Preview from The GRAVEYARD — pages 34-36
We stood there, not believing our good fortune. Miss Stone began to write with a special pen that she kept dipping into a little bottle of black ink. She did have beautiful handwriting, with lots of swirls and curlicues. Her penmanship was one thing I had always admired about Miss Stone.
“All right, children.” She actually smiled at us again. “Take this note to your parents. I feel certain I will never have to see you like this again. And that’s that!” She blotted the ink with a large ink blotter, folded the note in half, and handed it to me.
“Thank you, Miss Stone,” I said in a small voice. “I’ll see that they get this.”
“I’m sure you will,” she answered. “Now hurry on home before it starts to rain.”
We quickly gathered our tablets and lunch pails and moved toward the door. I glanced back one more time. Miss Stone was still sitting at her desk, peering over the top of her glasses and smiling after us.
“Thank you again, Miss Stone,” I said.
“Thank you, ma’am,” Edward added.
I nudged Fred. He looked up at me. I gestured with my head toward our teacher. He looked back at her and echoed our words, “Thank you, Miss Stone, ma’am.”
I thought she looked pleased with herself. She nodded in our direction as we hurried out the door.
Just as we stepped outside, another flash of lightning split the clouds. The storm was closing in fast. We would have to hurry to get home before it hit. We ran across the countryside, scampering down the creek bank, splashing through the creek, then climbing up the bank on the other side. We only had to crawl through the fence at the edge of the woods before we would come out into the open area of the Singleton Field. I barely glanced at the nearby cemetery. We were almost home!
Big, fat raindrops began to fall, splattering as they landed on our heads. The smell of rain filled the air. The storm closed in around us; the raindrops pelted harder. We were running across the field when Edward slowed down a little. He yelled, “I was relieved to hear Miss Stone say what she did about our good behavior since she’s been at Sunny Sloop.”
“Sunny SLOOP?” I laughed. We slowed down to catch our breath. “That’s funny, Edward. You called our school Sunny SLOOP instead of Sunny SLOPE,” I said. “I read in a book just this afternoon about large ships that are called sloops, but I never thought about Sunny Slope School being called Sunny Sloop.” We all laughed about the new name for our school. We grabbed each other’s hands and started running again.
The wind was so strong by this time that the tall grass swirled in all directions. The lightning and thunder were constant as the sky darkened even more. It was as if the clouds were falling, wrapping themselves around us. Still holding hands, we ran even faster in the downpour of rain. It was frightening!
And then it happened. Just as we got to the center of the field nearest the graveyard, for some reason, we all slowed down again. The three of us said the words “Sunny Sloop” at the same time. At that exact instant there was a brilliant flash of lightning that lit up the nearby tombstones like fireworks. At the same time, there was a tremendous clap of thunder.
I thought we had been struck by the lightning, but, instead, we were suddenly changed!
We looked around. We were still holding hands and getting soaked to the skin, but the ground seemed to be moving. It was rocking up, pausing, then suddenly rocking back down again.
Are we dead? I thought. Are we in heaven? I looked at both my brothers. There was another crash of thunder and the same action began to take place under our feet—up, up, up. It seemed as if we would fall over for a moment, so steep was the incline. Then came the pause before going back down, down, down.
Why, we weren’t in heaven at all—but neither were we standing near the graveyard in the middle of the Singleton Field. We were on board a large ship! Huge sails billowed above our heads. Sailors dashed around the deck, yelling directions at each other. Some were pulling on ropes and lowering sails. Everybody seemed to be hurrying. There was a feeling of panic in their actions.
As we looked around in bewilderment, the same motion began again, up and up, until we almost fell over before there was a pause, and a quick descent back down again. But this time a large wave came crashing on the deck. The powerful wave pushed us ahead of it. We grabbed each other and held tightly. The thunder boomed.
“What’s happening?” I yelled. “Where are we?”
“You’re askin’ us” Edward yelled back. We could hardly hear each other’s voices, so loud was the crashing of thunder, wind, and wave. “You’re the big sister! You tell us!”
“I’m afraid, Emma Mae. Hold me,” Fred cried.
Just then another wave came crashing over the side of the ship. It was such a large wave that it knocked us down. We were swept across the deck in the churning water. It looked as if we might be washed overboard when a man came running over and grabbed us in his big strong arms, holding us tightly.
He yelled something to us, gesturing for us to go toward a cabin on the ship. We couldn’t understand his words, because he was speaking a language we didn’t know—but we could understand his gestures. He helped us run across the wet, slippery deck.
We got to the cabin door just as another wave churned onto the deck. The door opened and strong arms pulled us inside, into the safety of the cabin. This time the arms belonged to, not one, but several women. They hugged us, dried us with towels, and wrapped dry blankets around us. At the same time they seemed to be chiding us.
Once again we had the feeling of not understanding their words, but knowing exactly what they were saying by their gestures and actions. We were being scolded for being out on deck during a terrible storm at sea.