Miss Olive Sutherland was odd. No one who knew her would have called her normal. Well, that is to say the one person that actually knew her. She stayed indoors and talked to herself, pining for something or other at the window. The most she ever went out of doors was a turn around the small yard, and a slight pause to admire the English-Cottage garden plot. She had the first and last meals of the day taken to her by Margaret, her sister, but she always found a way to be productive. As a child she didn’t go to school, and the only way the other children knew she existed was simply because of Margaret’s existence. And Margaret’s existence seemed to be made up almost entirely of chatter; she would tell the others she “could not go to the concert; dear sister Olive wasn’t feeling well.” or “Olive is entirely dependent upon me, because you know about poor father, and I must be home to feed them both.” But so often was Margaret’s talk, and so little was the appearance of her sister, the children at the school had begun to think she was only someone of Margaret’s imagination. 

Despite all this, Margaret loved the strange attention it brought her, and Olive was perfectly content to live out her young years in their cottage, staying cautiously and happily away from the world. This did not result in great beauty, as you can imagine. Instead of a clear complexion, her skin was sallow. In place of a thick, moussy head of auburn hair, thin, fragile strands of dull red hair hung in a limp braid down her back. Her eyes held little color, and resembled the hues of a puddle on a rainy afternoon. Her lips were thin and too small for her bulging nose and ears, both of which protruded out of her head at odd angles. 

Some of you may wonder how in the world these characteristics are those of our protagonist here. It is simply the facts, told to me by one Margaret Sutherland, the aforementioned sister of Miss Olive. And the real start of this short tale I will begin here, just as Miss Margaret described to me personally: 

“I was just coming home one afternoon from the shop, where I work and earn the money to keep up Olive and father; we can’t go living off his retirement and then have nothing left, right? So as I opened the door, I already knew something wasn’t quite right. It had this different feel, like something marvelous was going to happen. So I opened the door and did a full check around the room, just to make sure there were no burglars or bandits or anything of the sort. But my sister Olive’s set of blue boots were nowhere to be seen. So I asked father what he thought, and he said he hadn’t the slightest inkling what I was talking about. Then I was determined to find my sister and see what on earth she could be up to--she didn’t even know her way about town! 

“On and on I looked, until I saw her standing right by the fountain, scribbling something on a stack of paper. I called her name, but she didn’t look at me, only kept scribbling and pouring over that set of papers. So I called her name again, and everyone else’s eyes turned on me like I was crazy. But in order to prove I wasn’t crazy, I told them all straight, ‘Look there! That’s my sister. Now you can believe me.’ But they all kept on staring, and I was so perplexed that I grabbed Olive’s hand and her stack of papers, and marched right out of there to go to a place where I could read what she wrote.

“A little seat under a willow tree was where I would read and write little things of my own, and so I sat down, and she sat too, and I read it. I produced a pen from my pocket, for she had dropped hers at the fountain, and I began to write here and there, editing what she had written, and eventually held it up--it was a right good book! The whole thing we wrote together, and she asked me to go and publish it for her. And I told her it would be a mighty bit of work, but I could go and get it done anyway--that’s what sisters are for, right? So I bustled back to our little cottage, and Olive followed. I hooked up the buggy to our beautiful raven-black team, and set off again for town; Olive began to feel a little under the weather from her little outing--I don’t know what had gotten into her. I drove straight to the newspaper’s editor’s office and showed him that book. He said he wasn’t much into ladies’ stories, but I had assured him, and truthfully, too, that I had gotten many publishers down on my books, and I was an official author. So there he was, reading it for hours until he gave me the thumbs up, the first ten dollars, and there she was, my little sister Olive, right with her own book all writ! We could never get over this, father and I. And this book that she wrote was just a best seller. Now what will I get to tell those friends of mine at school or about town when they see the book all shiny and spanking new from the press. And those people at the fountain, how can they account for the book without the author?” 

There is the tale as I heard from Miss Margaret, however as one of those unlucky spectators at the fountain and a close friend of the Mr. Sutherland (though the very actually published book is supporting evidence), and as I have a very different remembrance of these events, I am not entirely sure there ever was a Miss Olive Sutherland!

June 16, 2020 21:55

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