Sunday, February 24, 2019

Trihuger's Treats: Chapter Five

Suzie’s father was relieved then angry when she came home, though strangely lost interest in yelling at her as soon as he started. Without even punishing her, he sat back down at his desk and seemed to forget she was there as he began scribbling on a piece of paper and mumbling to himself. “No, I can’t go at night, then I can’t see him.”
“See who, the Berry man?” Suzie said, peeking over his shoulder to see what he was writing, but he quickly covered the paper. 
“Suzie, please,” he said sharply, then melted when he saw her face. “I’m sorry.” He turned the paper over and put an arm around her, sighing. “Oh, how I wish your mother were here. She would know what to do.”
“What to do about what?” Her father took a deep breath and stood up, leading Suzie away from the desk. “C’mon now, let’s get you to bed. I’ve got work to do.”
Suzie lay in bed for what seemed like hours, wondering what Mr. Trihuger had asked her father to do. If she knew what it was, maybe she could help him, since her mother no longer could. 

The next morning, though she had barely slept at all, Suzie sprang out of bed, hoping to catch her father before he left. But he wasn’t at his desk, and on the kitchen table she found breakfast waiting for her, along with a note. “I picked berries already for Mrs. Langley, and have an important errand to do. Don’t worry if I am not back before dark. This may take all day.” 
First disappointed that he was gone, Suzie quickly decided it would be much easier to find out things without him around. Getting dressed as fast as she could, she grabbed some food and launched out the door, nearly smacking into Oliver.
“Morning!” he said, grinning happily. 
Suzie already hated this cheerful new Oliver. “What are you doing here?”
“It’s a nice day. I thought we could go to the beach,” he said.
“Won’t you get your glasses wet?” Suzie grumbled, heading past him on the small path that led from her house to the larger path around the island. 
“I’m not going to go swimming, silly,” said Oliver, still cheerful, trotting behind her.
“Don’t call me silly!” Suzie snapped. “And why did your mom let you come here by yourself? Wasn’t she worried about the Berry Man?”
“No...I didn’t tell her about him,” he said.
“Hey,” she said, stopping to study his face. “Weren’t you worried about walking here by yourself? Didn’t you think you might run into him?”
Oliver shrugged. He was having so much fun looking at things with his glasses, he hadn’t thought about the Berry Man at all. “No, I guess not,” he said, smiling. 
Just another thing not to like about the new Oliver, Suzie thought, but she held her tongue this time, deciding now that he could see, he might be useful if they were to run into the Berry Man.

“Fine. I’ll go with you to the beach, but you have to go somewhere with me first,” she said, turning right onto the main path.

Oliver followed reluctantly until he realized they were heading to Mrs. Langley’s house, which he loved almost more than his own. If he could, he would spend all day at her back door, watching her hand out fresh, warm loaves of bread as he drank in the wonderful smells.
“You two are here early,” said Mrs. Langley, opening the top half of the door to her house after seeing the children approach. “I’m sorry, but your loaves aren’t quite ready yet.”
“I know, that’s OK,” Suzie said, handing Mrs. Langley the berries she was carrying. “My dad picked the berries today and he gets up a lot earlier than us.”
“Oh, I see,” Mrs. Langley said, looking down at Oliver, who was leaning over the door, his eyes closed. “Well, it shouldn’t be too much longer, so would you two like to come inside and wait?”
Mrs. Langley wiped her hands on her apron and pulled open the rest of the door, laughing as Oliver nearly tumbled inside. She led the children back to a large brick oven, where the wonderful smells were coming from.
“Careful, now. Please don’t touch anything, especially the oven,” Mrs. Langley said, standing in front of a table with several bowls that had towels draped over them. “The loaves need a few more minutes.”
She reached into a bowl of flour and rubbed it over her hands, then clapped them gently before lifting the towel off one of the bowls and pulling out a ball of dough. Oliver was entranced as she began to knead it into the counter, but Suzie squirmed impatiently. 
“Mrs. Langley?” Suzie said, so anxious she nearly barked. “Did – did you know my mother?”
Mrs. Langley stopped kneading and looked at Suzie, her face soft and eyes sad. “Yes. Yes, I did.”
“Were you a spy like her?” Suzie cried.
Mrs. Langley coughed, expecting a completely different question. “A spy? Where did you hear that?”
Suzie paused, wanting to tell her about the book and meeting Mr. Trihuger, but wasn’t sure she should. And before she could decide what to say instead, Mrs. Langley wiped her hands on her apron and put a hand on her shoulder. 

