Mystery of Mingus Mountain Jan White
Royal Fireworks Press Unionville, New York
Copyright ÂŠ 2012, Royal Fireworks Publishing Co., Inc. All Rights reserved. Royal Fireworks Press First Avenue, PO Box 399 Unionville, NY 10988-0399 (845) 726-4444 FAX: (845) 726-3824 email: email@example.com website: rfwp.com ISBN: 978-0-89824-370-3 Printed and bound in the United States of America using vegetable-based inks on acid-free, recycled paper and environmentally-friendly cover coatings by the Royal Fireworks Printing Co. of Unionville, New York.
Chapter I The Ghost Town “You can see Jerome from here, high up on the side of the mountain,” said the bus driver, “Looks like we’re in for a storm.” Vicky shuddered when she looked up at the Ghost Town where she and her two step-brothers were going to stay for a month. Shrouded in clouds, it appeared to hang a mile high straight up in the air. Lightning spiderwebbed the afternoon sky, outlining the craggy mountain tops that hovered like evil spirits above the town. Jerome wasn’t a place she’d have chosen for a summer vacation, but everything had changed since her mother’s marriage three months ago. Instead of being an only child she now had two step-brothers, John, fourteen, a year younger than her and Matthew, sixteen, a year older. John had been living with them since her Mom’s marriage but Matthew, had been going to boarding school and Vicky would meet him for the first time when they reached Clarkdale, the little town at the foot of the mountain. The bus stopped at Cottonwood where they picked up a group of passengers. A huge blob of a woman clambered on, caught Vicky’s eye, and bore down on her. The woman seemed to be almost six feet tall and wore men’s work pants. Vicky quickly thought women’s slacks probably did not come in a large enough size for her. Stringy hair hung beneath the brim of her worn, felt cowboy hat. “Him your brother or your boyfriend?” the woman asked, while staring rudely at John, who looked like an all1
American boy with blonde hair and light freckles that sparkled across a snub nose. His white knit shirt strained across muscular shoulders. The woman turned full-face to scrutinize the pretty girl sitting beside her. Vicky was slim enough to look great in tight jeans. Her blue checked shirt emphasized the blue highlights in her black hair, as well as matched her bright blue eyes surrounded by thick curling lashes. “I sure don’t see no family resemblance.” The woman spoke in a surprisingly deep voice. “John is my step-brother,” Vicky replied simply. “One of them broken home deals, eh? Don’t know why some people get married in the first place. Probably wouldn’t if they had a brain between them.” “My dad and her mom are plenty smart. They’re both lawyers,” John said proudly. The woman’s derogatory “humph” was intended to show she didn’t think much of lawyers. “Are you two the only young ones in the family?” “We have been, but my brother, Matt, is meeting us. He’s been going to boarding school in Colorado,” said John. “You must be tourists. I live in Jerome, and I ain’t never seen you before.” “We’re going to spend the summer visiting our greatgrandmother, Sarah Forest.” Vicky felt the soft flab of the woman tense at John’s mention of their grandmother. “I never heard that Mrs. Forest had any great-grandchildren. I worked for her awhile, but she was so old and senile I quit.” This summer is getting even weirder, thought Vicky. It wasn’t like her Mom to foist her off on an old woman who 2
was senile. The word foist wasn’t quite right. When her step-father called his grandmother and mentioned his plans to have a belated honeymoon in Europe, the old woman invited the children to spend the summer with her. “My brother Matt is even named after Great-Grandfather Forest,” said John, rolling his eyes slightly as he spoke to the woman. “I hope he ain’t inherited nothing else from his grandpa.” She lowered her voice and Vicky noticed that the passengers around leaned in toward them to hear her. “Did they tell you that when he died he was trying to invent a mechanical man, kind of like Frankenstein?” This summer is getting better and better, John thought. “Matt did a paper for school on Great-Grandfather and his inventions. Did you know that he invented mining equipment and tools that are still in use today?” “He did evil things in that house,” the woman insisted. I think that’s why it’s haunted. Mrs. Forest pretends she ain’t seen the ghost, but I did, and once was enough for me. If she wants to stay there and get killed, that’s her business.” The woman’s eyes were tiny slits in her massive face. As she turned her head to glare first at John, then Vicky, her double chin flopped, but her eyes were what made Vicky shiver in spite of the heat. She had never had anyone glare at her with so much hatred. Vicky knew that it wasn’t in John’s nature to notice that there was something evil about this woman. He was intrigued with the idea of living in a haunted house. “And I thought spending a summer with a great-grandmother I hardly knew would be dull,” he said excitedly. “Wait until Matt hears about the ghost!”
