The Logbook of Ponce de León

The Logbook of Ponce de León

Chapter 4

The threat of their father in harm’s way became unbearable. Each Dolor child stayed up all night imagining horrible things done to him by a vampire. What sort of monstrosities was it capable of during all those long hours alone at work? They didn’t know where to begin in their quest to close the gate, but the Ghost had implied it needed to be done to contain the monsters. 

The three of them spent their Saturday morning trying with everything in them to close the gate, using arms, legs, branches, and backs, but did nothing to budge the massive doors. They did, however, ruin one of Mr. Dolor’s mallets from the garage. It seemed the doors weren’t going to close on their own. So the best idea the children mustered was researching Juan Ponce de León and the forest. Mr. and Mrs. Dolor kept many books in the house, but nothing on Spanish or Floridian history. This meant the only sensible outcome was for the children to go to the local library.

Esther loved reading, so libraries always fascinated her. Sometimes it felt overwhelming because she wished she could read them all, but knew she never would. She liked really old books, especially Poe, Wells and Lewis. They talked whimsically and told fantastical stories. She loved the smell of their pages. It was like stuffy wood, burnt parchment, and wine. “History,” is how she described it.

Marian loved writing, but wasn’t too fond of reading much outside of Shakespeare. She liked him because he spoke poetically and often about love. She wanted to write plays like him. 

Herbert loved picture books. His favorites were those with dinosaurs. He could name thirty-two dinosaurs, which was a great deal more than older kids and even adults. His favorites were the Allosaurus, Parasaurolophus, and Baryonyx. He liked the name of Ankylosaurus too, but thought they looked silly. 

While Marian asked the librarian for help in their search, Esther and Herbert walked up and down the aisles for fun. Esther found herself a book by Richard Adams that looked nice. It had bunnies on the front. Herbert found a book on the Cretaceous Period.

“Hello, young sir,” a voice from behind the rack of books called to Herbert. He looked up at a man rounding the aisle. He was tall and skinny, with long, crooked, brittle fingers holding a strong, ornate cane. His shoes were made from crocodile-and-snakeskin, and a black top hat rested on his thin, pale head. From underneath his hat, a piece of cork stuck out of his right ear. “My name is Mr. Dauer,” the man introduced himself. 

“Hello.” Herbert did not like the sight of him. 

“I gather you are here with your siblings looking for a book about Ponce de León.”

“That’s right,” Herbert replied.

“Why would a little boy who liked dinosaurs be interested in Ponce de León?” Mr. Dauer’s neck twitched slightly. 

Herbert didn’t know what to say. 

“Perhaps it’s because you broke open that gate, Herbert?” 

Herbert’s eyes widened. “Esther!” He called.

“Why do you need Esther?” Mr. Dauer asked. “Oh, it must be true, then. You did break open the gate, didn’t you, Herbert?”

Esther approached them, and a chill tickled down her spine. “Are you okay, Herb?” She asked. Herbert was speechless.

“You know, Esther,” Mr. Dauer said to her, “I bet you figure out the way before anyone else. Especially Marian, yes. She always seems distracted by her emotions to stay on task, doesn’t she? Always getting into arguments with people that could help.” 

“Excuse me, but I think my brother and I should leave.”

“Why’s that, dear?” Mr. Dauer’s cane hit the ground next to Herbert’s foot. “Something wrong?”

“Yes,” she fired back. “You are creepy!” 

Mr. Dauer laughed, tapping his cane a second time. “Well, people have said worse. I suppose you will all do so well together. Make sure to listen to whatever your sister says, Esther! And don’t worry, Herbert, it’ll be our little secret.” He reached out his hand like he was going to pat Herbert on the head, but thought better of it.

“Marian!” Esther cried, scanning up the crossing aisle for any sign of her sister. She turned back to see the strange Top-Hat Man was no longer there. “Where is he?” 

