Saved Chapter One from Bea’s Tale: The Adventure Begins —
Kindle Direct Publishing 2018
I never knew my mother. They say she died of consumption – a coughing and spitting of blood. She probably caught it workin’ night shift in the freezin’ cold mill. My dad, a mean son-of-a-bitch who cuffed me regular, thought beatings were like daily vitamins: I got one whether I needed it or not. I got my last cuffing the day the dead truck come to pick him up, and it was a bad ‘un leavin’ me with a split lip and a shiner ’round my eye. They say the influenza got him, but I say it was meanness what killed him. Meanness and my prayers. So now I am an orphan and better off now than when I wasn’t. They call that ironic, don’t they?
My name is Bea, which is short for Beatrice. It means “she who brings happiness.” My dad named me that ‘cuz he won a five-dollar gold piece at his favorite gin mill when I was a baby. He also said I happily rid him of his good-for-nothin’ wife, that’s my mom, by weakening her with my birthin’ so that the consumption caught her and killed ‘er. He said he was over in India durin’ some war or other, and Bea was the name of a girl at some flea bitten gamblin’ den he frequented. I’ve since learned different.
My mom was weak in the head, so Pa put me to work beggin’ in my nappies in the arms of some wench or another. My curls and big eyes, he says, really pulled in the coin and kept the drink in good supply. When I got too big for profitable beggin’, my fine dad taught me how to pick pockets. The hardest part of my new job was takin’ a cold bath every week so’s the marks wouldn’t smell me ‘fore I got close enough to pick ’em. But then most everyone in the Quad, that’s a huge slum outside of Boston, Massachusetts, didn’t smell too nice.
You may be wonderin’ how I got enough education to do this here writin’. I’ll tell ya. I was nabbed pickin’ a pocket and the mark was a fancy fellow in a top hat and drivin’ one of those big Fulton Road Ramblers, all shiny and black and puffin’ steam. To be honest, he’da never caught me if it weren’t that I was sick with a fever and the chills all at once. My dad drank up the last of our money before he took sick. I had to tend him, so I wasn’t workin’.
Anyway, this fancy fellow, Mr. Sinjin Wheatley grabbed me by the scruff of the neck-like and flung me into the back of this big ol’ fancy steam-carriage. Imagine my stupidifaction when he dragged me, not to the police station like you was probably thinkin’, but to a big, fancy house all brick and white pillars on Beacon Hill. He then handed me over to a woman sayin’ all bossy-like, “This filthy urchin tried to rob me. Here’s your chance to do some real charity work. See what you can do with him.”
Clearly, Mr. Sinjin Wheatley was lacking in powers of observation since I ain’t no “him” – or it coulda been I was an inch thick in dirt and dressed in equal filthy britches.
To make a long story short, Miss Eleanor did clean me up and adopt me as her newest project which included teaching me my letters and numbers, feeding me regular, and making me take baths, which ain’t so bad when the water is warm, and the soap don’t burn the devil outta your skin. She is also trying to teach me to be lady-like which means not floppin’ myself on the furniture, not eatin’ like it’s my last meal, not scratchin’ when I itch, and the like. The list gets longer every day.
But the worst is the shoes. Sometimes I think I’d rather be pickin’ pockets somewhere than havin’ my feet stuffed into shoes. Other times, I think wearin’ shoes is a small price to pay for a warm bed, good food, and a real shortage of beatings. What do you think?
Beowulf Ch 1 from Bea’s Tale: A New Chapter — Chasing Bees
Breathless. I run down a maze of narrow squalid streets. The shapelessly huge and dark thing chasing me. A relentless shadow. I swerve as it reaches toward me with a bloody claw dripping gore. A mistake: trapped in a blind alley. I try to turn and face it but am rooted to the spot. Closer. Closer comes the dripping talon. I scream as it comes within inches of my face . . .
A cold metallic nose touches my face as the wail of my alarm sounds in the predawn dark. I shiver with residual fear and take deep breaths to calm my racing heart. Breathe. In. Out. Think about something else. Saved from the dream demon by Artie. Artie . . .
I will myself to think about Artie my mecho-dog and constant companion. You see, real dogs died out from a fatal distemper nearly a hundred years ago. We now have robotic dogs: mecho-dogs. They can be programed for a wide range of activities from caring for small children to guerrilla warfare. My Artie resembles a terrier of old: a woolen body in beige and brown with a stub of a tail and ears of leather. His exterior workings are shiny brass. Artie has a vary large processing capacity and seems to almost evolve with every experience — that is my contribution. You see, I have a skill for working with a spanner and gears and Artie. Skill and love combined create art – Artful.
Artie was with me on my adventure last summer — you may have read about it. He has an amazing knack for saying and doing the right thing: Good morning, Miss Bea, Artie said, as I rose and slipped into my dressing gown and slippers. I detected some distress in your sleep. Did you have another bad dream?
Craving a cup of hot tea, I throw on my robe and go over to the small table laden and tray. Pushing the dream demon back a bit further with a sip of sweet and hot tea, I respond to Artie’s question, “Yes, I had the dream about the shadow again.” I shivered at the memory, “You know Artie, now that I am awake and in the morning light, I think I had the dream because I was up too late studying for my English Exam over Beowulf. The arm and claw reminded me of Grendel,” I shivered again with a little laugh. “Funny my dream getting all mixed up with my school work.”
Miss Bea, didn’t Grendel get his arm whacked off by Beowulf? An then his head? Maybe its a good thing you dreamed about only the arm. Perhaps it means that you are about to slay your monster.