John’s attitude seemed to make the woman furious. “If you know what’s good for you, you’ll go straight back to where you come from. We don’t want your kind in Jerome.” Vicky was puzzled by the fear she sensed in the angry women . John had finally figured out that the woman wasn’t a friend, and his reaction was typical of him. “Last I heard this was still a free country.” He folded his arms, leaned back, and pretended to sleep. Vicky was relieved when the bus stopped in Clarkdale, in spite of Matt now going to join them. She had never met him, but her mother and step-father had done so much bragging about what a genius he was that she had secretly named him Matthew the Magnificent. It seemed that he did everything well. When Vicky won a scholarship to music camp, her step-father commented that Matt had been a winner for the last three years. Maybe she was jealous of Matthew because he was the kind of child her Mom had always wanted—absolutely brilliant at everything. Mother tried to hide her disappointment when Vicky told her she hadn’t made the honors math program at school. It didn’t help that she was always on the honor roll and was in Advanced English. Math was a man’s field and her mother, an ardent women’s libber, believed that girls should be as good at it as boys. Vicky knew her mother was making a joke of her deep disappointment when she once introduced Vicky to her reading class friends as, “My daughter, who’s going to make an excellent housewife. She cooks, she sews, and she loves puppies.” The bus emptied out at Clarkdale. John, Vicky, and the woman were the only remaining passengers. John had actually been sleeping. Vicky got up to take the basket from the seat beside him. She hoped this movement would wake him 4
so she wouldn’t have to meet Matthew alone, but John was a sound sleeper. Vicky sat down in front of John. It was a relief to be away from the smell of the large, sweaty woman. A tall young man, with brown eyes and hair, got on the bus. He appeared to be older than sixteen, but there was no doubt in Vicky’s mind that he was Matthew. He even looked intelligent and had a patronizing manner as he introduced himself. “So here’s the little sister Dad wrote me about.” She was only a year younger than he was, yet he made her sound like she was five. What else had step-father told him about me, she wondered. That I am shy? She looked up at him and mumbled, “Hello.” The bus lurched into motion. Matthew looked over at John, now sprawled across two seats, and sat down beside Vicky, who hastily moved the picnic basket between them. The storm the driver had pointed out over Jerome hit them as they climbed the mountain. Rain drowned out the drone of the air conditioner. A loud crash of thunder made Vicky look at John and wonder how he could sleep through all the noise. He had one arm flung up behind his head, and his mouth was slightly open. He slept, as he did everything else, wholeheartedly. She wished he would wake up so that he could talk to his brother. John seems like a child sometimes, she thought. She looked up to find Matthew watching her. “How are John and your mom getting along?” “Do you want me to be honest or polite?”
Matthew’s grimace was enough to let Vicky know that he wanted to hear the truth, though he suspected it wasn’t good news. “Mom’s too busy to have time to get to know what John’s really like. She’s into women’s lib, and thinks that since she and your father are both lawyers, she shouldn’t be bothered with children any more than he is.” “You mean they’re fighting already?” Matthew sounded hopeful. “No, but I have a feeling that their marriage wouldn’t survive a summer with all of us in that small apartment. And then there’s the puppy.” “What puppy?” “Reach inside the picnic hamper, but be careful about it. I don’t know whether puppies are allowed on the bus.” Matthew peered into the basket and then reached in and petted a tiny brown poodle. Vicky could tell from the look of delight on his face that the secret was safe with him. “I wondered why you kept feeling the sandwiches in the basket, but never took one out to eat.” Matthew laughed with her, and Vicky noticed that he was nice looking, now that he wasn’t scowling. “John got Coco from people who lived along his way home from school. The puppy was too lively for them, so they gave it to him.” “John’s always wanted a dog,” said Matthew. “The problem is that there’s a law against having animals in our apartment house.” “So what did the folks say?” Vicky blushed. She didn’t want to admit that they hadn’t told them yet. John brought the dog home the day the folks left. Hurriedly she skipped over the subject. “Our immedi6
