Persephone's Pencil by Cornelius Birch - An adventure to regain everything lost

Chapter 1: Permanent Cravings

“Yeah,” I said, softly cheering myself on. “That’s looking really good.”

Creaking floorboards grew crankier as my brother’s footsteps progressively registered on my ear canal’s uptake.

“What are you doing?” he asked, coming up next to me.

“Shhh..hold on,” I whispered so no more than the ink, quill, and my percolating conscience could hear. “Alright,” I said, triumphantly holding up my handy work at arm’s length and head height to admire it in an alternate light.

I’d just finished rounding off my year at England’s finest prep school, Lamebridge, with a hard earned ‘B+’. Thankfully, my only decent subject had been calligraphy, so I was able to give my ‘D-’ mark in mechanics a nice sprucing. Even my scripted ‘Top Marks’ at the header of my grade report looked pretty proffesoral.

Boregard took hold of the parchment. “Not bad,” he said, puckering his lips. “It could work.”

“‘Course it’ll work. That’s Lamebridge quality right there. Best education a shilling can fetch, eh?” I said, showing Boregard a stupid grin while nudging him in the ribs.


“I even made sure to match the color..Swiped the bottle from Perriwinkle’s office earlier this week..Notice the hint of blood? See?..You can see it right there,” I said, riding the belly of ‘s’ in ‘Top Marks’ with my pinky finger.

“Oh yeah. Yeah, okay,” he said, squinted eyes staring down the bridge of his nose like he was looking through a pair of reading glasses. “How’d you get the old codger out of his office?”

“Hhuh. That was a cinch,” I laughed. “I just gave a five-pence piece to a first year so he’d bend down and pretend to tie his shoes in the courtyard outside Perriwinkle’s window.”

“Yep. That will do it..Sad really,” he declared, brow lowered.

“Yeah well, I’m not here to judge,” I said standing, corking the ink bottle, and walking it over to the stationery station in the corner of the study. “All’s I know is that I’m not gonna get caned like I did last year..Shit, I still have the marks,” I said, my voice taking an underwater tone as I started the ‘shit’ remark. I’d lifted the backside of my shirt and craned my neck to get a look at the brownish-hued lines. The resultant effect was one of a muffled strain.

“Yeah, those still look pretty bad..But come on, Cornelius, your grades were horrible,” he said with a pitying laugh as he lifted his vision from my aft to my eyes.

“Yeah well, I had a lot of..stuff..going on,” I said, looking around the room for inspiration.

“Right. Anyway…Hey, I meant to tell you..I finally got my moccasins,” he said, excitement riding his face as he gave one of his feet a sidelong lift.

“Alright. Congratulations,” I said, squatting. I planted a forearm on the knee with higher altitude. For balance. The hand nonattached to that arm grabbed his lifted leg’s footwear and gave it a subtle stroke.

“Oo, pretty sharp,” I said, my comment contradicting the sensation I felt upon thumb caress.

“Yeah, thanks. And they’re quite comfortable..I’m floating on a cloud of comfort here,” he said dreamily.

“It’s about time, heh,” I laughed, standing. “Didn’t you order those things like a year ago?”

“Yes, I did,” he said, lowering his head to meet the moccasins’ sueden stare. “Maybe the new world is running low on Mocca skins,” he finished with concrete concern plastered to his face.

“Yeah. Tragic..What d’you figure a Mocca is anyway?” I asked.

“I’m not sure, but I think it has to do with a place called Mocha Island..Some kind of animal on the island..Or chocolate. I don’t know,” he said, shaking his head. “Preacher Daniels has mentioned it before.”

“Oh, well then,” I said, rolling my eyes with a grin. “Where is Mocha Island?”

“I don’t know. Somewhere over in the new world probably.”

“Hm.” It sounded familiar.

Just then I heard a wave of hoof prints ebb up the house’s drive.

“Shit, that’s mom and dad.” I hurriedly grabbed the powdered wig I’d rested on the workbench to my left. I fit it to my head and said, “Okay..It’s showtime.”

An assortment of noises drifted through the front windows as my brother and I stood with feet welded, hands held behind backs, and expressionless faces lifted high.

“Hello hello,” my dad bellowed as he entered our abode.

“Hello, father,” my brother and I returned in stereo.

