Thursday, August 20, 2015

The Old Blue Bottle

     by  Valerie L. Egar

     When they weren't swimming or fishing, Shane and his brother Jimmy loved playing in the woods that edged Grandpa's farm. They climbed on top of a huge granite boulder and yelled "King of the Mountain!" Hiking along a clear stream, they searched for animal tracks. When they felt hungry, they pretended to be lost explorers and ate raspberries that grew near the old logging road.

     One day, the boys dragged fallen tree branches to a small gully to build a fort. Shane's sneaker scuffed up some leaves and he saw a glint of blue. 

     "Look," he said to Jimmy. Shane carefully dug around the leaves and dirt and found a small, squat blue bottle. The boys ran back to the house and washed the bottle off with the garden hose. It was a deep blue, the color of the sky just after sun down.

     Shane showed the bottle to Grandpa. He held it up to the light and admired the color. "Nice!" he said. "It's old, too."

     Shane's eyes widened. "Thousands of years?" 

     Grandpa laughed. "More like a hundred, maybe even two."

     "I wonder what came in it."

     "Looks like an ink bottle," Grandpa said. "Hundreds of years ago, people didn't have the kinds of pens and markers we use today. They wrote with quills."

     "Quills?" said Jimmy.

  "A big feather," said Shane. "I saw pictures of people signing the Declaration of Independence using quills."

     "Wow," said Jimmy. "That must have been hard."

     Grandpa shook his head. "Probably was, until you got the hang of it."

     Shane wanted to keep the bottle he found close and slipped it underneath his pillow before he went to sleep. He ran his fingers around the rim and imagined trying to write with a big feather. It was hard enough writing with a ballpoint pen!

     That night, Shane dreamed he was in an old schoolhouse he'd visited with his class on a trip, seated at a desk in the middle of the room. The room was filled with children. A teacher in a dress covered in ink blotches stood in front of the blackboard. She said, "Time for your writing lesson."

     The teacher clapped her hands and a fat goose appeared and walked up and down the aisle. Each student plucked a feather from the goose. Shane was last and by that time, all the big feathers were gone. 

     "Master Shane," said the teacher, "take a feather."

     Shane did his best, but the only feather he was able to pluck was so small, a tiny elf would have had a hard time using it as a pen.

     "Dip your quills in the ink," said the teacher,  "and write your name."

     Shane noticed a blue ink bottle on the corner of his desk. He tried to dip the little feather in the ink, but he pushed it too far  into the bottle, got ink on his fingers and made a big splotch on his paper.

     While the other children wrote gracefully with their feathers, Shane could hardly grasp his. The feather was so small, his writing ended up looking like tiny ants marching across the page.

     "Sloppy work, Master Shane," the teacher said. "You'll have to practice after school." 

     Oh no! He wanted to play after school. Shane stared out of the open window at the dark storm cloud forming. A sudden gust of wind blew in and carried all the feathers out the window and far away.

     When Shane woke up, he realized he was on summer vacation in 2015 and didn't have to worry about staying after school or writing with a quill. He decided  he would sleep a whole lot better with the bottle on a windowsill, and that's where he put it.

Published in The Sunday Journal Tribune, August 2, 2015.  Copyright 2015 by Valerie L. Egar. May not be published, copied or distributed without permission from the author. 



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