ate problem is whether Great-Grandmother is fond of animals. You know her. What do you think?” “I can’t remember if she had a dog or cat. It’s been a long time since I visited her. She’s a really neat old lady, but she’s kind of frail. Her husband died a long time ago. Dad told me a lot about Great-Grandfather, though.” Vicky shivered at the thought of his inventions, and stared out the window, mulling over the strangeness of their upcoming visit. Three teenagers might be more than a frail elderly woman could stand. Great-Grandmother might not even want her—after all they weren’t really related. Vicky’s stomach began to do flip-flops as the bus curved around hairpin bends on the steep mountain. Rain poured down with such force it seemed to wash the road out from under them and have the power to send the bus crashing a mile down to the floor of the valley below. As the nose of the bus pointed into the rain-filled sky and the road continued to disappear underneath them, the driver began talking into his mike. Vicky wanted to shout out to him that they would be happy to forgo the guided tour. She wanted him to keep his eyes on the road. “Jerome is a cliff-hanging, mile-high community in the Black Mountains of central Arizona. Mingus Mountain is the grim sentinel of the city. Above Jerome’s abandoned buildings towers the tall black cone known as Cleopatra Hill. Jerome has been called, ‘The most unique city in America,’ and, ‘The billion dollar mining camp.’ Today it is known as ‘The largest ghost city in America.’” A crash of thunder shook the bus and cut short the driver’s speech. The noise woke John up, and he greeted his brother with pleasure. “You shouldn’t have let me sleep. I wanted to see your face when you met Vicky. I knew you’d like her.” 7
Matthew scowled, and Vicky blushed, but John’s irrepressible optimism was undaunted. He looked excitedly out the window and read a sign, “Jerome City Limits, Population 143.” “I wonder what percentage of the population is lost each year because they fall off the mountain,” said Vicky, eyeing the sheer land drop beside a house they passed. “No wonder it’s a ghost town.” “Speaking of ghosts, did Vicky tell you what that woman over there said about Great-Grandmother’s house being haunted?” He motioned toward the fat woman. “Tell him? I don’t even want to think about it.” John shot her a glance that told her what he thought of timid girls and proceeded to embellish the story as he repeated it to Matthew. The noise of the rain suddenly stopped. The air now filled with a swirling silent fog. “There are many changes in the weather on the mountain which make climbing dangerous. As you have seen, we drove through sunshine, thunderstorms, and now fog in less than an hour,” the driver explained. Vicky thought she saw moving shapes in the windows of the shell of an abandoned six-story hotel. Other empty buildings stood crumbling, as the bus continued to climb. The mountain was so steep that the streets winding one above the other resembled terraced rows. Most of the houses were built with entrances on the first floor of one street and doorways to the second story on the street above. The bus finally came to a stop on a steep grade in front of an old saloon appropriately named, “The Spirit Room.”
Chapter II Inhuman Specter They climbed out of the bus into swirling fog. The driver got their luggage from the storage compartment. Besides their suitcases and Coco’s basket, Matthew and Vicky had guitars, and John brought his trumpet. “How do we get to our great-grandmother’s house?” John asked the woman from the bus. “Since you think you’re so smart, you figure it out.” “Why don’t you take the puppy for a walk,” Vicky suggested quickly before John could answer back. The woman made her way into the coffee shop beside the Spirit Room, and Vicky and Matthew followed. Warm air smelling of coffee, beer and cigarette smoke from the adjacent bar greeted them. There was only one customer, a tall rough-looking man with a jutting chin, who frowned at them over his coffee cup. The woman joined him at the counter. “That excuse for a car you got me conked out again. I had to take the bus from Cottonwood.” The proprietor of the shop, Emma Lou, was plump and gossipy, but Vicky noted that she tried to evade giving them directions. Finally she advised, “You young folks don’t want to go poking around that Forest house. You’ll only disturb the old lady who lives there.” When she paused for breath, Matthew said quickly, “She’s our great-grandmother.” “Oh, so you’re Sarah Forest’s kinfolk. “I thought you were teenagers from the valley who’d heard about the haunt9
