Gatherers of Lions Rest, Chapter 3
“I didn’t think you’d be home for dinner.”
Ferris set his backpack down in front of the door. “You’re not going to ask where I was?” he asked the voice floating from the dining room.
“Alvin called.” His mother poked her head around the corner. “B. Harpeth.”
He fired an invisible round from his finger, his thumb playing the hammer. “B. Harpeth.”
Ferris’ mother draped her arm over his shoulder as he left the foyer. “Gosh, you’re old.”
She smiled, “I don’t think for long.”
“I don’t know what that means,” he said bluntly.
Their house, the house that guarded Mavenwood Circle, was dressed in oranges and browns. It was perfect for a quarter of the year, but stood out during the winter, spring, and summer seasons. Harriet Kemp, Ferris’ mother, loved autumn, she refused to call it fall. She had grown up in the town of Walton-Henry. It’s all she’d ever known. She knew at a young age that the Mavenwood house would be her own. It wasn’t breathtaking or beautiful, but it was Harriet Kemp.
“Did Elliston spoil your appetite or are you going to join me?” she asked.
Ferris clamped his teeth together and contorted his mouth. Harriet recognized the look; it’s one she’d passed down to him.
“Go call your friends,” she said, watching her son’s face instantly glow.
Ferris’ bedroom was on the second floor. He was halfway up the stairs before he bolted straight back down. He dug through his backpack. “I almost forgot.”
“The square dance?” Harriet asked.
“How’d you know?”
“Alvin likes to talk.”
He handed her the form Ms. Thirsby gave him after school. “It’s the 25th at nine in the morning. You can make it?” he asked.
She took away the second table setting and said, “Of course.”
Ferris hugged her using all of his young strength before heading again for the stairs.
Harriet shared dinner with no one.
A string of Christmas lights lined the floor against Ferris’ bedroom walls. He’d set them up three years prior, leaving them plugged in ever since. He cleared out his pockets, setting the seventh graders fireworks on his clothes drawer. The majority of his room was taken up by a California king size bed that had come with the house. He won the bed over his mother in a best two-out-of-three game of Rock, Paper, Scissors.
“Hi, Mr. Aberth. It’s Ferris Kemp. Is Alvin there?”
Mr. Aberth mumbled on the other line. Ferris would cross his fingers when calling Alvin that anyone but Mr. Aberth would answer. Anytime Alvin’s father would speak to the boys, his tone sounded nothing short of inconvenienced.
“Ferris, you need to come over here so we can choose.”
“Charlie?” Ferris asked.
Ferris shook his head. “Are you doing that Fonzie thing with your hands?”
“Aaayyy,” Charlie said, distorting the phone’s speaker.
“Is Nel over there?”
The clacking sound of a third telephone being taken of its hook rattled in the boys’ ears.
Charlie pulled back from the speaker. “He’s on his way.”
“Who’s on his way? Ferris, you’re on your way?” Alvin asked, joining the conversation.
“No. Nelson is.” Charlie sounded annoyed. “We need Ferris to come so we can choose.”
“Guys,” Ferris started, “I don’t know if I can. I was just out. I give you permission to choose this one time without me.”
Alvin nearly dropped the phone. “If ones not here... we must keep by law.”
“I take it you tipped your hat?” Ferris asked.
“He tipped his hat,” Charlie laughed.
“I already cleared it with your mom on the phone earlier.”
Ferris had hoped to spend some time with his mother. They’d missed several of their special end of the week breakfasts in the past month. The night before, they’d spoke about making fresh popped popcorn and watching a movie to make up for their missed time.
“She was really fine with it?” Ferris asked.
“So long as you could get a ride here,” Alvin affirmed.
“How am I going to do that?”
“Well, if my calculations are correct,” Alvin trailed.
Ferris’ door bell rang.
“Nelson should be there right now.”
Ferris said goodbye to his mother and joined Nelson in his older brother’s Geo Metro. Since the bug shaped car didn’t have a built-in radio, seventeen-year-old Wilson Deckard bought a state-of-the-art portable stereo and buckled it into the backseat. He always made it very clear whenever anyone entered his hatchback that they were not to touch his equalizer settings. They were especially never allowed to disengage his turbo bass.
It was a short ride; the Aberth’s property edges right within boundaries of the town’s bus pickup zoning. Ferris and Nelson were greeted by their friends before they reached the door.
“Let’s head straight back to Lions Rest,” Charlie said with built up energy.
Behind the Aberth’s, tucked several trees back, sat a small wooden room, made from the lumber of fallen power lines, called Lions Rest. Each wall was painted by one of the four boys. Charlie’s wall was decorated with images of a meager army storming a shadowy castle. Alvin’s was divided down the middle like an open book; one half featured a faux pre-English script and the other, a man on a buffalo. A bow and shield spread across Nelson’s wall. Lastly, Ferris’ held a single nightingale; he’d say that no matter when you would look at it, it would always be mid-song.
