By Donna Dunn
This is a short story written by a high school friend, Donna Dunn. Donna was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 2000. With MS in its advanced stages, she is wheelchair-ridden and unable to type because of severe tremors. She had a friend type this story for her. Donna wanted to have this story published, so I’m publishing it here on AGirlOnTheGo for all the world to see. Please share this with your friends and let’s help Donna’s dream come true.
The thunder cracked loud over head as Chet, Brad and I heard ourselves say three one-thousand before the lightning struck on our right, accompanied by its own loud noise. We knew we weren’t going to make it home before it started raining. We were still four farms away from my house, which was the closest of our three houses.
“Emma, come on, let’s ride out the storm in old man Henry’s shed,” said Chet. I hated old man Henry’s shed. In fact we all were afraid of it, and thought we hated old man Henry.
I was lagging behind, thanks to the flip-flops I elected to wear and the gravel road we were trying to run on. I remembered sitting on my back porch that morning, with my two best friends, trying to decide what to do that day. At one point my mother came out and warned us not to go far; that storm was heading our way. As usual, we didn’t listen to her. We decided to spend the warm summer day at the lake, which wasn’t too far a walk, we told ourselves. We were wrong.
My mother was wise, although we chose not to listen to her. Her blond, curled, shoulder length hair framed her pretty, youthful face. Mom married young, which was my Grandmother’s constant gripe. Even though she loved my dad, she always expected that her daughter would be famous somehow, which always baffled my mother. Dad was the envy of all his friends whenever my mother and he went out.
Once at the lake, all we wanted to do was climb the old oak tree and scoot ourselves out onto the one narrow branch that hung over the water. When on the branch and over the water, we’d let go and allow ourselves to fall into the water. The water was nice and deep in that spot so we never had to worry about hitting the bottom or anything that might be on the bottom of the lake. Not that we ever thought about that back then; it’s just something that occurred to me as I grew older and thought back on those days.
Maybe if we didn’t all insist on one more climb we would have made it home and never gone into that shed. I spent years replaying that horrible day in my head and going through a list of what-ifs. It changed nothing and left me feeling no better. Wouldn’t it be great if we were granted one wish, if we could change one thing in our past? This was the topic of every paper I ever wrote while in school, even college, hoping it would become a reality. It never did.
Chet was leading, running as fast as he could but always looking over his shoulder to make sure we were keeping up. If one or both of us were lagging behind, Chet would run in place allowing us to catch up. That was Chet, always looking out for me and Brad. We were all the same age but somehow Chet seemed older. We ran by the Logan farm, now empty, and I noticed that their tractor was left out. Mr. Logan must have been using it but ran inside anticipating the rain. I remember that their house was so pretty-an old Victorian painted blue with pink gingerbread trim.
When I was just a baby my mother became friends with Chet’s mother, Mrs. Hodge. Whenever the two of them got together, which was daily, Chet and I got to play together. Since we were babies, we never wanted to be apart. We played together, ate together and napped together. I always felt safer when Chet was around.
Chet was gorgeous. Every girl at school liked him and wanted to be his girlfriend. They wanted to be my friend too because he was always with me. We played on the slide mostly and made forts under it. Down the slide we would go before going under it to dig a hole for our fort. There was always tall grass that acted as our walls. Someone would refill the hole after school each day.
Once in awhile we played on the seesaw. I hated that because Chet always jumped off, and, slamming to the ground I would go. Laughing, I thought Chet would wet himself as I rubbed my backside. I would shake my head and wonder why I believed him each time we went on that stupid thing. He would con me into believing that this time would be different. He promised that he wouldn’t jump off and I always fell for it. Off he would go and down I went. “There you go,” he said, “you’re too easy.”
While in fifth grade we met the new kid, Brad Jennings. The Jennings bought the Bridge farm next to Chet. Brad had dark hair and was about forty or fifty pounds overweight. Our teacher introduced Brad to the class and he immediately looked at Chet and I. We had met the day before when they were moving in. Our mothers marched over there, pie in hand, with Chet and me in tow.
We saw Brad and squealed with delight at the thought of someone else to play with us. Little did we know that it would be short lived. Brad was a happy kid and did not deserve what had happened to him. I will never forget him.
Old man Henry was an avid games man he always had his rifle or fishing pole, he hunted whatever was in season. While we were in the shed, it was a metal shed, on the left side close to the road. We stayed close to the door because it stunk. It wasn’t uncommon that there were blood stains on the floor as there was a pole where he gutted animals and on the left there is a table where he cleaned fish. I don’t know why Brad crawled away from the door and saw a man and a dead body. Both men must of ran in to the shed to get out of the storm too. We heard Brad scream and go running out of the shed as he did so he told us why he was running and we went running right behind him. But the gunman came out and shot at us. The man with the gun shot and hit Brad and old man Henry shot at the man with the gun and down he went. I turned and looked behind me and there was old man Henry with a shot gun and then I saw the man laying on the ground but I also saw Brad laying on the ground. We made it to my farm where I gathered my mother and told her what happened and back to the shed we went. She went in old man Henry’s house and he had already called the police and an ambulance, both too late for the gunman and Brad. Old man Henry was trying to save us and we didn’t even know it and now it makes me wonder why we ever hated him.
Once back home, you could tell Chet was never going to forgive himself, he felt it was his responsibility to watch out for us. He fell into a deep depression, which he never recovered. After the day in the shed and Chet’s depression nobody even talked to him, nor he did not want to talk to anyone. He barely even talked to me. But I stayed by his side. Even though Chet was quiet I still felt safe with him. I only wish there was something I could do for him.
When we were in high school Chet took his life because he could not stand the guilt anymore, so now all that’s left is memory. Two best friends are gone. I look back on that day and still think we shouldn’t have gone to the lake, that we should have listened to my mother, who said it was going to rain. I wish we would have stayed home that day and I would still have my two best friends but it’s too late for that. Life goes on and I am older now. But I still go see old man Henry every year and thank him for trying to help.
The Author: Donna L. Dunn
This story is dedicated to my husband Bob and my children Taylor and Marlee. They do their best to keep me at home and not in a nursing home. Thank you to them and my friend Rose Noga who helped me finish typing it.
©Donna L. Dunn, December 2010