piano

Photo illustration by Pixabay.com

Editor's Note: This is an ongoing series which runs each Thursday morning titled the Richland Chronicles Volume 5, by author Paul Lintern. It is set in the 1860s and tells the story of Richland County through the eyes of young people. This is the fifth in a series. Volume I was Amelia Changes Her Tune. Volume II was Isaac and Wolf Paw Find Their Home. Volume III was Autumn Keeps Her Secret. Volume IV was Mr. Gamble Starts a School.

"Why did you have to tell everything?"

"What?"

"Back in the class. Why did you have to tell my story?"

"Your story? He's my uncle, too."

"Yeah, but you'd already told everyone about Uncle Sam and the books. Abe Lincoln was my story."

"But you weren't going to tell it right."

"How did you know?"

"Because I'm your sister, been that way since birth, remember?"

“So what if I wasn't going to tell it as good as you…”

"Well."

"What?"

"As well as me. You weren't going to tell it as well as me."

"Who cares? It would have been all well and good if you had just let me say it my way."

"Don't get so huffy."

"So now I can't even do that?"

"Look, twin brother. We each do things better than the other. It just happens that I do more things better than you."

"What? Are you making a list?"

"Well, I speak better, sing better, read better, cook better, run faster, am taller, tell stories better, work with animals better, stay cleaner, write nicer, memorize poetry better, remember grocery lists better, remember what Mama says better, talk my way out of punishment better, and swim better."

"Oh yeah, what do I do better?"

"You climb trees."

Jacob could feel his face getting warm. What made him so mad was that Cassie was right. He had a great urge to hit her, but he knew that he wasn't allowed to hit a girl, especially her. 

He knew that from experience, because his backside still stung whenever he thought about the one time he did hit Cassie, a few years ago, and Papa found out.

It's just not fair, Jacob thought. It's not fair that I can't hit her because I bet I would be better at that. And it's not fair that she is better at everything else.

It made him want to climb his tree and blow his horn. She'd probably be better at blowing the horn, too, if she wanted to try, he thought.

The two of them usually did not walk home together, even though it was only three blocks down Mulberry from First Street, where the school was. Typically, each was with their own group of friends, but this was Wednesday, and they were to walk together to the studio apartment of Miss Cole above the Costin grocery store, for piano lessons.

I'm surprised she didn't add piano playing to her list of things she does better, Jacob thought.

"Oh, and I also play the piano better," Cassie said.

I will not hit her. I will not hit her.  I will not hit her.

They had walked past the fire house, hardly noticing the dapple gray horses lined up in their stalls right in front of the fire wagons. They turned the corner onto Market Street and barely glanced in the window of Mr. Avery's store, where the city's best selection of candy was displayed. 

They turned left down Main Street and virtually ignored the offerings of Mr. Sturges and his fine new books and stationary.

Jacob was too mad and Cassie was reveling too much in her victory to notice the aroma of freshly roasted peanuts and newly cooked vegetable soup wafting from several establishments preparing for those walking home from work in the next couple of hours.

They just quietly walked up the stairs beside the Costin grocery there at Third and Main and opened the door to Miss Cole's apartment without knocking, as she was still teaching the previous student, a beginner from the east side of town.

"At least I play better than that girl," Jacob thought. "Of course, I've been at it twice as long."

And he sat down on the dark green horsehair sofa, slouched back as a defeated 10-year-old.

"Oh, don't be such a skunk tail," Cassie said. "You're not bad at everything, you're just not as good as I am."

Jacob just moved his eyes toward Cassie, without moving his head. He breathed in slowly and out slowly, as his father had taught him, and chose not to say what he was thinking.

"Once the words are spoken, you won't fix what is broken," his father would say.

Jacob did not have to resist speaking for long, as soon the little girl finished her lesson and came out of the music room and through the sitting room. She smiled at Cassie and shyly looked at Jacob, walking out with an older sister who had been in the lesson with her.

"Well, hello twins. Don't you look chipper today," Miss Cole said.

Chipped is more like it, Jacob thought as he got up to walk in. He always went first, not knowing that Miss Cole generally saved the best for last.

The lessons went as lessons usually did, with Jacob stretching the truth about how much he had actually practiced and Miss Cole giving him an admonition to be more persistent in his efforts. Then he listened to Cassie play her lessons flawlessly and heard Miss Cole congratulate her on a fine lesson as they stepped out of the music room.

It did not occur to Jacob that the fact that Cassie practiced twice as much as he did probably contributed to her success. He just couldn't wait to get out of there and head home.

"Remember we have to stop and get groceries from Mr. Costin," Cassie said.

Jacob perked up. He had forgotten, but was glad to have a reason to go into their store, directly below Miss Cole’s. The Costin brothers were only a couple of years older than the Zimmerman brothers, but already they were running their own grocery store, taking over for their parents when Mr. Costin died suddenly a few years back.

They were smart and ambitious and always friendly, especially with kids who were running errands for their parents.  Jacob especially liked John, who seemed to know when Jacob was coming.

"Hello there, Jake. Are you on leave from Camp Buckingham?" John asked.

"Yes sir, I am. Have to gather supplies for the troops. I'll take 3,000 ears of corn, and 1,000 pounds of potatoes," Jacob said.

"Shall I have them delivered or will you be carrying them to camp yourself?"

"I'll take it myself, without a doubt," Jacob said.

"Would you like any salt with that."

"Maybe a couple hundred pounds."

They continued their banter while Cassie handed Mama's list to John's brother Tim, the more task-oriented of the Costins, who quietly gathered a sackful of items and dutifully recorded the list in his account book.

"Thank Captain Harker for the order," John said as the twins headed out. "And rally 'round the flag."

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