“Artie, have you been reading Jung again? Slay my monster, indeed!” I snorted in a very unlady-like fashion. “The only thing I am about to slay is this stack of hotcakes! Nightmares sure make a person hungry! Tell me about the summer work/study opportunities, again. Please.”
Option A: A four week programing intensive at The Swiss Institute of
Technology in Zurich.
Option B: A four week dig at Mayan ruins in New Guatemala.
Option C: A four week program building housing for displaced peoples in
Option D: A four week Pre-Norman Culture course in England and Wales.
Option E: A four week fashion history course in Paris.
“Georgiana and Heddy have signed up for the fashion history course?” I verified as I took the last bite of pancake dripping with maple syrup.
That is correct. Today is the last day to make a decision, Miss Bea. You must register by 12 noon.
“Oh, I made my decision long ago, Artie. At precisely 11:59:45, register me for Option D, please Artie. And don’t mention my choice in front of the girls; I am not sure I want to hear their complaints today.” While I love my two dear friends and will miss them this summer, I feel the need to be off on my own adventure learning things about which I know nothing. I enjoy shopping for dresses and cute hats as much as the next girl my age . . . but I was feeling tight and in need of a stretch, if you know what I mean.
The warm shower chased away the remnants of my dream chills. As I slathered on lotion and combed some order to my brown curls, I tried to figure out why I had that particular recurring dream. I have a repertoire of bad dreams, you see. I grew up in the Quad, a slum on the outskirts of Boston where I live now. My Pa, whom I know know was my captor, beat me and put me to work begging and then picking pockets. He abused my sick mother who was a bit touched in the head, probably from seeing her true love and husband, my birth father, killed right before her eyes by my captor dad. It’s a long story. I was eventually saved from captivity and brought to live with Miss Eleanor Wheatley. I live with her now and have worked very hard to transform myself from a gutter-rat to a fine lady. Sometimes the dreams haunt me and seem to be trying to tell me something. I tease Artie about all that dream stuff by Dr. Jung, but he may be onto something.
I decided on my olive green frock for today. The color suits both of my eyes. You see I am a Chrome; I have heterochromia which means my eyes are different colors. One eye is green and the other is golden colored like a cat. I used to wear glasses to hide my odd eyes, but now I look for ways to accentuate them. Today an olive green dress with a black and olive striped collar and a black leather vest suited me fine.
I asked Artie to quiz me over Beowulf as I tried to do something with my hair. You see, almost a year ago, I cut it all off with dressmaker shears so I could disguise myself as a street urchin — a boy street urchin. I needed to go find my friend Sadie whom I thought had been taken by slavers. I started school with a mop of curls around my ears. Now my hair is now nearly to my shoulders and needs more work to keep tidy. I decided on a ponytail for today and worked on brushing the curly brown mess back while Artie shot off questions about Beowulf.
Name the mead hall built by the Danish king.
Name Beowulf’s sword.
This character taunts Beowulf about his swimming match.
The text was first written down in this century.
Describe three places in the text where pagan and Christian beliefs
merge and what this reveals about the poet.
Do you have a can of oil? I feel a tightness in my right rear leg.
“Thank’s, Artie,” I said as I took a small spray can of oil from the dressing table and tended Artie with a spray and a polish. “Is that better? Good! Let’s go. The girls will be here any minute.” Artie bounded away and shot down the stairs in front of me. I am sure we sound like a herd of elephants, but Eleanor doesn’t mind. She is an early riser. In fact, she was waiting for us at the foot of the stairs, as usual, my lunch and school satchel in her hands.
We kissed each other on the cheek, “Good luck on your exam, Bea. I long to hear about your choice for summer work at tea. We will be dining alone, unless Sinjin chooses to join us.” Sinjin, short for St. John, is Eleanor’s very bossy brother and my uncle, but she has learned to hold her own.
“Not Pendy?” I asked. Pendy or Andrew Pendergrast is her fiance. She blushed slightly and shook her head.
“Okay. I hope you have a good day saving the world,” I said. You see, Miss Eleanor is the Direct of the Greater Boston Abolitionist Society, a job she loves and which keeps her very, very busy. She coordinates a program that rescues child slaves from both the USA and the United Confederacy of States and works to return the children to their rightful homes or to find them good homes if that is not possible.
I opened the door just as Georgiana was about to push the bell. We all giggled as we descended the stairs laughing all the way to the gates of Vansittart Academy for Innovative Young Women.
Six hours later, I sat in English class, the last class of the day. I stared out the window thinking and worrying a bit. I finished my exam too early and the teacher was scowling at me. That could mean two things: one, I am an ignoramus and failed, or two: I was prepared and did very well. I was hoping for two – an epic victory on my part in the endless struggle between student and teacher for points. As I sat there looking as if I were daydreaming, I was thinking about Beowulf. Was he heroic or just plain crazy, sailing across a monster infested sea to help some old king he didn’t even know? Did he go because he felt he owed the old guy? After all the old king knew his father way back in the olden days. Did he go because he wanted to be famous, like the teacher said? Or, did he go because it was the right thing to do? After Hrothgar ‘forgot’ to tell him about the mother, why didn’t he just leave? Why did he take her on, too?
The way I see it, we will never know because Beowulf did not write his own story. Stories that are told over campfires and such without being written down can be changed. How many times was Beowulf’s story changed before some old Anglo-Saxon wrote it down?
You have Beowulf to thank for this story. I figure if I want my story told the way I experienced it, then I need to write it down myself. Who knows, maybe in a million years some unlucky school stiff will have to take an exam over Chasing Bees.