Scarborough Fair and Other Storiesby Elizabeth Ann Scarborough
Scarborough Fair and Other Stories includes ten works by the author of the Nebula Award–winning The Healer’s War and many other novels. In “Final Vows,” Mu Mao the Magnificent, the feline bodhisattva from Scarborough’s novel Last Refuge, helps guide a reincarnated cat in solving the mystery of his own/i>/i>/i>… See more details below
Scarborough Fair and Other Stories includes ten works by the author of the Nebula Award–winning The Healer’s War and many other novels. In “Final Vows,” Mu Mao the Magnificent, the feline bodhisattva from Scarborough’s novel Last Refuge, helps guide a reincarnated cat in solving the mystery of his own betrayal and murder. “Whirlwinds” takes place on the Diné Trail of Tears, when the US military force-marched ninety-five hundred Navajo people from their ancient, sacred homeland to the barren Bosque Redondo area surrounding New Mexico’s Fort Sumner. A coveted princess packs on pounds when a disgruntled suitor casts an evil spell on her in “Worse Than the Curse.” How is a plump princess to cope? And “Long Time Coming Home,” cowritten with Scarborough’s fellow Vietnam veteran Rick Reaser, is a story of the battles and ghosts many vets face after returning from the war. These and other stories capably demonstrate Scarborough’s breadth of skill.
- Cengage Gale
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and Other Stories
By Elizabeth Ann Scarborough
OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIACopyright © 1996 Elizabeth Scarborough
All rights reserved.
Mummies Of The Motorway
by Elizabeth Ann Scaroborough
Dear Mom and Bro,
Just wanted to let you know that no matter what the kids write to you, I really have done my best to show them a good time over here. Please don't blame me if they tell you that next time I offer to treat my only niece and nephew to a trip to England, you should say they have come down with bubonic plague.
We had a great time in London, where there were more indoor activities and it didn't so much that it's been raining since we first arrived in England. The kids loved everything, Madame Toussad's, the museums, and especially the plays. Rain in England is part of the atmosphere, really. Just like it is in Seattle. Maybe we should have paid more attention to the news before we left London, but the B&Bs I could afford for us did not have TVs. We got on the last train coming or going before the mudslides washed out sections of both the roads and the tracks. With the roads washed out, and the postal service on strike again, I may have to send this via carrier pigeon relay but there's not a lot else to do under the present circumstances, so I am writing to you.
Needless to say, Monte, your offspring are bored. Jason was monosyllabic all the way up to Scarborough and Cindy could only talk about how much she missed her cats, which is of course making me really miss my cats. I can't blame them. There isn't much for an eighteen year old boy or a fifteen year old girl to do here, really. Or a fifty-three year old Aunt who's already been here, for that matter, and we did most of it today.
We seem to be the only nonresident guests in this whole heap of a hotel. The resident guests are more like patients—as in nursing home patients. Scarborough doesn't get enough visitors in the off-season to keep the hotels open. So apparently the large ones like this one, which was suspiciously cheap, take in people who spent happy holidays in their youth here back in the days when people still came for the mineral baths and played at the seashore.
It looks like there's just one couple that runs the whole pile, the snooty woman at the desk who took one look at us robust and sturdily built Scarboroughs and insisted we had to use the stairs, even though she stuck us up on the fifth floor. The lifts, as they call elevators here, are for the disabled only.
The kids took it pretty well. Jason got all macho and took the stairs for at a time. Cindy pretended to prop me up and reminded me that I had told her this was a spa. "And see, Aunt Annie, they give you the exercise class free with your room. Anyplace else we'd have to pay for a Stairmaster!"
We made it upstairs, lightened our knapsacks, strapped on our bum bags and flipped our ponchos dry, then hurried back down for lunch. One look at what they were serving, again in deference to the residents, and we decided to risk being washed out to sea by walking down to the tacky little tourist traps on the beach and seeing if we could find a fish and chips joint.