“Now, Suzie. Your mom was certainly brave and curious enough to be a spy, but she was never so rude as to spy on people,” she said, patting the girl before turning to Oliver. “Now, Sir Oliver — would you like to try kneading?” 
Oliver was so excited he could only nod, his eyes wide. “I thought you might,” said Mrs. Langley, smiling and reaching up to pull a clean rag off a shelf above her. “But first, let’s wipe those glasses off, they’re a bit steamy. By the way, where did you get those?”
Oliver froze, hoping Suzie would come up with a quick lie. But she was heading to the door. 
“Um, m-my mom just found them. I - I think they were my dad’s,” was all Oliver could come up with, thinking Mrs. Langley would never believe him, but before she could answer, Suzie called from the door. “Oliver, could you bring us our bread later? I need to go.” And she marched outside without waiting for an answer.
Oliver turned back to the counter, where Mrs. Langley had placed another ball of dough in front of him. 
“OK, now, first put some flour on your hands,” she said, and Oliver obeyed, clapping his hands as Mrs. Langley had done, though he wasn’t sure why. When his hands were ready, he picked up the dough, which was so warm and soft, it felt alive. 
Before he knew what he was doing, Oliver lifted the ball to his cheek. He stopped, worried, but Mrs. Langley just smiled, her face looking like she had just seen someone she hadn’t seen in years.
“Oliver, how would you like to come here tomorrow and learn how to make bread?”

Oliver could only nod, his voice drowning in happiness.

Sunday, February 17, 2019

Trihuger's Treats: Chapter Four

(Chapter Three) 

“What?! It is not! How could this be your island? I’ve never even met you!” Suzie cried, so indignant she forgot to be afraid, her hands flying to her hips.

