My mother had praised and cursed it: “You have a very vivid imagination.” Her response was the same whether I was telling her fantastical bedtime stories, telling her it was Irene who'd wiped the paste on my pants, or pleading with her to let me sleep with the light on.

Our front lawn and the orchards, before my mother left, had been my kingdom. I was a beautiful princess, lounging on the bench swing, a gauzy canopy billowing out around me. I rocked until I was dizzy, waving off imagined suitors, waiting for a nameless prince who wasn’t coming. I searched the orchard-woods for unicorns with Laura. We had our separate castles on the concrete block above the well and on the hill behind the house. Sometimes we were farmers like my dad and his brothers, scattering seed pods in the air. I was a cowgirl in the basement of my grandparents’ house, sitting on a long-abandoned saddle.

When my mother left, the days were still growing longer. The evening light now seemed sinister. The sky in the valley stayed light for an hour or more after the sun went down, because of the high ridge of hills separating Philo from the ocean. That summer left was mild. We were allowed to play outdoors after supper while my father rested. Laura was occupied, now, with watching Daniel and Victoria. I was secretly relieved to be playing alone now; nothing unpredictable could happen if it was just me, and I got to play things that were too private to play with my sister.

My kingdom – when it was still a kingdom – was under attack. I pressed my back against the outer wall of the house, scanning the yard for enemy soldiers. They knew to look for me, the princess. I had changed from my ball gown into peasant clothes, pretending to be a servant to save my life. I crouched behind the tree, made a dash out the back gate and through the dried-out clay behind the house, running from the well to the hill, looking for sanctuary.

I played, too, that I was in the Bible. I wasn’t sure if this was all right with God, so I was extra-quiet about it. I played Mary of Bethany, who sat at Jesus’ feet and had an older sister. Jesus and I were running from the Pharisees, who wanted to kill him. He had let me come with Him and His disciples, even though I was a girl. We ran across Israel, crossing the yard and the gravel lot where my dad parked the Ranger. The other disciples got scared and they left Jesus, but I stayed with him; I held his hand as we ran. I was kicking up dust, and it clung to my shoes and my pant legs. We dodged behind the woodpile; I waited and caught my breath.

“We can hide out there!” I whispered, pointing at the woodshed. Jesus agreed and we darted inside. The floor of the woodshed was covered with splinters of redwood and sparse piles of kindling. My father’s ax rested in the nearest corner to the door. The sun had long since passed behind the hills outside. It was unarguably night time now.

There was no good way to end the story. Mary couldn’t marry Jesus, and I wasn’t interested in Jesus dying that night, even if he were going to rise from the dead. Still unresolved when my father called me inside, I left Jesus in the woodshed and went home.

from The Book of Revelation

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Pre*tend" (?), v. t. [imp. & p. p. Pretended; p. pr. & vb. n. Pretending.] [OE. pretenden to lay claim to, F. pr'etendre, L. praetendere, praetentum, to stretch forward, pretend, simulate, assert; prae before + tendere to stretch. See Tend, v. t. ]


To lay a claim to; to allege a title to; to claim.

Chiefs shall be grudged the part which they pretend. Dryden.


To hold before, or put forward, as a cloak or disguise for something else; to exhibit as a veil for something hidden.


Lest that too heavenly form, pretended To hellish falsehood, snare them. Milton.


To hold out, or represent, falsely; to put forward, or offer, as true or real (something untrue or unreal); to show hypocritically, or for the purpose of deceiving; to simulate; to feign; as, to pretend friendship.

This let him know, Lest, willfully transgressing, he pretend Surprisal. Milton.


To intend; to design; to plot; to attempt.


Such as shall pretend Malicious practices against his state. Shak.


To hold before one; to extend.

[Obs.] "His target always over her pretended."



© Webster 1913.

Pre*tend", v. i.


To put in, or make, a claim, truly or falsely; to allege a title; to lay claim to, or strive after, something; -- usually with to.

"Countries that pretend to freedom."


For to what fine he would anon pretend, That know I well. Chaucer.


To hold out the appearance of being, possessing, or performing; to profess; to make believe; to feign; to sham; as, to pretend to be asleep.

"[He] pretended to drink the waters."



© Webster 1913.

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