“I don’t know,” Herbert replied, taking off his glasses and wiping them.

“What was he talking about, Herb?” Esther asked. “—your secret?”

“I don’t know,” Herbert sheepishly answered.

“Let’s get back to Marian.”

The two whispered her name as loud as they could, scampering from towering aisle to towering aisle, traipsing and bumbling down the corners and cross sections. Searching for someone in an unfamiliar location can be quite exhilarating. Whenever you are frightened, it can make the experience awful. 

Herbert didn’t know that with every step he was actually scurrying faster, all the while thinking about how Esther was always two steps ahead of him. Esther didn’t know it, but she too was bounding faster and faster with every scuttle, thinking to herself how Herbert was sprinting down the center aisle. Before both realized it, they were racing through the library, yelling out Marian’s name, hoping not to infuriate the ever-observing librarian. 

They found her in the local history section, holding two books. One she pulled from the shelf titled The Wonders of Spanish Influence and Culture, and another she returned to the shelf titled Urban Myths of Florida

Esther and Herbert hurled into her. 

“What is the matter?” Marian asked.

“Did you find a book?” Esther asked, out of breath.

“Nothing very promising,” Marian replied. “How bout you?”

Esther shrugged, out of breath, and looked on the shelf next to her. “Maybe the library isn’t the best idea,” she said. 

“What other option do we have?” Marian asked. 

“I don’t know,” Herbert said. “But I want to get out of here. There’s a creepy guy walking around.” 

“But we don’t have—”

“He’s right, Marian,” Esther pleaded. “We need to get out of here. There’s some guy with a cork in his head and creepy hands like a witch. Maybe there’s someone else that can help us if we ask—but not here.”

“Fine,” Marian said. “Just let me get these books first so it’s not all a wash.” Marian pulled the former book out of the shelf and carried both to the front desk, where the librarian checked her out. 

The next morning, the Dolor children wore their best dresses and slacks on their way to Sunday School. Mrs. Dolor even put a little bowtie on Herbert for his first time at their new church. Sunday school is a great place to meet nice kids and learn about love. But one person there, that didn’t seem to understand either, was Aaron. Regardless, the Dolor children were excited to see him. After all, he was the only other person, besides a ghost, that knew what they did and the library turned out to be a waste of time. Aaron might actually have more information on the matter.

“Oh, so now you want to listen?” Aaron said with the sort of ugly expression that is only on the bad guys in cartoons.

“You said you wanted to help,” Marian replied. “And you said your great-grandfather might know something.”

“He’s dead,” Aaron replied flatly. “And I never said I wanted to help. I said you needed to fix it.” Aaron’s teeth shown through his crooked smile at Marian. “Prolly ol’ Herbie’s fault—Right, Herbie?” 

Herbert blushed.

“Leave him alone!” Marian shouted.

“Or what? You’ll forget where the Atlantic is again?” 

“Is there anyone—an adult who can help us?” Esther asked. “Our parents don’t want to listen.”

Aaron scrunched up his face and closed one of his eyes while the other looked at the ceiling. “I might know someone.”

The Someone Aaron was thinking about what his grandpa, Mr. Mewbourn. He was an old widower that enjoyed sitting in his blue velvet reclining chair or laying on his bed. Baseball and Golf were always on his television unless one of his grandkids was over. He loved telling stories to his grandchildren, especially Aaron, whom he told all about Ponce de León. Aaron’s mother didn’t seem to like Aaron visiting his grandpa that much, but Aaron snuck there often on his bike. 

Aaron led the Dolor children to Mr. Mewbourn’s mobile home that Sunday afternoon. When they entered the house, Marian sneezed at the smell of stuffy clothes and mildew. It made Esther think of the old shopping mall in Cocoa. Herbert’s eyes fixated on a glass terrarium in the corner, with a long bearded dragon in it. 

“Aaron, my sweet grandson!” Mr. Mewbourn said as he stood from his chair to hug him. 

