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Running Around (and Such)
Lizzie Searches for Love Book One
By Linda Byler
Good BooksCopyright © 2010 Good Books
All rights reserved.
Lizzie glick noticed the change in Dat one evening when he came in from checking things over at the pallet shop one last time before bed. He stood at the sink, washing his hands much longer than usual. Lizzie watched her father from the corner of her eyes, knowing something was about to give.
Things had been tense between Dat and Mam for more than a week, ever since Dat had announced he wanted to move to the new settlement and try his hand at farming. Mam most decidedly did not want to go. Her despair and total dislike of the whole idea had turned the usual peaceful, happy atmosphere of the Glick home tense.
Lizzie and her sisters had done the best they could to keep the peace, trying to understand Dat's ambition to become a farmer like his father and brother-in-law, even as they knew Mam didn't want to move again.
Lizzie thought she knew how Dat felt. There wasn't much of a challenge in Jefferson County anymore. The house was almost paid for, there were few financial concerns, and the pallet shop made an easy living. Dat was bored.
"Annie," Dat said.
Lizzie's heart leaped to her throat at his tone of voice. Dat meant business. Here it comes, she thought wildly. We're moving.
Dat dried his hands on the dark green towel, then turned to face his wife and daughters before he sat down opposite Mam at the kitchen table. He took a deep breath.
"Annie," he said a second time. "Doddy Glick and Daniel were here at the pallet shop this afternoon again."
Mam stiffened, her fingers working the straight pin in and out of her dress, which she often did when she was nervous.
Lizzie bit down hard on her lower lip, drying a plate over and over again.
"They want me to go along over to Cameron County to look at a farm. It's only about two miles from Daniel's place and four or five from Doddy's place."
"I'm not going, Melvin."
"Ach, Annie, I thought you said the decision was up to me. If I make a choice, can't you find it in yourself to honor it?"
"I didn't say I wouldn't move. I said I'm not going along to look at the farm. You know I don't want to move, Melvin, but I have no choice if you decide to go."
"Annie, why don't you want to?"
"Melvin, think a little!" Mam's voice rose, desperation almost making her choke.
Lizzie felt like running out of the kitchen, her hands over her ears, far away where she'd never have to hear this painful conversation. Her older sister, Emma, sat quietly at the table, playing with their little twin sisters, KatieAnn and Susan.
Mam continued, "Emma will soon be 16 years old. She has all her friends and interests here. As far as I know, there are no other youth in that ... that settlement, Cameron County, whatever you want to call it."
She clenched her hands.
"Another thing, Melvin," she continued. "We've talked of this before. How do you know we can make a living farming? You've never farmed. You don't know the first thing about it. Even if Uncle Eli gives you a good price for the pallet shop, the cost of starting up, with cows and equipment plus the farm itself, is completely frightening."
Dat sighed. He pleated the tablecloth with his fingers, then he sighed again, watching Mam's face as she stared at the floor.
"Where's your faith, Annie?"
Mam made a sound much like a snort. "I guess I don't have any where Cameron County is concerned. I'm so afraid we're making a big mistake. The Ordnung here is plainer; our young people are well behaved —"
Lizzie thought of high heels and ice cubes in the refrigerator and gas stoves with a broiler to make toast. "Do they wear high heels in Cameron County?" she blurted out.
Dat glared at her, clearly perturbed that she should even think of anything like that at a time like this. Mam tried to hide her smile, but Lizzie could tell she had to laugh.
Lizzie had loved heels forever. Ever since Mrs. Bixler had stopped in for a visit with Mam when Lizzie was five years old, Lizzie had wanted to grow up to wear shoes like Mrs. Bixler had—shiny and white with high heels. Maybe Cameron County was her chance to wear fancy things.
Watching the brief smile on Mam's face, Lizzie said, "Because if they do, I'm going to wear them."
Mandy, Lizzie's younger sister, yelled out from the living room, "Me, too!"
There was silence for a while, and not altogether a comfortable one. No one was smiling about wearing high heels anymore. Mam and Dat both looked desperately unhappy again. Mam broke the silence with a sigh.
"Well, Melvin, you know I am supposed to submit like every good Amish wife should. And I will go along if that's your decision." That was said in a much softer tone of voice, but there was a line of steel running through it, too.
Dat looked at Mam, then looked away. Lizzie knew that her mother thought Doddy Glick was responsible for all this. Dat always wanted to have his father's approval and praise. It was just how Dat was, Lizzie realized.
"I need a challenge again," he said. "Besides, I farmed growing up. I know how to milk cows, load hay, plow, and till the soil. I know plenty."
Suddenly enthused, excitement lighting up his blue eyes, he said, "Well, I'll tell you what, Annie. I'll go look at the farm, and if it's alright, I'll come back, and you and the girls can look at it before I buy it, okay?"
Mam didn't answer.
"I want to," Lizzie said. Emma and Mandy nodded.
"It's 120 acres. Can you girls imagine how much you would have to do? There's a large creek bordering the property and hills to sled-ride! Doddy said it would be perfect for you girls."