His heeled shoes pierced the heavy air with increasing potency as he neared. Once he passed the dividing wall between entrance hall and study, a smile cultivated on his lips. “How are you, boys?” he questioned.

“Good,” Boregard started. I followed, a bit slower on the volley.

“Don’t you both look smashing,” he said, gently grabbing Boregard by the collar and futilely straightening the military-precision of Boregard’s school uniform. He moved to me and did the same, followed by a shallow wink and a turn. “So how was term?” he finally asked.

“Good,” we stated in unison. I was a bit quicker on the draw that time.

“Am I correct in assuming you both have your reports for me to review?”

We answered at the same time. “Yes of course,” by Boregard and “Yeah,” by me.

“Well, let’s take a look then, shall we?” he said, planting a pair of square spectacles on his nose-bridge and a contemplative frown on his mouth.

Boregard forwarded his raveled parchment first. My father took the roll with his right hand and slid the ring of ribbon off with his left. Letting the letter unfurl, he tipped his head back and allowed his mouth to fall open. Scanning the document, a satisfactory “Uhuh,” could be heard escaping his split lips with regular interval. After a quick study, he rerolled the parchment and handed it back to my brother without bothering to replace the ribbon ring. Boregard grabbed the report with his right hand, but quickly shifted it to his left once he realized my father had not yet retracted his own right and sought a handshake.

“Well done, son,” my father congratulated as he led his stray hand up to my brother’s shoulder. Once he seemed satisfied with the embrace, he released and shifted to my fore, smile fading from his face. “Well, Cornelius, do you have your report for me?” he asked, buckling his top lip so it looked like he’d stashed a carrot spear between his gums and upper lip.

“Yes, sir,” I said, putting my moistened marks forward. The palms holding it had sprung a leak in anticipation.

Adjustment of his spectacles was the only response given as he accepted my proposition. His inspection of my report was far longer and more deliberate than that of Boregard’s. Little could be read from the expression on his face, but it looked like one of prudence.

“Okay. Very good,” he said, a grin erupting on his face as he handed the review back to me. “Calligraphy could use a bit more work, though,” he critiqued while shaking my hand.

“Yes, sir,” I said, trying to keep my smile within the realm of reasonability. It was difficult. I’m sure if dereigned, it’ve eaten my face whole.

“Well,” he started, turning his back to us and showing a pair of married hands. “Seeing as how you boys did such an excellent job with your studies this term, your mother and I have decided to reward you.”

“Hmm,” Boregard sounded, gratitude spilling from his nodding head.

“Oh yeah?” I asked.

“That’s right..The whole family will be taking a tour of the West Indies..We’ve just picked up your sister from the transport station,” he said with half ‘a glance across his shoulder.

I slighty shifted position, looking past my father’s figure and through the front window to see my sister, Amelie, stepping from our parent’s horse-drawn-carriage.

He continued, “We’re to take an ocean voyaging vessel across the Atlantic for two weeks as of tomorrow. Then, we’ll meet up with a private crew who will proceed to charter us around various areas of the Caribbean Sea.”

My engorged eyes glowed with an eager light. I leaned slightly back, allowing my heels to lift fractions while letting the thought, “Hoh hoh hoh HOwoh,” consumed me.

“That sounds amazing,” Boregard commented.

“Yeah. Really really…”

“Well, you only have yourselves to thank..Those outstanding grades are what allowed it,” he said, letting his eyes find mine and linger. “I’m just glad you pulled through, Cornelius,” he said, patting my shoulder.

“Thank you, sir.”

“Because if you didn’t, you’d be staying back here to help our dear neighbor, Mrs. Wiltstein, finish knitting her death-quilt,” he said, punctuating with another pat and a head-lowered look across his eyebrows.

Liquid panic pumped through my body. Luckily, my father didn’t take note. He’d turned and found a hand to his chin, saying, “Oh that reminds me..I need to send a messenger to the travel agent and give them the green-light on that fifth ticket.”

“Green light? What does that mean?” Boregard wondered aloud.

“It means to proceed..But ya know..,” father pondered a moment with his face upturned, “..I’m not sure where the expression comes from..I suspect it has something to do with the green light of dawn allowing the day to begin.”

“Ah, okay,” Boregard accepted, satisfied.

