in time for lunch.

Scalene went into the kitchen to help her mother with the lunch, I felt the two small children gazing at me with something like wonder.

"Would you like to play Pollyanna?: Isocoles asked now.

:"I love Pollyanna!" I said, trying to sound enthusiastic. Memories of my own childhood, trying to find somebody- - anybody to play the board game with me, flooded my memory banks.

"Come on, then and play with us. You can be red."

"I much prefer yellow," I said, seeing that they had chosen blue and green as their "Men".

Pi found this amusing, and covered his mouth, trying to conceal a beguiling grin.

"Does either of you play the piano?" I asked.

"Not yet," Isocoles answered. I had yet to hear Pi say anything, and began to wonder if he were mute. "Scalene does, though."

"I take lessons from Mrs. Davis, out at the college," Scalene said from the doorway.

"Well, you're certainly in good hands," I said, not feeling the assurance I offered her. "Perhaps you'll play something for me after a while."

"I'd love to. Mother tells me you're a pianist."

I acknowledged that this was true. "What compositions are you working one now"

"A Bach two-part Invention, Fur Elise, and parts of The Children's Corner, by Debussy."

I was impressed by the repertoire, but reserved judgment until I heard her play. "Those are all excellent choices," I assured her.

Our Pollyanna game continued. They were adept at it,, and I had little difficulty allowing one and then the other of them to win.

The front door opened and Art walked cheerfully in. We shook hands and made small talk until Anne announced that lunch was served.

"I hope you haven't gone to a lot of trouble on my account," I said.

"Not at all,: she assured me. "We're just having soup, a sandwich and some pie."

"That sounds wonderful!"

The soup was a clear consommé, and was delicious; there was a hearty beef sandwich and a tray of olives, pickles, tomato slices and other relishes. We ate with gusto.

"It's so good to have you here again," Art said, as we ate.

"And I am enchanted to be here." That was the exact word: Enchantment. It was all rather like something out of a fairy tale, I couldn't help noticing.

When the time came for Anne to bring her steaming hot apple pie from the kitchen, Art stood up to do the honors. He cut the pie in six equally huge slices,

"Would you prefer ice cream or cheese with your pie?" Anne asked.

"Aw, come on. I'm going to have ice cream, and so are the kids." Art said. :My wife, being an old Midwesterner, likes the cheese on hers."

Anne laughed good naturedly,

"Well, you twisted my arm," I said. "I'd like the ice cream, too. I'm just a kid at heart."

When the meal was finished, and Scalene and her mother had cleared the table, they returned to the living room, where we had moved. Scalene asked me point blank if I would like for her to play for me,
          "Most assuredly!" I said enthusiastically, How unlike my brother, George, and me," I thought somewhat grimly, We would never volunteer to play for company when we were children.

"I'll play the Back Invention first,: she announced.

I expected the F Major, or the first one, in C, but instead, she played the seldom-played E Major two-part Invention. In my estimation, it is the most difficult of all. It was beautifully performed, with sensitivity, accuracy and musicianship. Her touch was lovely, and the piano fairly "sang".

"Thank you. That was truly beautiful," I told her when she had finished. "Would you play something else for me?"

"I could try the Beethoven," she said modestly.

I was prepared for the usual changes of tempo, and the too-rapid beginning, and was again surprised with her maturity and expertise. I never remember having heard this charming little masterpiece more delightfully played, and told her so when she was done.

Anne was thrilled with my assessment of their daughter's playing.

"Do you really think she has talent?"

"There's no question about it,"  I assured her.

It was getting late, and I felt I had been there long enough. I was reluctant to leave, however. The entire family was so charming that it was hard to leave their company. They seemed equally reluctant to have me go, but I promised, once again, that I should very soon return.




          Over the next several months I was a frequent visitor at the little gingerbread cottage. Our relationship grew ever stronger and more affectionate. It was with a great deal of sadness that I had decided to pursue my postgraduate degree. I hated to leave home, my family and my wonderful new small friends.

          When, in September, I called on the Angles to say goodbye, they were all there. Anne had, as usual, insisted on cooking a meal for me. The children clung to me for dear life. As I started to go, little Pi threw his arms around my neck and kissed me warmly on my lips. It was, without doubt, the sweetest kiss I ever received. As I drove away, the entire little family stood in the front yard, waving sadly to me. It was to be the last time I would ever see them.




          It was early in October, and there was a definite touch Of autumn in the air. Scalene, Isosoles and Pi kissed their mother goodbye and were off to school. Their father had met with a tragic accident just a few days earlier, and none of them had really accepted the fact that he was dead. Art had been out taking his usual morning walk, and when returning, by way of the railroad tracks that ran below their little house, had failed to hear an oncoming freight train, He never knew what hit him.

          Pi, who rarely spoke anyway, was totally silenced by his grief; Isosoles , whose usual talkativeness had been reduced to monosyllables only; and even Scalene had shed not a tear at the funeral. Even Anne seemed beyond caring, but their grief was deep and real.

          The children entered the Demonstration School and walked silently to their separate classrooms. Pi arrived in his classroom to find a fever pf activity. Miss Donald was standing, and the class was listening intently to every word she said, for a change.

          "Oh, Pi," she greeted him, "You're just in time. We're about to go outside for today's science project."

          As was customary, he made no reply. He waited silently for further instructions.

          "Now, class, get your note books and a sharpened pencil. Luther, you can help me carry the equipment."

