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What do you think of when it comes to Halloween? Candy? Costumes, perhaps? One of the biggest things about Halloween is the scariness. Halloween never used to be scary in my old town of Maycomb. The children never really celebrated it. But the one time that someone tried to change that tradition.... Well, that’s when Halloween got scary.
I’m Arthur Radley. Some call me Boo, some think I’m dead, some think I’m insane, and some are too scared to talk about me. I should be so lucky. I know everything that happens, and has happened in the dismal town of Maycomb, which I have the misfortune of living in. I know about every summer that that over-imaginative boy came to visit his Aunt Rachel. I know about when the schools changed to the Dewey Decimal system. I know about the time it snowed, and those neighbor kids made a black snowman. I know about when that Maudie’s house burned down, and how relieved she was. I know that senile Mrs. Dubose died, and someone shot that Tom Robinson. I know about the mayhem that the Tom Robinson VS. Robert Ewell case caused. I know about the Cunninghams, the Ewells, and the Finches. I know about the stock market crash, and its effect on these poor families. I watched those neighbor kids, the Finches, grow up. And I know every single rumor that that gossip of a Stephanie Crawford has spread about me.
I was pondering the corruption of men when it happened. As always, I was listening. For what? I wasn’t sure. But I am ALWAYS listening. I had that tingly feeling that something morbid was going to happen. And then I heard them. Footsteps. Oh yes, there were always footsteps around my mysterious house, I had kid neighbors! But these footsteps... They gave me the chills. Footsteps of a stalker. Someone who was determined to get his gruesome job, whatever it may be, done. I could hear the frightened chatter of the Finch kids, as they could hear the faint footsteps that weren’t their own.
“Thought I heard something.” That was the boy. “Stop a minute.”
The street was silent, except for the muffled drone of the neighborhood radios. After a while, I heard another whisper, “Hear anything?”
“No.” his little sister replied. More footsteps, which abruptly halted.
“Jem, are you tryin’ to scare me? You know I’m too old-” the little girl whined. Jem, the boy, shushed her, leaving the road in eerie silence again. I heard more whispering, and then a deafening yell, “CECIL JACOBS IS A BIG WET HEN!” The insult echoed around the parkway. But I knew that their pursuer was no child. Who it really was though? I didn’t know at the time. Then there was another shout, “Hey!” The kids plodded along the street, and I listened to their pursuer. He was quite loud. Inexperienced. I shuddered at the thought of what might happen if he WAS experienced in.. Whatever he was trying to do, which I was sure wasn’t very pleasant. Then all of a sudden, the footsteps got louder, and faster.
“Run Scout! Run! Run!” The boy hollered.
I heard more scuffling as I jumped over the railing of my porch and ran in the dark towards the noises. The little girl, gosh she was probably only about eight, was wailing for help. I heard metal ripping. Keeping those pesky kids alive became the only goal in my pathetic life. I heard more hustling and bustling. My silent curse at myself for not being in better shape was interrupted by a deafening crack, followed by a tortured howl. I thought I had failed in my mission and one of them had snapped their neck, but I couldn’t be sure of it. I couldn’t let myself think like that.
They’re still alive...
They’re still alive...
They’re still alive...
Oh dear God let them still be alive...
It was the only thing that kept me going. I couldn’t give up hope now. Even though they had been afraid of me and made fun of me for nearly their whole lives, I still felt like it was my responsibility to protect them. There was something about the juvenile innocence of the girl that made me protective of her, no matter her flaws. Then the gruesome scene came into my view. A scruffy dirty man was choking the little girl. Instinctively, I gripped his arms and threw him off of her with all the force I could muster. I kicked him down several times to make sure he wasn’t getting back up any time soon. Each of his dying coughs stunk with the putrid odor of stale whiskey. I had an idea of who it was, but I wasn’t sure. And I sure as hell didn’t care. Then I remembered that one of them, the boy probably, had broken a bone. I searched for him in the gloom. I finally spotted him, lying alive but unconscious on the hard cement. I swiftly picked him up, trying to avoid damaging his broken arm even more, and started off to his house. As I speed walked, I looked at his face. I had seen it before, when he snuck into my backyard and left me his ripped up pants, when he “rescued” his little sister from my front yard, and countless times, mocking me, perhaps without recognition. All those times it was hard. Determined, a little mean, older, trying to be older, and definitely trying to hide its fear. His fear of losing his family, his fear of me, and his fearful realization of the corruption of the world. He was right to be afraid. I remember the look on his face when he found the broken pocket watch in that tree, and how it lit up with juvenile excitement. But in this particular moment, his face transformed completely. All fear and meanness dissipated, he appeared to be just what he is: an innocent child. A mockingbird, as some would call him, or any child like him. A being that acts with nothing but kindness. One who must live with the knowledge that the world isn’t fair, that not everyone is good, respects those who are, and forgives those who aren’t. On this plane, I can relate to him. I can relate to this strange little boy who could never relate to me. Maybe that’s why I care so much. Maybe that’s why I can forgive him for all of his mocking. He is a mockingbird, after all. I found this all in his sleeping face despite the repulsive wound forming on one side of it. It extinguished all of the rage and hatred I feel towards the people who are trying to kill this innocent boy.
