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The Vacation - Professor Pimbleton’s Yard Sale


Laura is lying in bed, wearing pajamas; she stared into the screen of her laptop. It was awkward to type in this position, and she often inadvertently hit the wrong key. When she did it this time a banner showed up and flashed on the screen. ‘Professor Pimbleton’s Yard Sale.’ Below the banner it invited her to click to enter.

Laura lifted her hand, touching her lip with the fingernail of her index finger. She scanned the screen for a way to back out of wherever her typo had led her. But she saw none. She hesitated, then accepted the invitation.

A moment later she was standing in a driveway with tables running the length of both sides. She was still in her pjs. The neighborhood was not familiar. She glanced at the table directly in front of her. There was a hand written card folded like a pup tent, next to what was a whale-skin pouch with a drawstring. The card said, Queequeg’s runes. She looked around. Across the driveway were tables stacked with old books.

On the table next to the whale-skin pouch was a teak and mahogany chessboard. There was one chess piece, a hand carved knight. The card stated ‘A Persian Night.’

An engraved envelope lay there. The folded card read, Dignitary Invitation. On the card the words, Seventieth Birthday Celebration, Hosted by the New England Society honoring Mark Twain, City of New York at Delmonico’s November 26, 1905. Formal attire.

A stack of yellowed paper sat there. It was the last thing on the table. The paper was tied together with faded gold ribbon. Laura bent closer to read the title. Maria Brontë’s Children below that a hand drawn tattered lace Florentine Flourish. Beneath the drawing, Maria’s bold signature.

Laura’s heart was pounding. She turned trying to see a path back to her computer. She studied the table in front of her. She glanced across at the books on the table on the far side of the drive. It was then that she saw a man who was wearing brown corduroy trousers, an unkempt white shirt, and a checkered vest with worn corduroy suit jacket, all of which had been out of style for decades.

“You have to decide,” said Professor Pimbleton, while using his shirt tail to clean off his glasses.

“Decide,” Laura said, barely audibly.

“An adventure. A destination. Intrigue, or danger, or thrilling or life changing. You have to decide. Stay where you are or fly away.” He did not budge from his seat. “The hour is getting late.”

Laura thought of salty sea spray in her face, and the bones that predicted death. She thought of creaking timbers of an old whaler at sea and the freedom offered in the midst of the vast ocean. The strain of her muscles as she climbed through the rigging intrigued her. She looked at the yellowing papers and thought of all the secrets it must hold and the telling of the journeys her daughters took in their efforts to create. She was flooded with the Victorian landscape, with its archaic ideals and social class struggles. Then a wry smile came to her face, wondering the meaning of the knight errant or white steed and the suggestion of a Persian night. Visions of date palms, and lazy times for romance and passions flooded her imagination. Her mind was filled with exotic sights and sounds and shadows.

She reached over and picked up the card engraved, ‘Dignitary Invitation.’ A moment later, she was standing next to a younger, more handsome version of Professor Pimbleton. He wore black tail and ties, and patent leather shoes. He tugged at the starched cummerbund and slid his index finger around the collar to adjust it.

Her metallic brocade evening gown showed her bare back. Every strand of her auburn hair was in place and piled high on her head. Her right hand went to the necklace around her neck. She let her gloved fingers drift down the deep red garnets sparkling in contrast to her pale skin. She lifted the hem of her gown to view beaded satin slippers.

As the maître d' led them to their table, Laura admired the Spode Gloucester English bone china. The sparkling crystal goblets caught her eye. The weighty silver utensils were placed just so. General conversation and subtle laughter abound in the dining area as the guests began to arrive and were shown to their seats. They were the first to arrive at their table.

As he pulled her chair out for her, Professor Pimbleton asked, ‘How do you like your adventure so far?”

“This is such a grand room. There is elegance everywhere I turn.” She glanced at the name place holders. “Look, Rudyard Kipling! We are seated with Rudyard Kipling.” She suddenly stood up, “Who else is at our table?” She circled the table looking at the names. “George B. McClellan Jr. is seated here. Where do I know that name from?”