          The "equipment" seemed to consist of a can of Red Devil Lye, a Coca-Cola bottle and what looked like a clean pickle bottle filled with water. Miss Donald had her hands full with a mysterious white shoebox, her own textbook, and her usual assortment of pencils and erasers for those students who never seemed to have any.

          The students trooped noisily out of the building, as their teacher struggled to maintain some semblance of order. They were told to assemble at the rear, and Miss Donald came forward and exhibited a small silver coin with a square hole in the center.

          "This, Class, is a sales tax token. It was Mississippi's answer to a ten percent tax on everything that was bought. This was just a few years ago. For every dollar a person spent in a store, he had to pay one of these tokens. Louisiana and Alabama had similar tokens, but the shape of the center hole is what distinguished one's token from the others'.  Note the square hole in the center. There were one mill and five mill tokens. The five-mill token was made of copper, and were used with purchases of five dollars or more." She held up one of each of these tokens, pointing to the square holes in the centers. "The one-mill tokens were made of aluminum, and that is why we will be using them today. Billy, please bend this token for me, so it will fit through the neck of this Coke bottle."

          Billy was more than willing to oblige, and felt that he was exhibiting almost superhuman strength and impressing every little girl in the class as he grunted and bent the light weight token in two. Pi watched this with little interest as the experiment commenced. The bent token was placed in the bottle; then several more were bent and placed with that first one. When Miss Donald felt that enough aluminum was collected for the experiment, she instructed Billy, "Now, carefully pour some of the inlye into the bottle with the aluminum. But be very careful: don't let it get on your skin!"

          The class tittered nervously, as Billy very carefully removed the lid from the can and began to pour the lye, a few crystals at a time into the bottle. As soon as she felt that enough lye had been added for her experiment, Miss Donald said, "Now, let's add a little water to the mixture-- again going very slowly and cautiously."  She handed Billy the pickle jar of water, watching like a mother hen as he added drop by drop about a tablespoon of liquid. "Now, put one of these over the top of the bottle." She had opened the mysterious white shoebox, and extracted a red balloon. Billy looked as serious as his teacher had ever seen him, as he stretched the balloon open and slipped it over the top of the Coke bottle

          The lye had begun to eat at the aluminum tokens and there resulted a gas that filled the balloon ever so slowly at first. The class gasped in recognition of a new experience. When the balloon was filled to capacity, Miss Donald stepped forward and tied a long piece of string around its neck. Then she handed her 'assistant" a blue one to put over the bottle opening. The red balloon looked as if it had a life of its own, as it strained at the string and tried to rise.

          "Why 'zit tryin' t'raise up, Miss Donald?" Charlie Wilson asked.

          "Good question, Charles. We have created a gas known as Helium with this simple procedure. It is lighter than air, and that is why it rises so easily. They used to use hydrogen to fill the old time dirigibles, until the Hindenburg burned. After that they had to find something that was safer. That's when helium was created." She walked with the inflated balloon among the students. "Who would like to be the official keeper of the inflated balloons?" she asked. Every single hand shot up save one.

          "Pi. Wouldn't you like to hold the balloons as they are filed?"

          He looked solemnly at her with his great brown eyes, and silently nodded his head, "Yes."

          "Teacher's Pet-Teacheer's Pet," the class sang in a chant. Pi was, indeed, a great favorite ofry ev teacher he ever had. He was a model student: intelligent' easy to handle; clean; never a discipline problem. His size and beauty made every adult want to hold him and smother him with kisses, He had just the opposite effect on most of his peers, They resented his smallness and his beauty, and made no end of fun of him.

          When the blue balloon was filled and tied, and a yellow one was placed over the bottle's top, then another colored one was filled and handed ceremoniously to Pi. He took his duty very seriously,

          "Why does he het to hold all of th' balloons?" Jenny Sumrall demanded.

          "Don't worry, class, you're all going to get a balloon. And your choice of color, too!" Miss Donald laughed.      

          Nobody noticed that Pi was beginning to have difficulty keeping his feet ob the ground. He was too intent on doing exactly what Miss Donald had instructed him to do to complain. He was soon fighting gravity's pull for all he was worth, when his beloved teacher handed him still another balloon: this one, too, was red. It was one too many. Miss Donald turned back to discuss the experiment with the class as Pi rose from the ground completely. It was not until he was almost four feet from the ground that a classmate called out, "Look!: and pointed to him.

          The strange thing is that nobody made a move to stop it. They were all completely spellbound; incredulous! Even Miss Donald showed no sign of distress. She stood as though rooted to the spot, as little Pi rose higher and higher into the autumn air.

          His face had a look of supreme calm. Indeed, he had never appeared happier! It was as if his natural habitat were finally being approached and his natural destiny fulfilled. This was the first time he had smiled since his father's death.

          By now, his tiny body floated high above the trees surrounding the school, as he continued to hold onto balloons' strings. Up, up and ever upwards until there was just a dot on the horizon.

          The entire class and teacher had stood as though transfixed through the entire tragedy. But now, they came alive with shock.

          "He's gone!" one child said.

          "Where's he do to?" they all asked at once.

          "Oh, my God! What have I done?" Miss Donald suddenly realized the gravity of the situation.

          On the very spot where Pi had stood with the balloons, his little notebook and a pair of patent leather "Barbi Doll" shoes were all that remained of him.

          The family took the news with the calm and silence that was usually associated with them. But Anne had had enough. She packed their possessions, closed the little house forever, and they left as quietly as they had come.

          All that remains of the Angles is the tiny house near the railroad tracks on Fourth Street. This and two lonely little graves in the cemetery nearby.