The Mastin Twins - Chapter 1

mastin twins

Chapter 1 - Elk Bow

Jimmy Vaskelis was large for his age. He was twelve but most people thought he was thirteen or fourteen. He sat in the back seat of the beat-up green station wagon as it rolled steadily along State Highway 43, tree covered hills to the left, the Chelt River on the right. On the far side of the river the flat valley floor was dotted with several small farms. Bored, he looked out the window hardly noticing as they passed some houses. It felt as though they had been in the car for a whole year.

"When are we going to be there?", he asked for the thousandth time.

Barbara, his mom, smiled patiently, "It's not too much farther now".

"That's what you said last time."

His dad glanced down at the map propped open on the front seat.

"It looks like we should get to Elk Bow right after this next bend in the river. The house is two miles farther."

Sure enough after rounding the next bend they could make out Lake Windsor glittering in the early afternoon sunlight. Elk Bow lay on the far side of the river where it entered the lake. Another minute and the car rumbled over a bridge and they were in Elk Bow.

Elk Bow was a typical small town of rural America. A sign informed them they were 872 feet above sea level and that the population was 383. They turned left on Iverson Road and drove slowly past a gas station, a few houses, some stores, and the Town Hall. The road brought them to the edge of the lake where a boat launching ramp was being used only by a few ducks, a mostly empty parking lot to its right. A few idlers occupied benches in the Elk Bow town park. Nothing much it appeared, was going on. Jimmy's dad made a right turn onto Lakefront Drive when they passed the park and they were out of town in less than a minute.

"Is that all of Elk Bow?", demanded Jimmy. "What a tiny place".

His dad laughed. "It is rather small but you'll get used to it. This is going to be a great summer."

The asphalt paving of Lakefront Drive gave way to gravel and the heavily loaded station wagon lurched drunkenly. Small rocks began to batter the underside of their car. A number of large oak trees grew beside the road as it wound along following the shoreline. They passed several houses and eventually came to a mailbox with the number 14 on its side. Jimmy's dad turned right and drove up a narrow dirt driveway stopping in front of a small one-story house.

He grinned. "We're here. All ashore who're going ashore!".

Jimmy opened his door, got out and took a good look at the house. It was a big change from the apartment they'd left behind in Indianapolis. With the lake just beyond the bottom end of the driveway and woods behind reaching to the top of the ridge there might be a number of interesting places to explore.

He followed the driveway around behind the house. "Hey", he shouted. "There's a shed back here."

His mom shouted back, "That's great but would you help us unload the car?"

Reluctantly Jimmy abandoned his explorations for the moment and went to help. The inside of the house smelled of dust. There was a large combination living/family/dining room with a real stone fireplace. Behind a room divider was the kitchen where his mom was already at work organizing cupboard space. His dad brushed by him, heading down the hall leading to the bedrooms.

"Bring that box down here".

Jimmy picked up the box he'd brought in from the car and followed his dad into one of the bedrooms. Obviously this was going to be the workroom. His dad was a writer and would need a room to himself for his work. In fact his writing was the reason they'd come here from Indianapolis. Lately he'd been having trouble writing and was hoping that moving from the city into more relaxed surroundings would help. Jimmy had been out of the city only a few times before and had thought this would be a grand adventure when his parents had announced it. He set his box down on a table in the corner and headed out to the car for another load.

This time he brought in his own suitcase. His mom was a thorough packer and she'd filled it until it was nearly exploding. It was very heavy. His dad pointed him to the bedroom that would be his. With a grunt the suitcase was heaved up onto his bed landing in an explosion of dust. Jimmy immediately began to sneeze. After the third sneeze he ran to the window, pulled back the curtains and fumbled with the latch until the window popped open and a welcome gust of fresh air swept through the room.

Curious he peeked out at the side yard. Almost right outside the window was an oak tree. As he watched a squirrel ran partway up the trunk and stopped, sniffing the air for danger. It saw something, started back down the trunk, abruptly changed its mind and disappeared quickly up the tree vanishing from sight into the canopy of leaves.

Jimmy's mom came into his the room and wrinkled up her nose when she saw all the dust. She disappeared briefly returning with a dust mop, broom, and garbage bag.

"You'll need to do some cleaning in here before you move in".

Jimmy normally wasn't overly fastidious but this time he had to agree. Unpacking took quite a while, the closet, the old beat-up chest of drawers, the bed, and basically everything else in his room was filthy and needed cleaning before he finished putting away his clothes and other stuff.

He had just finished when his mother called, "Anyone interested in a quick snack?"

Food sounded like a pretty good idea so Jimmy headed toward the kitchen. His dad cut him off in the hallway.

"If your hands are as dirty as mine we'd better both wash up".

The bathroom was quite big with the largest tub Jimmy had ever seen taking up one whole end of the room. They two Vaskelis men stood side by side at the sink and busily soaped up their hands.

"Well Jimbo", his dad asked. "What do you think of this place so far?"

"It's pretty dirty. Didn't the people who lived here before ever clean?"

His dad agreed. "According to the rental agent this house has been vacant for more than two years. I guess no one's been doing any cleaning".

"Can I go exploring after we eat?"

"We'll have to see if your mother needs you for anything. If it's ok with her it's fine with me".

The snack was waiting for them when they reached the kitchen. They seated themselves around the table and dug into ham sandwiches, carrots, celery, and glasses of milk. Just what was needed they all agreed. Jimmy helped cleanup afterwards.

"Mom, do you think I could go outside and explore a little".

Jimmy's mom checked the clock. "It'll be dark in a couple of hours, don't stay out too long."

