Marshal and Lucy
Marshal and Lucy
By Paul Detzer
Hartford High School, Grade 9
Mamma’s pretty strict, but she’s a great mom and I love her so much. She lets me and my brother Marshal play a lot of the time when she’s home, and when she’s at work she expects us to do the laundry but after that we can do whatever we want; but she says "Stay out of trouble, ya' hear?."
She leaves for work at the factory early in the morning, before I’m even up. Sometimes I wake early to say goodbye because sometimes she doesn’t get home until eight at night, my bed time. But normally she gets home at five, and she can fix us dinner and read us a story and clean the house a little. Marshal gets to stay up until 10, and if I try I can put my ears to the wall between my room and the living room and hear them talking. Mamma says when I’m thirteen, too, I can stay up with her and Marshal and be in their conversation. But I’m only nine, so that’s really far away.
We can see it’s hard for her. She has a good temper but she cries a lot. Marshal and I can tell she cries when she thinks we're not around. It hurts us so bad to see her sad. It would probably be easier for her if dad didn’t leave looking for a good job.
Marshal helps us all that he can with money. He has a paper route, and whenever he gets his paycheck he puts the money in an envelope marked "For Mother" on the kitchen table without one bit of hesitation.
One day at five o’clock, Marshal and I are playing army commandos in the big old spruce right in our backyard behind the clothes line. We are clad in forest green with mud lines under our eyes. I am absolutely terrified of heights so I can’t ever bear to climb above the third branch. That is about 10 feet up. Mamma says I’m so scared of heights because Daddy was. But I don’t know if that sort of thing is genetic. I don’t remember daddy.
So I hop up to the first branch, pull myself halfway up, and then throw my leg over the side of the first branch. I sit there, on that dead branch, for a few seconds, staring toward the ground, and my feet dangling. I grab the second branch, which is quite a bit shorter than the one I was standing on, and yank myself upwards. I stand on the branch and hop up to the second. The second branch breaks off the tree and my bare feet smash against the first branch. Branch Number one gives way beneath my toes. I fall from the tree, head over heals, and the stump of a has-been branch slices my foot.
I thud to the ground.
“Lucy! Luce?” Marshal shouts.
“Don’t worry, I’m oka—,” I say, grimacing from my newly sliced foot.
“Mamma’s work is on fire!”
“The sewing mill?” I ask.
“Yeah! The first three stories are glowing red! Hold on I’m gonna’ go grab the binoculars!” Marshal says.
“Okay,” I say back.
He hops down one branch at a time, but more carefully than usual to avoid breaking the branches like me. He shimmies down the trunk of the tree, for branch one and two are gone. He jumps to the ground gracefully and sprints inside. I can hear him rummaging around in mamma’s room, and moments later he runs back outside and ascends the tree.
He peers through the lenses.
“Yeah, that’s fire alright!” he says, sounding scared.
The only time I’ve ever seen Marshal scared was when I snuck in his room in the middle of the night wearing a white sheet on Halloween, and said "I am a ghost and I will haunt you," quite loudly. He woke up quickly and screamed. Mamma made me do the dishes for a week because of that.
The mill was a half a mile away from out house, so he probably couldn’t see much even with the binoculars.
“What floor does Mommy work on?” I ask again. I hope I'm not annoying him with all of these questions.
“The… the…” It seems like he is pushing away tears. I’ve never seen Marshal cry. “The fourth,” he says.
“Oh,” I say,” Do you think she’s okay?”
“I don’t know Luce.”
“She can get out, right?”
“I don’t know Luce.”
The importance of the situation hits me like a train after he says that. I couldn’t possibly imagine life without mamma.
“Where is the fire department?”
“It’ll take them a while to get to the mill. It's rush hour and they're on the other side of town.”
Dread and grief smash into my heart.
“Didn’t mamma say the floor she was on was always really hot ‘cause they don’t turn the heat off in the summer ‘cause the thingy’s all old and rusty and fragile and if they break it, it could cost a fortune?” I ask.
“Yeah, she did,” he says back.
“Don’t… don’t… don’t they power that with oil?”
“Could that have started the fire? 'Cause isn’t it real hard to put out gas fires?”
“I don’t think that started the fire because if it did catch, the whole building would be blown to bits.”
“ Oh, well if the oil tank is there in the basement, and the fire is on the first three floors, isn’t it only a matter of time until the fire reaches the basement and the whole building can blow—” I stop myself. I sounded terrified as I asked this horrible question to which I already knew the answer.
I still sit at the trunk of the tree. Blood drips from my new cut. It is throbbing with pain, but that is, clearly, the least of my worries.
Splinters of the shattered branches surrounded me. My hands are behind me, holding me in an upright, sitting position.
I look up at Marshal still, squinting from the sun in my eyes.
Suddenly an ear-shattering boom shakes the ground, making the branches sway, and knocking me down. I wince and start to cry. But Marshal doesn’t budge. He stares, eyes fixed in the direction of the mill. I can’t see the factory, but I don’t need to, in order to know what happened.
Marshal keeps on staring. He blinks slowly, and a glittery tear rolls down his cheek, leaving a shiny trail behind it. It drips from his chin, falls to the ground, and vanishes.
And that is his last tear shed. It is not that he doesn't care, no, quite the contrary. But more that he is beyond that sort of grief. He saw the explosion, which was tragic. The bottom two floors were just shot out from the building, glass and brick flying. Then the building just fell in on itself. A musty cloud of dust swept the land moments later.
He saw every detail. He will be haunted by that for the rest of his life. I don’t have anything to remember other than my emotions which, as strong as they were, quickly become a distant memory.
Not a word is spoken by us about the event for a long time. It kills us to think about it, but it can't be avoided.
We are taken in by our Uncle Josh and Aunt Rita who live in Maine. It was so far away from home.
We love our uncle and aunt, but their place could never be home. Our home was with our mother. We could never be home again.
I miss my mommy.