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Charlie bounced the ball against the side of the log cabin. Thump, thump. Thump, thump.

“Charlie will you quit bouncing that ball! It is making such a racket and has woke Clara up from her nap!” Charlie’s mom yelled out the door of the cabin.

Charlie sighed. Ever since his sister had been born, he had to tiptoe around everywhere. He couldn’t run through the house anymore. Clara would wake up and cry. He couldn’t pretend he was Sherriff anymore and play shoot 'em up. Clara would wake up and cry. Now he couldn’t bounce his ball against the house. Clara would wake up…. And cry! He wished Clara had never been born. Girls ruined everything! He never wanted a stupid sister anyway. She tried to follow him around the house now, always hanging on him and wanting his ball. He stomped away from the house. What was there to do for a ten-year-old boy around this old place anyway? He’d already done his chores. He’d gathered the eggs, brought the wood in and slopped the hogs. He’d fed the goats and the horses. School was out for the summer, so he didn’t get to see his best friend Sam much. Sam lived about five miles up the road. Ma and Pa wouldn’t let Charlie go anywhere yet. They said he was too young. Charlie wandered toward the prairie pasture trying to bounce his ball on the ground. Charlie wished he was grown up and could do anything he wanted. Like being sheriff of Cope City, which was the town close by. As the sheriff, he’d stop bank robbers that came in on the new train. Or clean the town up of the drunkards and gunslingers that stumbled out of the saloons and down the streets.

Charlie dropped his ball on the ground. It rolled away as Charlie took his stance, both hands on hips, legs spread apart, his hat pulled down tight on his head.

“Draw em Dirty Dan!” he yelled as he spit in the dirt at his feet. He counted to ten and drew his pretend guns. “Pow, pow, pow!” He ran forward yelling at Dirty Dan. "Run you coward run!" He yelled before he holstered his pretend guns and looked for his ball. He saw it rolling down the hilly road headed for a small ravine. He took off running after it.

Charlie heard someone yelling. He looked up to see his Dad yelling and pulling at the reins of the two Clydesdales that pulled the logging wagon. The wagon was coming straight toward him.

“Get out of the way boy! Get out of the way!” His dad was waving his hand, motioning for Charlie to move. Charlie jumped out of the way as the wagon rolled by and came to a screeching halt. His dad climbed down and stomped over to where Charlie stood with his head down.

“Dang it, boy. Can’t you pay attention. I would take the switch to you right now, if I didn’t have to get this load to the lumber mill. Why aren't you at the house helping your Ma with Clara?”

“I don't know.” Charlie mumbled.

“ Well, I got to get going. I will stop and tell your ma that I am taking this load to the lumber mill and that I’ll be home soon. I’ll tell her that you are coming to help her take care of Clara. She’s got a lot on her hands and she's tired.”

"Pa?" Charlie asked.

Charlie's pa turned back around. Charlie decided he'd be brave and ask. "Can I go with you Pa?"

Charlie's pa shook his head. "Somebody's got to hold down the fort for me while I'm gone all day. Your Ma is tired Charlie. She's been sick for almost a year now. Clara's almost three but she still needs looking after. You got to be the man around the house and help look after your sister while I am not around."

“Okay Pa.” Charlie grumbled as he kicked the dust around. It always came back to his sister. Everything was about his sister. His dad seemed to know what he was grumbling about.

“You know someday you are going to be glad you got a sister!” His dad said before he crawled back up on the wagon and heehawed at the horses to get moving. The wagon lumbered off.

Charlie started back home. There wasn’t gonna ever be a day that he’d be glad to have a sister. He didn’t want no sister. All she did was cry and try to follow him around everywhere. He kicked some more dust. Guess he’d better get moving. He looked up and saw the house in the distance. He didn’t realize he’d walked so far.

Blam! Something exploded at Charlie's feet. He jumped and looked around. He didn’t see anything on the ground. Blam! Blam! Charlie jumped again. What was going on.

“Run Charlie run!” Charlie looked to the side of him. A man ran beside him. A strange looking one. His clothes were dark green, and he had a strange looking hat on. He looked like he had half a dark green ball on his head.