“Where indeed?” answered Pem. “Theodore Roosevelt just walked in with his friend Endicott ‘Cotty’ Peabody founder of Groton School.”

Laura looked around, “Who else is here?” She waited for Pem to point out other famous people.

A troop of waiters marched through the kitchen doors, pushing carts with trays of food and carrying trays of ambrosia. A flood of luxurious smells followed, including Lobster Newburg and fresh ground coffees from the fields in Ethiopia.

Laura and Pem's table filled. They introduced themselves and friendly banter began. Rudyard Kipling was taken by Laura’s beauty and said she inspired a poem that he would write immediately after the evening's festivities.

The Governor and Kipling talked about the social issues that India endured and what could be done to bring about change. Pem listened, amused at how little ground had been gained. Laura reached over and took his hand. She was fully engaged in the conversation, the surroundings, the food and drink and wanted to make sure she did not float away.

“Cotty” Peabody turned to Laura and began telling her about a play he recently saw called The Burglar and the Lady. “The screenwriter must have broken all the rules, as he pitted Sherlock Holmes against A. J. Raffles, two fictional characters by two different authors. Doyle and Hornung must be furious, if they have even heard of the play.”

A waiter placed two hefty Lobster Newburg on Laura’s plate as another filled her glass with wine that matched the color of the garnets around her neck. Another waiter followed with coffee that dwarfed the other fragrances in the air.

The sound of laughter would spring up here and there from different tables as the gathering ate, drank and made merry. Soon the army of waiters came and cleared the dinner plates and began serving the desserts worthy of the Delmonico’s name. Even though it was November, Laura enjoyed her multi flavored ice cream with coffee puffs, called Bombe panachee. Pem enjoyed the Baked Alaska.

A maître d' approached their table and leaned down and whispered to George B. McClellan Jr. “Excuse me,” he said while standing. “I need to go and make an introduction.”

Many chairs were turned toward the main table at the north end of the room. “Ladies and gentlemen, distinguished guests, tonight we are gathered here to honor one of our national treasures. He has made us laugh and made us think about who we are. Please give a hardy round of applause to the number one American man of letters, Samuel Clemens better known to us as Mark Twain."

The crowd stood and applauded as he approached the podium.


This Magic Moment - Jay and the Americans

Carly Simon - Coming Around Again

© 2018 mckbirdbks


mckbirdbks (author) from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas on August 15, 2018:

Hello Shauna - Thanks. Just putting down another flight of fantasy. Glad you enjoyed this little story. I have 'kicked off' several sort story concepts, but nothing seems to keep my imagination sparkled. Thanks for the visit. Hope you are managing to stay cool, this long hot summer.

Shauna L Bowling from Central Florida on August 15, 2018:

What a cool story, Mike! It would be awesome to be transported to a different time and place just by holding a significant memento. Although Laura doesn't yet know how to return to her laptop, I'm sure right now that's the last thing on her mind. She's meeting Mark Twain and living the high life!

mckbirdbks (author) from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas on March 12, 2018:

Hello Nikki Khan - Thank you. How very nice of you to say.

Nikki Khan from London on March 12, 2018:

Nice story Mike, very well told.

Had much fun reading it.

mckbirdbks (author) from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas on March 10, 2018:

Hello Jack - Thank you. 'The Vacation' is another project trying to become a series. Glad you liked it.

jgshorebird on March 10, 2018:

Classy and elegant. Well told. I feel like I'm there. High Caliber.

mckbirdbks (author) from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas on March 07, 2018:

Hello Patty - I have not read the Stuart Kaminsky mystery "Never Cross a Vampire"? it sounds like a lot of fun and a very clever concept. The title is classic. I will have to look for a copy. Thanks.

Patty Inglish MS from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation on March 07, 2018:

Aha! Have you read the Stuart Kaminsky mystery "Never Cross a Vampire"? It features Bela Lugosi helping a California detective to unravel a frame-up against the Dracula actor. Quite a lot of fun.

mckbirdbks (author) from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas on March 07, 2018:

Hello Patty - Thank you. It does look like an interesting yard sale. As for TV, I will have to begin writing about vampires to get their attention. Maybe a vampire detective, that only wants to get the victims to the morgue and bring them back to life and the vampire and the victim, go after the murderer. Yikes. A hit show.

