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Tarpeian Rock

An Annual Literary Magazine

"Hinc ad Tarpeiam sedem et Capitolia ducit
aurea nunc, olim siluestribus horrida dumis."

                    --Virgil's Aeneid, VIII, l. 347-8
Articles from
the 2016 issue...

The Resplendent Dawn of a Serene Future

Father Sun and Daughter Moon

The Secret of the Climbing Tree

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The Secret of the Climbing Tree

by Rachael Whitman

November 9th 1938
Beten wir,” a little girl with wispy brown hair whispered. She grasped the hand of her older sister, Gretta. Huddled together in a corner above their father’s grocery store the two girls bowed their heads in prayer.
    A window shattered in the room below them.
    “Sara, we must go now. We can not wait for father anymore,” her voice trailed off as a scream echoed down Metzer Strasse.
    Gretta flung her dark coat on, grabbed her bag and her sister’s hand and together they creeped down the stairs to the alleyway behind the store.
    Time seemed to freeze as Sarah watched, wide-eyed, as the Nazi brownshirts ran down the street smashing in windows that had been painted with the star of David to distinguish them as Jewish-owned establishments.
    She ripped off her own star of David necklace and clenched it in her hand before dropping it in her pocket.
    “Gehen wir!” The words broke through her haze as Gretta again pulled on her hand and turned her away from the shreds of stars that now looked up at the stars in the night sky.

Two years later – England
Mama, please don’t go!” Gerald looked up at his mother, blinking away his tears. His mother leaned down and wiped his wet face. Comforting her son she turned to his older brother, Joseph.
    “Keep him safe for me, When the bombing is over I will come get you.” From around her neck she took off a little crucifix and put it around his neck. She hugged them both before sending them off to the train.
    They stared at her through the window, their faces pressed against the glass, and their hands waving goodbye. The train sped off and they continued to stare through the window as the train took them deep into the countryside.

Sara!” Mrs. Ainsworth called out.
    “Yes, Ma’am?”
    “I am leaving now to pick up the little boys.”
    Sara finished milking the cow, watered the garden, and then grabbed her favorite book before climbing a tree outside the house. Gretta was inside cooking dinner when the horse-drawn cart arrived with Mrs. Ainsworth and the two boys. The older one looked to be about 11 or 12, and the little one about 5. Both had curly brown hair and gray eyes.
    Sara jumped down from the tree, ignoring the look Mrs. Ainsworth gave her, and ran over to meet the new children.
    “I’m Sara,” she said.
    “I’m Joseph and this is Gerald.” The little boy piped up, “Your voice sounds funny...are you German?”
    “Shhh, Gerald,” his brother said.
    Sara said, “Yes...but I’m Jewish.”
    Sara glanced over at Mrs. Ainsworth who said, “Gerald, what did your mummy tell you about it?”
    “My mummy told me we have to pway for them 'cause bad people don’t like ‘em.”
    “Oh, that’s very nice, Gerald. Here, let’s go inside.”
    “Are you Catholic, then?” Sara asked Joseph, noting the crucifix he wore around his neck.
    He nodded.
    “Do you want to see a secret?” she asked. Before he could answer she scrambled back up the tree. Reaching her hand into a knothole in the trunk, she grabbed something, and jumped down again.
    “I have to hide this. Mrs. Ainsworth told me…”
    Slowly she opened her hand and there in her palm was the little silver and blue colored star of David.

