TALES FROM HAWTHORNE: AN ANTHOLOGY

“Tales From Hawthorne: An Anthology” is a collection of five short stories all taken place in Hawthorne, a fictional town located in Scotland. Each story is individual, and specifically set in a different place in Hawthorne and at a different point of time, surrounding from 1970s to 2010s, with different storylines and characters.

By WRITER team - SPECIALIST

HAWTHORNE /haw-thawrn/: A small town located in the Northeast of Scotland. It situates near the city of Aberdeen to the north, and borders the North Sea of the Atlantic Ocean. Its population is approximately 20000.

(HAWTHORNE’S GEOGRAPHICAL ENCYCLOPEDIA, BOOK I)

 

Hawthorne, Scotland

1990

Perched on branches of the golden shower tree, songbirds and nightingales were singing harmoniously in the warm ambience of the morning. The old house, at first glance, seemed to provide a congruous vintage backdrop for the blooming golden flowers to fully display its effulgence. The contrast featured in this picture was mysteriously enthralling. The dim sunrays then penetrated through leaves and petals falling in the wind to arrive by the window already widely opened. They elegantly touched Nathan’s hair then landed on his eyelashes and ruddy cheeks gently waiting for him to wake up.

Tick-tock … tick-tock … tick-tock…

It was the clock which had been set to wake him up.

“Urh … what is it !?”, he confusedly mumbled.

Quite annoyed and confused, he slowly opened his eyes and reached for the clock to turn it off. It was quite out of the ordinary because his mother always woke him up instead of the clock. After a few yawns, he got off the bed, went down the stairs to the kitchen.

His mother was making a quick breakfast for everyone. His father was hastily preparing some luggage as if he was going to travel somewhere. The calmest person was his grandmother who was listening to the radio, sipping at her tea and having breakfast.

Confusion once again flitted across his face.

“What’s going on dad ? you’re travelling somewhere ?”, Nathan asked.

His father nodded and gave a hesitant reply.

“Yes, son. We’d just received a letter from your mother’s sister… It’s unfortunate that your aunt’s husband has been found critically ill. He is in the hospital so your mother and I are going there now.”

Nathan was shocked to the core. His aunt and uncle-in-law had just come here for a visit just about two weeks ago. They looked completely fine and jovial like fresh lovebirds. This piece of news seemed totally irrational.

The calmest person was his grandmother who was listening to the radio, sipping at her tea and having breakfast.”

His mother uttered a long sigh

“Oh … poor Eric. He means the world to my little sister. They can’t never live without each other… oh god please don’t let them part”, his mother mourns.

“Who is Eric ? is he the guy next door always showing off about his grandson? It’s too ear-piercing”, his grandmother suddenly interrupted

“No mom, your memory has got worse again. He’s my wife’s brother-in-law. You just met him two weeks ago.”, Nathan’s father shortly replied.

“Yes, son. We’d just received a letter from your mother’s sister… It’s unfortunate that your aunt’s husband has been found critically ill. He is in the hospital so your mother and I are going there now.”

“We will be back home as soon as possible so look after your grandmother and yourself for a few days. The money is on your bookshelf.  You can buy some food and anything necessary. And be careful not to oversleep and go to school”, his mother said in a rush while carrying the luggage out to the cab outside.

“Alright mom, I’m not a kid anymore. Please send my best wishes to aunt and uncle..”

“And one more thing. Your grandma’s amnesia has gone worse. Make sure she takes her pills everyday okay ?”

Nathan gave a quick nod. The cab drove away and disappeared into the distance. Then arose from behind his grandmother’s high voice.

“Ethan ! why are you standing looking at nowhere ! Quick, finish your breakfast and prepare for school ! your parents ask me to make sure you go to school, my lazy grandson”

“I’m Nathan not Ethan grandma, you said it wrong again !”

Nathan progressed to finish the breakfast, change his clothes and went to school. The class was crowded and lively as usual. It was always full of noisy chatting and jokes. He thus felt more at ease thanks to its effervescence. Students remained boisterous until the teacher came and silence took over. The lessons for the day included mathematics, biology and history.

“Bored stiff”, he thought to himself.

The inertia from the morning seemed lasting than expected. Moreover, Nathan had never taken an interest in any of these subjects so his mind was like a sieve. Whatever said went in one ear and out the other. That is not to take into account the shocking news he’d received this morning that threw everything into turmoil. Things went normal until Ms. Ross, the history teacher, gave everyone a special assignment. She asked each student to collect a piece of story during the country’s wartime and present it. The class then dissolved into moans until the bell rang.