I tried to call a cab but because of the weather, even with so few visitors in town, none were available. So we slipped on our ponchos, opened one of the big front doors and took one step out before the wind, which had whipped itself into a gale, tried to pick us up and carry us in the opposite direction from town. It didn't just whistle. It shrieked and howled and the ocean that had been so placid on my previous visit crashed and roared as if auditioning for a surfer movie.
I put my head down and splashed forward. The kids trailed behind at first, but once they could see the strand, as they call the beach around here, Jason plunged forward as the leader of the expedition. Of course, when he got to the place where the sidewalk ended at the cliff, he had to stop. Turning a streaming face to me, he shrugged and asked, "Where to now?"
"Aha!" I gurgled through the rain. "This is the first of the many wonders of your ancestral town, nephew." I led them past a couple of bushes to the little cage at the top of the cliff. "Behold, the funicular!"
Cindy rolled her eyes and Jason gave another shrug questioning my sanity and whether or not their aging aunt had begun speaking in tongues. But they were as glad to get in out of the wind and rain as I.
"A what?" he demanded.
"This little tram," I said. "It's called a funicular. They've had them since back in the days when people came for the baths, back before the wars."
"How does it work?" Cindy asked.
"You put a coin in here," I told her. Which I did. It had been fifty pence when I was there five years ago. Now it's a pound.
"Big whoop," Jason said at the bottom.
I peered through the rain at the straggle of fairylights bouncing above the beach, and the neon lights and cardboard signs proclaiming the wonders of each and every gift shack which was open. There weren't very many of the neon signs lit.
"Hold that thought," I told him. "That may have been your big thrill for the day."
We asked at the first souvenir shop if there was likely to be a chip stand open, and the fellow jerked his thumb and said it was two doors down. Cindy bought some candybars and pop and stuck them in the empty knapsack she had had the foresight to bring along. I found the notebook and authentic Scarborough, England, pen with which I am writing to you now.
The man was a little cheerier when he saw we were after something besides free directions, and he chatted a bit with Cindy, who I suspect kept him talking to hear his Yorkshire accent. "He sounds like those guys in The Full Monte, Aunt Annie," she giggled behind her hand as we left.
The chippy, as they fondly call fish and chip shops hereabouts, was almost cheerful. Just about every person still working on the strand came and went from it or stood around talking. There was no place to sit except outside in the rain, so we stood around too and ate our greasy fish and French fries out of newsprint cones and drank our Cokes and lemonades, which is like 7-Up.
"So, you're here on holidays, are you?" the lady at the chip stand asked. I felt like saying no, we were all very frail and puny, obviously, with the three of us all looking as hefty as is the Scarborough clan legacy from Dad.
"Pity about the weather. It's generally much finer in summer."
"Yes, but the airfares are higher," I said. "And the kids had their Easter break, so I thought I'd bring them over."
"We don't get a lot of American youngsters here this time of year," a bearded man remarked, also in a Yorkshire accent.
"We have a special reason," Cindy said. "See, our last name is Scarborough. Our Grandpa Scarborough died last year and Aunt Annie thought we ought to come over and see where all our English relatives came from."
"Your grandpa was from here, was he?"
Cindy shook her head. "Oh no. Kansas City."
"My history teacher, Mrs. Martinez, says people usually only got named for a place after they left it," Jason volunteered.
"Did she now?" The man asked gravely. "Well, then, you'll be needing to see my place. I have a museum and historical exhibit of the history of this town from the time it were a Viking village. You can see the castle from my place as well."
"We don't have any kings in our family, do we, Aunt Annie?" Jason asked suspiciously.
"No, honey. They just named the castle after the place. A king or two stayed there once in awhile when they were passing through."
"But my history professor told me that a king once killed his son the prince's homosexual lover by throwing him out the window at Scarborough Castle."
"Cool! A murder!" Jason said with typical teenaged bloodthirstiness.
