Happy Holidays Readers! ! Here is our annual Musea Christmas Story. Take a rest from your busy schedule and find out what the Candle and Icicle Spell is all about. Musea hopes these holidays SHINE BRIGHT for you. Till next year - Tom.
CANDLE AND ICICLE
Lines / etched into his palm/ like a tattoo/ inked at birth.
This story opens on a somewhat isolated 2 story farmhouse in December. It's twilight but the house is totally dark inside. Outside it's cold.
Sandy entered through the front door and stomped off the snow on her feet onto the door mat. "Where is everyone?"
"We're in here honey, around the fireplace. Sandy, trailed her hand along the dark wall and found her way down the entrance hall and into the living room. There was a fire in the fireplace, and a few candles burning on the coffee table in front of the couch.
Sandy. "Power's out all over Dad. Every house I passed from Janey's to here was out.
Dad (Keith). "Your mom called the power company. They say it'll probably be out till morning. Were the Henderson's house out too?
Sandy. "Yeah. Janey's parents said I could stay overnight, but I wanted to get back home. I've got some homework for tomorrow.
Mom (Reah). I'm glad you did honey. We were worried about you. Are you hungry?
Sandy. "Uh huh."
Mom. "I'll fix you a sandwich. We've already eaten...."
Todd. Except for desert!
Dad. "We have to eat all the ice cream before it melts! ... That is unless the power comes back on."
When Mom went to fix the food, the talking among the three left in the room, slowed down, then stopped. Todd went back to reading his sci-fi book by flashlight. Sandy wondered what would happen if they cancelled school tomorrow. Then she began thinking about Janey's boyfriend. She didn't like him much. And Keith worried about how to take care of his family if the storm got worse and the power didn't come back on.
* * *
Reah came back into the living room, handed a plate of food and ice tea to Sandy, wiped her hands on her apron, and sat back down next to Keith on the couch.
While Sandy was eating, she casually mentioned that at school they were reading Chaucer's The Canterbury Tales and she was finding it hard to understand. Reah said that she too had had trouble with those stories when she was in school. But she liked the idea of telling stories. Then she suggested that each one in the family tell a tale like Chaucer's pilgrims did, to pass the time. All agreed. Sandy and her younger brother huddled in secret and whispered back and forth.
Dad. "Who's first?
Todd. "We'll .... I'll go first.
* * *
Todd's Story: There was an architect. He was the best architect in the world. Every building he built was another masterpiece. Everyone of them reached taller and taller into the sky, and scraped the clouds. He was hired by the biggest company in the world, MegloCo, to build the largest building ever. He worked for 3 years on the blueprints and had the plans so exact that he even knew EXACTLY how many red bricks they'd need. They broke ground, and began building. Ten years later it was finished. BUT there was one brick left. What do you think the architect did with that brick?..... He threw it away!
Dad (after a pause). That's it?
Keith. Yep, now Sandy's turn.
Sandy's Story: A man got on a train. He entered a car that had a young women all dressed up in the latest fashions. She had a big designer purse on the seat beside her and one of those toy dogs in her lap. He said 'hi' to her but she ignored him and kept fussing with the dog. He sat down and began to read his newspaper. Not long after, the dog began to get annoyed with his mistress teasing him. He began to yap. Then he growled. Then he nipped at her fingers as he yapped and growled. She found that funny and kept up the teasing. Finally the man, said, "Lady keep that dog quiet." She ignored him and went on tormenting the dog. The dog grew more and more loud and unruly. The man spoke again, "Lady keep that dog quiet, or I WILL!." She ignored him and the dog got more and more upset and barked and whined even louder. Finally, the angry man picked up the dog, opened the window and threw him out of the train!
When the train came to the next stop the woman went looking for her dog. Not but a minute later the dog came trotting up with something in his mouth. Can you guess what it was? ... The BRICK! (Everyone laughed).
* * *
Dad: Oh I see. A two-parter. Very clever kids.
When the laughing and comments stopped Keith said,
Now Reah, do you have a story?"
Mom: No, I'm terrible at telling stories. And I can't tell a joke either. Skip me and lets go to your father.
Sandy. OK Dad do you have one?
Dad. Yes I do but it's a little bit long, so everyone sit back and get ready to listen. I need a little time to get all the parts right...
The family waited. A few minutes later the father began his story.
* * *
Keith's Story: My story is a little more serious. And even more so because it is based on the truth. It's just the thing for a cold dark December night like tonight.
Todd: Is it a ghost story?