Jimmy promised and skipped out the back door. What to do first? The shed he decided. It might once have been white but now it was just a weather-beaten grey. He forced open the side door with a squeal of rusty hinges and peered inside. The filthy window across from him did little to illuminate the interior but after a few moments his eyes adjusted and he could see that it was mostly empty. Disappointed, he was about to leave when something in a shadow at the back of the shed caught his eye. A bicycle! This was great luck he thought! He brought it outside into the light and gave it a quick inspection. One tire was flat and the chain was a bit rusty but other than that it looked ridable. A further search of the shed turned up an oil can and he squirted some on the chain working it patiently back and forth. It took some time but eventually the chain ran smoothly. His mom came out the back door.

"Oh, you found something. What is it?"

"A bicycle. I got the chain fixed but one of the tires is flat. Do you think we could get it fixed tomorrow?"

"Sure. I need to make a trip to town anyway to buy groceries."

Supper came and went in a hurry while they all talked of plans for the next day. They were all tired from the long drive and everyone hit the sack early. Jimmy lay in bed thinking of the summer ahead and was asleep before he knew it.

The smell of toast woke him. Early morning sun filtered through the trees outside his window. The squirrel he'd seen yesterday (or another one just like it) was racing up and down a tree trunk. Somewhere an invisible mockingbird was trilling a song.

Washing and dressing were performed quickly and he joined his parents at the kitchen table for juice and toast. After breakfast his dad headed for the workroom. Jimmy could hear the clicking of keys on his father's typewriter. His mom smiled.

"Your dad already had some ideas for a new book. Are you ready to go into Elk Bow?"

They loaded the old bicycle into the back of the station wagon and drove slowly around the lake. The general store on Iverson Road was open so they parked in front, unloaded the bike, and went inside. Somewhere a bell chimed when they opened the door. The store filled two stories almost to overflowing and seemed to sell almost anything you could think of. Jimmy noticed a few bicycles against one wall. Maybe this place could fix his bike. A young man stood behind a counter wiping its top with a rag.

He greeted them, "Good morning! Can I help you?"

"I've got a bicycle with a flat tire. Can you fix it?"

Jimmy pushed the bike forward so the clerk could inspect it.

"Sonny, we can fix anything", said the clerk smiling. "We have to, there's nowhere else to go."

"About how long will it take?"

"Well, I'm not too busy yet. Should have it ready in an hour or so. Would that be ok?"

"Sure", said Jimmy's mom.

They went outside and down the steps to the sidewalk pausing to look around before continuing. A number of the buildings lining the streets looked as though they might have been there since Elk Bow was founded a century ago. An antique shop, historical society, hotel, Steadman's Restaurant, and a few houses all looked ancient. Only the gas station and Burgerville looked at all recent. They found the grocery store on School Street. It wasn't open yet so they continued walking finally stopping in the town park. Two enormous maple trees cast their shadows over a little bandstand and a few empty benches and picnic tables. Beyond Lakefront Drive a few fishermen were trying their luck on Lake Windsor. Some pigeons waddled up to them hoping for handouts. When Jimmy and his mom didn't feed them they muttered to themselves and flew off to look for better pickings. The Vaskelises sat down on one of the benches and watched the fishermen. After awhile the clock in the Town Hall tower bonged ten o'clock.

Jimmy's mom stood up. "The grocery store should be open now".

Jimmy got up and they walked south, back down School Street. Elk Bow was coming to life. A couple of women were getting their hair done in Fleischers Beauty Salon. Across the street a sign in a window announced that the library was open. A group of kids raced down the other side of the street carrying fishing poles.

The grocery store was open now. They went in and explored the store for the things they needed. Jimmy looked about with interest. This wasn't at all like the big chain grocery stores he was used to back in the city. It was much smaller and there wasn't as much stuff on the shelves here but it was well lit and clean and seemed to have a sort of small town quality. It even had a pickle barrel, something Jimmy had never seen before. Another difference was that the store's owner stood behind the cash register when they went to pay for their groceries.

"You folks find everything you need?" he asked. His fingers seemed to dance on the cashregister buttons. It responded with clicks and a ka-ching.

"Oh yes, no problem", said Jimmy's mom.

Again the grocer's fingers flew across the cashregister, punching in prices of several more items. The register whirred and clicked continuously.

"You folks from around here? Haven't seen you in the store before."

Jimmy's mom explained that they had just moved into a house on the East shore of the lake for the summer.

"Oh, you must be those writer folks from Indianapolis. Heard you were coming. How d'you like it here in Elk Bow."

"It's a great little town. But I'm surprised you know about us, we've only been here since yesterday."

"Well...", said the grocer. "in a small town like Elk Bow there's not much to talk about. You folks are the only news we've had since the Fahey family moved here last month. I think you and them should be neighbors."

They all laughed.

"You take care now", he called after them as they left.

Jimmy turned to his mom. "They sure seem friendly here".

His mom nodded. "That's one of the nice things about being out of the city."

A short walk around the block brought them back to the car. The groceries were deposited in the back seat and they went up the steps and through the door into the general store to check on the bicycle repairs.

The clerk saw them coming and rolled out the bike. It looked like new!

"It was a little grimy so I used the polishing wheel on it and cleaned up the seat and tires with a little Armor-All. Does it look ok?"

Jimmy nodded his head vigorously. "Wow! It looks great!"

His mom paid for the bike's repairs and they loaded it into the car. All the way back to the house Jimmy thought of where he would go first. Finally he decided to ride farther along the lake. They reached home and Jimmy was on the bike and pedaling down the driveway almost before his mom could call to him to be back by 12:30 for lunch.

Prologue   The Mastin Twins   Chapter 2

The Mastin Twins - Copyright © 1996 by Charlie Comstock
Permission is granted for personal reading. All other rights reserved.