Vree’s Beginnings Again, Chapter 2

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This is another edited repost from my old blog Vree Erickson, in which I wrote more about Vree’s backstory. (Vree is a character that appears in many of my stories.)

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I mentioned last week that Vree’s last name was Erikson in the very early publications of my stories. The spelling changed to Erickson when I began writing about her again later in life. Other changes were Ravenwood to Ridgewood, which I mentioned before, and the names of Vree’s friends. Specifically, the twins Dave and Amy Evans are now Lenny and Leona Avery.

Dave was one of the first characters I created. His best friend was Lenny Stevens. Their personalities were so similar that I combined them into one character: Lenny Avery. Dave and Amy are now the first names of Vree’s paternal grandparents.

Confusing, if you’re a longtime follower of my books.

Anyway, although he’s Lenny now, he’s still the Dave character I created when I was an eighth grader. I wrote many baseball stories about him before I wrote his first encounter with ghosts. I had a lot of fun writing it, which “chain reactioned” into more spooky stories. That story stayed with me and appeared at my 1990s website as “Keeping Love Alive,” its original title. I later changed the title to “Bottom of the Seventh” for a book of short stories in 2013.

Before I get bogged down pointing out all the changes I’ve made to Vree and company over the years, I’d like to direct your attention to a rural fantasy short story I penned in 1971 and edited in 2016. “The Magic Typewriter” is about a boy named Nick Corwin who travels to another place whenever he sits at his enchanted typewriter and writes stories. In this story, that place is Ridgewood. He meets Vree and gets caught up in adventure and a kidnapping. There are no cellphones or computers as I kept the story close to a 1971 atmosphere of rural life.

The Magic Typewriter

Nick Corwin sat at his magic typewriter and typed: I took along my fishing gear but went looking for more than fish.

His desk and chair and bedroom vanished. Dizziness swam through his head, but not as strong as the other times. Soon, he was back in Ridgewood and standing at the grassy bank of Myers Creek—a wide, lazy creek that he’d swam in during his last visit. It was his fifth trip to the town and he wanted to interact with the people this time. But he was cautious about approaching adults—especially police officers—who would wonder why an unsupervised thirteen-year-old kid was wandering their streets.

Since the time of day and weather were the same here and at home, it was a pleasant sunny Sunday afternoon in July, and sixty degrees by his estimation. The blue sky was mottled in places with clouds that looked like white cotton candy shreds. It was perfect weather for fishing, so he was glad he had brought along a fishing pole and tackle.

Church was over for most people in Ridgewood when he bobbed his fishing line in Myers Creek beneath Cherry Street’s cement bridge. He’d take to the streets once the traffic died down.

A blonde-haired girl in a blue T-shirt and jeans gave him the once over after she slid down the embankment and entered the narrow strip of grassy underside below the steel bridge. He stood far enough away so he didn’t intrude on her favorite fishing spot … if she had one.

“Hey,” she said to him with friendliness in her voice but edged with a note of suspicion.

He said it back, then left her alone until her hook and bait were submerged in the deep middle of the creek and a few cars had rumbled past overhead. Then, “Fish here often?” he asked when the disturbed dirt and dust had settled.

“Yeah.” She played her line. “Never seen you around before.”

He considered how to answer her question. “Just visiting for the summer with my folks,” he decided on, which she seemed okay with. She said no more, so he told her his name.

“Hi, Nick Corwin,” she said. “I’m Vree Erickson.”

Nick Corwin drawings
Nick Corwin, 7th and 8th grades, graphite drawings. Copyright © 2022/2023 Steven Leo Campbell at stevecampbellcreations.com – All rights reserved.

“Your name’s Bree? How unusual. That’s the name of a village from J. R. R. Tolkien’s Middle-earth.”

“No. It’s Vree, with a V … v-r-e-e.”

“Oh. Still an unusual name, though.”

“I know,” she said in a breath that sounded like an irritated sigh.

Nick’s thoughts of Tolkien’s Bree and a world of Hobbits disappeared, and he and Vree didn’t speak again for several minutes. Then, “Any bites?” he asked. He reeled in his hook from the dark creek bed. “I seem to have found a place that’s either occupied by sleeping fish or unoccupied by any fish at all.”