We toured the exhibit, asked questions, bought booklets and souvenirs and looked out the window at what we could see of the castle's ruins through the gusts and sheets of rain. The kids were really disappointed when the man said we couldn't visit the ruins. Since we had probably paid his expenses for opening that day though, he asked, "Where are you staying?"
I told him and he said, "I'll give you a lift in the tour bus then, half price! I'm needing petrol anyway. Name's Bert Hoskins."
Once aboard the bus, Bert turned on the radio instead of giving us the tour, and that's when we heard that the railroad bridge had washed away.
"Wow! We just went over that one."
"Do you think they'll get it fixed before we're supposed to leave tomorrow, Aunt Annie?" Cindy asked.
"I wouldn't count on that," Bert said. "Probably won't be fixed for weeks. I'm afraid you'll have to take the bus back."
Just about then we crested the hill in time to see one of the hotels that teetered on the edge of the cliff like a mudslide mansion in California do exactly what those houses did during heavy downpours—it listed toward the sea for a few moments while our driver, his brakes on, waited for it as if it were a dog crossing the road.
The kids thought this was pretty neat, especially when the five story brick building began its slide, picking up speed as it toppled, eventually dragging a portion of road with it, shaking the bit we were sitting on so that the kids and I glanced nervously at each other. It was a huge crash, and Cindy covered her ears, even as we all craned our necks. However, we couldn't see much for the dust and smoke and little spurts of flame from the severed electric and gas lines. Apparently the staff had enough warning of their domain's eminent demise to disconnect the necessary and evacuate before the disaster. The staff, the old and disabled residents, and probably a good portion of the town watched from the swampy overgrown green quadrangle, formerly a garden, around which the hotels primly perched.
"The bus doesn't need to run on that road, does it?" Jason asked Bert. Jason had that skittish horse look in his eye he gets when his voice is perfectly calm but he is very worried about something.
Bert laughed. "This is a good one for these parts. We don't see much of our tax money going for new roads up here. Save all that for the cities, they do. During the war when asphalt was not to be had for civilians, me old Dad told me they ground up all them mummies the museums had dug up in Egypt and brought over here."
"Ugh!" Cindy said. "Why?"
"Well, the way Dad told me, the bandages the bodies was wrapped in were coated with something like pitch, and it worked almost as good as the genuine article. So, they recycled them, you might say. Used 'em as fertilizer too, and to fuel the fires in the trains."
Jason glowered. "That's horrible."
"Practical, more like," Bert said, and then added, slyly, "But they do say when you have these wet spells, washouts and the like, it's them mummies tryin' to bust their way loose from the roads so's they can drag their bandagedy arses back t' Nile." Jason rolled his eyes and made a spiral motion with his finger by his ear. "I'll be turning at t' square."
I thanked him and told him we'd get off. We spent the rest of the afternoon helping the hotel staff and a few other able-bodied people taking the now homeless old folks into the various hotels that had agreed to shelter them.
We finished up about an hour ago and the kids were both tired. They slept through dinner, and we had to make do with the candy and crisps (Brit for potato chips) we bought on the strand. Sorry, Mom. Since little British towns like this one roll up the sidewalks at five, the kids decided to go to bed early. I plan to get us on the first bus out if at all possible, so I'll go downstairs and call the bus station recording pretty soon to see when we have to get up. Our plane for home leaves day after tomorrow.
When I woke up to go to the bathroom at about midnight, Cindy was gone. I had been having restless dreams of my cats crying for me to come home and seemed to still be hearing them as I woke up. Vaguely, I remembered hearing Cindy arising and the toilet flushing but now the bathroom was dark and her bed still empty.
