Palouse by vwl


Chapter 6


Kingman Farm – March 1987


Four Months Later




            An 11- but almost 12-year old Micah was home alone. Betty and Stan had left early to go to Pullman, taking Greg and Kat along. His younger brother and sister were visiting friends. Micah had always wanted to see what was in the attic room above the second floor, and he knew this was his time to explore it. He pulled up a chair and opened the attic hatch and climbed up into to a dark room; there were no windows. He flipped the light switch, and a bare, 100-watt bulb shone from the ceiling.


            The attic was lined with racks, and there were trunks and boxes stacked on the floor. The trunks and boxes were marked with scrawled Magic Marker lettering:  Xmas, bedding, toys, etc. One group of boxes simply had “Robert” written on them. The dust indicated that they had not been touched in a while. Micah began pulling the flaps back on the cardboard boxes to look inside. There were pictures that Robert must have done in school – from the crude finger paintings of kindergarten to the more accomplished drawings of a middle- or high-school student. Robert, always in the background of Micah’s understanding of the Kingman family, began to take shape as a person. Micah was curious about him, and curious about why he had not been to the Kingman farm since Micah had arrived there. Why hadn’t he ever met Robert, his brother?


            Alongside the cardboard boxes was a trunk. Micah tried the latches and they opened easily. Inside were the keepsakes – sports trophies, plaques commemorating accomplishments – that a mother or father would want to save to give to a son, perhaps when he came home for the final time before starting into his own life and family in a new home somewhere. It was a kind of modern dowry – a beginning that tied the son or daughter to the past that they had left.


            In another trunk were mementos from Betty’s past. There was a high-school yearbook from 1955. Micah opened it and sought out Betty Kingman’s picture. There she was among the 40 or so graduating seniors, looking, Micah noted, remarkably like she did today – the same square face, the same light colored hair in the same style.


            The yearbook also contained a few hand-written messages in fine cursive writing that looked a bit old-fashioned. “I hope your new ‘career’ will be rewarding,” a girl wrote, apparently next to her own picture. Micah wondered what this career might be. There were a number of “Good lucks” next to other pictures. Next to the school’s music teacher’s picture was a note that simply stated: “I greatly enjoyed your playing. You have an incredible talent, and I hope you have time to pursue piano sometime in the future.”  On the inside back cover, another girl had written: “I know it was a hard year for you, but you persisted, and now it’s time to start a new life with your new family.”


            Beneath the yearbook were newspaper clippings, playbills and programs about a person called Betty Claridge. The pictures, though, were obviously of his mother – from age 13 through 17, the newspaper captions noted – often sitting at a piano with a large smile on her face and a plaque in her hands. “A remarkable talent,” a Spokane Chronicle headline trumpeted. “Local girl expected to go far,” the subhead read.


            Micah heard a vehicle approaching, and he knew it might be Betty and Stan. So he closed the latch on the trunk, straightened up where he had been, brushed the dust off his pants and climbed down through the attic opening. He pulled the attic hatch closed, picked up the chair he had used to get up there and returned it. Micah’s curiosity had opened a part of the Kingmans’ lives that he had no knowledge of.



[1] The story of Jake Cantwell and Robbie Ellis is at Nifty/Relationships and at as Jake’s Hand and Jake’s Side.