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Young Catholic's Bookshelf

October 27th 1967
Beten Wir.” The mother said as she stopped her unpacking of the kitchen boxes. “Richard! Mary! Catherine, William and Susan! Come here…”
    Just a few minutes before her husband had returned from the city with the news that the Abortion Act of 1967 had passed.
    “What sad news to greet us during time when we were supposed to be happy with our move here,” she had mumbled.
    Now the children had gathered in the living room, boxes and dusty furniture spewed about the room.
    “Children, we told you about the law that would make abortion legal, today it passed. Grab your rosaries, we must pray for the innocent lives that will be affected by this.”
    After the prayer was over she quickly went back to the kitchen, tears escaping her eyes. “Daddy, why is mummy upset?” Richard, age three, asked.
    “This new law reminds your mother of when she was little. It was a terrible time then and she is afraid it will become like that…” he trailed off when from the kitchen they heard a yell…
    “WILL! Get in here now!”
    “Uh oh, looks like your brother is in trouble with mummy.”
    In the kitchen William stood, looking quite sheepish, and his sister, Catherine glared at him from under her long brown bangs.
    “William, I am busy, and you have the nerve to bother your sister? You’re 12 years old. Go outside and play before your father decides you need a smacking…”
    “Yes, mum”
    “Wait up, son!” his father called out.
    “Catherine, William, as you know, when I was little I lived in this house,” he began with a mysterious glint in his eye. He winked toward their mother before continuing.
    “I always heard there was a treasure buried on the grounds somewhere. If you two teamed up maybe you could find it.”
    “With smelly William?” Catherine, age nine, whined.
    “Yeah, well you cry too much,” he retorted.
    “If you fight, though, I will have to let Richard help,” their father said.
    They looked over to where Richard was running in circles chasing the dog, Roger, and both replied quickly, “No, we won’t fight!”
    “What’s the first clue,” Will asked.
    “I always heard that it was kept up high, high enough so that you could look into the home of a bird family,” their father said.
    “Oooh, the climbing tree!” Catherine squealed as she ran toward the tree.
    She climbed up until she was sitting on a big branch that was eye level to a knot hole in the trunk. Reaching her hand inside she felt around. Her fingers touched something. It was a rolled up piece of paper hidden in a glass bottle that was covered by dead leaves and old bark.
    Jumping to the ground she unrolled it, and William peered over her shoulder.
    “That’s supposed to be a treasure map?” he grumbled.
    On the paper was sketched what looked like a trail in the woods. There was a little water fall, and before it a pile of rocks.
    “We don’t know the woods very well. Plus I heard Susan say there are more than one waterfall. How are we supposed to know which one it is?” she cried.
    “Don’t whine! Here, let me see the words on the bottom.”
    “Mary is the Star,” he read.
    “What does that mean? Once we figure that out then we will know where in the woods to look maybe.” Catherine said, full of pride at her deducting skills. “I’m going to go look.”
    “Maybe we should just go straight to the woods…”
    “No, silly!”
    “Gosh, you think you know everything! I’ll find it before you do!” Will yelled as he stomped off toward the woods on the edge of the property.
    Catherine walked quietly into the house, and upstairs to her sister Susan’s room.
    “What do you think this means?” she asked her older sister, pointing to the words at the bottom.
    “Are you going on that treasure hunt that father told you about?” she asked.
    Her younger sister nodded her head eagerly.
    “It could be a name of one of the trails. I think one is called the Star trail.”
    “What about the Mary part?”
    “I’m not sure, but you could go look at the trail,” she said as they entered the kitchen.
    “Catherine can not go into the woods by herself,” said their mother, kneeling by the sink.
    “But Will is there!” Catherine pouted. “Susan, take her to fi nd Will then,” she ordered.
    At the entrance of the woods were three different trails. “Riverside,” “Star,” and “Gem.”
    “Well, there is the Star trail. Do you think Will knew to find the Star one?” Susan asked.
    “It’s on the map, so let’s try it!” Catherine said.
    “Will! Where are you?” Susan called out.
    An hour later there was still no sign of Will. The ground was getting more and more rough as they walked, and at one point Susan tripped and almost sprained her ankle. Normally of a cool disposition, Susan, now cranky, said, “Where could he be? Will!”
    Catherine said, “Maybe we should head back.”
    “Help!” pierced the air. “Cathy? Susan? Is that you?”
    “It’s Will! Wait, I think he is over there, across the stream.” Susan said.
    “I’m on the riverside trail!” his voice called back.
    They carefully climbed down the ditch to the bank of the little river. It was an unusually warm day for late October but the water was cold. Taking off her socks, Catherine put her foot in the stream. Susan hesitantly followed her. She grabbed Catherine’s hand and they slowly waded through the shallow water.
    Catherine lost her footing and slid into the stream that was suddenly not so shallow. The water rushed over her head. With no time to hold her breath, she gasped as the freezing water entered her nose and mouth.
    Jesus, Mary, help me, she prayed.
    Two hands grabbed her and pulled her up on to the other side of the river. Susan patted her back as she coughed up water. She felt Susan draping her jacket over her shoulders. Opening her eyes Catherine saw both Susan and Will leaning over her.
    “Will...are you...ok?” Catherine asked in between coughs.
    “Yeah, I was just lost. Are you ok?” he said.