"It sounds exciting," Emma said politely, but her heart clearly wasn't in it.
Dat's smile folded up like an unplayed accordion. The light went out of his eyes just as quickly, leaving his face a picture of disappointment mixed with false bravado. His shoulders sagged, and he turned to go into the living room, first looking searchingly at Mam, who would not return his gaze.
Lizzie felt sorry for Dat, she really did. She knew how much it meant to him to be able to buy a farm and live in a new community. She wished Mam wouldn't act so stubborn and would be nicer to Dat about moving.
Later that evening, lying in the bed that they shared in the little room at the top of the stairs, Mandy told Lizzie, in her wiser-than-her-years kind of way, that a husband should honor his wife's wishes.
"But, Mandy ..." Lizzie said lamely.
"I don't care, Lizzie. I don't care what you say. If Dat loved Mam with all his heart he would not make her move to a place she does not want to go. I pity her so much I can hardly stand to even look at her poor face. Her hair is so gray, Lizzie. She coughs all the time."
Mam's hair was turning completely gray so rapidly it almost scared Lizzie, especially since she so often looked pale and tired, too.
Lizzie rolled over to face Mandy. "Mam is not pitiful. She's stubborn."
"Lizzie!" Mandy was furious. She seized her pillow and flung it at Lizzie.
"You don't know one tiny bit, Lizzie Glick!" she yelled. "You were always Dat's pet. You can read German better, drive ponies better, and you even stole nails out of the nailer and he never blinked. So why wouldn't you pity Dat? Huh? Huh?"
Lizzie muffled her giggles in her pillow, but her shaking shoulders gave her away.
Mandy made a fist and got a few good raps on Lizzie's shoulders. "So there. You don't have to have such a righteous attitude about Mam. I pity her. You can just see how hard she's struggling to let Dat have his own way."
She plopped down on her side of the bed, turned her back to Lizzie, and mumbled a "Good-night." It didn't sound like a real "Good-night"; she just kind of swallowed the word till it sounded like "Gnat."
"Gnat!" Lizzie said loudly.
There was a sputter and Mandy burst out laughing. She snorted and laughed, rolling off the bed, hitting the floor with a whump, all the while whooping and laughing. It was so infectious, Lizzie stuck her head in her pillow and laughed along with her.
"Be quiet!" Emma called from her room.
"What is going on?" came Mam's anxious voice from the bottom of the stairs.
"M-M-Mandy fell out of bed," Lizzie gasped.
"Gnat, Mam!" Mandy called, which reduced them both to helpless waves of mirth.
Mam had flown up the steps to see what was going on. She shook her head and then leaned down and blew out the kerosene lamp that sat on the table next to the girls' bed.
"Sleep tight," she said as she closed the bedroom door.
Soon Mandy's breathing became regular and even, accompanied by soft little snores. But Lizzie lay awake, a thousand thoughts and fears swirling through her mind.
She wondered what God thought about all this. She also wondered if he cared. Surely Dat had prayed for direction. She wondered if Dat and Mam had asked God for exactly opposite things. How could he answer each of them fairly?
Lizzie rolled over and rearranged the blankets. Mam had said there were hardly any young people in Cameron County. What would that mean for Emma and her, so close to 16 but with no one to date? Besides, she had heard that the bishop in Cameron County was strict, so she would probably never have high heels or anything fancy at all, so what did boys matter anyway?
And of course there was the farm, too. What if Mam was right and Dat wasn't a farmer? Then they'd live in Cameron County with no money. She had absolutely no clue what the farm looked like. Dat didn't even know. Why wouldn't Mam go with him to say if she thought it was alright to live there? What if it was so old and tumbledown, it wasn't even fit to live in? What if they had no money to fix it up? Mam would stay angry and grouchy for the rest of her life. It was all too troubling to think about.
Money had been an off-and-on touchy subject for the Glick family ever since Lizzie was a little girl. Even now, Lizzie got sad whenever she thought about Teeny and Tiny, their beautiful miniature ponies. She had been only eight when Dat had sat down at the breakfast table one morning. She knew something was wrong.
"I guess I may as well tell you now, girls," he said.
"What?" Emma asked. She had looked up and smiled.
But Lizzie's heart had sunk way down with a sickening thud. She knew. She knew exactly what Dat was going to say, because she had overheard Mam trying to persuade him to part with Teeny and Tiny, along with the glossy black spring wagon with the golden pinstripes along the side.
"We are going to have to sell Teeny and Tiny," he said.
"Why?" Emma asked, stopping halfway with a bite of potato soup.
"Because we really need the money, and because it costs too much to feed three ponies. Mam thinks it would be best. I do, too, of course, but I wish we could keep them, I really do," he finished.
Lizzie was heartbroken. It was just unthinkable, selling their miniature ponies. They were pint-sized little animals, a perfectly matched team of copper-colored ponies with blond manes and tails that Dat had made a little wagon for. The girls just loved when Dat hitched them to this wagon, and they went clipping down the road with their heads held high.