The boy’s father ran towards me with a huge thanks and rushed me inside. I laid the boy down on the bed in what I assumed was his room, and stepped, okay, hid in the far corner, disappearing into the shadows. Throughout all of the commotion of worry, telephone calls to the doctor and sheriff, and the arrival of the little girl, no one noticed me. I could barely make any sense of all the anxious, worried, nervous chatter. The little girl asked repeatedly if Jem was alive, but that’s about all I could understand. The doctor arrived, and assured her that he was. He affirmed my assumption that his arm was broken, but that was all the damage done, besides a bump on the head. I gave a sigh of relief. But still, I knew that the doctor could have been playing it down for the sake of the child.
He’s not. It’s fine. Everything is going to be fine. I attempted to reassure myself. It didn’t really work. Maybe I need it to be downplayed more than the girl does. Then the sheriff, Heck Tate, arrived. My attempts at hiding evidently failed, as he looked and nodded at me. I could tell that none of the room’s occupants realized who I was. The sheriff finished his optic sweep of the room. Mr. Finch warmly invited him to sit down. Mr. Finch, his sister, and his daughter sat down as well, without me. I don’t know if Mr. Finch had noticed me yet, with all the hubbub about his son. If he had, he hadn’t acknowledged me so far, for which I was grateful. Heck Tate informed them of the pink dress and shredded costume he found, which the little girl confirmed as hers. Tate seemed nervous, rubbing his hands on his thighs, arms, neck, and nose. His eyes darted around the room.
“What is it, Heck?” Mr. Finch finally asked after several awkward moments of silence.
Tate rubbed his neck and admitted, “Bob Ewell’s lyin’ on the ground under that tree down yonder with a kitchen knife stuck up under his ribs. He’s dead, Mr. Finch.”
Even though I knew he was dead, I was still shocked. Too shocked to completely apprehend what happened in the next few minutes. Did I kill him? I was vaguely aware of Mr. Finch’s sister leaving the room. Did my kicking him cause that knife to get lodged in his ribs? I hear the sister murmur something, but all I catch is, “This is my fault...” I think Mr. Finch told her that it wasn’t. He’s right. It wasn’t her fault. It was mine. Before, I could cast away all of the nasty rumors about me, knowing that they weren’t true, but what if this was true? The difference was that no one would know. Maybe they should know. But how do I even know? I don’t. Not even now. But everyone always blames themselves, don’t they? Well, decent people at least. I don’t know if I would call myself a decent person after what I’ve done. Or what I haven’t done. Everything just went so quickly! All I could think about was protecting those kids. Protecting those mockingbirds, because everyone knows it’s a sin to kill them. But if it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird, is it still a sin to kill someone who kills a mockingbird? Or who attempts to kill one? As I pondered this, the girl described what happened to Mr. Finch and Heck Tate. I didn’t really pay attention until I realized that she was pointing at me. I unfolded my arms and reflexively pressed them against the wall. The trio studied me. I didn’t blame them. I was the town mystery, after all. My hands slipped from the wall, I hadn’t noticed that they were so sweaty. I hooked them in my belt loop, knowing that they would just slip again if I put them on the wall. All of the tension in my body went into overload, and I felt myself spaz out a bit. I hate it when this happens. Whenever I get too upset about anything, usually about how cruel the world is, I spaz out from frustration. I could feel the tiny bit of color in my face disappear. I forced a small smile on my face. I didn’t want them thinking I’m a total creep, I mean, this was the first time they’ve seen me, and with all of the rumors... The girl has to say but two words.
Her father corrected her, saying to call me Mr. Arthur. I frankly didn’t care. It was the first time someone had spoken to me in so many years I had stopped counting. And such a sweet person too. I swear she sprouted imaginary wings right there. I’m not sure if she’s my little angel or my little mockingbird. I swore right there to always protect her. I had sworn that earlier, but that was in time of desperation. I was stunned. I couldn’t do anything. I just stood there like a nervous wreck. At least I had my “haven’t been outside in years” excuse. It was partially accurate too. I hadn’t exposed myself to this curious little girl. Or angel or mockingbird or whatever she is. I don’t know how I could’ve thought she was annoying, pesky, or too childish. All negative thoughts are gone. What am I thinking? This is insane! How can someone like me think like this? But oh, I can. I do. I could feel another smile on my face. The girl smiled too. Her sweet innocent smile. I dread the day her innocence is taken away. Then a voice startled me out of my stupor.
