Blackbird

Jaqueline Hutchins
Blackbird Jaqueline Hutchins goes to Sidwell Friends School in Washington, DC. She likes to write realistic fiction and poetry. Along with writing, she enjoys reading and tennis. She lives in Falls Church, Virginia with her parents and twin brother, Conrad.

“It was a bright and sunny afternoon. Suddenly, thunderstorms brewed. It was not the weather; it was the mood in the Williams’ house. A big fight between Lucy William’s parents caused dark, gray clouds to hover over the house. It ominously ended with her father slamming the door to their house.”

It was a bright and sunny afternoon. Suddenly, thunderstorms brewed. It was not the weather; it was the mood in the Williams’ house. A big fight between Lucy William’s parents caused dark, gray clouds to hover over the house. It ominously ended with her father slamming the door to their house.  

As soon the door closed, Lucy rushed downstairs as fast as a lightning bolt.

“What happened?” she asked.

“Since your father is such a horrible person, we are getting a divorce.”

“Oh,” Lucy said sadly and ran up to her room. “Great!” She plopped on the bed, burying her head into her pillow, tear-stained tissues strewn around her. “What should I do?”  

Lucy was used to her parents, Martha and Michael, fighting all the time. They were so different. For one thing, her mother was so sensitive and prone to childlike tantrums. Her ginger-haired dad was so overwhelming and a busybody. Lucy had known that they would get a divorce one day, but it was still a surprise. Whenever her parents fought, it sounded like they were using a huge megaphone.  

Okay, she thought, how does this change my life? Do I tell anyone at school? Wait… I do not have any friends or family to tell. Everyone thinks that I am just a pack animal who they can take advantage of. I might as well be a donkey. Today is Tuesday… three more days of torture before the weekend.

Thinking about the song “Blackbird” by the Beatles, Lucy reflected on her life. She felt as if the song resembled her life. If only I could take these broken wings and learn to fly.  However, I cannot fly.  Oh, well, I might as well do the homework for tomorrow.

She fiddled with her straight, dark hair while reading her history book about the Cultural Revolution. People were forced to accommodate to Mao Zedong, China’s Communist leader. Lucy had to accommodate to her parent’s divorce.

“Ugh, I cannot focus. If only I had a friend. I could tell them things I usually keep to myself,” Lucy said to the silver-framed picture of her deceased grandparents. They had died in a car crash when she was four years old.  

“Now… I have a plan,” announced Lucy to the picture, “I will try to make a friend and just be myself.”

With that, she nodded triumphantly and finished her homework. She then reheated frozen macaroni and cheese in the kitchen for dinner. She also tossed a leafy green salad with ranch and little croutons. While she did this, her mother was in her room, contacting a lawyer. Lucy went upstairs to Martha’s room to give her a uniform tray of food with a little salad as a peace offering.  In response, Martha snapped at Lucy to go away.

As Lucy turned away, she rolled her eyes and went back downstairs to eat her own dinner in the kitchen. She cleared the table and washed the dishes. After that, she went to her room and fell asleep on her narrow bed, listening to the Beatles.

The next day, Lucy woke up with a sigh as the red alarm clock on her dresser beeped, alerting her that it was time to get up and go to school. Deciding to sneak past her mother and father, she changed into the usual uniform: a dark blue skirt, a white blouse, and black dress shoes. After packing her wheeled backpack with homework, she lugged it downstairs.  

While preparing her breakfast of steaming oatmeal and orange juice, she realized that her father had not come back from yesterday’s debacle.

Oh, well, she thought, one last parent to sneak past.

Just as she was about to leave, her Mother snuck up behind her.

“Where are you going?” she yelled into Lucy’s ear.

Wincing, Lucy said, “To school, of course. Where else?”

“Are you sure you are not going to skip school?”

“I think I know what I am doing.  Goodbye.” Lucy walked out to go to school while her mother stared in shock.

“This is not over,” Martha yelled.

Yeah, yeah, yeah, Lucy thought, passing by Ms. Applegate’s green house.  

“Hey, girl,” Ms. Applegate yelled, a bit hard of hearing.

“Hello, Ms. Applegate,” Lucy muttered.

“What did you say, girl?”

“Hello! Now, goodbye.”

“Oh, you rude, girl, you rude.”

“Yeah, I guess I am changing,” Lucy said under her breath as she continued walking to school among the fresh evergreen trees.   

She finally reached the red brick building with a sign that said “Tenth Draft School.” Once inside, she sidled in her locker’s direction, trying to push through the crowds of people in the halls.  When she got there, she entered her combination code and started to take out of her books. Suddenly, the locker door slammed shut.  