"When do we have to sell Teeny and Tiny?" Lizzie had asked so she wouldn't cry.
"I've decided we'll sell them soon at Harrison's Horse Auction in Taylorsburg."
Dat had spent several nights teaching Lizzie and Emma to drive the ponies. Lizzie loved the way the two creatures stepped together as if they were one animal instead of two. Their coats had glistened in the evening sun, and their blond manes and tails streamed behind them as their little black hooves pattered.
Lizzie was thrilled to sit on that seat in the little black spring wagon, up so much higher than the ponies, and feel the power of their sturdy little bodies. Driving ponies made Lizzie so happy that she smiled to herself without even realizing it. Dat said he loved it, too, which made her even happier.
The neighbors stopped their work and waved at Dat, calling out to him or shaking their heads in wonder at the size of those miniature ponies, Lizzie remembered. She had tilted her head back to see Dat's face, and he was smiling and waving. He was so proud of this matched pair of ponies and the little spring wagon he had made all by himself.
As they pulled into the gravel driveway, Lizzie said to Dat, "We should get lots and lots of money for these ponies and never be poor again, ever—right?"
"Yes, Lizzie, you're right," Dat agreed.
But Lizzie wondered how Dat could have been laughing so much one minute and sound quite so sad the next. She thought he was probably as sad as she was to be back home so soon after that ride.
Lizzie jerked awake and rolled over. Her throat was dry and her tongue was parched. She needed a drink of water. Shivering, she slid out of bed. She still did not like to go roaming about the house at night after hearing of that creature in Alaska they called Bigfoot. He was as tall as a second-story window, with shaggy hair, and no one had proved yet that he did not exist.
Mam told Lizzie over and over that this was all untrue. God did not make big horrible creatures like that. Lizzie had put Bigfoot to the back of her mind, but she still pulled her blinds the entire way to the windowsill every evening before she went to sleep. She told herself it wasn't because she was afraid or anything; she just felt safer that way.
Lizzie stepped out of her room, half asleep, feeling tired and groggy. Suddenly she stopped and her eyes flew open. Directly in front of her was a huge, shaggy shadow. Its hair stuck out wildly, and the shape of its grotesque head advanced slowly on the wall ahead of her.
Lizzie grasped the door frame, her eyes opening wide with pure terror. Her breath came in ragged gasps as she watched the shadowy creature on the wall. Just when Lizzie could take no more without screaming, cold with fear and her hands pressed tightly to her mouth, a very small voice said, "What are you doing?"
It was her little brother, Jason, stumbling out of his room, his riot of brown curls sticking up every which way. As he passed the kerosene lamp on the hall dresser, his woolly head had been illuminated on the opposite wall, blowing it way out of proportion until his headful of curls had taken on the appearance of a huge creature.
"Jason!" Lizzie gasped. Her knees were shaking so badly, she dropped down to the floor.
"What's wrong with you?" he asked innocently.
"You just scared me, that's all." She couldn't tell him that his woolly head resembled an imaginary Bigfoot. He was self-conscious enough about his thick head of hair without her telling him what it had appeared to be.
"I'm thirsty," he said.
"Me, too. Come with me."
After they each had a cold drink from the gas-powered refrigerator, they made their way carefully back up the stairs. At the top, Lizzie turned to watch Jason walk down the hall to his room, grimacing again when the same shaggy head appeared on the wall as he passed the kerosene lamp.
Still, weak with relief, she turned into her room and quietly got into bed, not wanting to wake Mandy. Maybe that's how it was with her worrying. Everything looked so big and so terribly frightening, but if you refused to let it grow in your mind, it wasn't half as scary as it seemed. A dog barked in the distance, and a chill crept up her spine. She flopped onto her back, seeing again the expression on Dat's face years earlier when she had begged him not to sell Teeny and Tiny.
"Do we ... I mean ... do we have to, really have to sell Teeny and Tiny?" she had asked, raising her eyes in misery.
"Ach, Lizzie." Dat's face softened, and for a minute Lizzie knew Dat felt exactly the same way she did. Emma stopped brushing Tiny, resting her hand on his back to listen. Dat didn't say more, and Lizzie waited expectantly, brushing back Teeny's forelock. His hair was so soft and blond, and ...
"We have to, Lizzie. We need the money, and that's all there is to it," Dat said gruffly.
"Oh," said Lizzie, knowing deep down that Dat was only saying what she knew all along.
When Lizzie drove Teeny and Tiny into the ring, with Emma riding beside her, the crowd had gone wild. People stood up in their seats, clapping and cheering, smiling and waving their hats. The auctioneer could barely be heard above the thunderous applause. He laughed, put his microphone down, and waved his white cowboy hat. Emma and Lizzie had looked at each other and laughed.
Around they went, back to where Dat was standing, shaking his head and laughing, although Lizzie thought he looked as if he could cry at the same time.
"Keep going, Lizzie!" he yelled.
Excerpted from Running Around (and Such) by Linda Byler. Copyright © 2010 Good Books. Excerpted by permission of Good Books.
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