“Actually you have. You just don’t remember,” Mr. Trihuger said calmly. “And I’m not sure exactly what owning this island has to do with meeting you.”
When Suzie didn’t answer, he stood up, carrying Oliver with him. “Come now, let’s make sure your friend will live.”
Suzie followed without another word. If Oliver had been awake, he would have been amazed to see that now there were two people who could tell Suzie what to do.
Mr. Trihuger walked down the hall and into the room where the children saw the light coming from earlier. It was much larger than the room they had hidden in, and had cupboards lining all the walls except for one, which instead had shelves halfway down and a long counter underneath. The shelves and the counter were covered with all sizes of bottles and jars, and in the center of the room was a large table, where Mr. Trihuger gently laid Oliver.
“Well, he is breathing. I do believe he will be fine,” Mr. Trihuger said, heading to the sink at the end of the counter and running a hand over his bald head, which had a horseshoe of long gray hair on the sides. “Perhaps some water will help.”
“How do you know my name?” Suzie asked again, standing near Oliver’s head, but keeping the table between her and Mr. Trihuger.
“Well, have you met any other young girls on this island? Besides, with that blond hair of yours, you couldn’t be anyone but Abigail’s daughter,” Mr. Trihuger said, turning back from the sink with a small rag in a bowl of water. “You even wear it the same way – very, um, unbrushed.” 
Suzie was shocked again, having never heard anyone but her father use her mother’s name. And even he usually said, “your mother.”          
“Let’s see,” Mr. Trihuger continued, dabbing Oliver’s forehead gently with the wet rag. “You must be how old now? 9?”
“Ten” Suzie said, straightening her shoulders. 
“Ah, yes, of course,” Mr. Trihuger said, looking down as Oliver began to move. “Good morning, young man!”
Oliver’s eyes flew open and he bolted upright, barely missing Mr. Trihuger’s head before sliding off the table next to Suzie. He grabbed her arm and began yanking her toward the door. 
“Oliver, wait, it’s OK,” Suzie said, pulling her arm back. “He won’t hurt us. He was helping you.”
Oliver crouched behind Suzie, keeping an eye on the door in case he still needed to make a run for it.
“Oliver, is it?” Mr. Trihuger said, stepping around the table to stand in front of Suzie. “You’re Joan’s boy?” 
Hearing his mother’s name, Oliver peeked his head above Suzie’s shoulder, though he was still squeezed as close as possible to her back. Suzie normally would have pushed him away by now, but she wanted to know how this strange old man knew so much about her and even knew her mother, whom she had never met. 
And then there was the small matter of those things on his face. They looked like pieces of glass propped in front of his eyes. Finally, she couldn’t take it anymore. “What’s that on your nose?”
Oliver sucked in his breath, but Mr. Trihuger just nodded. “These are glasses,” he said, taking them off and holding them in front of him. “They help me see. Without them I would be lost.”
Still behind her, Oliver had lifted his head up completely above Suzie’s shoulders and was straining forward to see the glasses. Mr. Trihuger studied him as he said, “And I am guessing, based on that bump I see growing on your forehead, that you might have the same problem?” 
Oliver came out from behind Suzie, but still could not speak, even though she elbowed him and demanded, “Tell him!” Finally, she turned to Mr. Trihuger. “Does he ever! I always go get him in the morning now because he can’t ever find our house! The last time he walked so far he hit the water, then it took him another two hours to find his way back to tell me he got lost! After that, his mom asked me to come get him.”
Mr. Trihuger watched Oliver, who was now staring at his shoes. Putting one hand on the boy’s shoulder, he held out the glasses with the other. “Here. Put these on.”
Oliver looked up, his eyes wide. He took the glasses in both hands, studying them for several moments before guiding them carefully toward his face.
“Yes. But you need to slide those arms over your ears,” Mr. Trihuger said, lifting the glasses off and then back on Oliver’s face, which had a look that changed from shock to happiness so fast, the expressions had melted into one.
“Wow, I can see everything!” he said, turning to Suzie. “I can see the buttons on your shirt! And wait – those are flowers! I can see the petals!”
Mr. Trihuger looked almost as if he were smiling as Oliver turned slowly around, looking everything up and down. But Suzie was definitely frowning, her arms folded. “Why are they working for him, too? Aren’t they yours? And exactly what are they?” 
