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)

 

At 4 p.m, the sky had already turned dim due to the heavy rain.

Settling himself in the car, August crossed the last line of the list on his notebook. The Sunday’s job was done.

He gathered all the photos he had taken for 3 hours into a zip lock bag and put a brown name tag on it. Then he thrusted the bag into a new envelope, preparing for delivery to the client’s house.

The pattern of rain was getting thicker and colder. He tried to identify anything moving back and forth on the path ahead through the soaking wet windscreen and August could barely hear the sounds of other vehicles besides the striking thunder between the saddened clouds. His bandaged hand still ached, but he kept it fixed on the steering wheel without troubles. The pack of cigarettes had run empty again, so he had to breathe more deeply to stabilize his consciousness.

Stopping before the traffic lights, he made another attempt at the seemingly useless radio. He tuned the frequency until he thought he caught something in the air. He tenderly spun the tuner counterclockwise and…

…MARGARET THATCHER HASBECOME THE FIRST FEMALE PRIME MINISTER

…THE WITCH HUNT EXPANDED TO LACHLAN FOREST…

EVAN CAIRSTINE’S MISSING CHILD CONFIRMED DEAD AFTER YEARS OF MISSING…

Losing the signal again, he kept spinning…

EVAN CAIRSTINE’S FUNERAL SCHEDULED FOR NEXT WEEK…

And the broadcast disappeared for good. Silly radio.

The Ford halted on the right side of the street, and August hurried to the doorstep of the pawnshop, forgetting his jacket in the car. There, he knocked the door four times and a young blond boy dressed in a scarlet t-shirt and sweatpants came out and greeted the man:

“Sorry sir, but we’re closed.”

“Um, actually, I came to see Dale. He’s my cousin.”

“Oh, really? I’m sorry I didn’t know. Please do come in.”

They passed the counter which was stocked with several collectible and extravagant items, placed in a large glass box. August recognized a necklace with silver chain and emerald gem, a very old dictionary whose dust jacket had been partially torn out, and plenty of ancient pencil sketches hanging on the wall above a stale grandfather clock.

They advanced to a small room next to the kitchen. When they stepped in, August smelled a strong odor of chemicals and plain alcohol coming from the narrow bed.

“August, thank God you came. I’ve been waiting for you…”

Dale was covered in thick blanket. His condition was nowhere near fair as he had to breathe through an oxygen cylinder next to him. His skin was so pale and thin, and his hair completely vanished.

“I’m sorry I couldn’t tell you earlier… – The poor man coughed, interfering his own weak sentence – “That is my grandson, William. If you remember Lisa and Tom…”

“Yes, I remember, Dale. They have two sons if I recall correctly.”

“Right, you’re right…” – He muttered.

William left the two alone and returned to the front. August noticed a chair but he chose to stand.

“So, August… how are you lately?”

“The same as always.”

“What do you mean ‘same’?”

“You do know the answer, Dale. You do.”

They spent a moment of quietness searching for words to continue the awkward conversation.

“What’s wrong with your hand, August?”

“Well, accident, I suppose.”

“You should be more careful with your health. Don’t make yourself tied to this bed and end up playing with it like I am now.” – He smiled softly.

“I’ll try, Dale. Thanks for the suggestion.” – August smiled back.

“Anyway, Lisa just called from the States, telling me that I should come back to her apartment in Boston and rest there. But I don’t want to leave this place, you know?”

“She just wants to take care of you. Lisa is really kind. I think you should go.”

“And leave you here? Not a chance. We came to Scotland together, remember when you were only 9 and I was over 20? I’m not abandoning my nephew here. No way.”

“I can live with that, but, of course, if you want to stay here and let Mr. Turton come and___

The talk went on as new ideas came to their dialogues.

___

William was busy sweeping dust off the floor and reorganizing empty cardboard boxes in the attic when he got hold of a rusty umbrella. As he made his way back to the living room while holding the umbrella left unfolded, the stormy wind outside blew past the unlocked wooden door and toward the stretcher, therefore, bashing his body forcefully, leading to his sudden collapse. The umbrella was pushed back even further and its crook handle made contact with one of the glass boxes near the corner, absolutely piercing the glass to pieces.

August heard the loud cracking sound as soon as he returned to the room and perceived the chaotic scene. He proceeded to help William get to his feet again and peered around the cold, wet space.

“What happened here?”

“I forgot to lock the door. It’s a mess… Ouch…”

The man paced toward the door and shut it tightly when young William found a dustpan and a small sweeper. August helped him wipe out one large area of shattered glass and gingerly uncovered the antique dictionary he laid eyes on the first moment he walked in here. Upon cleaning up the floor, he spotted the cardboard box had had its bottom ripped, so he lifted it off the ground, when unexpectedly, something descended from the torn gap below.

He watched the object touching his right shoe. Lowering his body, August scrutinized the piece, conceiving its long chain made from copper and the garnet gemstone that connects one end to the other. It was when he regarded a hinge attached to the ornament, he understood it was not simply a necklace, but instead, a locket. 

