Scavenger Girl by Jennifer Arntson – Excerpts
Scavenger Girl by Jennifer Arntson – Excerpts
Season of Atchem
Publisher – Sleepy Adam
Pages – 352
Release Date – 20th October 2017
ISBN 13 – 978-0999413302
Format – ebook, paperback
Stripped of their birthright and shunned by the people of Ashlund, Una and her family are forced to live on the fringe of society as Scavengers. There is no question that her family’s bond is strong, but the law of the Authority is stronger…and soon it will come to collect her. After all, the family is on borrowed time already.
When a night of torment and truth reveals well kept secrets, Una takes new freedoms – free from the Authority, her family, and possibly her fate. Pulled between the life she’s always known and a world where status and rituals are everything, Una struggles to understand a culture that has rejected all she holds dear. As Atchem comes to an end and she learns who she really is, will Una find the courage to do what it takes to ensure her family’s survival, or will she find the faith to follow her heart?
Mother tried to help with the daily chores, but as I expected, she tired easily. As much as I hated to admit it, my father was right; she did need someone here to help her. I tucked her into bed, making sure she had fresh water on her bedside table. “You get some sleep, and I’ll start dinner. Did you want me to use the pork from the storage crock or are the men bringing home fish?”
“We never know what the river will give.” She yawned.
“Pork it is.” I kissed her forehead.
The best part of preparing dinner by myself was getting to decide what to have. Since I had no one to ask, I could fix whatever I wanted, and no one could complain. Tonight I wished to have cabbage and wild onions with the roast, simply because the men of our family didn’t prefer it. That’ll teach them for leaving me behind.
After putting the meat over the fire in the roasting pot, I found my plucking blade and headed to the vacant field across the road to find the onions. We had some in our garden, but the ones that grew on their own were much sweeter and had a richer flavor than their domesticated cousins.
I was searching at the edge of the tree line when I heard a branch snap. Gripping my blade, I crouched down immediately. While it was rare for anyone to come this far down our road, it wasn’t impossible. My eyes darted through the brush to find the source of the sound. It was too loud to be a rodent, and since I couldn’t see it, I assumed it was hiding from me.
My house was not that far away. I saw the corner of the perimeter from where I hid. Whoever was out there knew where I was and had the advantage. The gardening tool in my hand was not my weapon of choice. I had two options. I could stay and let them get closer, or take my chances and run. If they caught up to me, at least I’d be somewhat armed.
I checked my shoes and gathered my skirt in my free hand. There was no movement. My heartbeat pounded in my ears. Lunging from my spot, I sprinted toward home. Whoever was out there would either be chasing me or would let me flee, unless they attacked me with a spear gun or arrows. I glanced back to satisfy my fear only to miss the mole hole that tripped me. I fell and lost grip of my blade, which landed just out of reach. Panting, I rolled onto my back and searched the lot for movement again. This time, I saw something.
“Um, Father?” I interrupted, “Someone’s here.” My face changed when I realized who it was.
My father, who had come to the same conclusion, rushed us into action. “It’s the Authority. Una, Calish, get in the burrow now!” The entire family jumped from the table, and Marsh pulled back the rug, exposing the hidden trapdoor.
Calish opened it up, and I hurried into the dark passage as fast as I possibly could. After imagining what must have transpired at Grena’s house, my father had already trained us to take every precaution if and when the Authority came here.
“Marsh, load the thistle spears and go to the loft like we practiced. Wait for my signal. Redena, you stay here. We’ll be fine, just stay quiet.” Calish closed the hatch, and Mother repositioned the house rug, hiding the door from view. My father blew out the lantern, and the house dimmed. I heard Marsh hustling about the house then up the ladder. Then complete silence filled our family’s home.
Calish and I stood still in the burrow. The place I expected to be pitch black was illuminated by rays of light pouring through aging cracks in the stone foundation of our house. “I thought you couldn’t see in here?” I whispered fearfully.
Calish hushed me. “You can’t,” he said in my ear.
A moment later, I heard the bells of the front entry to the yard. Mother stepped behind the door, hiding in the corner of the tiny house. My father opened the door and stepped outside. It was then that I wondered why we all didn’t hide in the burrow together. It was created for me, but there was more than enough room for the whole family. Perhaps it didn’t cross Father’s mind, or for some reason it did, and he dismissed it. I cursed myself for not asking during the drills he made us practice; it was too late now
After breakfast and the standard controlled argument among the men of the family, it was decided that Calish, Father, and I would go to the river and Marsh would stay with my mother as they each continued to regain their strength.
“Are you sure you’ll be safe on your own if I go with them, Mother?” I worried.
“Yes, of course. I doubt there is much here that would capture your interest for another day. You should enjoy the light while it’s here.”
I was so excited to go to the river that I almost forgot my gown. “Isn’t that the reason you’re going?” Father inquired.
“Yes, it was, I mean, it is.” I grabbed my crumpled dress from the yard and shoved it into my pack.
I don’t know that I’ve ever enjoyed a walk to the river as much as I did today. It was so nice to get out of the house. What made it comforting was knowing my mother was alive and Marsh was getting stronger. I didn’t want to think too much about tomorrow. I wanted to enjoy what was happening now.
I’m sure someday soon we’d go back to the river, living out our days the way our lives used to be. There was even talk about taking the ox to the river in the next day or two. At least, that was the plan. It was always good to have a plan, but flexibility always proved helpful in case the plan didn’t pan out.
When we arrived at the river, Calish warned me, “I doubt that dress will wash clean. Go see what’s being offered and let me know what you need.”
Grateful for the suggestion, I set my dress next to his pack and wandered among the sunbathing Citizens. Some were here simply because it was a beautiful day; others were here to trade, even though trading with Scavengers was prohibited. I walked timidly past them, eyeing the piles many had laid out next to their blankets. Of all the wares, there was only one white gown, and it was far too small.
Jennifer Arntson has a long history of crafting tales that people find unbelievable, but often true. As an observer of human and social development through the ages, a curiosity of faith, and dedication to the underprivileged of the developing world, Jennifer finds her creative outlet in stories and fables.
She lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband and two children, and a mini-farm of otherwise useless animals where the family eagerly caters to their every need.
You can find out more about Jennifer by reading our interview – ‘The Writing Life of: Jennifer Arntson‘