Lucy turned around slowly, sighed and said, “What, Allison?”

Allison, a thin girl with pink hair, sneered, “Oh, look, it is the pack animal. Go join your relatives.”

“And my relatives are…”

“Just go over there,” Allison said, pointing across the hall to a girl with blonde hair and green eyes. She was clutching her books to her chest while leaning against the dented locker opposite of Lucy’s.

“Yeah, yeah, yeah,” Lucy said, opening her locker one last time. She finished taking her books out.  

“Go, already,” said Allison.

“Calm down, already,” said Lucy.

Lucy walked across the hall to join the girl as Allison walked away, joining her clique. She could smell lavender in the girl’s hair.

“Hi,” the girl whispered.

Oh, this is a perfect opportunity to make a friend, Lucy thought. “Hi, I am Lucy.  What is your name?”

“My name is Amelie. I am new. Is everyone here like… Allison… ?”

“Mostly. What was your other school like?

“Um, I did all the work for people in my class… but I would prefer not to talk about it.”

“Sorry, I do not really know how to talk to people. On a different note, what is your next class?  The bell will ring in three… two… one.”

The bell rang. Ring!

“I just came from the principal. Apparently, I have English next.”

“I have that, too. I will take you there.”

They walked to the English class in silence. As they entered the classroom, they found only one empty spot in the front of the room to the far left. There were four windows. The room was moderately-sized with a desk for the teacher, four tables with two chairs at each one, and posters with quotes from famous authors such as Shakespeare. The lemony smell of Lysol permeated the air.

“Well, there is only one place for us to sit. We should go sit there,” Amelie said.

They crossed the room and sat at the desk hesitantly. When the teacher, Ms. Robison entered, she had a surprise.

“Attention, class. We have entered a poetry contest where you write about a global issue. It is due tomorrow. You will work with the person at your table.”

The room came alive with boos and a few cheers. Amelie and Lucy looked at each other, smiled, and rolled their eyes.

“One last thing,” Ms. Robison said, “you will have time in class to work on it. Get started right now.”

“Okay. Lucy, what issues are you worried about?” asked Amelie.

“Um… I guess water pollution.”

“Me, too. I am really concerned about guinea worm. Even though the worm is in its final days, it once infected millions. People should know about it as it could occur in other developing countries,” Amelie said quickly.

“Well, we decided on a topic,” Lucy said.

Ring!

“Do you want to meet somewhere do to work on the poem?” asked Amelie.

I can speak so freely to Amelie, thought Lucy.

“Sure,” said Lucy, “ How about the library on Massachusetts Avenue at 5:00 pm? By the way, what class do you have next? The bell just rang.”

“I have Math and then Language.”

“I will show where you where Math is, but I need to go to Social Studies. Someone will show you the way to Language class.”

“Thanks.”

Lucy took Amelie to Math class and rushed to Social Studies. She got there just in time. Lucy thought about Amelie throughout her classes until lunch when they met again. They walked over to the swings with their lunches and started talking.

“How was your class?” Lucy asked as she bit into a mozzarella sandwich with ripe, red tomatoes.

“It was okay. I got homework but that is usual. However, Allison was in that class,” Amelie said. She was eating lasagna with tomato sauce.

“Well, that is that. Enough about school. What do you like to do?”

“I like to listen to music and cuddle with my tiny kitten, TomTom. I also read about world issues such as illiteracy, and musicians.”

“Two comments.  One, what do you like to listen to? Two, your kitten must be so cute.”

“Two answers. Beatles, even though it is old, and Adele.”

Ring!

“I like the Beatles, too. How come the bell rings when we are finally getting to know each other?”

“I do not know. Well, what class do you have next?”

“Music class. I will be learning how to play the acoustic guitar. After that, the library with you.”

“I am going to Music class, too. Let’s go.”

They walked off the playground together. Pushing through the students milling around the halls, they made their way to the small classroom. Soon realizing they were the only students, they sat in the chairs, waiting for the teacher. After waiting for a short while, a broad-bellied man called Mr. Harry ambled into the room, pushing past the piano.  

“Hello, everyone. Welcome to acoustic guitar. Does anybody already know how to play?” Mr. Harry said, passing each student a guitar.

“A bit,” said Amelie, strumming the chords.  

“Yeah, a bit. You are amazing!” Lucy said.

Throughout the class, Amelie entertained them with her skillful guitar playing.  

At the end, Mr. Harry said that Amelie might be able to receive a scholarship. Amelie grinned.

