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Arts and Culture

The Telling Room: 'Prologue'

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Courtesy the Telling Room
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Every Friday this summer, Maine Things Considered is featuring samples of young writers, in partnership with the Telling Room In Portland. This week, an offering from 14-year-old Henry Spritz, an eighth-grader at King Middle School, who is one of four students chosen for the Telling Room's "Young Emerging Authors Fellowship." This is an excerpt from his soon-to-be-released novel, "The Road to Terrencefield."

Kenny Lane loved birds. In the summer, the green, shell-speckled rocks that dotted the seashore were home to funny, stilt-legged egrets, frothy seas, and watchful cormorants. In the winter, when the skies were clear of the flashing of wings, the chickadee’s quiet call could still be heard in the soft, snow-blanketed woods, a silent guard until the first days of spring.

Kenny Lane watched, he listened, and he observed. In the summer, his mother would call him in to dinner, long after the barnacles and algae had left their mark on him. In the winter, the sticky snow was a bed to those of the light-winged, and sometimes in the quiet evening hush of the woods, Kenny Lane would pretend he was gone, far off, the wind his only competition, no weight strong enough to bring him back to earth.

Kenny Lane lived in Terrencefield, the small town on the coast of Maine known strictly for its fishing, and the annual Terrencefield Fair that was held once a year in the fields on the other side of town. However, to the outsider, Terrencefield was nothing more than a quick pit-stop along the road north, one in a dozen small towns on the coast, and to anyone who looked too quickly, the most they saw of the fine people of Terrencefield was the gloomy old waitress who served sandwiches at the diner on the edge of town, or the loud-mouthed garbage man doing his early rounds in the small hours of the morning, or the hunchbacked bookseller who ran the old, dusty store on Main Street, off to get her morning cup of tea and raspberry scone from the baker’s shop down the way.

And so, with the outside world tuned out of the small town lives of the good people of Terrencefield, and the laws of nature, and the circles of life turning well, the hopes of a young boy who loved birds and wished for a miracle were heard, for a moment, and noticed. Then the sun resumed its daily climb in the sky and life continued normally, except that in the autumn months in a small town called Terrencefield, in between the pines and church steeples, and the wind cooing through open windows, a change had occurred, and so set things in motion, like the flap of wings and the gift of flight. A miracle had begun.

***

The cabin on Catchers Island was small, but not untidy or poorly made. It was diminutive, yes, but its oak floors and running marble banisters gave light to the extreme wealth that had once inhabited its walls. Mahogany, chestnut, velvet, rich deep tones, grand oriental rugs, faded and worn, golden lamps, and silver dinnerware—all evidence to lives past, lives long past, and buried far down.

The Anglers had been wealthy in the beginning of the twentieth century, businessmen from New York that bought into the logging industry and had hit it big. Joseph Angler (of whom Angler Hall is named) later became the mayor of Whistill, and with a handsome bank account, settled down in the town of Terrencefield after the Second World War when his son, Gregory, had been killed in combat in the Philippines. Aside from Joseph Angler’s success, the Angler family’s wealth and influence had all but disappeared after the death of Mr. Angler.

The Angler family had owned two estates. One was a sprawling colonial located adjacent to the town church, but had to be put up for sale in the late sixties, simply because the Angler family could not pay the bills. The second was a cabin located on Catchers Island, a small isle across the bay from Terrencefield originally constructed by Mr. Angler to show his support for the fishing industry. For years after Joseph Angler’s death, the heirs to the increasingly decreasing Angler fortune resided in the small cottage nestled between the bristling pines and the whipping saltwater wind.

And so the seasons passed, the years, and the time between the first blossoms and the soft quiet snowfalls seemed to blur, passing in and out of reality for the small cabin and its inhabitants. Continually the snow fell softly on a winter night outside the muffled windows, a fire crackled in the quiet, wet dew frosted the doorstep, and drops tracked in on the heels of boots in spring before green vines climbed the shutters along their trellises once more. And all seemed well.

But it had been more than twenty years since the small cabin had seen such living things, and the glass chandeliers that had long burnt out got tired of such dormancy and strung thick cobwebs across the empty rooms. The air came alive with floating dust and spores eager to eat away at the old house. It was winter again, and the heavy drifts of snow clumped outside the house, piling up to overthrow the last manmade obstacle on the island. Icicles dripped from rough roof tiles. It was quiet, and be- sides the muffled snowfall, a quieter place could never be found. The silence was loud, cold, and sharper than any sting of ice.

CRACK.
The silence was broken.
CRACK. CRACK. CRACK.
And for the first time in over two decades the boots of a man crushed the brittle sticks beneath his feet. The trees swayed and whispered, shaking their branches and showering their paper-thin leaves before him.

CRUNCH. CRUNCH. CRUNCH

The heavy oak door flew open, and the cabin breathed in, sucking in the cold winter air, inhaling the frost, the snow, the water vapor. The man stepped inside, shedding his parka and heavy wool mittens as he went, tossing his hat lazily onto the rack. It fell. He slumped into a chair.

***

He rowed away from the island at dawn, in the first hours of morning, when the grey clouds were lazily lifting the blinds and stretching back, and as the sun’s golden face peeked over the quiet valley of Terrencefield. As the rooster crowed, the wind chimes glinted and clinked the morning breeze, the pink sky drew roughly on the water’s surface, and small ripples stroked the sandy shore.

It was no surprise that as he entered the town, he entered alone. He was no special sight, he carried nothing save a small knapsack thrown across his back, and a stick in his hand, which he tapped and poked across the rocky and uneven ground. It was a good morning, and as the sun drew its sharp breath of warmth over the town, the stirring and the sleepy eyed inhabitants reached over, to grab glasses, hit alarm clocks, shake siblings or loved ones awake; after all, a new day had begun for Terrencefield, and woe to anyone who would miss it.

Henry Spritz is 14 and going into the eighth grade at King Middle School in Portland. His novel, "The Road to Terrencefield," written with guidance from staffers of the Telling Room, will be released Aug. 19 at 7 p.m. at Sherman's Books in Portland.