Nathan went home shouldering the responsibility for buying food for his grandmother and himself. Despite the vibrancy from the town’s vicinity, what pervaded in his mind was the annoying history task. He dropped by several bookstores on the way looking for a fine wartime story. However, he came up with nothing.

“Great now I’ll fail history”, He muttered under his breath.

“Great now I’ll fail history”

The sun began to set. As usual, his grandmother sat by the golden shower tree leaning her back calmly on the chair with her eyes closed. At the end of this year, she would turn 80. She had long curly hair down to her waist, neatly tied up. It had grown silvery, less touched with dark day by day. At times, she hummed some classical arias or old-fashioned lullabies. The golden flowers kept swaying in the breeze like a thin gold veil. And smiles naturally flitted across her face, along with which were deep creases etched by the merciless power of time. Nathan had got used to this scene since childhood. The serene sights and sounds always allayed all of his anxieties.  Hence his lighted up countenance.  

“I’m home, grandma ! I’ve bought our dinner”

She opened her eyes and squinted at his slender figure.

“Is it Athen ? Good time, my stomach is rumbling”

“Again, it’s Nathan grandma”, he heaved a sigh of relief.  

The night wore on with thousands of emerging stars. Dinner finished, he made sure his grandmother took the pills on time and escorted her to her bed, after which he returned to his room stuffed to the gills. Though no professional flautist, he continued practicing with his flute on some new songs he had come across yesterday. His dream of becoming a flautist dated back to when he was about 5 years old. He loved playing around the golden shower tree and listening to the birds all day. His parents then bought him this flute so he could imitate the birds to his heart’s content. He treasured it more than any gift. However, he recently could find no appropriate songs.

It was when he was lying on bed memorizing some old songs to play that the history assignment came back to haunt him. The train of thoughts was abruptly derailed. The sweet reverie was shattered into pieces.

“This is gonna be a long night. I hope it’s not too late”, he frowned.

“This is gonna be a long night. I hope it’s not too late.”

Nathan stormed out of the room to the telephone to call his best friend, Julius, for help. At the other end, a woman picked up the receiver.

“This is the Evans”, a stern voice came from the other side.  

“Good evening Mrs. Evans, I’m Nathan. I’m sorry for calling at this late at night. I’m wondering if Julius is at home ?”

“Oh Nathan, it’s good to hear from you after such a long time. Julius is in his room, hang on a bit. Let me call him”, her tongue was loosened when she recognized her son’s close friend.

“Thank you so much”

Nathan spent a few seconds before Julius came to reorganize some questions.

“What’s it Nathan ? it’s nine already”

“Ow Julius, good grief you’re here. Have you got the wartime story for history assignment yet ? I’ve visited several bookstores but all to no avail”

“I knew you were going to ask about this. I’ve got one. It was easy to find though. There were a multitude of them in our history textbook in grade 10”

“Really ? Thank you so much ! I will get you some snacks later”

“Alright, I’ll be waiting. I hope they’re reliable words”

“Don’t worry. I’m not a man who would retract his words. Sleep tight”, Nathan adopted an energetic tone.

They hung up. Nathan hurriedly ran to the loft. It had been a long time since anyone last visited this place besides his mother. Dust covered everything. Things were put in heaps piled up on one another. Hardly had he approached the heaps of books in the corner of the room when he tripped over his old lego toys and fell. The books fell off the heap into a mess.

“Imagine what mom would do when she saw this…”, Nathan groaned as he stood up.

 

It was then that he recognized beneath those piles of books lay a small rectangular wooden box, fastened by a rusty lock. Never before had he seen this.

“What’s this ?”, he picked it up.

The wooded floor under the box had become concave enough to perceive. Over the years, that area had rotted a bit as well.   

“It must have lain here for a long time. But how come I didn’t know it since I often came here searching for toys as a child”, a frown gradually grew on his face as he tried to have his memories evoked but none related ones seemed to have resurfaced.

Nathan’s whole attention had been diverted to this unforeseen box which surprisingly piqued his curiosity. He brought it back to his room, put it on the table and hefted it in his hands to check the inner contents. It was the sound of something hard and flat slightly hitting the side.

 “And now the key”, he scrutinized the rusty lock.

In midstream, the lock fell apart.

“I didn’t see that coming”, he felt like god was by his side.

He could then open it unhindered. There were an old cassette, letters and especially some yellowed music sheets. Considering his, though amateurish, connection with music, it was conceivable that he became all eyes to the music sheets on the spot. Still, he was left somewhat dumbfounded. No one in his family knew how to read music, in his knowledge. It’s a huge question why anyone would keep these pieces of music.