“Anyway, I’d like you both to come outside and greet your sister. She’s made a long trip, so go easy on ‘er, uh,” he said, seeming to aim the statement at me.

“Of course,” I said with forced innocence.

We followed the ol’ man through the front foyer. Amelie was awkwardly unloading her things from the luggage rack atop the carriage.

“Here, let me help you with that,” Boregard insisted, darting to Amelie’s side and grabbing for the trunk she was struggling with.

“Thanks, Boregard,” she said, permitting him to take control. My father observed with delight on his face and hands on his hips.

“How was your trip?” Boregard asked, grunting as he guided the case to the ground.

“Uhh,” she exhaled quickly, raised a hand to her forehead, said “long,” and briefly laughed.

“Hi, Amelie,” I greeted her back.

She turned to sweetly say, “Hey, Cornelius,” and give me a light hug.

“Long trip, huh?”

“Yeah,” she said with something like concern.

“That’s too bad..But you made it alright,” I smiled.

“Yeah, yeah,” she said, looking down to the grounded trunk.


“Thanks,” she said, briefly laughing.

“Boregard, why don’t you bring that into Amelie’s bedroom,” father injected.

“Alright,” he agreed, hoisting the lengthy baggage between both arms and lumbering toward our homestead. The load’s depth disallowed him from extending his leg range to any decent degree. A dancing crossbow came to mind.

“Amelie, Cornelius..what do you say to brewing your ol’ man a nice cup of tea?” my father asked as he edged toward us, lifting an arm apiece to our shoulders. “..while I pick your mother up from the general store.”

“Of course, father.”


He veered off in the direction of the horses and began to disentangle one of ‘em from its reigns. I followed with a quick jog so’s I could run a hand along the runway between the other horse’s eyes. Oddly, just as soothing for the dealer as the recipient it seemed.

“Actually, Cornelius, while your sister’s working on getting that tea sorted why don’t you tend to Vonnegut here,” he said, motioning to the horse I was petting.

“Yeah. No problem,” I said, smiling at the horse, continuing the caress.

My father quickly unloaded a saddle and its bags from below the carriage’s driving perch and fixed them to the back of the horse he was reering to ride. “Alright, I’ll be back shortly,” he called, hefting one leg into the stirrup and heaving the other across horse-back.

He settled in the saddle as I said, “Yeah, okay. See you in a bit,” and attempted a wave. Unsuccessful. He made a soft whistling sound I’d practiced feverishly but couldn’t imitate, tensed his body, and shot off down the dirt road. I watched him ‘til he turned onto the main way, then rekindled my attention to the unprocessed gluestick in my embrace. I carried on stroking its sheen glaze of fur, developing a boner. Once satisfied, I actually gave the horse a hug, barely wrapping my arms around its girthy and awkward neck. I then debound the steed and began walking it over to the stable-house. A superficial conversation consisting of lip-flapping and snorting was exchanged until we made it to the red-painted door.

I swung the brick of wood back from its door-bridging holster and hauled the entryway open. A gust of must escaped, disheveling my hair. I opened the door wider and inled Vonnegut. Inside, I was ensnared by the sensation that a big bail of hay had taken a shit up my nostrils. I wanted to dislike it but found myself guiltily enjoying it. It was a sweet but earthy aroma. As a small smile slid across my lips, I steered the steed to his pen and led him in. Satisfied with the securely fastened latch on his stall, I meandered over to a tin bin hanging on the wall. I lifted the loose lid and fetched a few of its contents. Opening my hand, I tried to flick or pinch as many dead ants from the sugar cubes as possible without losing too much of the prize itself. Content with the content, I held an open palm to Vonnegut’s rubbery lips. As he tongued the sugar from my hand, I re-embraced a boner.

After sliding a moistened palm over my trousers, I gave Vonnegut some nuzzlage behind his left ear. He let out a sound similar to a deck of shuffling cards and feigned licking my arm with an up/side jerk of his head. Thankfully, he’d come to the understanding that many humans don’t particularly enjoy tongue baths. From animals. I gave him one last pat on the jaw and strolled from the stable. Door-locking wooden-brick secure, I began crossing the lawn toward the front awning.

Just as I was about to navigate the stairs I heard, “Cornelius,” from behind me. “How about helping bring some of these supplies in?”