“Well, they are specially cut pieces of glass that do what the inside of our eyes are supposed to do, and what your eyes do do,” Mr. Trihuger said, waving a hand at Suzie. “But I am very near-sighted. I can’t see anything further away than my nose. And that’s actually a very common problem. It’s not surprising at all that my glasses help Oliver.”
“Oh, wow,” Oliver was saying. “Wait – I want to see outside!” He started to run toward the wall, forgetting they were underground and there were no windows.  
Suzie grabbed his shirt and pulled her toward him, yanking the glasses off his face. Oliver did nothing, but Mr. Trihuger put a hand firmly on her shoulder. 
“Suzanne! That is no way to treat someone – let alone someone else’s property,” he said. “Were you raised by wolves?”
“No, my dad, Paul. Don’t you know him?” Suzie said, “Who’s Wolves?”
“Oh, it’s just an expression that means you have no manners,” Mr. Trihuger snapped. “Of course I know your father!”
Then he took a deep breath and held out his hand. “My glasses, please,” he said, and Suzie quickly handed them over. 
“Thank you,” he said, much calmer as he put them back on his face. “These would be very hard to replace, so I would appreciate your handling them carefully. As you should do with anything that belongs to someone else.” 
Both of the children stood very still, Oliver trying to adjust to everything being blurry again, and Suzie not wanting to upset Mr. Trihuger, who had walked over to one of the cupboards and opened it.
“Now, I know I put — ah, yes,” he said, sliding something in his jacket pocket before turning back to the children. “You’re in luck Miss Suzanne, I do have something you can have,” 
“Really? What?” Suzie asked as Mr. Trihuger crossed the room, opened another cupboard and walked back with a tightly sealed black bag.
“Your fertilizer,” he said. “It’s not too heavy, is it?”
He put the bag down in front of Suzie, who didn’t move. “It’s about time to feed your tomatoes, is it not? They must be in full production by now,” he said,
“Oh, yes, they are!” said Oliver, picturing the delicious yellow cherry tomatoes that were almost as sweet as her father’s berries.
“Yes, but — how did you know about my tomatoes?” Suzie said.
“Because your father tells me about your garden, of course,” he said. “How else would I know what to put in the fertilizer?”
Suzie nodded and finally picked up the bag.
“You’re welcome,” Mr. Trihuger said pointedly, pretending as if Suzie had thanked him. “I’m happy you can use it. I have more than enough. And now then, shouldn’t you two be getting home?”
He led the children back to the hall, where Suzie finally said “thank you” into the bag before heading up the stairs eagerly. Oliver started to follow, but felt Mr. Trihuger’s hand on his shoulder.
“Here, take these,” he said softly in Oliver’s ear. When Oliver turned back, he saw that Mr. Trihuger was holding out a smaller pair of glasses with black plastic frames. Picking up one of Oliver’s hands, he put the glasses in it, then turned him around and gave him a small shove up the stairs. “Put those away.”
Then louder, so Suzie could hear, he called. “Not so fast, Miss Suzanne. Remember the boy here can’t see as well as you.”
“He didn’t even ask us why we were there!” Suzie grumbled as soon as they were far enough away from the hill that she thought Mr. Trihuger couldn’t hear them. “I didn’t get to ask him about the Berry man or the other island — and I want to read that book! It’s my mother’s, not his. Why does he have it? I should!”
Oliver didn’t answer. He had put the glasses on and was busy looking at everything: his hands, his shoes, the ground, Suzie’s shoes, her face — “What are those?” she demanded, the bag of fertilizer sliding to her feet.
“Oh,” Oliver said, turning pink. “M-mr. Trihuger gave me these. Aren’t they great? Now I can see all the time!”
Suzie crossed her arms. “Why would he give them to you?” 
“I don’t know,” Oliver said. “He said he doesn’t need them anymore. And they can help me.”
Suzie wrinkled her nose. “Suit yourself. Too bad they look so stupid.” She picked up the bag again and began walking away.
“They do?” Oliver said, touching them worriedly and catching up to her. “Oh, well. It doesn’t matter. As long as they help me see, right?”     
Suzie didn’t answer, and they didn’t talk again until they reached the main path and Suzie turned left to head to Oliver’s house. 
“Wait, uh, I think I can walk home by myself,” Oliver said, smiling shyly and pointing at the glasses. “I can see pretty good now, you know, thanks to these.”
“Yeah. Right. OK,” Suzie said, not smiling back. She studied him for a bit, then said, “Yes, that’s definitely better, because now when my father asks why we left the house instead of waiting for him, I can tell him that I had to walk you home because you were too scared to stay by yourself.” She turned on her heel. “See ya. Good luck!”
Once again, her nasty words just floated over Oliver. He was too busy wondering if he could skip home, or if that would make his glasses fall off.

