The empty house on Fernwood Street

Social IssuesRelationship

  • Author Don Robbins
  • Published June 12, 2021
  • Word count 1,068

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. He would listen to the rustling leaves and the whispering wind and wonder how Marco Polo must of felt during his journeys.

Part of his walk included walking through a tough neighborhood that did not like strangers. Doc felt no apprehension because the gang members knew Doc would fight and they usually left him alone, but every once in awhile he would have to throw hands. That was how people settled their disputes in that era. No guns or knifes, just bare fists, and you either had it or you didn’t

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 kind of expected him to say no, but when he said Ok, 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. This was the era where the neighbors would tell your parents if you were up to no good, so we did not want to be seen going inside. 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 that he promised, she locked the door and whispered for him to come to her. Doc kept his promise and did all that was asked of him.

Doc and Marie became good friends, not boyfriend and girlfriend, but friends with an occasional touching of tongues. That spring a family purchased that empty house, fixed it up and moved in. One day that summer, Doc and his cousins were playing stick ball 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 nearly 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 did return to the city of Toledo. He found it run down, dirty and gray. Factories were closed, homes were either torn down, empty or in a state of disrepair. He discovered that many of his childhood friends were strung out, in prison or dead. He began to wonder 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 that he thought Doc was living with his mother, Doc knew it was time to leave. His brother knew exactly where Doc’s mother lived.

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 didn’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 greying hair walked out of the kitchen and stopped when she saw Doc standing there. Doc recognized her right away but was not certain that she knew who he was. He was wrong because she began to cry, 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.

After they had visited for a couple of hours, Doc told her that he had to catch a flight in the morning and maybe it was time for him to get going. Marie made him stay for supper. After cleaning the table and doing the dishes, they sat on the sofa, had a couple of drinks, a bit of weed, and listened to some music.

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 wrote her a note in which he thanked her for a wonderful evening, and if they did not see each other again, that she would bring a smile to his face every time he thought of her.

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 came to the conclusion that he had done exactly what he was supposed to do.

My name is Don Robbins. I grew up on the streets of Toledo, Ohio. Due to abuse by my family, I ran away at thirteen and did not return for nearly fifty years.

I lived on the street, in jail, and finally two children's homes. I joined the Marines at seventeen where I served as a Grunt.

I currently live in Ewa Beach, Hawaii where I spend my days tending to my garden, taking care of my dogs, and watching tourists.

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