ed house and wanted to snoop around. It’s nice that some of Mrs. Forest’s family have come to visit.” “I haven’t been to her house since I was a little kid so we really do need directions,” Matt reminded her. Vicky watched the man at the counter suddenly leave his half-eaten doughnut and fresh cup of coffee and go out of the shop. “What’s Jake letting my fresh doughnuts go to waste for? Nothing good, if he has a hand in it, I’ll wager.” At an indignant gasp from the fat woman on the bus, Emma Lou turned to apologize. “I’m sorry Agnes, I’d forgotten that Jake was your brother.” “I don’t know why Jake stays in this hick town. Nobody has a good word to say to him. If you kids was smart you’d take the next bus home, too. There’s a ghost in your Granny’s house.” Her voice fell menacingly, “I seen it with my own eyes.” Emma Lou shrugged, dismissing Agnes’s comments. “You kids just follow the road to where the town ends. Take the steep stairs at the edge of the cliff down to the house.” Matt thanked her, and as they left the brightness of the shop they found themselves immediately in thick, greenish, fog. They followed the road, barely able to see the outlines of the deserted buildings they passed. As they walked toward the edge of the mountain, they gasped. A white shape was silhouetted against the sky. It raised its arms with a flapping movement and disappeared over the edge of the cliff. “What was that?” John’s voice shook. “It didn’t look human,” whispered Vicky. She could feel her heart pounding. “Is that the ghost the fat woman saw?” 10
“It looked like it either jumped or flew off the edge of the cliff,” said John. He didn’t rush forward to look. The three huddled together on the fog-shrouded path. Matt said, “That must be where the stairs go down to Great-Grandmother’s house. I’ve never believed that there were such things as ghosts.” In spite of his sensible words, Vicky felt that Matt was shaken out of his usual cool. “I don’t believe in them either,” Vicky assured him, “but I always think that people are foolish to walk into unknown danger.” She set her suitcase down to flex her cramping fingers. “If you’re afraid, you can wait here, and Johnny and I will go ahead to check things out.” The thought of remaining alone was worse than going with the boys, so Vicky forced her chattering teeth to be still. “You’re not leaving me behind.” They followed the path to the edge of the mountain, where there was a stairway that appeared to go straight down the side of the cliff. A locked chain crossed the wooden gate, and they had to climb over it. They passed their luggage to one another. The stairs were overgrown with vines and untrimmed trees; the house was almost hidden. “I’m sure that thing, whatever it was, came down here,” whispered John. “There’s no place else to go unless—it wasn’t human.” They were facing the back of the house. The front took advantage of the mountain view. The back windows were boarded over, but to their surprise, the door was wide open. Matt rapped on the door. There was no answer. After waiting a long minute they walked in. Though it was late afternoon, the house was dim because of the boarded-over windows. John tried to turn on a light. 11
“The lights don’t work. I flipped the switch up and down. Maybe the storm caused a power outage.” “I saw some lights shining through the fog as we walked here so the town has electricity,” said Vicky. Matt volunteered to check the fuse box. Vicky and John huddled together in the dark kitchen listening, waiting for the lights to come back on and for Matt to return. Within a minute the lights went on and he was at their side. “All the fuses were good. Somebody turned the power off.” They looked at one another in confusion. Vicky finally shrugged her shoulders and examined the beautiful old kitchen. She noted all of its modern conveniences with surprise. “Come look at the huge fireplace in the living room,” said John, who had wandered ahead. Why isn’t Great-Grandmother here to meet us? Vicky wondered. John, who was seldom still, was busily exploring the house. “This stairway leads down to the bedrooms.” The puppy gave a yelp and cowered close to John. “What frightened you?” asked Vicky, picking up the little dog. “Maybe she saw a scorpion or a tarantula.” John seemed to take a ghoulish delight in the thought. Vicky gave him a stern look. “The possibility of a ghost in the house is enough to contend with, thank you.” Cautiously they explored the three bedrooms. “The house must be built tight against the side of the mountain,” said Matt, as they went down another flight of stairs and into a huge room that must have been used as a workshop by their great-grandfather. 12
“What I wouldn’t give to have a place like this.” Matt’s eyes sparkled with excitement. The object that riveted all three pairs of eyes was a seven foot tall metal stand, with clamps extending from it like arms and a welder’s mask draped atop it. Whatever it was, Grandfather had evidently used it for a hat rack because sitting on top of a welding mask, was an old cap. “This has to be the huge woman’s mechanical man,” exclaimed John. A drafting table and shelves holding notebooks filled with Great-Grandfather’s diagrams occupied the boys. Vicky ventured alone into a storage room, where shelves were lined with home-canned goods. As she turned to tell the boys what she had found, her toe touched the figure of a tiny old lady, who appeared to be unconscious.