“Evenin’, Arthur, didn’t notice you the first time I was here.” It was the doctor. His tone took me completely off guard. I’d never met him in person before, despite what Stephanie Crawford might say, but he addressed me as an old friend. When my father died, I hid in my room for months, grieving. My father wasn’t very dear to me, but then again, no one really ever has been. I guess he did bring me into this world, but was it really a world I wanted to be brought into? A world where people discriminate, prejudge, and kill each other willingly and purposely? Doesn’t sound very good to me. But it is what it is. We just need the right people to change it. My attention focused back on the little girl.
“Come along, Mr. Arthur,” she said in her high childish voice, “you don’t know the house real well. I’ll just take you out to the porch.” All I could do is look at her and nod without a word. She brought me out to the porch and had me take a seat. “The rocking-chair’s nice and comfortable.” I could tell she was as mesmerized by me as I was by her. I felt a pang of what? Jealousy? I guess so. For Mr. Finch. Because he can feel the way I do without it being strange. It’s totally normal that a father would care and have fatherly love for his daughter, but a complete stranger? That’s abnormal, last time I checked. But how can it be wrong when it doesn’t feel like it?
Suddenly Heck Tate asked Mr. Finch if he thought Jem killed Bob Ewell. Of course he didn’t! I did! I wanted to scream, but my vocal chords had ceased to work.
“You hear what Scout said, there’s no doubt about it. She said Jem got up and yanked him off her-- he probably got hold of Ewell’s knife somehow in the dark... We’ll find out tomorrow.” He explained his thoughts. You’re wrong! Jem didn’t do that! I did! I did! I did.... But I still remained speechless. I know what it feels like when people think that you’ve done bad things that you haven’t, and I can tell you, it’s definitely NOT the best feeling in the world. Yet another way I can relate to this boy. I don’t think anyone wants Jem to be whispered about for the rest of his life, about how “his daddy had to pay a mint to get him out of that.” Just like they did about me. And I know he doesn’t want to end up like me, hiding, swimming in hurtful rumors, so many that you start to wonder yourself if some of them are true...
Oddly, it was Heck Tate, the sheriff, who defended Jem, the lawyer’s son.
“Bob Ewell fell on his knife. He killed himself... I can prove it.”
Man, he better be right. It would leave two innocent people knowing that they’re innocent.
And prove it he did, to me at least. Mr. Finch still didn’t believe him, but that was his own problem. Heck Tate finally left in exasperation. His parting words were somewhere along the lines of, “I’m not much, but I’m still the sheriff of Maycomb County and Bob Ewell fell on his knife. Good night, sir.”
Mr. Finch had a staring contest with the floor for a long while. After a long while was over, he said, “Scout, Mr. Ewell fell on his knife. Can you possibly understand?” He looked desperate, washed out, and just tired. Kind of like me. Scout ran to him and hugged him real tight.
“Yessir, Mr. Tate was right.” she reassured him.
“What do you mean?”
“Well, it’d be sort of like shootin’ a mockingbird, wouldn’t it?”
I was blown away, because she speaks nothing but the truth. I was glad I saved this mockingbird from being shot. Or stabbed with a kitchen knife. Either way. Mr. Finch walked up to me right on cue and said with the most sincere voice I’ve ever heard, “Thank you for my children, Arthur.”
I wish I had the strength to say You’re welcome. But the whole night had left me drained. I could feel myself shaking, and I had to sit back down on the porch bench. I wheezed out a cough and wiped my perspiring forehead with a handkerchief. All the while Scout was staring at me in awe. I guess because I’m the legendary “Boo Radley.” She has no clue who I really am, what to believe of what people say about me, but I want her to know. Too bad I still couldn’t seem to speak. I stood up to leave, and get some much needed rest.
“You’d like to say goodnight to Jem, wouldn’t you, Mr. Arthur? Come right in.” She invited me back inside and we go back to Jem’s room, where Mr. Finch’s sister was sitting. I subconsciously drifted back to the corner in which I previously watched from. I’m not used to human interaction. Even though he lives with me, my brother stays as far from me as possible, believing in the rumors just as the rest of the town. Then something unexpected happened. Suddenly Scout was next to me, her little hand holding mine. She brought me to Jem’s bed, where the doctor had let an open space for his blankets to stay off his tender arm. I found this very interesting and leaned over to get a better look. He still had that completely innocent mockingbird look on his face. Seeing him lying there, harmed, but so painfully peaceful... I reached out to him, but reconsidered it and dropped my hand down. Scout told me I could pet him if I wanted. I gently touched my hand to his hair, not wanting to wake him. I filtered the rest of the strength in the touch to my other hand, and squeezed Scout’s. I was done there. I’d done my job and saved their lives. I was ready to go home and replay it in my head for the rest of my piteous life.