I turned and saw my dad leading a horse which was ferrying my mom and busting saddle bags.

“Yeah, sure,” I said turning and walking to meet with them. Mutiny on the stair-climb mission fresh, I took ranks with the pilfering of saddle bag booty. “Hello, mother,” I said as I reached the steadily approaching trio.

“Hi, Cornelius,” mother returned. My father stopped with a seemingly telepathic telling of the horse to do the same. “How are you?”

“Good..You?” I countered.

“Very well, thank you.” I held my hand up to her. She took it and dismounted with a hop. “Your father just told me how well you did this term..My compliments,” she said, kissing me on the cheek and closing in for a quick cuddle.

“Oh..well…thanks,” I said, sheepishly turning away after she’d disembarked.

“So, as your father told you, we’ll be rewarding you,” she said with a big smile.

“Yeah, that’s what he said. It sounds great. Really great,” I said, nodding. My face turned a delicate shade of red. Not from embarrassment, but from guilt. Either way, I think they took it for the former.

“Well, you deserve it,” she said, sustaining the smile.

I laughed nervously. My complexion deepened in color, and I began rubbing the back of my neck. Luckily guilt and embarrassment spawn from the same family tree. Similarly featured siblings, for sure.

“..So, whadyu get?” I asked, walking to the horse and lifting a saddle-satchel flap.

“Oh..Just some food, toiletries, and a few other things,” she revealed, peering over my shoulder as I rifled through the bags.

“Ah, cool,” I said, yanking a telescoped spyglass from the bag’s bowels. Detracting it, I examined the neighbor’s drawn window curtains. Then I decided to check out the cupola on the horse stables. And finally, grabbed a glance at my dad’s right eye. “Ouwou, I see you,” I chimed in a sing-song fashion.

“Aaaagh,” he groaned, slightly convulsing like he was going into shock.

I lowered the lenses and exchanged a smile, retracting the telescope with the snap of my palm.

“Hey. Careful,” my father warned, his expression morphing immediately. “So how about taking this stuff inside?” he said, motioning to the bags which waited at the horse’s haunches.

“Alright,” I said, putting the telescope back in the bag and untying the knots that held the bag to its leather counterpart.

“Thank you,” my mother offered appreciatively.

“Mmmhm,” I returned. “No problem.”

I was feeling saucy, so I rested that satchel on the ground and made for the one opposite it. Untied, I hoisted the sister satchel over my shoulder and made for the brother. I wouldn’t be able to fit both of ‘em over my shoulders, so I’d have to hold the second at my side. I bent at the knees, grunted, and heaved. Once done I realized it was going to be a task. That second satchel was a heavy son of a bitch. I felt up to the challenge, though. I shuffled across the lawn trying not stir any part of my body above the knees for fear of upsetting the delicate balance.

Once I made it to the porch steps, I thanked god. The three fingers the shoulder satchel was latched to felt like they were about to burst. The pain’d steadily increased from uncomfortable to agonizing pressure to ‘Ow, ow, ow’ kind of acute pain that makes your face/genitals shrivel. Ignoring my newly forming vagina, I mounted the stairs with as little upper-body movement as possible and skimmed into the kitchen.

I rested one bag on the floor and the other on the table with an awkward straight-backed performance. “Aaaaah,” I let escape my vocals. A cool ocean breeze had just played with my face. Through the release I could hear the tinkling of broken glass.

“Mother fucker,” I said, glancing at the trio of constipated bowling pins attached to my hand.

“Good job,” congratulated Amelie.

“Thanks,” I thanked her, pulling items from the satchel that’d uttered whispers of destruction.

Steadily pulling and peering, I emptied the contents. Getting the right light by shifting my head and the bag flap’s position, I discovered the cursed candidate. A jar of pickled pigs’ ears. Gingerly extracting broken glass and pigs’ ears I popped one into my mouth.

“Oh, yeah..Ma an’ da’ go’ pickl’d pig ear’,” I muttered through munching mandibles.

“Really?” Boregard’s interest piqued. He leaned around the bag in search of a better perspective.

“Too bad we won’t be able to enjoy them,” Amelie commented.