Patty Inglish MS from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation on March 07, 2018:

I'd like to visit that driveway during the sale. I must say I don't know why some TV network has not decided to put some of your stories on the air. I suppose you need an gent that charges too much money...

The Burglar and the Lady is a fine play, nut I've only read it and never seen it. Thanks for an entertaining article.

mckbirdbks (author) from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas on March 06, 2018:

Hello Ruby my friend - So nice to see you. Glad you enjoyed this little tale of whimsy and mirth. Hope all is well with you and you are enjoying your travels. hugs

Ruby Jean Richert from Southern Illinois on March 06, 2018:

Oh, I love yard sales! and I love this tale. Your writing knows no boundaries and your imagination grows stronger as time marches on. I could actually see the beautiful décor and wanted to taste the delightful food and wear the clothing just once!!!! So nice to see you writing a whimsical piece again....

mckbirdbks (author) from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas on March 04, 2018:

Hello Paula - Welcome to Professor Pimbleton's yard sale. Look around, select your adventure and be whisked away. Thanks for the visit to this work of whimsy, where glamour and food prepared by true chefs mingle with fantasy. Thanks for the peaceful Sunday wishes.

Suzie from Carson City on March 04, 2018:

Hello Mike~~I want to be transported to this lovely, fascinating place & time. Especially for the elegant fashions & way of life~ "prom night," everyday!

Love your story & both songs you chose, Mr. F. Have a peaceful Sunday. Paula

Verlie Burroughs from Canada on March 03, 2018:

Mike, I've been publishing poems on a new site. You can find the link on my profile page. May bring some back later maybe.

mckbirdbks (author) from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas on March 03, 2018:

Hello Verlie - You are very kind. I am glad you enjoyed this small contribution to Hubpages. Waiting to read your latest poetic genius.

mckbirdbks (author) from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas on March 03, 2018:

Thank you, Peg. There are now two ‘The Vacation’ stories, each ends with the beginning of the vacation. I cannot explain why. It would be fun to try an imitate a speech given by Mark Twain. That would certainly be a challenge. Thanks for the visit. Your story is moving along at a nice pace; time for me to try and catch up.

Verlie Burroughs from Canada on March 03, 2018:

Beautiful write Mike, you are a poetic genius.

Peg Cole from Northeast of Dallas, Texas on March 03, 2018:

Oh, to be transported to an elegant time such as this one. The detailed way you've described everything from the decor to beaded satin slippers makes it all come alive. I would love to hear what Mark Twain had to say on that fine evening. So wonderful to find a story from you today!

mckbirdbks (author) from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas on March 03, 2018:

Hello Genna - You describe quite a storm. Watching a school of florescent creatures, is such an imaginative way to visualize the event. I have been hearing about west coast storms. We are cold and gray and getting some rain. West of here had hard rain all day yesterday as described by my brother as he drove home in a storm. Thank you for the well wishes. All of us must stay safe as possible.

Genna East from Massachusetts, USA on March 03, 2018:

Hi Mike...

Yes, the east and coastal regions haven't had a good time of it lately with bomb cyclone, Riley. My best wishes to Mar and others who were in the storm's path. We were lucky in that we didn't lose power or suffer significant damage. But we had some major winds for quite a while, with gusts strong enough to topple a tractor trailer on one of our bridges. It rained, non-stop, all day and well into the night before turning into a beautiful mixture of snow and rain. I've never seen snow like that under the flood lights at night: Slender white streams, changing shape like chameleons, while diving and tumbling on the wind. It was as if you were watching a school of florescent creatures, darting to and fro, in the ocean depths.

I hear severe storms are also slated to hit the west coast and Northern Plains. Stay safe, everyone.

mckbirdbks (author) from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas on March 03, 2018:

Hello mar - Thank you. Now I am wondering who many stories I have woven together. Cinderella, surely. Ha But no mice for horses, or coachmen, I forget.