Chapter Five 

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

If men are like bread: Have fun with croissants, but marry a good crusty loaf

In college I wrote a silly column comparing men to bread, advising that while croissants are good for some fun, when it comes time to settle down you need to choose a much more versatile “loaf of crusty French bread.”

More than 20 years later, married me thinks that college me was more right than I knew, because the only thing I would change about that advice now would be to recommend sourdough instead of French bread. Because sourdough is more complex, providing more interesting flavor to enjoy over the years to come.

But perhaps the best part about reading this column now is knowing that soon after graduation, in fact at my first newspaper job after college, I met that versatile loaf of bread to spend my life with. And yes, he is far more tangy sourdough than mild French bread.

That was cool.

Here is much of that column originally published in Cal Poly SLO’s newspaper The Mustang Daily in...good gosh... maybe 1996?
I did tweak it a bit and left some of it out, both because it was too long and because some of the passages need not be repeated.

“All We Knead is Love,” by Justine Frederiksen

Love is like bread — it’s all in the dough. The success depends on how you knead it and how good the yeast is.
But before you make the love, you have to choose the person to make it with. And you must choose carefully, because you can’t make love that is better than the person you are with.

First, there are breadsticks. These look good, and if you're really hungry, they'll work. But only for a short time. They're small and crumble easily. Not satisfying at all.

Next, stay away from anything that's always in bars, like pretzels. These are usually old, stale and only good when there's lots of beer around.

Also, be wary of croissants, which I have a weakness for. They are very hard to resist because they are exotic (not your everyday biscuit or toast) and look and taste very good. But you can't make a habit of eating them because they are expensive and bad for the heart. I know, they are very tempting and I have very fond memories of the croissants I've met, but trust me, you can't live with them.

Don’t be tempted by doughnuts either, because they’re just a lot of pretty packing with no substance underneath. They are the bimbos of the bread world: fun for a little while, but soon you're hungry for meaningful conversation and real interactions.

Also stay away from bagels. They aren’t as dangerous or tempting as croissants and doughnuts, but are so dry and boring that you need to add lots of fattening and expensive ingredients ingredients like cream cheese and lox before they’re worth eating. Not good long-term.

Whole wheat bread can be good, because it can be healthy and interesting, especially if it has nuts and ancient grains. But choose this only if you’re really good, too. If not, you might find yourself craving a bit of naughtiness and sneaking out for doughnuts.

What I suggest instead is a loaf of versatile French bread. It can be simple or fancy, snack or meal, filling or decadent. It’s good plain or topped with butter, cheap cheddar or expensive brie. 
You can have it over one night for cheese and wine, then spend the whole next day with it: toast it for breakfast, make sandwiches for lunch, then eat it with soup for dinner.

Of course, really good French bread is hard to find. Sometimes you have to travel quite far to get it from the right baker. But it's worth all the time and effort to find that special bread you  will enjoy every day.

Saturday, February 9, 2019

Trihuger's Treats: Chapter Three

(Chapter Two)

With the children following at a safe distance, Suzie’s father turned right onto the path that circled the island and headed toward Mrs. Langley’s house. But before he reached it, he turned left and headed down a path that Suzie was never allowed to walk on. Her father said it was off-limits because it only led to a large grove of trees that was full of ticks.

“Uh, oh. Aren’t we going toward the tick trees?” Oliver said. “I’m not supposed to go near them.” 

“Me either, dummy,” Suzie said. "And we’re not supposed to be following my dad no matter where he goes, so hush! I’m sure he’s not going in there. He doesn’t want to get ticks, either.”

Sure enough, just before the trees, her father turned right and began heading up a small hill.  

“Wait, stop,” Suzie said, reaching out her arm to block Oliver though he had already stopped dead still. “There’s nowhere to hide. Let’s stay here.”
The children waited, holding their breath, until her father disappeared from view. Then they scrambled up the hill as quickly and quietly as they could, crawling like lizards up the side and reaching the top just in time to see a door closing and lying flat again. 
Suzie ran to the spot, but when she got there she could see nothing but ground. 
“Now what?” Oliver whispered as Suzie knelt down, feeling along the ground for the door.
“Help me find it,” Suzie snapped. “It’s got to be here somewhere.” Then just as she moved left, the door flopped open. Oliver squealed and jumped back while Suzie froze, waiting.     
“H-how did you do that?” Oliver said.
“I don’t know,” she whispered, crawling over and slowly peeking her head over the hole. Oliver hissed in protest and tried to pull her back, but she ignored him and peered inside.

