It was full autumn and late afternoon with a bare hint of chill in the air when Carl and Perdita pulled up to the front garden gate. His great duffel and her pack were in the hand cart Carl pulled behind him. They called out, “Unless! Until!” several times, but heard no answer.
Carl left the hand cart where it was, opened the gate, and strode confidently to the front door. He knocked, waited, and then turned with some alarm and surprise to Perdita, who had come into the yard behind him.
“It hasn’t been but a couple of weeks since we got their letter,” he said.
“No telling how long it took to get to us,” she said, “but I wonder where they could be.”
Before Perdita could stop him, Carl turned the latch and started into the house. That was what he had done before, and his friends had been just inside, on their way to answer his knock. This time the hall was empty, and the house quiet.
With an air of exasperation, Perdita followed Carl through the door and hall and into the front room. There was no sign of their friends. A quick search of the house and its surroundings brought no luck. Unless and Until were not there.
“There are new paintings since I was here,” said Perdita, “and they have all been hung up.”
Carl had been in the kitchen and the back garden. “Everything is neat and tended back there. The larder is full and it even looks like there are some late vegetables ready to pick.”
Perdita looked closely around the front room and at last found a large scrap of paper weighted down with a dark stone on the desk. “Look at this!” she said, “It says ‘Welcome Friends.’ They must have known we’d come to visit, after their letter, and bring them some more candy. Well, they’ll turn up. I hope.”
“If we’re expected,” said Carl, sheepishly, “Perhaps we could fix some dinner.”
Perdita grinned. “Yes, I expect so. Let’s get those vegetables, if they are full ripe they’ll go to waste anyway.
After a lean dinner of fresh vegetables, Perdita and Carl decided to sleep out by their cart, under some large bushes, since it did not appear that any of the beds were made up and they still hoped their friends would appear to make them formally welcome.
The next morning, Carl fixed some fried potatoes from out of the larder and went to look at the picture on the easel in the front room. Perdita came down from having her bath and joined him.
“So. Do we wait for them to come back, or do we move on?”
“We’ll have to wait, at least a little while.”
“Just sit around you mean?”
“Well, everything is tidy now, but there will be something we could do to help around the house until they come back.”
“Yes. I suppose you’re right.”
“And look at this picture.”
“Look at this picture?”
“Yeah – that’s what Less and Til would be doing, right? At least once all their chores were done.”
Perdita laughed and put her arm around Carl’s waist, “Alright, there are no chores to do, so let’s look at this picture. Maybe we’ll sing a song later.”
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Image: Julie Püttgen, Cloudmapping: Next Gate. Gouache, watercolor, and pencil, 12x16", 2008.
Text & Lyrics: JS van Buskirk
Music: James R. Carlson