Feb 22, 2010

No Place Like Home - Short Story Preview

The roof of the old farmhouse was going to collapse at any minute— it was bound to happen. It must happen.

Penelope “Penny” Brewster stood outside her grandparents’ farmhouse, battered suitcase in hand, staring at the gray jumble of boards that must have resembled a house at one time, but now merely looked like someone’s idea of a joke. The once-yellow siding had faded beyond recognition. One side was painted bright red, as if someone had become bored before they finished. The shingled roof had been patched over with boards and tar paper so many times it looked like a child’s playroom scattered with toys.

Frozen in the same spot she had been standing since she stepped out of the cab a few moments before, Penny gaped at the house in disbelief. Surely her parents didn’t actually mean for her to spend Christmas here. The house looked like a prop from a horror movie!

She glanced at the rest of farmyard. A dilapidated building that might possibly have been a barn leaned a few yards from the house, its sagging roof shaped into a strange half-smile. Rusted trucks and cars sprawled over the field with a blanket of snow covering them. It looked as if they had become too tired to run anymore, and decided to take a long nap for the winter.

Penny shook her head, taking a few steps backward.

There was absolutely no way her parents could make her spend a whole week here just so they could have a holiday in the Bahamas. It was bad enough they had shipped her off to crazy Aunt Roberta last year for New Years, but this? This was so much worse.

“I’ll bet they don’t even have indoor plumbing,” muttered Penny under her breath. Realizing too late she had spoken out loud, she turned toward the road, determined to hitchhike all the way back to New York.

“Penelope?” The screen door creaked open, protesting its old hinges. “Is that you, child?”

Briefly eyeing the road for any signs of a passing bus, Penny sighed and slowly turned around.


Herman Brewster sat in his old armchair, nervously tapping his feet on the yellowed linoleum floor. Granddaddy of hammers, it was taking Peaches a long time to bring his grandson inside. Not that Herman could see him once he was inside. His eyes had failed him years ago.

He automatically pulled his pocket-watch out of his vest pocket, and then hastily shoved it back in its compartment, remembering that he couldn’t see the time anyway.

Straightening his Sunday tie, he wondered if Peaches had remembered to check his socks before she cooked breakfast this morning. He’d had several experiences lately where he had gone out in public wearing mismatched socks, and hadn’t found out about it until later.

His alert ears caught the sound of the screen door closing. “Peaches, is that you?” he called, tweaking his white mustache to make sure the ends were curled properly. It simply wouldn’t do to have a crooked mustache on his first meeting with his grandson.

“I’m here, Herman.” A dim form moved to stand in front of him.

“Peaches?” asked another female voice. “I thought your name was Geraldine.”

Herman could hear the grin in his wife’s voice when she explained, “Well, it is. But you see, when we were first introduced, it was at the church picnic and there was noise from the kids playing in the creek, and the three-legged race . . . .” Her voice drifted off, before she caught herself and blinked rapidly. “Anyway, Herman misunderstood the preacher when he introduced us, and thought he’d said my name was Georgia.”

She laughed at the memory. “It took me the longest time to figure out why he kept calling me Peaches. Somehow, though, it kinda stuck.”

Herman tugged at Geraldine’s apron impatiently. “Well, where is he, woman?” he demanded. “Where’s my grandson?”

“Now, Herman,” began Geraldine with exasperation. Herman could almost picture her wrinkled hands going to her hips in the familiar stance she always took whenever they were having an argument. “I told you Penelope was our granddaughter—not our grandson. Now stop saying that – you’re scaring the poor child half to death.”

Herman rolled his eyes. “You said we were going to have our grandson spend the holidays with us. I distinctly remember you saying that.”

“I did not,” she argued, the fire coming into her voice now. “But we’ll just forget about it, because Penelope is here now, and you haven’t even met her yet.”

Herman sulked for a moment. It was bad enough to be nearly blind, but for Peaches to start losing her memory was much worse.

“Hello…Grandpa,” said the young voice, hesitating.

His face brightened. He hadn’t heard himself called by that name in a long while. “Well, howdy, Granddaughter,” Herman beamed, holding out his hand. “It surely is nice to meet you after all these years. How old are you now? Nine? Ten?”

“I’m fifteen.” She sounded slightly offended.


There was a moment’s silence.

Herman wondered what to say next. Maybe he should give her a hug. But then, he couldn’t see her to hug her, so that probably wouldn’t work. And what in the world was that strange burning odor coming from the oven?

“Shouldn’t you check on that pie, Peaches?” he asked hesitantly. “It smells kind of burnt.”

“Land sakes,” she cried. “I forgot all about it!”

Herman waited for the girl to say something after Peaches trotted off to see if the pie could be salvaged, but she just sat down on the chair across from him and was silent.

He sighed. This was going to be a long week.

(c) Erica Holle, 2005. All rights reserved.
Written for Young Adults, ages 8-12
For more information about this story and others, please email erica.holle@hotmail.com.

1 comment:

Reese said...

I really like this! Are you going to write more of the story?

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