“Where is everybody?” Leeli asked.“In class. Down you go,” Nia said. “We need to speak to the head guildmaster.”Janner wanted to ask what a head guildmaster was, but he figured he would know soon enough.The three children were as skittish as thwaps in Podo’s garden as Nia marched up the steps and knocked three times on the main door. It swung open immediately, and before them stood a tall, hideous woman in boots and a blue dress. The sleeves were too short, so her knobby wrists and half her forearms stuck out past the frills. Her hair was pulled back in a bun, which made her heavy brow and jaw seem even bigger. She frowned at them with a face that boasted exactly ten curly whiskers: two sprouting from her chin, six on her upper lip, one jutting out from the center of her nose, and one on her left cheek. Janner felt bad for counting them.“Oy! Nia Igiby Wingfeather!” the woman barked. Her voice was somehow shrill and husky at the same time. “I was expecting you. Follow.” She spun around and clomped away.Nia gave the children a surprised look and led them into the school….The ten-whiskered woman stopped and held open a door labeled “Head Guildmadam.” Nia thanked her with a nod and herded the children through. The room was furnished with a small desk and several chairs. A big brown dog snored on a blanket in the corner. Nia gestured for the children to sit and waited until the whiskery dame closed the door and sat at the desk.“I figure you don’t remember me,” the woman said with a scowl. “I figure you’re Nia Igiby who up and married a king and left the Hollows. I figure you’re bringing your three pups here for a proper Hollish education. I figure you think you’re somebody now, don’t you?”“I do, as a matter of fact,” said Nia. “And I think you’re somebody too.”“Oy? Then who, Your Highness? Who is the woman who sits before you?” The woman leaned back in her chair and folded her arms. She stared at Nia and frowned with great effort, which caused the six whiskers on her upper lip and the two on her chin to flick about like the antennae of a bug.“Children,” Nia said, still looking the woman in the eye, “I’d like you to meet the guildmadam. Guildmadam Groundwich. I knew her many years ago as Olumphia Groundwich, the Terror of Swainsby Road.”….“Oy!” said Olumphia Groundwich, and she narrowed one eye. “Your mother knows me well. So well, in fact, that she had another name for me. Didn’t you, Nia Igiby? You called me something that no one else dared to call me.”“I did,” Nia said after a pause.“Tell them.” Mistress Groundwich scratched at a whisker and waved her hand. “Tell them now so we can be done with it.”Janner prayed that whatever name Nia called her wouldn’t lead to a fight right there in the guildmadam’s office. He desperately wanted to be on this woman’s good side, though he doubted she had a good side.“I called you friend,” Nia said with a smile. “My best friend.”“Oy!” Mistress Groundwich said. She leapt to her feet and towered over them. “Oy!” she said again. It startled all three Wingfeather children, who nearly jumped out of their seats.Nia embraced Olumphia, who lifted Nia off her feet and made a noise like a growl, at which point the big dog in the corner woke and thumped its tail. Nia looked like one of the children being swung around in one of Podo’s hugs.“Nia, my heart is full of joy at seeing you again. I just knew you’d been killed or imprisoned—or—Fanged.” She shot a glance at Kalmar and continued. “But you didn’t! You came back! And with children!”“It’s good to see you Olumphia,” Nia laughed. “And head guildmadam! By the hills and the hollows, I’m impressed! You hated school.”“I’m as surprised as you are. Never thought anyone would call me Guildmadam. I’m even more surprised that I love it. I always wondered why the Maker made me so tall and lanky, and why he gave me these rogue whiskers. Used to pluck them out every other day, but I found the students more terrified of me with them than without. I don’t have a husband—yet—so what do I care?”“Finding a man might be trickier with whiskers,” Nia said.“Oy! Hadn’t thought of that.” Olumphia plucked out one of the whiskers. Janner cringed. Olumphia blinked away the water that sprang to her eyes and chuckled. “There! I’ll find me a Hollish prince in no time. The blasted thing will be back by tomorrow evening, though.” Olumphia held up the whisker and inspected it with a frown.
Monday, September 19, 2011
CSFF Blog Tour - September 2011, Day Two
Christian Science Fiction and Fantasy Blog Tour (September 2011) - Day Two.
The Monster in the Hollows, by Andrew Peterson.
Most of us have had at least one school teacher whom we could not possibly forget. Their image is ever before us because of something about them that made an impression as indelible as a tatoo on a frog’s rump and just as rare. I had several.
One was a seventh grade reading teacher that I would have sworn had played the Wicked Witch of the West (Margaret Hamilton) in the 1939 movie, the Wizard of Oz.
Her looks and personality would have made her a natch for the part. I had never seen the movie in color so I had no idea the witch was green. Had I known, it would have been a surefire clue that the witch and my teacher were not the same since she was no greener than I. This woman was absolutely fastidious about everything. I was taking a test once which required me to select items from a list of answers to associate with items in a second list. I struck through the number of an answer as I used it to ensure I didn’t use it twice.
The WWW was floating up and down the aisles between the desks, stopping here and there as she checked for who knows what. As an experiment to see what response I would get from her, I crossed out some of the numbers with a slash, others with a backslash, and not in any particular sequence. Sure enough, she came to my desk, and with those perpetually turned-down corners of her mouth, she looked upon my paper and scowled fiercely. She stooped, and with a long bony finger pointed to my deviant markings and demanded I use the same stroke.
In sixth grade I had a teacher whose tantrums became legendary among us diminutive scholars, though somehow their notoriety never passed beyond the classroom walls. It was grade school, and we had the same teacher for all our classes, so we were in danger of her wrath from 8:00 AM to 3:30 PM five days a week, excluding the holidays for Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year.
The most dreaded hour was the one right after lunch…history class. There were daily reading assignments which were to be completed the evening before. To see if we did our work, the teacher asked a question that was generally so simple that if one had merely slept with the text book under his pillow, he would have known the answer. The trouble, in spite of knowing her wrath would be swift and sure, almost to the man (generic masculine which still works for me) the assignment was ignored. She slammed books on her desk, shouted out what must have been fashionable oaths, and once, from the back of the room, threw a piece of chalk which shattered to pieces on the blackboard at the front.
I could go on and talk about Miss Dickey, my seventh grade math teacher, or Miss Jameison, my eleventh grade English teacher, both who had also been my father’s teachers. The math teacher was a snarly, caustic critic of that sub-human species called children, while the English teacher spoke incoherently with her eyes closed and a silly smile of rubied lips.
Andrew Peterson must have had similar experiences because they come to us crisp and clear through the pages of his book. The most memorable for me is found in the chapter titled, The Ten Whiskers of Olumphia Groundwich. Allow me to quote at length and see for yourself if my point is not well-taken. The scene is the first day of school, and Nia with her children have just arrived in a carriage at The Guilding Hall and Institute for Hollish Learning. They’ve come to a stop before the stone buildings of the school.
Now, if that doesn’t make you want to get a book from the Wingfeather Saga, in the words of Sapphire Surefoot, “You ain’t in your right mind!”