“You have to know where the sweet spots are to catch any fish here.” And to prove her point, Vree reeled in her first catfish. She removed it from her hook and wrapped it in newspaper from one of her back pockets. She caught two more catfish in less than three minutes. She wrapped them and handed him one. “Take it. No sense you leaving emptyhanded.”

“Thanks, but I’m good. My mom hates the smell. Says it stinks up the kitchen.” He started to hand back the fish, then stopped. He spotted an interesting news headline on the page: PARENTS OF KIDNAPPED GIRL RECEIVE RANSOM NOTE. The article underneath said that the parents of 16-year-old Laurie Burnett had received a ransom note demanding $500,000 in exchange for the girl’s safe return. She had been missing since Wednesday afternoon when she was last seen leaving home on East Hickory Street to go to a friend’s house three blocks away on Frederick Street. Her parents, Dr. and Mrs. Timothy Burnett, became concerned when she did not return home at suppertime.

He whistled. “Wow. Half a million dollars. That’s a lot of money.” Then, “How old is this newspaper?” he asked.

“Friday’s, I think. My folks almost didn’t let me come to town today because of the kidnapping.”

“I’m sure a lot of parents are overprotective now.” Nick shivered at the idea of Ridgewood being a violent place. Would the kidnappers kill the girl if her parents couldn’t raise the money?

Vree picked up her pole and tackle box, and Nick grabbed up his. “Do you live nearby?” he asked as he followed her to the top of the bank.

“No. Out on Myers Ridge.” She went to a white ten-speed Schwinn racing bike parked on the bridge. “How about you? Where are you staying?”

“On the other side of town,” he lied. Then, “Care if I walk with you a little way?” he asked. “It gets boring being by myself.”

“If you want.” She took his pole and tackle and tied them along with her pole, tackle, and fish to the back of her bike with some clothesline. As she released the kickstand, she asked, “Have you ever seen real gold ore … the kind that’s still in the ground?”

“Never. Why?”

“I’m supposed to meet a friend and go looking. Would you like to come? If you don’t have to be home or wherever in the next three hours.”

Nick smiled. “Lead the way.”

Their westward journey took them to the town limits where the sidewalks ended and the shady tree-lined street they were on became a blacktop two-lane highway that led them to the top of a steep hill and beyond. The hilltop was woodsy on both sides of the highway, with a few dairy farms and cow and horse pastures interrupting the woods. The next mile took them past a few more farms and lots of secondary woods and brushy new-growth meadows. Vree’s place was a white farmhouse with a huge front yard. She led Nick to a large front porch with three teak wood swings on it, then took the fish and their poles and equipment inside while he waited on a swing.

When she came out a few minutes later, she carried a coil of rope slung over her left shoulder. She led him to a two-car garage behind the house and told him to get on a blue ten-speed mountain bike propped against the wall. It had a rusty chain, a crooked front wheel, and the rubber parts were missing from the left pedal, but she promised it would get him around okay. Then she went back to the porch for her bike.

They pedaled to the highway and rode west for a quarter mile to a long blacktop driveway that led to a blue two-story farmhouse with white shutters. A lanky boy their age pedaled a red racing bike up the drive and stopped in front of them. Vree introduced him as Lenny Avery.

Lenny Avery drawings
Lenny Avery, graphite drawings. Copyright © 2022/2023 Steven Leo Campbell at stevecampbellcreations.com – All rights reserved.

Lenny brushed back thick brown locks from his forehead with long fingers, wiped his palm across the chest of his yellow T-shirt, and said to Nick, “You ready to find some gold? Let’s go.”

A mile later, they ditched their bikes in a field of tall grass, teasels, and ragweed, and followed a well-traveled deer path to a swampy outcropping along the eastern edge of Myers Ridge. Lenny put up his right hand for them to stop. “This is where I spotted gold the other day,” he said. “Come on.”

Vree and Nick followed until the three stood at the edge of a cliff. Twenty feet below them, water trickled from the hillside, splattered on rock farther down, and fell again to a lake.