Directly in the middle of the back wood lodge was a thick tree stump topped with a thinly stretched elk hide, known as the Table Wombwell. Four chairs surrounded the Table Wombwell. Each boy sat with his back to his respective wall painting. The Table Wombwell was home to a collection of loose papers, the size of a phonebook, held in a pillowcase.
“It’s been way too long. It’s time to choose,” Charlie said. “What do you guys got?”
“What do you guys got?” Alvin frowned at the question. He placed a hand near the pillowcase. “That’s not how we do it. By law--”
“By law,” Charlie interrupted, “takes so long.”
Ferris and Nelson looked at each other, silently weighing the odds. Similar squabbles had been seen many times before at Lions Rest. Charlie was known to make large stands against their laws. It was written that majority could suspend the pillowcase contents for a brief period of time, an evening. It was a law Alvin wished he’d never helped co-write. If Charlie lost the vote he would usually keep quiet. Alvin however would spend the entire night trying to convince the rest back to order.
Nelson stood. “Tonight’s choice will be by law.”
“Aye, aye,” Charlie grimaced.
Alvin sorted through the loose papers; they ranged in size and age, the smallest and oldest being a Fruit Stripe gum wrapper from the second grade with the words ‘Lions Rest for four friends only’ written on it.
“It’s been two months and twelve days since our last mission, scaling the fire watchtower,” Alvin said, looking at his handwriting.
Nelson groaned, “I still have blisters.”
“That was so stupid,” Ferris laughed. “We could’ve died.”
“Some could argue that-” Alvin started before being interrupted.
“Are you kidding?” Charlie asked. “It was awesome.”
“You’re only saying that ‘cause it was your idea,” Nelson argued.
“My ideas work.”
Ferris admitted, “They do.”
“Ferris, you have to sit this one out,” Alvin said, picking up his head from the papers.
“Didn’t I last time?”
Alvin deferred to their written history. “It looks like you suggested midnight rafting.”
“Oh yeah,” Ferris said. “I’m glad you voted that down. That would’ve been stupid.”
Charlie coughed. “Ferris, do the honors.”
After clearing his throat, Ferris let his voice soar with a medieval affect, “The Court - of Table Wombwell - at Lions Rest - shall proceed - in sympathy - with one another’s - company.” Ferris’ eyes circled the table. “Tonight, the first to lay their option on the table is,” he paused for dramatic effect.
“Come on!” Charlie hassled.
“Charlie; for his cunning mind,” Ferris said, regarding their after lunch capade.
The boy in front of the meager painted army jumped out of his seat. He faced the wall. His head moved from the top of the dark castle to its low kept moat. Charlie turned to his friends. “We go under the city.”
“That’s a myth,” Ferris said.
“Ah ah,” Alvin cut in. “You can’t contribute, only listen.”
“It’s not a myth.” Charlie had his left knee on his chair. “There’s an underground tunnel system. Nelson’s brother told us.”
“Wilson said there might be some stuff. But be honest, you wouldn’t go down there if there was,” Nelson prodded.
“I would and I’ll prove it. Ferris, just go with me.”
“That’s it? That’s your sell?” Ferris asked.
Charlie hopped onto his chair, “What more of a sell does there need to be? There is a tunnel system, practically another city underneath our city!”
“Allegedly,” Alvin rang, “and to be fair, we are a town, not a city.”
“Ferris,” Charlie said atop his chair, “think about it.”
The boy out turned to another, “Alvin?”
“Mine may not be as exciting, but what if we went into the theater before closing and slipped into the projection room? After everyone left we could watch whatever movie we wanted. Aladdin is coming out soon, Dracula, and something called The Crying Game. I’m sure there’ll be others. Candyman still might be out.”
Nelson walked around the table to Ferris and handed him a folded sheet of paper. “I stole this from Wilson’s room.”
Ferris unfolded the paper. It was a flyer from the high school. 11/24/92 sprawled across the header.
“A traveling carnival is coming,” Nelson proclaimed. “It’s for high school students only and it’s because of that that I say we sneak in.” Nelson wasn’t one to mince words. “This town, or the town underneath it, isn’t going anywhere. The theater isn’t going anywhere. This carnival, this traveling carnival, is once in a lifetime.”
Ferris considered the options. “Let’s choose,” he said, eyeing the room. “Nelson?”
The broad boy spoke with the confidence of a master archer, “Carnival.”
“Theater,” he said, matching the might of the painted Buffalo over his shoulder.
“How is it even a question?” Charlie asked. He pointed to the castle covering his wall, lowering his hand towards the ground and said, “City. Underneath. City.”
“Town,” Alvin said under his breath. “What’s your say, Ferris?”
“They’re all great. We could do them all.”
“That’s not how it works,” Alvin shot. “If we get caught once, we’re done for good.”
Nelson’s brow perked, “It’s once in a lifetime.”
“Ferris?” Charlie asked.
He answered with a twinkle in his eye, his words effortlessly flowing, as if he were mid song, “Cinema raid.”