“Oh no, thi’ i’ no prob’m,” I said, working through a pig ear as I withdrew another shard of dripping glass from the satchel. After swallowing, I stuck out my tongue to pluck off a few satchel-dregs.

I continued cleansing until all alien objects had been removed. I made sure to pile the pickled pigs’ ears and pieces of glass in separate mounds. Fetching a rubbish bin, I carefully swept the glass in with the edge of my palm. I put the rubbish bin back and landed myself a tin colander. With it I scooped up the slightly soiled pigs’ ears and took them to the welled water-spicket outside. I afforded the pressure-handle a rigorous pumping, gave the tainted goods a thorough once-over under the ensuing stream, and carried them back into the kitchen. Planting them on the table betwixt brother and sister I said, “There. Good as new,” and tossed one into my anticipating mouth.

“Not really..They won’t keep and they probably don’t have any flavor. All the juice has been washed off,” Amelie stated, picking one up and giving it an exploratory sniff.

“Just throw a little salt on there and it’ll be fine,” I suggested with a distorted facial expression. The combination of flavor-lack and newly acquired sponge-like consistency contributed to the snub-born expression.

Amelie answered with rolling eyes. My mom and dad entered.

“Ooh, pigs’ ears,” my dad swooned swooping in to grab one. He tossed one into his mouth and conducted a similar but subdued version of my recent grimace. “Hm..These aren’t exactly..what I remember them tasting like,” he said, crunching.

“Yeah, sorry about that. I accidentally broke the jar they were in, so I had to rinse ‘em off,” I admitted.

“Aha, I see..Well that would do it,” he hastened. “Not much flavor.” He said with near confusion on his face.

“Did you clean up the broken glass?” my mother asked.

“Yeah. I threw it in the bin.”

“Good. Well, I have some old pickle juice. We can let them soak in that to give back a bit of the flavor,” she revealed.

“You keep used pickled juice?” I questioned, chuckling and looking to Boregard in search of shared sentiment. He was looking off and only noticed my stare as I turned back to mother.

“Sure..For situations like this,” she said with eyebrows, mouth corners, and a single palm raised. She walked to the kitchen’s prep area, opened the cupboard above, searched for a second, and removed a jar of what appeared to be the perfect remedy.

“That’s..resourceful,” I laughed.

She returned my amusement with a smile. Placing the jug on the table she siphoned the colandered pig ears into it.

“There. Good as new.”

“,” Amelie agreed looking in my direction.

I didn’t bat an eye.

“So are you kids ready to leave tomorrow?” my father asked rhetorically, knowing full well we weren’t.

“No, not really,” replied Boregard.

“Well, maybe y’all should start packing up. We leave pretty early in the morning.”

“What time?” I curred.

“When the cock crows, we’ll start making way. Hopefully it won’t be long after that,” he said, glancing towards my mother. She was notorious for holding up the show. Boregard and I made her a plaque for Mother’s Day one year. ‘World’s Oh, Most Sweet and Sluggish Mother’ was inscribed on a Maple-wood slab. A handcrafted snail-shell lolly-pop was bonded below.

Amelie gave a smile and sleepy stretch accompanied by a slight, “Eeeh.”

“So why don’t you all get yourselves ready. I made a list of things I thought advisable to bring,” my father finished, handing Boregard a piece of parchment. He accepted it and began studying. Keeping his eyes on the list, he slowly rose.

“Your mother and I have already packed our personal belongings, so we’ll take care of the excess supplies.”

“Alright,” we agreed, ambling to our quarters with the mindset of readification.

“So what kind of stuff is on there?” I directed toward Boregard as we walked.

“Oh, just general stuff,” he cited, looking up. “Here.” He handed me the parchment.

I accepted and read, “Condoms?” aloud.

“What?” asked Amelie, tearing the tally from my fingers.

“Ha, I whas jhoking hu,” I stuttered with laughter. I was always satisfied when pulling one over Amelie. She played the situation off by silently studying without reference to either of our remarks.

We three continued walking, Boregard and I into our shared quarters and Amelie into her solo. Boregard veered to the table in the corner of the room and began quilling notes onto a parchment. I went to my closet and shifted an old trunk. Hoisting myself on top, I reached searching hands to the shelf above view. I finally found what I sought and pulled it down with a medley of clinks and shiffles. Ferrying it to my bed, I admired the durable fabric. I tossed it onto said bed and unfurled the drawstring holding its mouth closed. I peered in to take stock of the potential capacity a relative’s navy-rucksack afforded.