Chapter III Great-Grandmother Vicky’s hands were shaking as she stooped down to feel he thin wrist for a pulse. “I almost didn’t see her because only her legs stuck out from behind these huge pickle crocks. Her pulse is strong.” “Looks like she banged her forehead on something. See that bruise,” said Matt. “She shouldn’t be moved until a doctor checks her. Vicky, phone 911, and John, go get a blanket.” Suddenly Great-Grandmother opened her eyes and said decisively, “I don’t need a doctor. It’s a blessing you came when you did. Must have scared off that fellow who hit me. I pretended I was unconscious, and he carried me to the storage room.” At their look of confusion, she said sharply, “Or don’t you believe me, either. Strange things have been happening around here lately, but every time I tell someone about it, I am told I should go to an old folks home.” Vicky remembered how the fat woman on the bus had suggested as much. However, there was nothing senile about their great-grandmother’s bright blue eyes and clear articulate voice. “I believe you,” Vicky said, placing the soft wool blanket John handed her around Great-Grandmother. “Were the lights out when you came down here?” Matt asked. “Yes. The rainstorm must have caused a power failure. That’s why I attempted the stairs. Your great-grandfather 14
put a generator in his workroom, and I wanted light to welcome you. I see the power came on again.” The young people exchanged knowing glances and in accord decided not to tell Great-Grandmother that the current had been deliberately turned off. She looked too frail to withstand any more shocks. “Just rest a bit, and when you feel better we’ll help you upstairs,” Vicky said gently. “I prayed you would come. You’re all the family I have left in the world.” “I’m not really family. I’m only a step-great-granddaughter.” “You’re the granddaughter I’ve always wanted. You’re a beauty, just like I used to be,” said Great-Grandmother with a sweet smile. For a fleeting moment Vicky saw her as she must have been, and she was beautiful. “While you’re here, we will all be a family, because I have a feeling we need each other.” “We don’t know what to call you. Great-Grandmother is such a mouthful,” said John. “Why don’t you call me Gram?” “If we’re going to be a family, I’d like you to meet my new sister, Vicky, and you probably remember my little brother, John.” Matt was smiling now. Vicky felt a warm glow when she heard Matt call her his sister. Gram was right, people needed families. Gram rose slowly, and they exchanged worried glances. She was so crippled with arthritis that climbing the stairs would be very painful for her.
Gram was about five feet tall. Matt had no trouble at all as he gently picked up her slight figure and carried her up the stairs. “I do thank you, young man. That’s the easiest trip I’ve made upstairs since the elevator broke.” “I’ve never lived in a private house that had an elevator,” said John. “Your Grandfather put it in. This house is four stories high you know. The garage is on the level beneath the workshop. When the elevator was working, it was no problem for me to get to and from my car, so that I could go to the valley to do my shopping,” Gram explained. Matt deposited her on the couch in the living room, and Vicky placed pillows behind her. “All the townspeople will envy me when they see me with my good looking grandchildren,” Gram said, warming them all with her love and need for them. “Shouldn’t we call the police to investigate?” asked Matt. “We only have one policeman in town and he’s convinced that I’m so senile that I go around making up mysterious things to complain about. He’d probably say I hit myself on the head.” “That’s terrible of him,” said Vicky angrily. “In a way I can’t blame him. The things that have happened here have been so senseless. Somebody took my wash off the clothesline. When Ben, the policeman, came to check, all the clothes were back on the line. Of course I stuck to my story, but I could see he didn’t believe me.” “That sounds like the kind of prank kids might pull,” said Matt. “You three are the only young people in town, and it happened two weeks ago.” 16
“I wouldn’t classify hitting Gram on the head as a prank,” said Vicky. “Are there any ghosts in this house?” asked Johnny suddenly. Matt and Vicky glared at him. “This house is full of ghosts. When you’ve lived as long as I have, you come to cherish the ghosts of people who used to run up and down the same stairs the three of you are using now.” She smiled tenderly in remembrance. Vicky had the strange sensation of being eighty years old and knowing exactly how she felt. She hugged Gram, who peered intently into her eyes and surprised her by saying, “God gave you a great gift. Don’t ever lose it.” “Matthew is the gifted one,” Vicky protested. “He’s very bright.” Somehow Gram’s love took away her jealousy of her new step-brother. “I knew he would be, because he’s named for my husband, Matthew, who was a genius. Matt will use his brain to solve problems that Vicky will solve with her heart.” Gram smiled and continued, “Vicky has the gift of understanding people’s feelings. God, in his wisdom, gives different gifts to each person.” “What’s my gift?” John asked. “Energy,” said Gram, decisively. John looked disappointed, and she went on to explain. “All the leaders and important people in the world have this special gift. With your gift you can become anything you choose, if you learn self discipline.” John flashed Gram his endearing ear-to-ear grin, and Vicky noted that he stood a little straighter, as though a great honor had been conferred on him. She realized that he had needed to feel special, too.
