My latest writing project is a memoir of my childhood growing up on a dairy farm. I hope it will be published by fall 2019. For a sneak preview, here’s one of the stories I plan to include:
Often throughout my childhood, my father devised get-rich-quick schemes. His goal was to be a millionaire. He was determined to never again live through anything like the Great Depression. Many of his ideas failed to materialize, but this time he had been reading in the Wall Street Journal about chinchillas, those furry rodents with highly valued pelts.
Dad researched until he found a source for purchasing several young chinchillas. Before they arrived, he set up large wire cages in the cellar and bedded them with wood shavings. Then, he ordered special food pellets formulated exclusively for chinchillas. Once the creatures grew to adulthood, he would sell them for their plush fur. The wood furnace in the cellar would keep the animals, whose natural habitat was Chile, toasty warm.
Despite Mighty Mouse being my favorite cartoon character, I was terrified of rodents and thought the animals looked no more valuable than the gray squirrels scampering about our yard.
One night, after all of us had fallen asleep, something strange happened. We were awakened by piano music in the form of raggedy glissandi ascending and descending the keyboard. Since the piano was in the living room just beyond my bedroom door, I was blamed for the nighttime interruption.
“Lucinda,” Mom called, “Stop playing the piano and go back to bed.” She always used my given name when she was scolding me.
“It’s not me!” I yelled.
“Not me!” my sister shouted from her room at the opposite end of the house.
“Well, whoever it is, go to bed.”
The strange music continued. After listening to a few minutes of melodic passages in a decidedly impressionistic style, Dad was compelled to get up and check it out.
You guessed it. Two of Dad’s chinchillas had escaped the cellar and were presenting their concert debut in our living room. As soon as I realized the rodents were loose, I got up, slammed my bedroom door, and cowered under the covers.
Dad, who had to get up before 5:00 a.m. for the morning milking, was not amused to have his sleep interrupted, but soon I heard him and Mom laughing amid much scuffling and bumping, followed by a few loud Schoenberg-type, atonal clusters (i.e. banging and crashing) on the piano. That night, we learned the hard way that, unlike squirrels, chinchillas were nocturnal.
Eventually, Mom and Dad corralled the perpetrators and returned them to their cages in the cellar. The house grew quiet again, but not before a Walton-family exchange of “good nights,” along with my parents’ heavy sighs and a few giggles.
Weeks later, Dad’s scheme ended abruptly when a chimney fire caused the cellar to fill with smoke. The chinchillas never stood a chance of performing at Carnegie Hall. Nor would they contribute their fur to rich people’s coats or line Dad’s wallet.
Cindy L. Freeman is the author of two award-winning short stories and three published novels: Unrevealed, The Dark Room and I Want to Go Home. Website: www.cindylfreeman.com; Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/cindy.l.freeman.9. Her books are available from amazon.com or hightidepublications.com