I pulled on my own black leather jacket and the sandals and padded down the hall to the communal bathroom. Maybe she'd decided to take a shower or something, I was thinking. But there was no light down the hall and the doors to the loo and the shower room both were dark and empty. My heart stopped. I knew you were going to shoot me, brother, if I lost your little girl. She is so sensible and calm most of the time I forget she's just a kid and though we are all of us a bit large for anyone other than Hercules to drag off into the bushes, still there were a lot of creeps who prey on young girls, and Cindy is so friendly ... I reminded myself of your family's karate lessons all the way back to our rooms, where I woke up Jason and told him to get dressed, then shucked out of my jacket, pulled on my own socks and shoes, sweater over my night shirt and shrugged back into the jacket.
Jason, still wearing his sweat-pajamas, padded sleepily to his window, frowning as he gazed out.
"What are you doing?" I'm afraid I came very close to snarling at him as he returned to my room, still wearing the sweats he had worn to bed.
He gestured with elbows bent at the waist, hands extended, palms bouncing up and down, telling me to cool it. "I was just checking to see if I could see her out the windows," he said. "But you can't see anything out there. It's really foggy. Besides, she's probably not out there. She probably found someone to talk to." That was not unlikely, Cindy being your daughter, oh most sociable of brothers, and her garrulous grandpa's granddaughter. In which case, since except for the distinctly unfriendly staff here, there was no one much under the age of 80, I hardly saw how she could be in any danger. But her coat was missing and on closer inspection, I saw that her running shoes were gone as well.
Jason had on his jacket and his own unfastened shoes and handed me a flashlight. "Where'd this come from?" I asked him.
"I brought one for each of us," he said in that very matter-of-fact way he has, then added, "I decided we might need them more than I'd need my tuxedo. Cindy had one too. I was looking to see if she was using it a minute ago." Sometimes that boy actually seems to have a sense of humor. Not to mention that he seems to have learned what a tuxedo is since he turned down the girl who asked him to the prom because he thought she had to be joking.
We heard the wind howling and moaning around the corner of the hotel as we trudged down the stairs. That seemed funny to me because usually when the wind is high, the fog gets blown away.
Instead it was as if kidnappers had pulled a gray woolly sack over the entire area, the only distinctions from the pervading dark fuzziness were the occasional wisps or blobs of white floating through it.
I unlocked the hotel's outer door (they always give you a key for after hours) and we had only taken a few steps out toward the road when I glanced back. The hotel's looming bulk had been swallowed by the fog.
"Cindy?" I called, trying to keep my voice pitched so that if she were near, she could find her way back to us but I wouldn't be waking the old-age pensioners,. I couldn't help feeling that if I had screamed my lungs out, the fog would muffle my racket as it muffled everything else.
Jason strode past me, cupping his hands to his mouth and bellowing, "Yo, Cynthia Dawn!"
Something scrabbled off to the right and I said, "Cindy!" sharply.
There was an answering "Rrrow?"
Though that is not, of course, Cindy's normal voice you will understand, brother, why I, cat-mother of Treat and Kittibits, instantly felt relieved. I understood Cindy's motivation for being out here. Obviously she had heard the cat crying and come out to investigate. I'd have done the same thing if I'd been aware of it. She was very possibly trying to find her way to the hotel kitchen to get it some fish or milk or something. I handed Jason the key to the outer door of the hotel and told him to go check out the kitchen and see if his sister was there. I would stay and try to entice the cat to stick around until the kids got back either with or without a tidbit.
"Here, kitty," I said, kneeling and rubbing my fingers together. "Kitty, kitty? Mrrow?"
Excerpted from Scarborough Fair by Elizabeth Ann Scarborough. Copyright © 1996 Elizabeth Scarborough. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Meet the Author
Elizabeth Ann Scarborough was born March 23, 1947, and lives in the Puget Sound area of Washington. Elizabeth won a Nebula Award in 1989 for her novel The Healer’s War, and has written more than a dozen other novels. She has collaborated with Anne McCaffrey, best known for creating the Dragonriders of Pern, to produce the Petaybee Series and the Acorna Series. Others of Scarborough’s titles are available electronically via Gypsy Shadow Publishing: www.gypsyshadow.com/ElizabethScarborough.html#top
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