“I didn’t ask you here to wait on me, but it does feel good to rest. It’s too bad the boards are over the windows so that you can’t see the view. Agnes insisted on nailing them up because she thought they would keep the ghost out.” “We met Agnes on the bus,” said John. “Did she really see a ghost?” “The only ghosts in this house are in my memory,” snapped Gram. “Whoever hit me on the head was no ghost.” She was beginning to get agitated, and Vicky suggested that she rest. “I’ll see to dinner.” “You shouldn’t have to do that on your first night here,” protested Gram. “Don’t worry,” John bragged. “Vicky’s a really good cook.” “That’s good news. I’m starved,” Matt said. “Wait till you taste her chocolate chip cookies.” Vicky listened to John praising her cooking and realized that he wanted Matthew to like her. She hoped he wouldn’t overdo the praise the way her mother had, by telling her how smart Matthew was. She’d resented him before she’d even met him. Vicky watched to see how Matthew would react to John’s comment. She couldn’t tell if it bothered him. “While she’s fixing dinner I’ll get a hammer and remove the boards from the windows,” was all he said. “If you’re going to the workshop, you might bring up some of the canned goods. It should be eaten, and it’s too difficult for me to carry cans up anymore,” said Gram. Vicky went into the kitchen where a huge black and white cat sat on the counter. Its presence shocked Vicky, who quickly returned to ask Gram if it belonged to her. At that moment, Matt was coming through the living room with 18
a carton of canned goods, and John was carrying in a load of wood. They were all surprised to see their puppy curled up on the couch beside Gram. “I don’t have a cat. The only pet I have is my dog, Brownie,” said Gram, giving Coco’s curly head a pat. Vicky looked at Matt and John with apprehension. Their faces mirrored her own. Finally Matt asked, “How long have you had Brownie?” “We got her when my son was about Johnny’s size. One of the cutest little brown puppies I’d ever seen. She got lost from our home in California, that’s where we were living then. I always thought she must have been run over, but here she is. Poor tired little rascal. She must have trailed me all the way to Arizona.” “I don’t think…” began John. “Lots of folks don’t believe she tracked me all this way, but I have the living proof of it right here.” Gram jutted her jaw out aggressively. John opened his mouth to protest, but Vicky shook her head, and he closed his lips silently. “Does your head ache, Gram? Would you like an aspirin?” asked Vicky. “My head doesn’t hurt unless I touch the bruise, but I think Brownie and I will take a little nap, if you think you can manage supper.” She closed her eyes and immediately nodded off. The kitchen was the place to talk over this latest development. “If her son had a puppy that disappeared when he was fourteen, that dog would be fifty years old by now,” said Matt. 19
“In dog age that would be three hundred and fifty years,” added John. “Her mind seemed all right when she talked about our coming to visit, and when she told us about the town policeman, and her stolen wash,” said Vicky, not failing to note the questioning looks beginning to dawn on the boy’s faces, when she mentioned the vanishing clothes. “Old people often have strange lapses in their minds, but one little lapse doesn’t mean that the rest of what they say isn’t true.” Vicky continued to try to convince the boys. “You don’t honestly think that she would have gone out in the rain and turned the electricity off and then down all those stairs to turn the generator on? She doesn’t walk well enough to do all that.” “And we did see that thing dressed in white go down stairs,” added John. “Whatever her real problem is, she’s also lonely and afraid, and she needs us,” said Vicky. Matthew and John nodded in agreement, and Matt said, “I hope you weren’t trying to placate Gram when you said you could cook, because I’m starved. I haven’t eaten since breakfast.” Vicky found packaged hamburger meat in the refrigerator and put it on to fry. She opened a large can of beans and made a cucumber, lettuce, and tomato salad. Among the home canned goods that Matt had brought up was a quart jar of iridescent applesauce and a small jar of pickles. Then she set the table with Gram’s blue willow-ware dishes. The house had become chilly, so John lit a fire in the beautiful stone fireplace in the kitchen. Matt removed the boards from the windows and Vicky gasped when she saw the view. The mist was gone. The setting sun turned the sky a warm golden pink. From their perch on the steep side 20