“Head back for the trenches. We ain’t gonna make it across!” someone else yelled. Charlie saw other men in the same green clothes run past. And then men in green jumped up off of the ground and started running back with the strange man. Charlie started running too. What he was running from he didn't know but if all those men were running than it had to be something bad. When he thought he couldn’t run anymore, all the green clothed men jumped back down in the ground. Charlie stopped and looked around. Where did they all go? All he could see was empty prairie stretching before him towards the house.

“Charlie get down. Or they’ll shoot you dead.”

Charlie looked down. The strange man had his head up out of the ground and was motioning for Charlie to hunch down. Charlie fell to the ground on his belly and looked around. What was going on and who were all those men and where did they go? Charlie crawled on his belly a few yards back behind the man's head. Suddenly the noises were gone. And the men were gone. Even the man that knew his name was gone. Charlie stood up. Nothing. He looked out across the prairie he'd came running through. Nothing was out there. It was as if it was a dream.

Charlie shook his head. He looked out over the prairie again, rubbing his eyes. He did see something and realized he’d lost his hat in the field. That was his favorite hat. He couldn't lose that. He better go get it and then get home. He had promised Pa that he would help his Ma with Clara.

He walked back toward his hat. He reached down to get it when he heard a noise overhead. An object circled overhead. It had large wings like a bird. And it buzzed loudly. it looked like one if those contraptions the teacher talked about in school.

“Charlie are you crazy. They’re going to bomb the enemy any minute. Get your hat and let’s get out of here.” It was that same man. He was crawling on the ground motioning for Charlie to do the same.

“C’mon, Charlie they ain’t gonna wait forever for us to get out. We gotta make a run for it. All around them gunfire erupted as the man jumped up and zig zagged through bushes and grass. Charlie followed the man. A few yards further the man yelled and fell to the ground right in front of Charlie.

“Charlie I've been hit. I 've been hit Charlie.” Charlie fell to his knees and crawled over to the man. What was he supposed to do?

“You gotta help me Charlie. I can’t go on. I'm shot in the leg. I can’t walk!” The man groaned and closed his eyes.

Charlie crawled over and tried to touch the man’s leg to see where the man got shot. Blood soaked the pant leg and was dripping on the ground. His hand went all the way through the leg and hit the ground. He tried again. His hand seemed to be catching air but nothing else. There wasn't even any blood on his hand. And he was sure he touched the bloody spot. Charlie looked at the man. The man still had his eyes closed. Was he dead? Charlie looked up and heard something zing through him. What in the world was going on? Was that a bullet that went right through him? He felt his chest with both hands. He was still breathing. Nothing hurt. He heard that same noise again. Still he felt nothing. He looked down. He wasn't bleeding.

Charlie stood and looked around. There was a man dying here in front of him. What should he do? He was a ten-year-old kid.

“Charlie you aren’t going to leave your best friend here to die, are you? I 'm your best buddy Sam! You can't leave me. We been friends forever. We finished school together and enrolled in the army together. We became soldiers together. We promised to fight these Germans together.” Sam groaned again and seemed to have passed out again.

Charlie thought of his best friend Sam right now. Sam should be at home playing sheriff or cowboys and Indians right now or playing with his baseball. What was Sam doing here in this field on the prairie getting shot? He looked down at the strange man. He didn’t look like Sam. How could he be here with his leg shot begging Charlie to save him? Charlie looked around. He could see other soldiers dragging men across the prairie away from the gunfire. He waved at one to come over. The medic came running over. To Charlie’s surprise it was a woman.

“Charlie, you’re still alive.” she cried. She hugged him but Charlie felt no hug at all. It was like she had hugged air. Charlie looked at her in surprise. She stared back at him. But she didn't seem as surprised.

“Charlie aren’t you going to tell Clara hi!” Sam asked and then groaned again. Clara looked at Charlie a moment longer then turned to Sam and started looking at his leg.