As Lucy and Amelie walked out of the room, they went back to the lockers and promptly took all of their stuff out. They walked down the steps to the school on their way to the library.

“Can we stop at my place first?” Amelie asked.

“Sure.”

They passed by oak trees, other colorful houses, and dogs yapping. Amelie and Lucy soon arrived at a well-to do home. Lucy waited outside while Amelie went in and got a newspaper article about guinea worms.

They walked to the old, white building called the “Bethesda Library.”

Inside, they passed endless rows of books and tables and found a table in the corner. They started by reviewing the Washington Post article called “The Dying Days of a Parasite that Once Infected Millions.”  

“So, what have you learned?” asked Lucy.

“That the guinea worm is close to being ‘wiped out’ but the final step of preventing it is tricky,” said Amelie.

“Do not forget that clean water is scarce in many countries.”

“I think we understand it now. Let’s start the poem.”

After many drafts, Lucy and Amelie composed a poem called “All That Water.” 

 

All That Water

 

Women gaze at their sleeping children,

hoping, praying.

that they will not succumb.

 

Fear clutches their stomachs,

soon replaced by dread as

their children, their babies,

cough that hacking cough.

 

The sounds of women, children, men

wailing in the night

as the guinea worm emerges.

 

Scavenging for wood that is scarce

and that abject poverty

cannot afford,

snapping off twigs,

tearing off leaves,

just to get to the bare wood,

still unable to boil the water.

 

Forced to drink from the source of life

that harbors the flaming serpent.

 

Water.

All that water that kills.

 

“Good job, Amelie,” Lucy said.

“Thanks. I have to go home,” Amelie said as she glanced at her watch.

“See you tomorrow.”

As Amelie walked out, Lucy smiled. This is the beginning of a beautiful friendship, she thought. She put the poem in her backpack. While walking out of the library of discovery, she remembered that she would be going to a shattered household.  

The sun was setting. Passing through the oak and evergreen trees and the silent houses in her neighborhood, she tried to sneak past Ms. Applegate. Unfortunately, no such luck.  

“Hey, girl!” shouted Ms. Applegate, rocking in a chair on her porch.

“Hello, Ms. Applegate. I have to go home, but I will see you later,” said Lucy.

“Why you so nice to me right now?”

“I am in a better mood than before. I made a friend.”

“Good.” Ms. Applegate went inside and Lucy continued on.

Finally, she reached her dreary house. She could see a “For Sale” sign planted in the freshly-turned soil. Rushing inside, she found her mother talking to her lawyer.  

“What is going on?” panted Lucy.

“We are selling this house. There are too many memories of your father.”

“Speaking of my father, where is he?”

“I do not know or care.”
“Where would we even move?”

“California to join my relatives.”

Lucy ran up to her room and collapsed onto her bed. Thoughts whirled around her head.

I have finally made a friend, and now my mother wants to move to California. My “broken wings” had flown. What will I tell Amelie? Should I choose not to move with my mother? Should I ask Amelie if I can stay with her? If I did, would she allow me to? I do not have her phone number or email. What do I do? Okay. I will ask Amelie if I can stay with her while I sort my life. I am sure my mother can be without me for a few days.

As the sky was black and purple, she just went to bed. Lucy did not make dinner or talk to her mother. However, she did change, as usual.

The next day was gray and dismal. Lucy woke up and realized she had not set the alarm clock the previous day. She was late. Changing into her uniform, and packing her backpack was an ordeal. She had to be quick. Lucy snatched a granola bar, noticing the note on the door.  It said “I have gone to a hotel to sort out my thoughts. I will be back in two days. – Mother.”

Are you kidding me? Well, now I can go to Amelie’s, thought Lucy.

After exiting the house, she sprinted past Ms. Applegate’s, her wheeled backpack being hindered at every crack.  

Lucy arrived at Tenth Draft School and went to her locker. She could not see Amelie anywhere. Putting her books into her locker, she wondered where Amelie might be. Maybe she was already in class?

Ring!

Lucy started walking to Language Arts. When she arrived, she saw that Amelie was not there. Where could she be? Sitting down, she mused this over in her mind. Was there something about Amelie that she did not know?

Ms. Robison walked in. “Poems, please,” she said.

Lucy absentmindedly pulled the poem out of her book.

When Ms. Robison walked past and Lucy gave her the poem, she asked “Where is Amelie? Is she sick?”

“I do not know.”

Lucy did not see Amelie for the rest of the day. Nobody knew where Amelie was.

Where was Amelie?

 

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