Keith: No, but it is scary in a different sort of way. It was told to me by my grandfather, Oscar, when I was about your age Todd. It's really his story from when he was a boy before the turn of the last century.
While Keith was talking, he saw snow beginning to drift across the window. Little white flakes in a deepening blue sky.
Keith: Grandfather grew up in Minnesota and it was cold there, colder than here, and even colder than most of Norway where his family came from. The story really starts with his father, or my great grandfather, George. When he was a young man he was trying to decide between working on his father's farm or becoming a minister. He didn't much care to work, and farm work was hard, so he went to divinity school to be a minister. There he met a beautiful young woman named Helen. They fell in love and not 6 months later they got married.
Sandy. How old were they?
Mom. Much older than you!
Keith. Where was I... Oh yeah... They began to have children soon after. In those days couples had many more children than today. Times were hard and many children didn't live as long as they do today. Reverend George and Helen had SEVEN kids, but four died in early childhood. All of them from diseases that we can cure now. That left 3 kids alive. An older sister Grace, her younger brother Olaf, and a 2nd brother, the youngest brother, and my grandfather, Oscar.
One winter day, Grace came home from school, and her mom had bad news about her younger brother Olaf. He had been sick for a few days, and now he was getting worse. He couldn't go to school, and didn't even feel like playing baseball, or reading a book. Helen rung her hands with worry. What could they do. The doctor came to visit, and saw that Olaf had the same influenza that was going around the state. When Helen asked about Olaf, the Doctor shook his head and told her to have the entire family pray and wait. Then he took her aside and said in a more practical vein, ' also be sure to keep the other kids and dad away from Olaf, or they might catch it too.'
Grace and Oscar were close. And both the kids loved their sick brother Olaf. They shared things. When the two heard about Olaf, they slipped out of the house, and huddled together in their clubhouse, the chicken coop, to think what they could do to help save their sick brother.
The best they could think of was to ask advice from a widow woman, named Mrs Franks that lived down the lane. Her husband had owned the town's furniture store. He died from a heart attack when he was pretty young. Then she sold the business, invested the money, and retired to her house with a few indoor cats. She was kinda crazy, said my grandfather, but she also had POWERS.
I asked him 'what do you mean, 'powers'. She could read palms, and get messages from tea leaves. That sort of thing.
Grace and Oscar decided to go to Mrs. Franks and ask her help for their sick brother.
Her house, though to them it looked like a mansion, was a little run down and needed painting. The wind whistled through the rafters and gave off a kind of eerie low sound. They pulled the bell rope and waited. No answer. Then a little voice yelled, "Coming! and then 'Who is it?'.
Grace said, "It's the Arneson kids, Mrs. Franks."
She had a little trouble opening the door. It creaked then gave way. She had grey frizzy hair with purple berets stuck here and there, and was wearing a dark gray dress, over a white blouse, and a fluffy feathery shawl around her neck.
Mrs Franks said, "What's wrong? Helen need me?
Grace said, "No Ma'am, we wanted to talk to you about our sick brother Olaf."
Mrs Franks said, "Come on in so we can talk out of the draft."
* * *
Mrs Franks house was more upscale than they were used to. It was more a town home than a farm house. It had imprinted red velvet on the walls and that big dark wood furniture that people get from England. And overall there was a musty perfumey smell they weren't used to.
They sat down and told Mrs Franks about Olaf being sick. And asked if she could help somehow.
Mrs. Franks said, "Yes, I know, I've already visited Olaf, when you kids were in school. You love him don't you?" Both nodded their heads. She thought for awhile while keeping her eyes on the two kids, and then said, "Well there is one thing you can do. Sometimes it helps. It's a spell to help your brother live." (Both kids raised their eyebrows and looked at each other. Then they looked back at Mrs Franks and waited.)
"This is the 'Candle and Icicle' spell."
"Here's how it works. Go to a quiet room. Get a candle and two candle holders. Then find an icicle - and this is important - the icicle should be just as tall as the candle, and the same size around the middle as the candle. It'll be thinner at the top, and wider at the bottom. That's the way it should be. You may have to break off part of the icicle to get it just right. Now put the candle in one candle holder, and the icicle in the other. Fit it in there somehow and make them stick good. Then both of you say a prayer for Olaf, and light the candle. Then wait."
"If the candle is still lit when the icicle has completely turned to water, the spell has worked and Olaf's life will still burn brightly. He will recover and be well again. If the icicle is still ice, even a small part of it, when the candle goes out, then the spell did not work and his life's fire will be extinguished. He will not survive. The spell is about 99% accurate."