That storm sounds horrible. Glad 'most' of the trees survived. Sounds like a back story there somewhere.

One of the songs is featured on the '60's Music Revolution' I have been spending a lot of time with that collection.

Maria Jordan from Jeffersonville PA on March 03, 2018:

From pajamas to a metallic brocade evening gown, I felt as though I was on Laura's adventure with Pem every step of the way - "This Magic Moment" indeed.

What a perfect story to escape the perfect storm that landed in our parts yesterday. The winds are fading and 'most' of the trees survived.

Listening to your lovely musical choices now. Hugs, Maria

mckbirdbks (author) from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas on March 03, 2018:

Hi Bill - Thank you. I am learning as I go. I guess we all are doing that very thing. I do think most of us are unfairly training ourselves to write 1250 word stories. That is a box that we all have to work on to break out.

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on March 03, 2018:

You tell a story as well as any out there today. You set the scene perfectly; your characters are always engaging; and your readers are left a bit sad when the story ends, so great is their desire for more. You, my friend, are a true pro!

mckbirdbks (author) from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas on March 03, 2018:

Hello Ann - Thank you. My hubpages have been bare lately. It has been tough to get a lighthearted story together. But with a bit of homework I was able to assemble this small tale of adventure. Mark Twain holds a high position in my reading. Seems to me those that travel to the far off land of hubpages are lifted out of their chairs and carried off to adventure on a regular basis.

mckbirdbks (author) from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas on March 03, 2018:

Hello Genna – Thank you. It would certainly have been a highlight of the literary crowd to attend an event where dignitaries gathered to honor Mark Twain. Laura could have selected the adventure at sea, or being added as a character in Wuthering Heights or Jane Eyre. She could have sought romance in an exotic land. But no lover of words could pass up an evening at Delmonico’s. I was surprised how many facts I had to go track down as this story progressed.

I enjoyed hunting for the music. Thank you and stay warm and dry I hear the East coast is having a tough time.

Ann Carr from SW England on March 03, 2018:

How I have missed your stories lately, Mike! This is stupendous. I was there at the table, looking around at the assembled company. I love Mark Twain, such a wit and a fine observer of life.

Will return to more when I'm back home next week. Maybe my computer will take me somewhere!


mckbirdbks (author) from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas on March 03, 2018:

Hello Shy -Yes, or choices can be scary. Having someone shut down the computer is down right frightening. ha Thanks for the visit, and I and glad you found the story entertaining. That is the goal. I have not felt much like writing this year. And I thank you for the blessings.

mckbirdbks (author) from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas on March 03, 2018:

Hello John - Kipling is underrated. Mark Twain is also one of my favorites. He just knew how to tell a story that captured the reader and would not let go.

mckbirdbks (author) from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas on March 03, 2018:

Hello Becky - It does a person good to have special days, or events. Gives them something to think about on the rainy days. Thanks for the visit.

Genna East from Massachusetts, USA on March 03, 2018:

What a wonderful story, Mike! I loved this. Laura's choices in deciding where to go in the journey of time, with so many stories to choose from at the yard sale wherein the tables were with laden books and stories-- from Queequeg's bones that "tell everything" to the adventures of Jane Eyre and her sisters of the mind. "Her mind was filled with exotic sights and sounds and shadows..."

Attending a fete to honor Mark Twain, with Lobster Newburg, and Kipling and others in attendance -- who could ask for more? Can you send me that link? :-) I love the way you write. And the music is perfect.

Shyron E Shenko from Texas on March 02, 2018:

Wow Mike, how computers have advanced, if I could go back in time and through my own computer, but my fear is someone would turn it off while I was visiting the past and I would get stuck there.

Entertaining and well worth the read.

Blessings my friend.

John Hansen from Queensland Australia on March 02, 2018:

What an amazing tale, Mike. Two of my favourite authors featured as well, Mark Twain and Rudyard Kipling. Great work.

Becky Katz from Hereford, AZ on March 02, 2018:

I am going to heartily endorse this story. Loved it. A little elegance goes such a long way. I still remember going out in full formal when I was young.

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