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The Tin Box
Clare, Age 14, Tucson, AZ

Along a long and lonesome stretch of country road, a young girl sat under a tree, staring out at the deserted highway, raking her brain trying to find out why he had to go.

“Why me? Why him?” she wondered. As she asked herself, her finger kept tracing the picture on the cover of the tiny tin case that was next to her. She was remembering when her father left for the army, and how hard it had been to see him go. It had been just six months since he left. After the man with the blue truck came, things had, by no means been the same.

Growing up in a rural area, Eve never had many friends, and her parents couldn’t afford to take her into town to see a picture show, or to go shopping. Just going to the supermarket was a treat. It took a whole hour just to get to Harrisburg, the town that supplied them with all of those things, so they only made it there when they’d run out of something essential. Dillsburg, where they lived, wasn’t the most exciting place, but Eve, her mother and father liked it just fine.

One dreary day in September, Eve was looking up at the sinister sky. Her mother told her, “Don’t go out and play because you might catch a cold.” Eve rolled her eyes and wandered over to the windowsill in the living room. She heard a thunder-like sound, but there was no lightning to follow. “What could it be?” she said out loud, not knowing her mother was right behind her.

“Maybe it’s just the wind,” her mother replied, scaring Eve all the way to Harrisburg.

Just as her mother went back to her cooking Eve heard it again, and around the corner of Siddonsburg Road, came a truck that she had never seen before. It was bigger than the rest of the trucks in Dillsburg, and as blue as the blueberries her mother was using for her famous coffee cake. The truck stalled in front of Mrs. Crouch’s house, then pulled into their dirt-covered driveway. A young man hopped out; followed by an older German shepherd.

“Come on, Max, here we are!” he yelled to his dog. Eve went and got her mother as the man approached the front door. Knock knock. The sound alarmed her even though she was expecting it. Her mother briskly walked to the front door, wiping her flour-covered hands on her sunflower apron, and opened the door. Eve could get a better look now, at the driver of the blue truck. He was a typical country boy; tall, slim, wore jeans, a plaid shirt, fair-haired, and his eyes were the same color as his pickup truck. She’d never seen eyes such brilliant blue before.

The man asked Eve’s mother, “Are you Alice Browne?” He had a thick southern accent.

“Yes, what do you need?” Alice replied. Her face turned as pale as their white washed walls as the man started to speak again.

“Ma’am, may I come in?” He gestured with his hands to enter the
house.

“Sure,” she hesitated.

Eve backed away as he came inside; his dog, Max, waited outside. Eve’s mother offered lemonade and had him sit down on their musty brown couch. He finally introduced himself as Chuck Johnson. You could tell he was about 19 or so and that he was a little nervous to be here. Chuck sipped his drink as he waited for Alice to sit down.

“Well, Mrs. Browne, I’m afraid I have some bad news for the two of you,” he said. Chuck looked at Eve and then back at her mother. Alice stared into his deep blue eyes, as if she had lost something and was trying to find it in again.

“Yes?” she quivered.

Chuck cleared his throat. Eve’s mind jumped to the worst things he could say, and the one that scared her the most was that…he interrupted her thought by saying:

“Your husband, Mr. Jacob Browne, has died. I saw it on the news down at Rusty’s Restaurant down in Harrisburg, and hurried over here to tell y’all. I’m very sorry.”

It seemed like the silence lasted for 20 minutes, when in reality it was only 20 seconds. Max’s bark finally broke the silence. Eve could see her mother was trying to comprehend what Chuck had just told her. Alice wiped away tears as tactfully as she could.

“Your husband’s body will be here tomorrow, and then you’ll be able to finalize the funeral plans. And if you’re worried about the cost, don’t, because the government will pay. After all, he was serving our country,” he said with a chuckle and put his hand over his heart.