That night after their chores, Grace and Oscar asked their mom about Olaf's condition. Nothing had changed. It was the fourth day of his sickness. Grace and Oscar decided they would cast Mrs Franks' spell.
They got a candle and two candle holders and set them up on a table in the parlor about a foot apart. Then they put on their coats, went outside in the below freezing temperatures and found an icicle hanging from the roof that seemed to match their candle. They found where the icicle was the same size as the candle, and broke off the excess 4 inches above, and 4 inches below that point. Now both the candle and the icicle were about 8 inches high and the same width around the middle.
Then they fitted the candle into one candle holder and the icicle into the other. Grace lit a match and started the candle burning. Then they waited ... and waited.
Keith paused in his story. The room was quiet. The kids shuffled their sitting positions on the floor and waited.
* * *
Keith: The candle burned slowly with a steady light, that didn't flicker. But the icicle didn't change at all. It refused to melt even though it was much warmer inside the house then it was outside. The kids watched the two - their eyes going back and forth. Then 30 minutes later, Grace got an idea. She carefully pushed the candle and holder closer and closer to the icicle. The heat from the flame came closer and closer to the icicle. It began to warm up the icicle. The closer the heat got to the icicle the quicker it melted. Grace moved the candle till it's holder touched the icicle. There was a clink. The two candle holders touched. That was as close as they could get. Grace pulled back her hand. Oscar just smiled when he figured out what his sisters' plan was.
Soon the icicle began to melt. It melted quickly at the more narrow top, then slowed as it got nearer the bottom. After 30 minutes the candle was 7 inches tall, the icicle only 4 inches tall. After 45 minutes the candle was 4 inches tall, and the icicle was 2 inches tall. Time seemed to stop. But finally, with the candle about two inches high, the last of the ice turned to water and overflowed the holder. Grace stuck her finger in the candle holder to make sure it was all water and no ice. It was. Grace and Oscar gave out a yell and clapped their hands. Then they each smiled a big grin and gave a huge sigh of relief! The test proved that Oscar would recover.
Unknown to them, their sick brother Oscar was in the midst of a hard fitful night. He kept turning back and forth in bed, first with chills, then with fever. Toward the morning, night sweats overwhelmed him. He woke up in a bed of soaked sheets, but he had finally gotten a few hours of welcomed sleep. His fever had broken and he was hungry for the first time in a week. HIs mom fed him some thick oatmeal and he went back to sleep some more.
Days passed and he quickly regained his strength. He began reading. He went back to school, He played baseball again. He got well.
Was it the spell that was the final straw? Did the spell and that night's fever cure him?
Oscar said to me, that all those events happened 70 years ago, and he still didn't know. Neither did Grace. But he did know that he and his sister were still alive, AND so was his brother, Olaf!
Keith had finished his story. Todd clapped and Sandy and Mom joined in. The room relaxed from the tension of the story. Mom said it was time for some ice cream! She'd only have to throw it out anyway.
* * *
Ninety minutes later the power was still out but the room had changed. Dad suggested the kids sleep by the fire to stay warm. Todd got his sleeping bag and slept in it. Sandy got some spare sheets, pillows and blankets, and after putting up her long hair, curled up on the rug on the floor. Mom got some blankets for her and Keith to sleep on the couch and made up a bed. While everyone was getting things ready, dad got more wood for the fireplace and built up the fire for the night.
Finally the room settled down and the kids drifted off to sleep.
Reah: (whispering) Keith, wasn't your grandfather an alcoholic? Isn't he the one your mother wouldn't talk about? I never heard anyone in your family tell that story, let alone even talk about your grandfather, Oscar. Didn't he run off and leave his family behind when he had that affair with the neighbor lady?
Keith: Yes honey he was a character and scoundrel too, sad to say. But for some reason when he was around he loved me. He'd always have some treat from his pocket - some candy or something hiding in a shirt pocket just for me. And before he ran out on all of us, he really told me that story. He loved stories.... But his story, the true story, was not exactly the same as I told it. I cleaned it up a bit and put a better ending on it.
Reah: Well, the kids seem to be asleep. How about the real story? And whisper so they don't hear. I want to hear the true story.
Outside the window the sky was now pitch black with little clumps of icy snow clicking as they bounced off the window pane.
* * *
Keith: (2nd version). The basic facts are the same. But great grandfather George was a stern and unbendable minister. HIs kids were expected to be extra good because they were minister's kids. They were always being punished, no matter what they did. Turns out he drank too much and was forced by his church to retire early, before they defrocked him. But that didn't mean he stayed around the house much after that. He was always gone. He loved farm auctions and used them to stay away from the house. Or he'd go drinking. Sometimes for days.