“You’re lucky, Sam. The bullet went clean through. But we have to get you off the field. They are going to be bombing it soon!” Clara grabbed Sam and pulled him up beside her. She didn’t even ask Charlie to help. It was as if she knew there wasn’t any way he could. Charlie ran along behind them. He didn’t even try to dodge the bullets that zinged past him and through him. Somehow, he knew they wouldn’t hurt him. He watched as Clara disappeared in the ground with Tim. The rest of the men disappeared too. He fell to the ground and watched as the planes flew over and bombed the other side of the prairie field and the field. The bombing went on for thirty minutes. Huge bursts of light lit the air as dirt flew everywhere. He could hear a few screams once in a while. He saw what looked like bodies flying through the air across the way. the bombing stopped. Charlie stood up and stared at the gaping black earth that the bombing had left behind. There wasn’t a green patch in the prairie field. Suddenly he heard cheering behind him. He stood and turned to look behind and to the side of him. As far as his eye could see, were a lot of men and few women standing all dressed in the same dark green. They were whooping and hollering and holding their guns in the air. Some of the men had patched up heads or shoulders, or arms or legs. Some lay on the ground covered with white sheets. Those ones were not cheering. But Charlie knew they had done their best.

“We beat 'em Charlie. We did it.” Sam exclaimed beside him. Charlie glanced over at Sam who stood holding onto Clara. Clara had done an expert job at bandaging Sam's leg. Charlie heard his Ma calling. Clara turned to look that way. She turned back. There was a sad look in her eyes.

“Ma’s calling.” She said. “Charlie, we don’t have much time. But you need to know this. I know this is hard for you to understand but things are going to change in the years to come. Things you or I can’t do nothing about. But you and I… we’ll make it. We’ll stick it out together, like we did here. Remember that, okay?”

Charlie shook his head. This woman that was his sister and a nurse seemed to somehow make sense. She had dodged bullets to save his best friend. He would remember all this and some day when he was older it would make sense. Right now, he was a kid of ten and he figured that whatever he had stumbled into wasn't happening but was happening someday. That is how it was. Charlie heard his mom yell once more. Clara grinned at him.

“You better get home Charlie. And help Ma out with that sister that cries all the time. Don't worry. I won't always have messy pants, unless I'm helping keep you guys safe.” Clara teased as she wiped mud off of her clothes.

"Yea, she joined later than us but she has had our backs a few times, ain't she Charlie." Sam was looking at Clara in a strange way. Clara smiled at Sam and had the same look on her face. Like they liked each other or something. Charlie wasn't ready to think about that stuff yet. Clara turned back to Charlie. She didn’t hug Charlie this time and Charlie didn't try to hug her. They both knew that they were from different worlds. Charlie started to back up toward the house. “I love you big brother.” Clara said as she started to fade away.

“I love you too little sister!” Charlie yelled into the empty space of the pasture. Everything was gone. The men and women. The planes. The bombed-out field. Clara and Sam. All gone.

Charlie shook his head. Had he dreamed everything or was it real. He stepped forward a few steps and saw something new. The pasture now had a house with a green front yard and flowers. Charlie wasn’t surprised to see Sam carrying his laughing bride Clara up the steps and into the house. Sam stopped and turned. Clara smiled and waved. Charlie grinned and waved back. Sam and Clara continued into the house. The door closed and the house faded away. This time Charlie knew no matter where he stepped, he wouldn't see anything like that again. Charlie stood a moment longer staring at the empty field. He turned and took off running across the field toward home. He could hear his little sister crying as he neared the house. His ma stood on the porch. She looked tired and worn out.

“Charlie, where have you been. Your Pa stopped by here almost an hour ago. Said you were coming to help me.” His mom did look sick and tired.

Clara continued to cry. Charlie walked up the steps and held his arms out. “Give me my sister Ma and you go sit down for a while.”

Charlie’s mom looked at him in surprise. “I thought you didn’t like your sister.”

“Ah Ma. Kids say the dumbest things.” He took his crying sister in his arms and sat down on the porch step with her. Then he proceeded to make faces and funny noises until she stopped crying. Soon she was cooing and laughing at Charlie. Charlie laughed too. He held up his baseball and Clara took it in her hands and threw it. It fell in the dust at their feet. Clara giggled and Charlie laughed. He looked up at his Mom who was watching them in wonderment. “She’s my sister Ma. I gotta love her. She’s part of the family!”

Charlie’s mom laughed with delight. Then with a contented sigh she sat down. Charlie continued to play with Clara. Yep, he sure was glad he had a sister.


January 16, 2020 15:49

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1 comment

Tay Wilding
21:37 Jan 22, 2020

A very interesting idea, though your writing is a tad repetitive. Maybe try replacing Charly with "the boy" or "the blue eyed child" or some such. Other then that, it was good writing!


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