“C’mon, there’s stairs!” she said, swinging her legs over and heading down.
It was cold and very dark along the stairs, so Oliver kept one hand on the wall to feel his way down, not sure how far Suzie was ahead of him. “Suzie, wait! Where are you?”
“Hush! I’m right here, dummy,” she said, reaching the end of the stairs and the beginning of a long hallway. “There’s light coming from somewhere down there. Let’s go see.”
They walked as quietly as they could toward the light, but stopped as soon as they heard voices.
“Yes, but won’t we need more zuckers?” Suzie’s father was saying.
Of course. But first, I will need you to get me his urine,” said a strange voice, which sounded much older than her father’s. 

“You’re in? What’s he mean?” Oliver whispered, peeking over Suzie’s shoulder. “Can – ow!” he stopped, feeling Suzie’s elbow in his ribs as she ordered him once again to be quiet.
“As soon as possible and as fresh as possible,” the older man was saying, and soon the children heard someone heading down the hall toward them.

“He’s coming – hide!” Suzie hissed, pulling Oliver backward down the hall. “Here, in here,” she said, crawling through a doorway.
They made it inside just in time, for suddenly the hall was bathed in soft light and seconds later they saw her father’s legs go striding by. They waited, but the other man did not follow, and soon the hall was quiet again. They waited for the light to go out again, but it didn’t. Finally sure the other man wasn’t coming down the hall, they began to glance around the room, which was now dimly lit from the hallway.
“Are these all books?” Suzie said, seeing that they were crouched in front of shelves and shelves of them. She stood up, walking closer to the books. The shelves covered the walls from floor to ceiling with only small spaces in the corners.  “This is like ten times as many books as my dad has. How could you ever read all these? What are they for?”
As she got closer, Suzie was disappointed to see they all looked like the thick books her father kept that were full of boring facts and no pictures, like encyclopedias and dictionaries. But then at the end of the shelf just above her head, one caught her eye. Much shorter than the others, it also looked exactly like the diaries her father kept on a special shelf. 

“Oliver, look,” she said. “Can you reach that red book there?”
Sure enough, when Oliver pulled it down and gave it to her, the handwriting on front looked very familiar.
“What’s it say?” Oliver said.
“Abigail’s log,” Suzie answered, her voice strangely soft.
“Who’s Abigail?”
Suzie traced her fingers over the letters several times until she finally answered. “My mother.”
“Wow,” Oliver said, as Suzie sat down in front of the bookshelf. Suzie never talked about her mother. All Oliver knew was that she died soon after Suzie was born. 
Suzie opened the book, and Oliver sat down next to her, asking, “What’s a log?”
“I don’t know,” she said, turning the pages and struggling to read in the low light. “It looks like a diary. Listen to this: ‘Day one. As soon as I got near the island I could smell it. It is horrid.”
“What’s horrid mean?” Oliver whispered.
“I don’t know,” Suzie said, annoyed again. “It probably means extra gross, your favorite word. Shush!”

 She continued reading: “At first I could not tell what the smell was coming from, because when I approached I could see nothing but dust — no trees, no buildings, no plants or animals or even people. Just dust.
"Hey, I think she’s talking about that other island!” Suzie said, excited. “If my father won’t tell me about it, at least I can read about it!”
Then I noticed the seagulls, the only animals I ever saw near the place. They were off to the side in one big group, circling and calling and diving. My task was to keep an eye on the people, but I couldn’t help it. I paddled closer and saw they were diving into piles of garbage. Plastic, bottle, cans, boxes … there was so much garbage you couldn’t see the sand anymore. It was so awful, I started crying — I mean, over the smell, of course.
      “I think the people just drove to the edge of the cliffs and dumped their garbage over. The beach was ruined. It seemed like hours before I could paddle back. 
“What does ‘drove’ mean? And where did all that stuff come from? Why did they just throw it on the beach?” Oliver said, thinking of how he walked with his mother on the beach every morning. The only thing they ever found on the sand were shells, seaweed, and crabs. “My mother says we shouldn’t take or leave anything.”

