"I have held many things in my hands, and I have lost them all; but whatever I have placed in God's hands, that I still possess." -Martin Luther

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Nathanael Booth and the Ring of Power, Part II

Dear Readers,
It is a truth, and not a sad one, that I too must live out my life, as do my characters. The sad part is when my life does not involve recounting theirs. If I had nothing else to do but write, this would have been posted long ago. But if I never did anything but write, I would have nothing to write about. So, with that convoluted excuse for the delay, please enjoy this second segment. To see the first installment, click here The rest, I truly hope, will follow quickly on its heels.

"I suppose it was about time they took me away," muttered Nathanael, as the motor of the cab rumbled, interrupting the crows in their good-mornings, and sending echoes off the chapel walls. Students across the lawn stared in surprise, but a few were already turning away to hurry on to their classes. Stranger things had happened.
"Excuse me?" said Benjamin after a moment.
"You're excused," murmured Nathanael, pacing back and forth behind the other two, taking off his hat to run a gloved hand through his hair.
"What's the matter? Don't you's guys know where you're headed?" the lips spat out from around the stogie. "If so, please, say so; I 'aven't got all day, y'know."
"I think you've made some mistake," stammered Graybeard.
"No! Wait!" shouted Nathanael, clapping his hat back on his head and stepping forward.
"Where exactly can you take us?"
The face scrunched itself up even more, almost swallowing the stogie in cheek and chin.
"Where exactly can you pay for, doc?"
"Rates?" inquired Nathanael casually, drawing out his wallet, his umbrella hanging in the crook of his right elbow. But in his other hand the ring still lay, and he played with it as he flipped open the wallet.
"Nathanael!" interrupted Benjamin, "what...?"
"Who you trying to fool, doc?" asked the cabbie. "That ring'll get you's guys wherever you wanna go."
"Then Sanderson, good man, and make it quick; we're late for class." Nathanael opened the rear door and turned, motioning his friends inside.
"You're joking," said Graybeard flatly.
"You're late for class," tempted Nathanael.
Benjamin glanced around, shrugged, and dove into the cab. "Anyway, why not?" he laughed, and stuck his head back out to grin at Graybeard. "Come on!"
"For Pete's sake!" laughed Graybeard, but he followed Benjamin into the cab. Nathanael hopped in, compressing the other two, and slammed the door. "Drive on!" he exclaimed, tapping his umbrella on the back of the driver's seat.
"Don't get prissy, doc," came the reply, and the cab leaped forward, spewing turf behind it.
"Oh! Drive carefully or you'll tear up the lawn!" entreated Nathanael, but to no avail. ("What'd'ya think this is, landscaping service?" grumbled the cabbie.)
It took perhaps thirty seconds to cross the lawn, squeeze past the library, and arrive at Sanderson Hall. The three students piled out, Benjamin turning red as he noticed others staring at them.
"Come on!" he whispered, tugging on Nathanael's jacket-sleeve.
"Well! Thank you!" said Nathanael, leaning down to speak into the cabbie's window.
"D'mention't," the cabbie revved the engine.
"Any chance you could wait around for an hour and...um...pick us up?" ventured Nathanael, throwing his arms into the air in a gesture of wild speculation, the ring still in one hand.
The cabbie rolled his eyes, and, removing his stogie, leaned out the window.
"This is a cab, bub, not a limo. See ya." And with a roar of the old engine, he was gone, dropping off the curb at the bottom of the hill and squealing onto Scenic Highway.
"None too soon; let's get inside," said Graybeard, grabbing Nathanael by the shoulder with one arm and motioning towards an approaching staff golf cart with the other. The three entered the building and rushed to their respective classes, hoping no one had recognized them in the cab. Nathanael, as he removed his gloves, dropped the ring into one of them.

“Gentlemen, I have let fall the proverbial legume side dish,” grinned Graybeard as they regrouped in Sanderson lobby after class.
“Spilled the beans?” Nathanael forced a chuckle, nodding his chin at his friend, “that's terrible.”
“Yes, I ought to have said it,” laughed Benjamin, and then, speaking past Graybeard, “Georgiana Vurner! What are you up to?”
“I think she's the one upon which our friend let fall...” began Nathanael.
“Let's go take a look at the chapel lawn!” interrupted Georgie, “I want to see the wrathful looks on the faces of the ground's team,” her whole face contributed a huge smile and she bounced, hands clasped in front of her, but then suddenly her hands and face fell, “this makes me sad, though, guys. You'll be doing so much Practical Service to make up for it I'll never get to see you anymore.”
“I assure you, we had nothing to do with it, m'dear,” said Nathanael, at the same time ramming through the difficult Sanderson doors and motioning them on with his umbrella. “It was entirely due to the cabbie's driving.”
“And by the way, Nathanael?” said Georgie as they exited the building, “what you were about to say about Graybeard spilling beans on me is a little grose.”
The walk from Sanderson to the chapel lawn was a short one.
“I've got to be in the library for work anyway,” noted Georgie, “this will be...oh...my...goodness!”
She had been correct in her prediction of the groundspeople's dispositions. They mulled about beside their maintenance cart, shaking their fuming heads, as several men in suits examined the tracks and conversed with each other. The cab had torn four deep swaths through the sod all the way across the lawn. Pieces of turf were lying everywhere.
“Maybe they'll pay us for aerating, but somehow I don't think so,” murmured Benjamin.
Graybeard sighed. “Why did I get into the cab?”
“Chin up,” said Nathanael, his voice, for once, almost serious, “they don't know it was us, yet.”
“Are you sure about that?” Georgie giggled nervously, “because they're coming this way.”
“What?” gasped Benjamin.
It was only too true. The men in the suits were walking, four abreast, straight for the four friends. There was no one else near them; the men must have been told who it was rode the cab across the lawn.
“Since when does the administration wear sunglasses?” asked Georgie, backing towards the library door.
“Do you recognize any of them?” Graybeard asked suddenly, sharply.
The others replied in the negative and began backing with Georgie.
“Guys?” whispered Georgie, “are they running at us?”
“Booth, the ring!” shouted Graybeard.
“No, no time,” snapped Benjamin. The men were almost to them, coattails flying in the breeze, polished black shoes tossing dew with each purposeful stride.