Cardenio and the Warbler

This little story started in a park in 2010. I was watching my kids play, I was warm in the sun and a little bored, and I had a notebook with me. The evening before, my husband had made a reference to Shakespeare’s “lost plays,” and I didn’t know what he was talking about. I should mention here that my husband is the creator of Open Source Shakespeare, and in the years he has been maintaining it, we have both learned a lot. I had a Master’s in English and had even lived in England, studying Shakespeare in London, but I’d never heard of the lost plays. He’d told me about how Shakespeare may have written a couple plays that have disappeared, and I was fascinated.

In the park the next day, I was still thinking about it, the way that you watch a really good, complicated movie and then think about it for a few days. A story line came to me about four kids who find something that may be a piece of one of these lost plays.  Before we left the park, I’d scribbled down the characters’ names and rough plot line in my little spiral, and the rest is history. The first chapter, in the voice of the oldest sibling, Kolbe, is here. If you like what you read, buy the book on!

Chapter 1


 The sun comes through my window at about six-thirty most days, and sneaks through the space where the window shade doesn’t lay flat against the window. Even on cloudy days, some light comes in and lands on my face, or makes a stripe across the bed sheets. Sometimes it’s a bright ray, with those little dust dots floating in it. Sometimes, I can tell it’s morning only because there is a change in the color of the light seeping into the room; from near-black to grayish blue. And then: gold. Pale, warm gold, like honey on a plate.  It’s my favorite way to wake up. I’d rather wake up a little early to the light coming in than wake up to an alarm, or somebody coming in to shake me.

I’ll lay there for a while, thinking of almost nothing. I can hear Mom telling the others be quiet, Kolbe needs his sleep, like I’m sick. I’m not sick. I needed my sleep more when I was playing lacrosse or basketball, practicing for three hours every day and tired all the time. I don’t know why I need my sleep now, but when she says that, they all hush up. Even Maggie. At least for a few minutes Maggs will be quiet, until she wants Eli to play dolls with her. Then I’ll hear her whining Eeeeeee-liiiiiieee! Come ON! Or she’ll say his whole name in her grown up voice, trying to sound like Mom or Dad: Elijah Harris, you SAID you’d play dolls with me! Then I usually get up and go down there. They all still act weird around me, too. Like I’m a guest, or like I’m famous or something. They all focus on me too much. If Rachel gets a glass of water or a snack, no one notices, but if I do it, everyone watches and Mom will say something like getting a snack, Sweetie? Oh that’s good…

I still have homework, even though it’s summer. That’s how the teachers decided I’d be allowed to graduate from tenth grade and move on to eleventh, even though I missed almost two months of school; they gave me a bunch of lame homework. It’s all busy work—like work sheets with algebra problems we did in early February, or questions from the history book from the chapter on “Reconstruction.” Mr. Harper gave me the study questions from the end of the book, with an answer key. They’re all going easy on me; It’s so obvious. I guess I should be grateful but it just makes me feel pathetic. It’s my foot that got crushed, not my frontal lobe. Jeez. But I guess it’s better than if the homework were really hard.

Today I went downstairs and for once, nobody said a fake-cheerful good-morning! because today they were arguing about something. It was the good kind of arguing, more like excited discussing. Mom only looked up and smiled at me, interrupting Dad long enough to tell me there’s two fried eggs for you in the pan, still warm, if you want them.

Dad was saying I don’t think I can leave that soon and Mom said just meet us there and Dad said it might make sense to have two cars there, in case one of them needed to drive back, and Mom said it would be nicer if we all went in one car. She said if we’re really going to do this thing, we should do it right and something about how we need to commit to at least six weeks.

I stood there with my eggs, and I was about to interrupt, to say what are we even talking about here? Instead Rachel interrupted. Wait! She said, and they both got quiet because that’s what we always do for Rachel, since she was little and couldn’t talk very well. What, Honey? Mom said, trying to be patient, and Rachel said the piano there isn’t any good, and Mom said we can have it tuned, and that’s when I knew where they meant we might be going for six weeks: my Granddad’s house on Tilghman Island. It’s not an island like in the Bahamas or the Caribbean; palm trees and coconuts and miles of sand. It’s a little piece of the Eastern shore of Maryland, with scrubby little bushes and rocky, narrow beaches. The kind of beach where you can’t walk barefoot or you’ll need a first- aid kit; the kind of beach where blue herons stand for hours in the brushes because nobody is there to scare them away. The whole island is…beige. And gray. Like a black and white picture. It’s the kind of place a person would go to disappear.

Tilghman Island is also only three hours away, but we’ve never gone for the whole summer because of  sports, Rachel’s piano lessons, and Dad’s work. Now my parents seemed to be seriously talking about staying away all summer and all of a sudden I didn’t want to go. I don’t even know why. I knew in a split second that if I’d thought of it, it might have seemed like a good idea, but here they were, all talking about it without me, like it didn’t matter what I thought. But I also knew, in that same split second, that we were going anyway. They would say it matters what I think, but it doesn’t.  I am the patient now; this all somehow for me, and, like a sick patient, they think I don’t know what’s best for me. So I didn’t just lose my foot, I lost my right to an opinion, too. So I just poured some cereal and went up to my room with it and slammed the door.