“Hello, Paw-Paw,” he replied. 

“I see you brought friends.” Mr. Mewbourn said, while Marian smirked at Esther and Herbert. “Hello kids, I am Clive Mewbourn.” 

They each greeted him. 

“Would you like some candy?” The old man held out a jar of orange slice candies. Most kids today haven’t eaten orange slice candies, and if you ever get a chance to, you probably won’t like them. But old grandpa’s like Mr. Mewbourn love them. Marian and Herbert said, “no, thank you,” but Esther tried one. He handed her the jar, and she noticed the one wrinkled tattoo of a blue anchor with the letters USN smeared across his right forearm. He seemed nice, but she believed he was secretly really tough. 

“So if you two don’t like orange slices, maybe you’ll like some vanilla bean ice-cream.” Mr. Mewbourn smiled, and all four kids eagerly accepted. 

They each scooped ice-cream from five small bowls while sitting on the chair, couch, and floor rug. Mr. Mewbourn sat in his reclining chair.

“What brings you over, Aaron?” Mr. Mewbourn asked.

“We were hoping you could tell us about Juan Ponce de León and his Enchanted Forest,” Aaron replied.

Mr. Mewbourn’s eyes beamed, and he leaned back in his seat. “Oh, Ponce de León,” he whispered to himself, and closed his eyes. “My father told such remarkable stories.”

“Could you tell us about him, Mr. Mewbourn?” Marian asked.

“Eh, what’s that?” Mr. Mewbourn asked. 

The kids looked at each other. 

“Paw-Paw,” Aaron said. “Do you still have the books you used to read me about Ponce de León?” 

“Books? Oh, the books! No, no, they were all donated to the library when I moved into this old shack. After Lucille died.” Mr. Mewbourn closed his eyes again. 

“What do we do now?” Esther whispered to Marian. 

Mr. Mewbourn opened his eyes and shot his head forward. “I tell you what we must do!” He exclaimed. “We need the logbook. Oh, my father knew everything because of that book.”

“What is the logbook?” Marian asked.

“The captain’s logbook!” Mr. Mewbourn threw his hands up in the air in excitement. His chair rocked back and forth. “Ponce de León wrote every bit of his adventures in it.”

The Dolor children smiled. They’d almost lost hope. 

“That’s wonderful!” Marian shouted.

“Stupendous!” Esther cheered.

“Great!” Herbert exclaimed.

“Where is the logbook, Paw-Paw?” Aaron asked. 

He clapped his hands and sighed. “I sold it too, when I moved into this pitiful shack.” 


“Oh no!”

“That stinks.”

“Paw-Paw, how could you get rid of something like that?” 

“Eh? What’s that?” Mr. Mewbourn asked. “Oh, oh, yes, well, when you can’t get out enough for orange slice candies as often as I do, you sometimes need to barter such things. Pitiful habit that bartering and gambling is.” 

“Who did you gamble the book away to?” Marian asked.

“Some little runt. One of the neighborhood kids who comes by for ice-cream and trading from time to time. Said he would make it worth my while.” Mr. Mewbourn drummed his fingers on the armchair. “I’m still waiting, though.” 

“Oh no,” Aaron said. 

“What’s the matter?” Esther asked.

“I know who he’s talking about.” 

“Mr. Mewbourn,” Marian interrupted. “Can you help us get that logbook back?” 

The next instant, Mr. Mewbourn’s eyes were closed again. The children thought he might jump up to help as before, but the sound of snoring slowly crept from his nose and mouth. 

“Paw-Paw likes to sleep,” Aaron informed. “But he is a really good story-teller.”

“What do we do now?” Herbert asked.

“It’s not going to be fun,” Aaron replied, “But I know where it is.”

“Of course you do,” Marian said.

“Do you want my help or not?” Aaron fired back.

Marian went silent. 

“They call him Vinnie the Rat,” Aaron said. 

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