Chapter 3, Settling-in


The furniture movers finished their work and departed. Mom and Dad were sitting on the floor with dazed looks on their faces. They were glad this part was done, but they weren’t ready to tackle the putting-away. 

Dad asked Mom, “Shall I bring in food or do you want to go out for dinner?’” 

Mom was bleary-eyed from all the packing and driving they had done the last few days. 

She gave him a relieved look and said, “I’m not cooking for the next three days; at least not until I find the coffee maker.” Then she said, 
“I would rather sit for a while and have someone else bring food to me, but I will go out if necessary.” 

There were several restaurants within walking distance of their new home, They found a sandwich/ice cream shop a couple of blocks away. Dad, the organizer, had everyone trained. He didn’t step up to the counter to order... until everyone knew what they wanted. 

“No sense in wasting the counter-clerks' time, waiting for us to decide. They could be waiting on other customers or doing other things.” 

They ordered, then took their food to a table outside to eat. 

They noticed a paved trail near the shop. Sophie asked “Why is that little road going through this part of town? 
It’s awfully narrow for cars. Is it for golf carts? Where is the golf course then?” 

An older couple at the next table chuckled and asked if they were from out of town. 
The Cadwells introduced themselves and told them that the little road was part of the Raccoon River Valley Trail, 
now for bikes, built on an abandoned railroad line. It runs from Des Moines up to Jefferson City, Iowa. It went west or northwest from Des Moines on two different paths, passing through several towns along the way. 
The bike trail was about 90 miles long, all tolled. 

Sophie’s dad introduced the family and told the couple they had just moved into the Stricklund Building on the south side of the square. 

Mr. Cadwell’s eyes lit up and asked “Did you know that building used to be the Sheriff’s office and county jail?” 

Sophie’s dad said they knew that, just as Sophie’s mom spilled her drink. 

Then Mr. Cadwell asked, “Have you found the tunnel that used to go to the courthouse?” 

Sophie’s parents didn’t hear Mr. Cadwell because they were distracted by the spilled drink. 
Neither did Sophie, but Parker heard it. 

He jumped over to the Cadwell’s table and asked, “What do you mean tunnel? There is a tunnel?” 

“As I said, Son, that building that used to be the sheriff’s home and the county jail. 
At one time, there was a tunnel from it to the courthouse.” Mr. Cadwell stated. 

“It was closed up at some point, but there are still a lot of rumors about it. Not likely to hold anything valuable since it was an inmate passageway, but interesting nonetheless. 

Parker quietly asked, “Where did the tunnel go to in the courthouse?” 

Mr. Cadwell said, “It went from the basement of the Stricklund building, over to the courthouse, then up some stairs into little holding room off the main courtroom, Room 300. But then that little room was remodeled into a storage area for files, as I remember being told. So I reckon the entrance disappeared. I heard the other end was bricked up about that time too.” He said. 

Parker thanked him and then went back to their table where Sophie was giving him a quizzical look, and asked him what they were talking about. Parker said that Mr. Cadwell just talked a little more about the Strickland building. 

Dad brought Mom her new drink and she finally quit blushing from embarrassment. 
“My first public appearance in town and I spill my drink for all to see.” She moaned. 

Dad replied, “If that’s the worst thing we do here, we will be considered upstanding citizens.” 

They finished dinner and walked home and went in the front stairs door, which they hadn’t tried yet since taking possession. It unlocked and opened well, even though the stairs had a creak to them. Mom said she was trying to decide whether to unpack the dishes or lay down on the kitchen counter and sleep until next Thursday. 

Dad said he would make the bed and gave the kids the job of making up their mattresses in the living room. They would sleep there for a couple of nights. 

Sophie put her mattress next to the window and said, “I want to hear the cars at night and see the big clock in the courthouse tower.” 

Parker grunted and put his mattress next to the fireplace to listen for any critters that might be in the chimney. 

When Sophie’s dad heard of his plan, he told Parker, ”Don’t tell your aunt or it will spook her." 

"Speaking of critters, I know you wanted to see my dad’s alligator.” He dug into a carton, opened a small box and there was a real, stuffed baby alligator that his grandfather bought his father, in the 1960s, from Florida, back when they made those kinds of souvenirs. Parker and Sophie both touched it and saw the teeth. Dad then put it away, because Sophie’s mom didn’t like it. Sophie’s parents went to bed early that night, exhausted from the move. 

The kids lay there chattering at each other. Or should I say, Sophie chattered at Parker? 
Sophie had a thought: “Y’know, we learned in science how sunlight is called photons and they travel to earth and make plants grow?” 

“Yep.” Said Parker, “and…” 

Sophie would weasel into a conversation by asking questions and Parker had to play along to be polite. 
He didn’t understand why she took so long speak her mind. 

“Now then.” Sophie continued, “Last week I just saw a program on space and saw the lights on earth showing up in the night sky.” 

“Annnnnnd…” repeated Parker. 

“AND, sunlight, which are photons, make plants grow. “And… old photons made the plants, which fed the dinosaurs, 
long ago. Those plants and dinosaurs turned into coal or became oil. Now the coal and oil are used to make electricity, which made the lights I saw on the space program. The photons that made the oil and coal have once again become photons. I didn’t get to see them when they left the sun, but I got to see them last week. Talk about time-travel, eh?” 

“Wow. I never thought of that.” said Parker. "I guess you do have a brain." 

"I also have a throwing arm, Buster!" said Sophie, as she winged her pillow at him. 

Parker laid down and mused about the tunnel and what might be there. Even if it was empty, it would make a great hidden playroom, unless there were big critters living in it. He drifted off to sleep with Sophie still chattering about the day’s events. He would tell Sophie tomorrow what Mr. Cadwell told him. He didn't know about the nightmare that would visit him that night; the one with the alligators... 

So, shall we go back and visit Barton again? 

Eric J. Rose
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photo: adelia.org
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