“Mmhm,” I sounded. “This’ll do nicely.”

“What’s that?” Boregard asked, lingering at his scribblings then finally looking up.

“Huh?” I made, turning to him. “Oh, nothing. I was just admiring the spaciousness of Uncle Buck’s rucksack.

“Yeah? Pretty good?”

“Yeah, definitely. I’ll be able to cram quite a bit of shit in here.”

“Oh, good,” Boregard returned, smiling.

He looked back to his parchment and I asked, “What’re you writing?”

“Just a list of things I’m going to bring.”

“Uhuh. Whad’ya got on there?”

“Mostly standard stuff,” he said shaking his head slowly. “Clothes, reading and writing materials, cards, telescope, star chart..”

“Wow, sounds like we’re in for an absolute adventure,” I observed.

“Yeah, I’d say so,” he consented casually.

I started sorting through my clothing, picking and choosing necessary articles. After I’d decided on a solid wardrobe, I began packing the rucksack with haste. Stuffing and stowing my stuff without much thought to organization. I filled roughly half.

“I think that should about do it,” I noted.

“Oh yeah?” Boregard asked, getting a better view of my efforts. “Doesn’t look like you’re bringing much.”

“I’m trying to streamline. I figure there’ll be plenty of opportunity to bring back some random crap..Who knows what kind of novelties we’ll come across on our travels, ya know?”

“Yeah, I agree. That’s good foresight.”

“Thanks,” I muttered while arranging the rucksack to use as a makeshift pillow. I rolled onto the bed, using it. My hands rose into a behind-the-head downside-up triangle and I asked, “So what do you think we’ll find over there?

“I have no idea,” he said, continuing to write. “I’m sure it’ll be interesting, though.” He looked in my direction.

“No argument here..I mean shit, we’re going to the other side of the planet. This’ll be a fair sight different than goin’ to Paris or Barcelona,” I laughed. “..Shit, there’re prob’ly some people that don’t even know this chunk of the world exists.”

“That’s true.”

“Oooh, this is gonna be awesome,” I finished, giddily.

Father walked in.

“Are y’all all packed up?”


“No. But I won’t be much longer,” Boregard answered.

“Okay..Cornelius, you’re finished?” he questioned, turning to me.

“Yep. Got it all right here,” I said, patting my pillow.

He eyed my meager pack suspiciously. “You’re sure you’ve got everything you need?”

“Yeah, definitely..I don’t need much.”

“Alright..Well, at least that’ll help balance some of your mother and Amelie’s things. I think they’re each bringing their entire clothing collection,” he chuckled. “And hey..if you run out of skivvies, you can always wear theirs,” he said, offering a forwarded hand. “I think they’re bringing a pair for each day we’re abroad.”

“Yipee,” I sounded, sarcastically.

“Anyway, you both better get to bed soon. We’ve got an early wake-up call and I want to get on the road at a decent hour.”


“Do you need any help packing the supplies up?” I offered.

“No, we’re just about finished, but I could use a hand loading the carriage in the morning,” he announced.

“Yeah that’s fine.”

“Alright. Boregard, can you finish packing with the hand candle?” he asked, turning to brosef. “I want to snuff the wall torch so Cornelius can get some sleep.”

“Yeah, that’s no problem.”

“Good,” he said, lifting the glass shield and bringing a bell-shaped snuffer up to the candle’s flame with a resultant “tssssss.”

He bode, “Good night.”

“Good night.”

“Don’t let the bed bugs bite,” he finished, drawing the door closed ‘til only a thin slit of opening remained.

My mind loosened as I let out a sigh and some of the stiffness in my muscles. I didn’t directly fall to sleep. That ill-defined gray area of vivid nighttime day-dreaming swept over me. The realm in which lucidity parallels and even surpasses full-blown REM dreaming, but you can still sense your subastral surroundings. I was behind the helm of the ship we were to passenge, steering it through a variety of maritime perils. A woman drenched in flowing white shawls was clutching my elbow, ouhing/aahing at every effort I made. Eventually my vision engulfed me and I succumbed to a deep slumber.