A flash of long-lost image crossed through his mind. He felt like he had seen this stuff somewhere before, but time created a maze using his memories so he could never figure out whether it is true or imaginary. Strange, he thought. His fingers ran across the oval crimson surface and sensed a rift circling it, which was tiny enough for his nail to get into. He made a slight motion and the locket revealed its secret.

“Where is mom, daddy? Why can’t I meet her?”

“She has to sail away to visit the seven seas, Diane, and she’ll be home soon. I promise you. Just open this box and see what’s inside. It’s mom’s gift for your late birthday. Happy 6th birthday of yours. Open it, sweetie. What do you see?”

“I see… a necklace?”

“Well, it’s more than a necklace. It’s actually a locket, little Diane. She wants you to have it, so that wherever you go, mom can always be there and protect you from any danger.”

“But I wanna see mommy. I wanna see her, daddy.”

“Don’t worry about that, she will come back to you again, soon. Now, remember: Just keep the locket with you. Because this locket is enchanted with magic, so wherever you go, whenever you feel blue, just hold it dearly like this, and mom, despite the distance, will be able to watch your every step to schools, every move of your dance, and she will give you courage, teach you how to love the sun when the sky’s gone dark, how to like the clouds when they’re crying. Little Diane, she will be right there when you need her most: your heart.”

His lungs tightened, almost breathless. He straightened his back hastily, his face showing a ghastly expression. The atmosphere was roughly freezing, yet sweat flowed down from his warm forehead. He turned his eyes to William, waving the locket in front of the boy, and spoke to him in a vibrant tone:

“William, look at it. Where’d you get it?”

“That pendant… well where did you find it?”
“From that box.”

“Oh right, it’s been there for weeks. I think I forgot that pendant was there the whole time…”

“It’s not a pendant. It’s a locket. Where’d get it from?”

“From a woman couple of weeks ago. I’m not sure though…”

“Who is that woman, William? Who is she? What is she like!?”

“I… I… let me think. She seemed to wear a hooded jacket, I… think so…”

A hooded jacket

“What color is that jacket!?”

“Blue or purple, I can’t remember exactly. But it seems more like purple…”

A purple hooded jacket

“What was she doing? Tell me, what was she doing here!?”

“She came in to ask for exchange. I asked for her name, but she said nothing, insisting on having the piece sold first. And the second I handed out the money, she just snatched them and rushed to her car. A black AC, old-school one. She didn’t even fill the require paper, so I tried to catch up but she had driven away and already out of sight. She looked awfully weird somehow that I still can’t take it off my mind ‘till this day.”

“Why do you feel weird? Is something wrong with her?”

“Yeah… I mean, not only her behavior, but also her face… her eyes… even her tone. It seems… abnormal and haunting… I was a bit afraid and frustrated… like what I was seeing from the other side of the counter is not… what she seems to be. It’s just… like a nightmare. I couldn’t sleep that night, you know…”

A nightmare

“Is there anything else you can recall?”

“I’m not sure… Oh right, her jacket, it has an initial around her wrist: R.O.S.E.M.A.R.Y… Yes, that’s it, definitely. R.O.S.E.M.A.R.Y.

A purple hooded jacket with R.O.S.E.M.A.R.Y initial

 

August was petrified listening to every line.

His ears deafened. His heart bounced back and forth.

“I can’t take this, I can’t take you, your lies, your control freak, even this stupid filthy jacket!”

“When can you just stop shouting at me and calm the hell down, Diane!?”

“I was made a fool to believe in everything you said, and this locket is no exception. You are no better than me, or mother. Liars, both of you. LIARS!!!”

“That’s ENOUGH! You shut your mouth right now!? I don’t wanna hear any more of those useless words from your freaking mouth! Now stay the hell in the car, and don’t you move, you hear me!? When I come back, I want that attitude to change immediately, or you’re staying at home for the whole month. Now stay there!”

 

The moment when I slammed the door, it defined the present.

My present.

NOUNS

Windscreen = windshield (of a car): kính chắn gió (của xe)

Pawnshop: tiệm cầm đồ

Sweatpants: quần bó sát (thể thao)

Oxygen cylinder: bình đựng oxy (dùng cho bệnh nhân trong bệnh viện)

Dustpan: cái hốt rác

VERBS

Tighten: làm hẹp lại, siết chặt lại

ADJECTIVES

Collectible: có tính sưu tầm

Extravagant: lộng lẫy

Stale: cũ, bốc mùi

Ghastly: tệ hại, kinh hãi

Petrified: hóa đá, kinh ngạc, sững sốt

AUTHOR: HOÀNG PHAN ANH TUẤN

AUTHOR: HOÀNG PHAN ANH TUẤN

From Specialists


Spelling and Grammar Checker: Hoàng Phan Anh Tuấn
Vocabulary Editor: Hoàng Phan Anh Tuấn
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 Duy Nam from Communications