Eve thought, “ How could you be so inconsiderate. You tell me my father is dead and you’re thinking about how much the funeral will cost?” She started crying and ran into her room. Alice still sat there in silence. When Chuck  stood up to leave, Alice finally came out of her trance and walked him to the door. Chuck fumbled around with the lock.

“I guess I’ll see you tomorrow then!” he said with a smile.

Alice gave a nod of approval, and walked back inside their house.

Eve could see Chuck and Max hop into the blue truck. She realized that the sputtering of the engine was the sound she had heard by the windowsill. She wondered how her mother was doing, but she couldn’t go out there yet. So, she tried to busy herself with her schoolwork. Eve couldn’t think about anything but her father and that just made her cry even more. She lay on her bed, half asleep and half awake, crying.

“Dinner time!” yelled Alice. It woke Eve up promptly.

Eve walked out and saw that her mother had been crying. Should she comfort her? Should she act like nothing has happened? Eve knew the answer to that, in the Browne family you’re supposed to hold in all of your feelings.

They ate their vegetable soup in silence that night. It was dessert time next and that meant blueberry coffee cake!

“This just might be the only good part of this whole day,” she thought. But the cake tasted awful.

It was getting late and she had school the next day, and her mother had to work out the funeral details. So she headed to bed without saying goodnight to her mother. It would just lead to more crying and talking. As Eve lay in bed she thought about whether or not she would ever see the man in the blue truck again.

“Chuck,” she said out loud. She liked the sound of his name.

Eve thought, “Why am I thinking about him at a time like this! He has only brought bad news and I should be thinking about my father. Shouldn’t I?”

The rustling of the sheets was louder than she intended but her mother didn’t wake up. She closed the door to her room and then reached under her bed and pulled out a miniature tin case. It was covered in dust; she hadn’t touched it for six months. Once her father left, she put everything in this tin case that reminded her of him. She was saving it for when he died, she didn’t want it to be this soon, but there was nothing she could do now. Eve looked through some of the photographs in there, and the trinkets her father had bought for her. She started to cry. But her mind eventually drifted back to Chuck Johnson. There was something about him that she liked. He was older, he wasn’t from Dillsburg, and maybe that’s why she couldn’t stop thinking about him. He was a kind of person she’d never met before. She needed sleep because she had to get up early tomorrow. Eve scrambled back into bed, and closed her eyes, and fell asleep instantaneously.

Alice came in to wake her up for school; she was wearing her Sunday best.

“Now, I’m going to be down at the funeral parlor today, so you’ll have to walk home from school today, alright?”

Rubbing sleep out of her eyes, she managed to say, “ Ok.” Eve got up and was ready for school in about ten minutes. Alice locked up the house, as they went their own separate ways.

The school day was excruciatingly long, Eve was restless and the teacher didn’t appreciate that. But when that brass bell rang; Eve was out of there. Eve could feel the tin case clink against her backpack. She walked along the road, past a stream, and didn’t even bother to say hi to the barber, Mr. Lafayette. Eve was headed for something, although she didn’t know what it was yet. Off in the distance she saw a beautiful apple tree. The tree seemed like it was bringing her closer with its aroma of fresh, crisp apples. Eve couldn’t resist, she walked up the hill towards the tree, plopped down in front of it and thought about her father. He was a good man; she always loved how versatile he was. Even when she was little she always tried to live up to his expectations. She thought, “My father always had such pride. Everyone knew that the Browne family wasn’t the richest family, but my father kept his head up, and always made sure there was food on the table.”

Eve stared down at the tiny tin case that she had longed to do something with since pulling it out from hiding. Chuck popped back into her mind. Eve wonders why Chuck was so cheerful throughout that whole visit. The way he could just laugh off even the worst news, was remarkable to Eve. There was now a tiny pile of dirt next to Eve, she didn’t even realize she was digging. She did it without thinking; just put the tiny tin case into the dirt and covered it up. Eve walked away whistling a tune that just popped into her head.

 

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