    “I think so. Did you find the treasure?” Catherine asked.
    “The treasure!” Susan screamed. “You almost drowned. We are going home!”
    “NO! Take Catherine home, but I’m going to find it!” Will said.
    “That is greedy,” cried Catherine.
    Susan took a deep breath. “If you both promise to stop fi ghting, we can look a little longer.”
    “Fine, I promise,” he grumbled.
    “Ok.” sighed Catherine.
    Picking Catherine up, Susan took Will’s hand and they made their way back to the Star path.
    “We figured out it was the Star path ‘cause it says ‘Mary is the Star’” Catherine told him as she put her shoes on.
    “Oy! That makes sense. What about the Mary part? Hmm, let me think...I got it,” he said. “Remember that story mom told us about the waterfalls? She mentioned that they were nicknamed. And I think one was called Lourdes Fall.”
    “Like our Lady of Lourdes!” Catherine said.
    “I think there are only two waterfalls on this trail, and I’m pretty sure we went by the first one already, Catherine, on that little side path we passed soon after we started. So the second waterfall can’t be too much longer.”
    The three of them made their way through dirt, rocks, and leaves. The warm sun shone through the gaps in the trees and allowed for a little heat against their clammy skin and wet clothes.
    Catherine’s bangs were plastered to her forehead, Susan’s ankle was sore, and Will’s left cheek was splattered with mud. But when they turned a corner around a pile of big rocks, smiles suddenly came to their faces.
    There in front of them was a small lake—more of a pond—but the water was clear and a sparkling blue.
    Without saying anything, they all took off their socks and shoes and sat at the sandy edge. Susan splashed water onto Will’s cheek and rubbed off the dried
mud. As she did so, Catherine walked around to where the little waterfall fl owed into the lake.
    “Will! Susan! Come here! The X on the map says the treasure should be right around here!”
    Will walked over to where Catherine sat and he looked under some rocks. He glanced up and gasped. “Wait, look behind the waterfall!”
    Behind the waterfall was a little cave. The entrance to the cave was too high up for them to reach. There were some moss-covered rocks in the water between the sand and waterfall, and beside the waterfall, below the cave entrance, was a little ledge.
    “I think I can reach it,” Will said. His hand gripped the lip of the cave entrance and he was just about to lift his foot when he paused. “Would you like to go first, Catherine?”
    “Oh goody! Yes!”
    Moving out of the way he gave her a boost as she gripped the stones and lifted her foot to the ledge. After she was up Will pulled himself up and she reached down to give him a hand.
    The roof of the little cave was barely tall enough for Catherine to stand up and Will had to bend over a little bit. The back of the cave floor was dirt and the air was musty. A little log sat in the back corner and the area remaining was quite small. “Wait, I don’t have a shovel,” he groaned.
    Susan had entered the cave by now.
    “Don’t worry, I have a shovel in my backpack!” She handed it to Catherine who in turn handed it to her brother with a little smile.
    Together they took turns digging. *Thump* The shovel hit something hard and soon a little, metal, rectangular box was revealed. Will dusted off the top and Catherine lifted it out.
    Together they opened the lid and a note greeted them. It said:
    “This is a treasure buried by Joseph and Sara. We have had many adventures here and today we leave the house that has been our home for the last five years. Hidden in this box are items dear to our hearts because they are family heirlooms or played a part in our adventures. One day we hope to open this keepsake box or that our children will find this treasure and we hope they will smile.”
    In the upper right hand corner it was dated 1945. Underneath were two pictures. One was a picture of two girls and two boys. In another was a teenaged boy and girl sitting by the lake.
    “Oh how sweet,” breathed Susan, peering over them. “Mother and Father look so young!”
    “Look!” shouted Will as he eyed the glittering gold peeking out from underneath. Under the pictures was a pile of silver 1940 coins, a jeweled broach, and a single gold royal sovereign.
    “There really was a treasure,” Catherine grinned.
    “Wait, I see something else,” Will said as he dug to the bottom of the small pile. Underneath the coins at the bottom of the box lay two pieces of jewelry. One was a little gold crucifix and the other was a silver star of David.
    “Ohh, look at the little star!” Catherine smiled. “This is a real treasure! Let’s go show mom!”
    Together the three of them made their way back to the house where their parents stood waiting for them.
    “Oh children! I was beginning to worry about you.”
    “It’s ok, mom! Look we found the treasure!” Catherine said, presenting the little star.
    Will showed them the crucifix and the rest of the contents of the box. “That little crucifix was mine,” their father said.
    “And the star of David was mine!” their mother said, picking it up out of Catherine’s hand.
    She sniffed, and wiped away a couple tears. “My mother gave it to me when I was about your age, not long before I left Germany, and now I want you to have it” she said
to Catherine. “Remember every life is precious,” she whispered to her daughter as she put her arms around her.
    “Catherine! Let’s go show the others the treasure,” Will said excitedly. The crucifix and the star twinkled in the dusk, reflecting the light of the sun setting in the distance. Their father wiped away the tear rolling down their mother’s cheek as they watched Catherine and Will run, hand-in-hand, toward the house.

Rachael Whitman is nineteen years old and is a senior journalism student at Franciscan University of Steubenville.

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