“These sheets must belong to some composers”, He concluded after perusal at the extremely convoluted music written.

There were a myriad of terminologies. A lot were in Italian such as “crescendo”, “diminuendo” and ‘‘fortissimo”. He didn’t know how to pronounce the words let alone to play the music. It was disappointing that he hadn’t had an adequate amount of knowledge at his command.

“Well, perhaps this cassette can reveal something”, he turned his eyes to the dust-covered cassette and blew it clean.

He went straight to the living room for the player and had it inserted. First came the cacophonous and raspy sound as expected from a worn-out cassette. But after a few moments, it all cleared up. Then a singing voice was emanated. It immediately took his breath away. The tone was pure as gold. The agility from the lower register to the upper register together with colorful and sharp phrasing seemed to penetrate his skull. The phrasing was also impeccably beautiful.

“Who on earth !?…”, Nathan gasped at the innate power in the mellifluous voice.

Topping it all was the euphonious staccato cadenza like birds’ sound. It sounded out of this world

“Well, perhaps this cassette can reveal something”

It gave him instantaneous goose pimples. He carried on letting the music take him to another dimension unawares. The resonation somehow reached his grandmother who was sound asleep. Her eyes became wide open. She looked deep into the space in a concentrated way as if she had remembered something important. She stepped off the bed and followed the sound of the music. Down the stairs she went calmly step by step, holding the handrail tightly. Finally, she came to the living room and saw Nathan sitting before the cassette player with the wooden box next to him. It took Nathan a few seconds to notice her.

“Grandma, you gone to sleep yet ? Do you need something ?”, Nathan stood up and went to his grandmother.

“Where did you find that box ?”, His grandmother voice became unstable.

“I’ve just found it in the loft. It lay beneath piles of books”, he reluctantly replied.

“Oh Nathan, …”, tears trickled down her cheeks and in her eyes shone a light of happiness.

“What is it grandma !? why are you in tears ?”, He was completely confused by the situation. This is the first time she had called his name right.

“It’s my treasure trove. I thought I’ve lost it a long time ago”, she choked back her tears as Nathan gently escorted her to the bench next to the cassette player. She had her seat and took a deep breath. “But why are you staying up so late tonight ? it’s eleven already”.

“My teacher asked each student to present a story during wartime so I was searching for some history books in the loft and accidentally discovered this”, He then remembered that he hadn’t found out any and exclaimed. “Oh my god, I forgot ! I’ve yet to find one. I’ve been distracted by this box all the time !”

Seeing a sense of foreboding doom taking over her grandson’s face, his grandmother, Vynci, gave a gentle knowing smile. “Alright don’t worry, I’ll provide you with an interesting one in gratitude for finding out this box. Now come sit over here”.

"His grandmother stooped down to pick up the letters in the box. She slowly blew away the dust. Then appeared on the letter a line of rough but elegantly aligned handwriting."

His downcast expression was replaced by a relieved but confused one. The grandmother who had suffered from severe amnesia for years he knew seemed to have disappeared, in place of whom was a sharp and venerable lady. It had been long since he last came sit by her side like this so there was a bit of awkwardness for the high school youngster. His grandmother stooped down to pick up the letters in the box. She slowly blew away the dust. Then appeared on the letter a line of rough but elegantly aligned handwriting.

From Nolan Turton – To Vivian Trance

NOUNS

Effulgence: sự sáng ngời

Effervescence: sự sôi động

Inertia: tính trì trệ

cassia fistula = golden shower tree: cây hoàng yến

Countenance: diện mạo, vẻ bề ngoài

 

VERBS
To perch: ngồi lên trên

To mumble: nói lầm bầm

To retract: rút lại, co vào

To trip over: vấp ngã

To trickle: chảy thành dòng

ADJECTIVES

Congruous: thích hợp, phù hợp

Boisterous: ồn ào, náo nhiệt

Foreboding: linh tính

Downcast: chán nản, thất vọng

Venerable: đáng kính

 

AUTHOR: ĐẶNG TIỂU BẢO

AUTHOR: ĐẶNG TIỂU BẢO

From Specialists


Spelling and Grammar Checker: Hoàng Phan Anh Tuấn
Vocabulary Editors: Hoàng Phan Anh Tuấn – Đào Thanh Ngân
Executive Supervisor: Nguyễn Dương Trung Tín

The Anthology created by: Võ Thường Hằng, Đào Thanh Ngân, Danh Nhật Sang, Đặng Tiểu Bảo, Hoàng Phan Anh Tuấn from Specialists

Posted by Tâm Hạnh from Communications