Sunday, August 23, 2015

Pages from Carrying Albert Home appropriate for a Sunday in August


Here are two more preview pages from Carrying Albert Home (publication date: October 13, 2015) which seemed appropriate for a Sunday in August (it being August when I did this).

The run-up to these two pages is that Elsie, Homer, Albert, and the rooster are on the coast of South Carolina. They are out of money and Homer is sick so Elsie has taken the job of managing an old hotel on the beach. Rose is an orphan child Elsie has hired to help her.

Rose also took Elsie to the seashore, where she’d never been before. They walked around the sound, then through a shallow inlet to reach the Atlantic Coast. In every direction, the sea appeared endless. Elsie was enthralled by the wind, the waves, the thunderous noise, and the way the sand felt between her toes. “They call this the Grand Strand,” Rose reported.
     “It is aptly named,” Elsie replied. “I have never seen a beach so grand.”
     Rose pointed at the flat round shells that littered the beach. “Those are sand dollars, missus,” she said. She picked one up and broke it open to reveal what looked like tiny sculptured birds of fine white china.
     “Why are they in there where no one can see them?” Elsie asked.
     “Nobody knows,” Rose said, “except as a hidden glory of God. It makes you wonder what other glories He keeps hidden.”
     “You have spoken of God before,” Elsie said. “What do you know about Him?”
     “I have never set foot in a church,” Rose answered, “but somebody must have made all this.”
     “A sensible answer,” Elsie said, her admiration for the child growing.
     Rose pointed out the gray driftwood, twisted like gargoyles and shoved back along the dunes. “The sailors say those are formed by mermaids. Maybe they sculpt the sand dollars, too.”
     Elsie picked up what she thought was a black arrowhead. Her brothers were always bringing arrowheads home from their hikes into the surrounding mountains but this one was a bit strange.         “What is this, Rose?” she asked.
     “Why, it’s a shark’s tooth, missus,” Rose replied.
      Elsie studied the tooth, noting now the fine serrations along the edge like those on a butcher’s bone knife. She worried it between her fingers, its smooth surface soothing to the touch. “But why is it black?” she asked.
     “I’m sure I don’t know,” Rose answered. “I’ve seen the fishing boats bring in a shark now and again and their teeth are always white as ivory.”
    “Maybe black teeth are very old,” Elsie proposed. “Like dinosaurs.”
    “Things usually bust up in the sea when they’re old,” Rose scoffed, then bent down and picked up something blue and sparkling in the surf. “Like this piece of beach glass.”
     Elsie took the glass. It was smooth and rounded on its edges and glittered in the sun like a jewel.      “It’s beautiful,” she said.
     “It’s just a piece from an old bottle,” Rose replied, “tumbled in the sand by the sea for a long time. You can keep it.”
     Elsie put the beach glass and the tooth in her pocket. “Thank you, Rose.”
     Rose shrugged, then pointed at a large shell just at the ocean’s edge. “Look there. It is a queen conch, a true beauty!”
     Elsie followed Rose to the big shell, all turned into itself, pink and white and smooth. Elsie picked it up and held it to her ear. “I thought I could hear the ocean in this kind of shell but I don’t hear anything.”
     “That’s because its animal still lives in it,” Rose said, taking the shell and showing Elsie the hard gray foot of the sea creature within. “It will soon die here in the air and the sun.”
     “Then let’s return it to the sea,” Elsie proposed. She took the shell and waded into the water, past the first row of waves, where she dropped the shell. “There,” she said, walking out.
     Rose said, “Oh, missus, you are very bold. There are sharks in the surf this time of the year.”
     “Fortune favors the bold, Rose,” Elsie replied, although she was shaken by the belated warning. There was so much about the sea she . . . 

For more on "Albert," and how to order, please go to my website here: www.homerhickam.com

Elsie in Florida before she returned to West Virginia, married Homer, and was given
 Albert as a wedding gift. Two years later, the journey began.

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