Grandfather Oscar, Grace, and Olaf were indeed the only three surviving kids out of 10 in the family. And it is true that Olaf got sick. When it happened their mom became grief stricken and could hardly function seeing another of her children on his deathbed. When she tried to get up, she'd have another 'panic attack' and have to go back to bed. That meant it was up to Grace to not only take care of the household, and her mother, but nurse her sick brother. That was more work than any child should have had to do.
It is true that the kids were close to their brother. I've noticed that when children have poor parents they become closer to each other. Probably for protection. Anyway, Olaf's sickness made them sad for sure, but it also made them scared. They both worried that they were next. Why loose 5 children out of 7? Why not 6 or all 7?
There really was a Mrs Franks. But she was haughty and looked down on farmers as unwashed hicks. She was quite a character. She loved everything about the occult. The town would have branded her a witch, but she was too rich. So they put up with her weird behavior. And sometimes it was more than weird. Sometimes her predictions were so accurate they were spooky. The kids were all afraid of her and stayed away from her house.
* * *
This is where the story gets even more unusual. When any of Helen's children reached one year old she would take them to Mrs Franks for a 'reading'. She was the richest woman in town but she still charged the poor for doing it. It was like $5 a child, which was a LOT to farm families as you can imagine. None of them could afford paying that much for predictions for the future. But many did anyway. That's human nature I guess. When Helen took Grace for her reading, the child got a nice prognosis of a long life. Next came Olaf. When Helen took him for his reading, she sat down and waited for the news as Mrs Franks examined first the right and then the left palm of the child. Usually Mrs Franks would talk for 5 or 10 minutes about the child's future - what he would do, who he would marry, how many children, that sort of thing. The women always wondered how lines on a hand could tell so much. But this day after a few seconds on each palm, she pushed the baby away and just said, "This child has no lifeline." This scared Helen to death and she pushed Mrs Franks to tell more, hoping she could somehow ward off the evil that was coming. But Mrs Franks only repeated what she saw, "This child has no lifeline." Then she pushed Helen out her door.
Mrs Frank's house was one of the biggest in town, maybe the biggest, and it was as grand as I described it. It did need some upkeep though. That's why she had hired Oscar to do some basic repairs around the house. She was stingy. She wouldn't pay a man worker for what she needed. Instead she'd hire the neighborhood kids. But Oscar didn't mind too much. It got him out of the house and away from his drunk father, depressed mother, overworked sister, and sick brother. And it gave him some money so he could run away from home. Which he did later after all this happened.
In my story for the kids, Mrs Franks offered the spell to help the children save their brother. In reality Mrs Franks wouldn't go near an infectious child. What really happened is that Oscar saw a book in Mrs Franks library on magic spells. He hid it under his jacket when she was out of the room, and he stole it.
When he got home that day he gave it to Grace. She found the candle and icicle spell, and it was she who tried it out one evening. He just watched. He was skeptical that it would do much good, but he also believed in his sister. And the thing that he would never forget is his sister moving that candle up to the icicle to make it melt faster. That impressed him.
The spell DID prove positive. The candle was still lit as the last of the icicle turned to water a couple of hours later. My grandfather boasted that a lot of the water even turned to STEAM before the candle went out! Though by the way he said that last part, I knew he was exaggerating.
But sadly none of that really helped their brother like I told the kids in my version. That same night Olaf had a bad night - that part was true - but the next day was his last on earth. He died.
When my grandfather finished his story, I asked him why he thought the spell didn't work. He told me that both he and Grace really believed it would save their brother. When it didn't they were more shocked than anyone. It was at Olaf's funeral that they overheard something that helped ease their minds a little.
The parishioners were sharing coffee and cake. Grace and Oscar were sitting low on a settee in a dark corner. The back of the couch separated them from a group of adults. The people talking didn't see the kids or they probably wouldn't have spoken so openly about Olaf's death. One of the older farmers that had been listening to the conversation from the start, jumped in with his comments.
"I asked Mrs Franks to her face about that. Why would lines in one child's hand be stronger than all the praying of all the people at the biggest church in town?" She wouldn't look at me. She just mumbled, 'Fate is hard to change,' and walked away. I thought that was a silly answer at first. Then I thought about it some more. Now I don't think it was silly at all."
4000 Hawthorne #5
Dallas Texas 75219
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