The chapters which are numerical are factual. The chapters which are alphabetical are fiction, though in some instances the fiction modestly drapes what is factual. I will post one chapter a week, alternating factual and fiction.
Marvin Thompson was probably ten years old. I was nine years old and he wasn’t in my class at school. He must have been a year older. He lived on Quantril Way. Across Armistead Way from our house on Newcomb Way was the beginning of the woods. That is where the creek began. There was a culvert that ran under Armistead Way and water came out of it into the creek. Where did the water come from?
The creek and the woods held a fascination for a group of us kids – mostly boys. I liked to pretend that I was an explorer and was making my way through the jungle. Other times I imagined that I was out West. Perhaps I thought I would come upon a settlement of Indians, or at least discover the remains of one.
For Marvin the appeal of the creek and the woods was his quest for “specimens.” That was his word for them. He found a skin that a snake had shed. Inside a hole at the base of a tree he came upon a bunch of baby mice – less than an inch long with their tails. He took them home in a discarded tin can he found. After that he carried a couple tin cans from home. From the creek he captured a baby turtle and a frog. Marvin’s mother was proud of her budding scientist but sometimes she had to discard his specimens when they began to smell.
Marvin’s prize acquisitions were his collection of bird eggs. When he found a nest, he would watch it until the mother bird flew away. Then he would reach in the nest and take a few eggs. He borrowed a book from the library to identify the birds. After that he could say, “That one is a robin’s egg. This one is a wren’s egg.”
When his teacher heard of his collection of bird eggs she asked him to bring them to class and give a presentation to the class. Marvin was very careful because he had to ride the bus to school. His gave him a shoe box and a box of cotton. He rolled each egg in cotton before placing it in the box. He made an excellent presentation and the teacher gave him extra credit.
Marvin had a good friend, Roland. Roland was always eating and his nickname was Roly-Poly Roland. “I’m going down to the woods and try to find a bird’s nest with eggs in it. Do you want to go with me, Roland?” Roland agreed but went back in his house for a candy bar.
Marvin did not see any nests along the path that he had not already robbed. He plunged into the area where I often went exploring. It was thick with brush and trees. In the midst of the seemingly impenetrable brush, there was a sycamore tree. On one of its higher limbs he spied the nest of a cardinal. He didn't have any cardinal eggs.
Marvin climbed up the tree as soon as the mother bird flew off on an errand. When he reached the nest, he saw that there were four baby birds inside the nest. He decided to take the entire nest, baby birds and all. Carrying the nest in one hand he awkwardly climbed down the tree using only one hand.
He was holding on to a limb with one hand, holding the nest with the other hand and kicking around with his feet trying to find a limb or something on the trunk where he could get a foothold. Just then Roland started screaming. “The momma bird is flying back!... She is going crazy looking for the nest… Watch out!” The mother bird saw the nest clutched in Marvin’s hand. She started diving at him. He had no hand free to swat at her.
The bird made one last desperate dive at the burglar who had stolen her babies. She aimed at his eyes. In a panic Marvin let go of the limb and fell to the ground. His head hit a rock or hard ground. Blood was coming out his ears. “I made a mistake, Roland…Can I have a bite of your candy bar?”
When supper time came and he had not returned, Marvin’s parents checked with Roland’s parents and found out that he also had not returned. They started for the woods. Along the way others joined them. They walked way out on the path and back with no success. Then the men went into the dense brush. The searchers located the boys by the sound of Roland sobbing. By then he was in shock. He kept repeating, “He asked for a piece of my candy bar. I gave it to him, but he didn’t eat it.”
The bird’s nest had landed near the dead body of Marvin. The baby birds were still cheeping, but he was silent forever.