Wednesday, 31 August 2011

THE HOURGLASS (The Children's Hourglass) - Chapter 1, Version 2

The Angel and The Hourglass
Chapter 1. Version 2
The Old House

Along the shoreline highways and byways that follow the Long Island Sound all the way out to Rhode Island, you'll see numerous attractive old towns. The same sort of towns you've seen in those sentimental family movies they show on Sunday afternoons.  Towns with elm lined main streets and huge wooden homes in the gothic-colonial style, with gabled roofs and dormer windows, wide wooden porches and screen doors.

Nowadays, these old towns subsist mainly on software start-up companies or, if they're lucky, they'll have a Navy or Coast Guard base. But once upon a time these towns were flourishing resorts for the rich of New York City, who travelled down in their yachts every year to splash their wealth around in the country clubs and golf courses of this prosaic region of New England.

Somehow, perhaps it was during the Second World War, these New England Resort towns fell out of fashion.  The owners of these grand gothic-colonial summer homes, with their gabled roofs and dormer windows, simply never returned. One autumn day, when their owners had departed for the city, their caretakers or gardeners carefully covered all the furniture with sheets, closed and locked all the shutters and boarded up whatever was loose, before they too headed back to wherever it was they came from.  And it just so happened that after that autumn, none of them ever returned.

Town life just went on around these houses, almost as if they didn't exist, or existed with no more importance than the big trees that stood out prominently in the landscape of the town. The best real estate in these towns is still occupied by those once grand, abandoned dwellings.  Still, amazingly, these houses were hardly ever broken into, as if they still deserved the respect their owners once received. And for years they just stood there, patiently waiting, facing the sea, snugly shuttered, and slowly decaying.

Naturally, for curious children or daring teenagers, the empty houses were an irresistible attraction, but it was many years before anyone actually broke the taboo surrounding the houses and dared to sneak up the hill to play among them.  And when they did, it didn't take them long to discover the massive old maple tree growing right at the back of the grandest house of them all.  A maple tree with thick sturdy limbs spread evenly up its strong trunk, limbs that reached up and over the roof top gables.  With a tree like that, it was a snap to climb right up to where they could pry open the tiny attic dormer window that no one had bothered to board up.

And that's when their troubles really began.

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