Monday Sidetrack: 21

Welcome to your Monday Sidetrack! Start by reading the story all the way through. Then, if you need a bit more of a sidetrack from your day, go back and explore the hyperlinks I've found for this bit. That way, you'll get the most out of the whole post. Enjoy!

(This story begins with Monday Sidetrack: 6. Start there to get caught up one post at a time or go to to read all the previous posts as one long post. Then subscribe to find out what happens next!)


Of course it was dark. Her home was the same as any other lighthouse. It had only a few windows and none of them aligned with Viola’s platform. Without the beacon and large overhead light, there were only the regular house-type lights, like the wrought iron floor lamp next to the couch and the sphere-shaped light hanging over the kitchen table.

The thought of trying to go back to sleep tried to take hold, but it didn’t stand a chance. If nothing else, I wanted to put on my pajamas.

When I say it was dark, I mean the darkest dark. Memories of sleeping in the basement bedroom at my friend Allison’s house consumed me to the point that I thought I could smell the dampness of the cement walls.

I remembered Viola’s pie and finding Ruby and going back to the campsite for my backpack.

I sat up. There was no clock to be found, or at least none with bright, lighted numbers I was used to. Mine at home had green numbers, because I passed up the blue and red ones on account of having had too many just like them over the years.

The bedroom door was closed and not even a nightlight ventured through the cracks around its edges. There was no way to get any visual clues.

If it’s still early enough, I’ll go back to sleep. Otherwise, I’ll need to get up.


I remembered putting my phone and flashlight in the top pocket of my backpack. All I had to do was find my backpack in an unfamiliar room with absolutely no light.

I swung my legs over the edge of the bed and felt around the end, certain that I had left my bag there. The comforter met the floor with barely a centimeter gap and bunched up at the end of the bed. I had to navigate around its fluffy folds and search for the canvas of my backpack. It didn’t take long to realize that it wasn’t there. I walked from the end of the bed to the nearest wall, reaching out for anything I might come across, and still came up empty-handed.

“You too, Ruby,” Viola said last night "you too, Ruby."

“Ruby?” I whispered into the darkness as I traced my steps back to the bed.

No response.

“Ruby?” I said a bit louder. [If you click this link, turn down your volume or put on your headphones.]


Either she’s a deep sleeper or she’s not in here.

The light switch was next to the door and even if I didn’t go straight to it, I was guaranteed to reach the right wall, or run into it. With my arms out in front of me and my eyes open as wide as possible, I crept across the room. Just as I ran into an upholstered chair and stubbed my toe, a light went on outside the room and streamed in below the door. Viola was awake.

I reached forward and turned on the light.

Ruby was nowhere to be found. I ran my fingers through my hair and made sure my clothes were on straight before I opened the door.

I peered out into the living room.

“Good morning, Lana,” Viola called from the kitchen. “How did you sleep?”

“Great, maybe too well. I wasn’t sure where I was when I woke up.”

“You can take a nap after the next experiment. We’ll have some breakfast and then get to work.” Ruby climbed up a makeshift staircase of spice bottles, a deck of cards, and a book lying on its long edge. This took her to the top of the ceramic flour canister where she could sit and be closer to our eye level when we sat.

“What experiment is that?” I sat down at the table. A bowl of fruit was in the middle. I pulled out a banana and began to peel it.

“We’re going to see if I can leave the lighthouse through the ground level door,” Viola’s eyes were bright and excited by the prospect.

“Oh, good idea. That would be helpful to know.” Still tired, I took a bite of banana.

“We’re thinking that I might be able to go to my relatives’ homes, the ones who visit me. If so, then I might be able to get more information from them or at least some other supplies for the rest of your trip.”

“How late did you two stay up last night and do you know where they live?”

They laughed.

“It’s strange, but I think I do know where they live. I can’t remember being to any of their homes, but I feel like I know the way.”

“That is strange.” I took another bite.

“We went to bed a little after midnight. I slept here on the table. My elephant case is quite comfortable,” Ruby walked down her staircase and across toward the case, which was now next to the fruit bowl. “We’re having waffles for breakfast. The experiment will be very simple. I’ll stay here while you two try to walk out the front door.”

“Makes sense. The staircase is very long. Are you sure you don’t want to come with us?”

“No, I need to stay here for when Viola comes back. If she is able to leave, flash the lights and I’ll use my parachute to meet you at the bottom.” Ruby patted the top of her case. "There's a switch a few feet from the door.

“Sounds like you’ve thought of everything. If we can all leave, where will we go? As far as I know, the path continues from the lighthouse and hits complete darkness after a little while."

Viola ladled some batter into the waffle iron.

“How many waffles do you think you’ll eat? I already have some tiny drips in here for Ruby.”

“Two? How big are they?”

Are they the ones my grandma always made?

“Like this,” Viola set the spatula on a yellow spoon rest and made a circle with her hands.

“Okay, two should be good. Will I need my backpack for this trip?”

“Not yet. We’re just testing the limits. We won’t actually leave until tomorrow morning after we’ve done a bit more planning.”

“Is there a way to plan what you’re going to do here? So far, my adventures have been pretty haphazard.”

“That’s one way to do it. Another way is to learn the rules of this place and use them to your advantage. We’ll do it with the help of this,” Ruby pulled a book out of her case.

The cover was a deep red leather. That was all I could make out. I leaned toward her and stared at the cover. The aroma of the waffles finally reached us, but I stayed fixed on the tiny book in Ruby’s hands. She started to walk back to her staircase.

“This book has most of the information we’ll need, enough to get us started. It was given to me with the elephant case,” she began to the climb the stairs. “I don’t remember ever not having either one and I don’t remember who gave them to me. This book has helped me quite a bit over the years and it’ll help us now.”

“I’ll have to rely on you to read it.”

“Of course, but you’d be able to read some of the diagrams, like the map.” She set the book on her lap spine side down, let it fall open to the middle and unfolded the map that covered her legs and most of the canister lid.