Suzie skipped forward. “Here we go: ’Day Two: I forced myself to forget about the seagulls and concentrate on my mission. After much searching I found a place that was any way hidden and could allow me to tie up my boat, and luckily I brought a stake because there was nothing at all to use otherwise. I snuck onshore and learned that the rest of the island is in as bad a shape as the beaches, except it doesn’t really smell. It’s just loud, hot and dusty…’ 
“Mission? She was on a mission?” Suzie said, skipping ahead several pages. “Here — ‘Day Four: Mission accomplished — I found the cornfields. And they don’t look good. There are too many plants on too little land, and it looks as if the ears are picked as soon as they grow. I don’t think it will be very long at all until they need help.’
“You know what? I think my mom was a spy!” Suzie announced proudly, gripping the sides of the book as she looked up at Oliver, her eyes shining. “I think she was spying on the people on the other island.”
“She was indeed!” said the strange voice the children heard earlier, only this time it was much louder and coming from a tall man standing over them.
“Oh, no, run!” Oliver yelled, scrambling to his feet and streaking past the man’s legs. He had barely disappeared behind them when Suzie heard a loud bonk and a smack before the top of Oliver’s head appeared on the floor near the man’s legs. Instead of into the hall, Oliver had run straight into the opposite bookshelf.
“Ah, well, that’s no good,” said the man calmly, and as he turned to look down at the boy, Suzie began to crawl toward the door. “And that’s no good, either.” he said, grabbing her shirt and pulling her to her feet. “You’re staying right here.”
The man bent down slowly until his eyes met hers and she could see he had what looked like pieces of glass perched on his nose. She could feel the warmth from his breath when he said, “You should be ashamed of yourself, Miss Suzanne. Were you really planning to leave your friend here to fend for himself?”
Suzie’s mouth dropped open. “H-how do you know my name? Wh-ho are you?”

“Your father didn’t tell you?” he said, releasing her shirt and turning to kneel next to Oliver, who was still out cold. “I am Frederick Trihuger, but you are to call me Mr. Trihuger. And I know you, and everyone else on this island, because it is mine.”

Chapter Four

Sunday, February 3, 2019

Trihuger's Treats: Chapter Two

(Chapter One )

No! What other island? Where is it? Why haven’t we gone there?” Suzie said rapid-fire, her hands on her hips.

“Well, if you sit and be quiet, I’ll tell you,” her father said firmly. Suzie plopped down on the couch immediately, crossing her arms. 

At least there was one person who could tell Suzie what to do, Oliver thought, impressed and jealous. He never had the nerve to try it, knowing at best she wouldn’t listen to him, at worst she’d hurt him. 

