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The Empty House on Fernwood St

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The empty house on Fernwood St

It was a cool sunny day and Doc bounced down the steps from the house in which he lived. He was going over to see his cousins who lived on Fernwood Street. It was about a 45 minute walk, but he did not mind. He loved the cool, brisk air.

As Doc was approaching Fernwood, he heard someone calling him. He looked around and saw that it was Marie. Marie was one of his cousin’s friends. She lived right across the alley in a big yellow house. Marie was always throwing hints at Doc, but him being young and dumb thought the girl was playing. On this autumn morning, she hugged up close to him and told him that they should go down to the empty house. She expected him to say no, but when he said yes, she put her arms around him and gave Doc a sloppy wet kiss, tongue and all.

When they got to the house, they went around back to get in. She led Doc upstairs and into a room with a piano in it. Doc had a hard time imaging someone leaving a piano behind. With his limited skills, he played her a tune. When he finished, she sat down next to him and asked him to promise to do whatever she asked of him without question. Doc’s suspect mind started turning, and he was about to leave, but something told him to stay. When he told her he promised, she locked the door and whispered to him to come to her. Doc kept his promise and did all she asked of him.

That spring a family purchased that empty house, fixed it up and moved in. One day that summer, Doc and his cousins were playing stickball in the alley. Alley stick ball was brutal, and the girls would inflict much more pain than the boys. When the game was over, Marie asked Doc to walk with her. They stopped in back of the once empty house and just looked at it, remembering. That would be the last time Doc would see that house for 45 years. He was suffering emotional and mental abuse from his aunt and her husband. The adults in the family, in including his dad, would do nothing a bout it. He ran away late that summer and did not return for over forty years..

When Doc returned to the city of Toledo. He found it run down, dirty and gray. He discovered that many of his childhood friends were strung out, in prison or dead. He wondered why he even made the trip. Doc went to see his brother and asked him why hadn’t tried finding him for all those years. When his brother replied he thought Doc was living with his mother, Doc knew it was time to leave. His brother knew exactly where Doc’s mother lived.

On the last day of his visit, Doc drove over to Fernwood to visit a cousin who was still living in the family home. When he parked in front of his cousin’s house, he wondered if Marie was still living across the alley. He thought to himself that if she wasn't, maybe someone could give him an address or phone number. Doc got out of the car and walked along the side of the house, through the backyard and across the alley. He knocked on the door and a young boy answered.

Doc looked down at the boy and asked him was Marie home. The boy invited Doc in and yelled for Grandma. A handsome lady with gray hair walked out of the kitchen and stopped when she saw Doc standing there. Doc recognized her right away, but was uncertain that she knew who he was. He was wrong because she cried, walked over to him, put her arms around him, and laid her head on his shoulder. If two people were ever happy to see one another, it would be those two.

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Marie leaned over to Doc and asked him if he was still willing to do what she asked. He looked at her, smiled, and said that he had some things to ask her to do. They both laughed. They talked well into the night and somehow had fallen asleep together. Doc woke up at 5 am, and he had a 9 am flight.

Doc did not want to wake Marie. He left her a note in which he thanked her for a wonderful evening, and stated he hoped to see her again one day.

On the flight back across the Pacific, Doc wondered if he had made a mistake by leaving home at 13. He had lived the life he wanted, but at what cost. Lost friendships could have been relationships, family estrangement. Then he thought about all that he had seen and done and concluded that he had done exactly what he should have.

© 2020 Don Robbins

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