“This is Alice Lake,” Vree said to Nick. “Some people dive from up here, but I like swimming on the other side at the beach where it’s less dangerous.”

Cliffs overlooking Alice Lake. Would you dive from the top?

Nick peered over the edge, then averted his eyes and scanned the other side of the lake where a length of sandy beach and several painted cottages and shacks sat between more woods. Meanwhile, Vree tied her end of the rope to a young hornbeam tree, then harnessed the other end to Lenny. She called for Nick to stand behind her and hold the rope while she lowered Lenny to where water exited the side of Myers Ridge. There, he dug around at the wet ground, pulled up rocks, examined them closely, and tossed them away. After ten minutes, he waved at them and told them to pull him up.

Vree and Nick hoisted a grinning Lenny back to the top where he scrambled upright and proudly displayed a three-inch chunk of rock with bright yellow gold mixed with it. Nick marveled how cold and heavy it was when he held it. When he handed it back to Lenny, he asked, “How’d you notice gold in the side of that cliff?”

Vree rolled her eyes. “He saw sunlight glinting off it when he jumped into the lake from here. He’s lucky he didn’t break his neck.” She went to the hornbeam tree and untied her rope.

Lenny and Nick followed, and Lenny helped her coil the rope around her left shoulder. Then he led the way back toward the road, letting her carry his rock. A bright flash of light caught their attention when they exited the woods.

Sunlight reflected off the chrome of a green sedan that sat beyond a field to their left.

“That’s the abandoned road to the old silver mine,” Lenny said. “No one’s supposed to be messing around there.”

“My Spidey sense is tingling,” Vree said. Nick chuckled at the comic book reference, and then stopped short when the car backed up and turned around.

“Hit the deck,” Lenny called out. The three dived for cover among daisy fleabane and a large clump of purple and yellow New England Astor. Nick peered out and hoped they would go unnoticed by whoever was inside that car.

The sedan reached Ridge Road and stopped. Had the driver seen their bikes lying in the field? Nick kept still, even when a horsefly bit one of his sweaty arms and sucked blood for what seemed like several minutes before the car turned onto the road and drove away.

Nick unclenched his jaw and let out a groan before he slapped at the murderous fly. Meanwhile, Vree ran to the old road. Nick and Lenny followed and caught up to her at the mouth of the old mine, which someone had boarded up with old barn wood planks and nailed a sign to the middle board. ABSOLUTELY NO TRESPASSING. VIOLATERS WILL BE PROSECUTED.

Vree pulled a bottom board away and the boys helped her remove the rest. They entered a musty smelling cavern.

“Watch your step,” Lenny said behind Nick. “There could be rattlers.”

The mine’s air changed quickly to cool dampness and the light faded the farther they went. They passed an old rail cart covered with empty burlap sacks. Something thumped from inside the cart. Vree stepped slowly to it. Another thump. She pulled away the sacks. A redhaired girl was bound and gagged inside.

Laurie Burnett was overjoyed and thankful to be free. She wept when she entered the outdoors, then cursed her captors and the ordeal they had put her through. Lenny let her ride his bike as Vree led her to his house to phone the police. Nick did his best to keep up while Lenny sat behind him and told him to pedal faster.

When they reached the house, Nick stayed in the driveway while Lenny joined Vree and Laurie inside. Lenny’s house and Myers Ridge vanished as Nick stopped typing on his magic typewriter.

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Thanks for reading.

Steve, 5/23/2022; revised 5/23/2023

This post “Vree’s Beginnings Again, Chapter 2” copyright © 2022/2023 Steven Leo Campbell at stevecampbellcreations.com – All rights reserved.

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2 thoughts on “Vree’s Beginnings Again, Chapter 2

  1. The AI programs pale in comparison to a magic typewriter. 😄 It’s always a joy to share backstories with my readers. I enjoy reading other authors’ backstories as well. It makes writing and publishing a lot more fun. 👍 Thanks, Mark. I’m glad you’re enjoying my little behind-the-scenes tidbits. 🙂


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