“So, there is another island a few miles away that used to be very much like ours. But,” her father paused, as if still deciding what to say. “But now it is ruined.”
“What do you mean? How do you ruin an island?” Suzie said, and her father was too lost in his own thoughts to chide her again. 
“Well, it does take a while. And all you need to know now is that the people on the other island destroyed theirs, and wanted to come over here next,” he said.
“That man was from the other island? How did he get here? Is that where they have zuckers?” said Suzie, seeming to sprout three more questions for every one her father answered. 
Oliver wished she would ask about breakfast instead, because they still hadn’t had any and he was getting very hungry. In fact, Suzie’s father had just started to speak again when a loud rumble erupted from Oliver’s stomach. 
“Right – breakfast,” Suzie’s father said, disappearing into the kitchen and returning a few seconds later with a plate of bread and cheese that he put on the coffee table. “This was just waiting for your berries. Which we’ll just have to do without, I guess, ” he said, nodding toward Suzie’s shirt as he headed back to the kitchen.
Oliver usually waited until Suzie took what she wanted, but she didn’t seem interested in the food, only in finding out more about the strange man and the other island. So he picked up two slices each of cheese and bread, shoving a third piece of bread in his mouth as he piled the rest into a sandwich. Realizing his bad manners, Oliver braced for Suzie’s elbow in his ribs — but it never came. She was watching the doorway to the kitchen. 
When her father returned, he put down a glass of water for each of them before sliding a chair over from the dining room to sit on, and Suzie leaned forward anxiously.  
“In fact, her father continued as if he had never left, “I’m afraid we won’t have enough berries this week to trade for our bread from Mrs. Langley, or even to get a pie from Esmeralda.
“Don’t you mean Crabelda?” said Oliver, crying out as Suzie stomped on his foot: “Oww! What? Isn’t that her name?”
“No, that’s not her name,” Suzie’s father answered before turning to Suzie. “I know you call her that, Suzie. So does she.” 
Suzie stopped glaring at Oliver and turned a shocked and guilty face back to her father. “What? How?” 
“You’re not exactly a soft talker, Suzie,” her father said, and Oliver bit into his sandwich to smother a giggle, not even daring to look up in case Suzie’s eyes were flashing on him again. 
“Yeah, well, I don’t know why we get her pies at all,” said Suzie, her guilt evaporating. “They’re awful!”
Her father responded sternly, his face hard. “That is not true, Suzie.”
“Yes, it is!” she cried. “You don’t even eat them. You just save them for Mr. Porter’s pigs.”
“I like them,” Oliver said, and Suzie turned to glare at him. “I mean, well … they’re not awful,” he said, taking another bite so he couldn’t say anything else. 
“Yes, thank you, Oliver,” Suzie’s father said. “Ezzie works very hard on her pies, and I know they’re not masterpieces, but I’d appreciate you not telling her how you feel about them,” he said, still looking sternly at Suzie. “And remember, you should call her Ms. Olsen.”
He stood up. “So, did you get enough to eat?”
Oliver nodded, his mouth full. Suzie shrugged. 
“Good, because I need to talk to Frederick as soon as possible,” Suzie’s father said, walking to the front door. 
“You’re leaving?!” Suzie cried as Oliver gulped down the food in his mouth. 
“But that man we saw at the berries is still out there! What if he followed us?” Oliver said as soon as he could talk, while Suzie asked, “Who’s Frederick? Is that the Berry Man?”

“Don’t worry Oliver. Your, ah, Berry Man won’t bother you. He wants zuckers, not you,” he said, walking to the front door and pulling his jacket off a hook behind it. “And no, Frederick is not the Berry Man, Suzie, but he is the only one who knows what to do.”
“Really?! Why? Who is he?” Suzie said, jumping up and running up to her father. “Can I go with you?”
“No,” her father said, with a hand on her shoulder. “I want you two to stay here until I get back.”
Oliver nodded. He didn’t plan to move from the couch, but Suzie grabbed for her father as he walked out the door. “Wait, you still haven’t told us what zuckers are! And who’s Frederick?” she cried, but her father continued outside and closed the door behind him.
“Wow,” said Oliver, still eating. “I didn’t know there was a man named Frederick who lived here. Who do you think he is? I wonder if my mom knows him.”
Suzie didn’t answer him, but pulled her coat off a lower hook on the door and ran to the window to watch her father walk away.  
“What are you doing? Why did you get your coat?” Oliver asked, worried that he already knew the answer.
“Shush.” Suzie said. “And put your coat on. When my father passes those trees, we’re following him.”
“What? No! He told us to stay inside! Th-that man is still out there!” he said, in a voice he wished didn’t come out so squeaky. 
“Well, I’m not staying here,” Suzie said, wiggling into her coat before picking up his. “I want to find out what’s going on. But if you don’t, you can stay here by yourself.”

Oliver gulped. They both knew that would never happen. He took his coat from Suzie and followed her outside.

(Chapter Three)