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Cale's Anthem

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The peeling green paint on the side of the house made a zigzag pattern around the porch. The shutters were sealed shut with dust and residue from long-ago cleaning supplies. The South Dakota-air was blissfully warm, and the mosquitoes danced around the flickering streetlamp. Willow Dearing was walking up the creaking stairs leading to the house, expertly side-stepping the large hole that her brother Cale had made that past winter when he had slipped on the ice and fallen through the rotting wood.
“I'm home!” Willow cried. She tossed her school bag on the stairs and walked into the small kitchen. Despite it being September and still warm out, there was a fire blazing in the fireplace. Her mother perched in front of it, warming her hands.
“Mom, it’s so hot in here, why do you have a fire going?” Willow asked her mother. Mrs. Sarah Dearing turned around slowly to stare at her 16-year old daughter.



“I'm very chilled,” she stated in a blunt voice. Willow’s heart sank as her mother turned around towards the fire. Her mother used to be full of radiance. Upon entering a room, all eyes were drawn to her. Lustrous blonde hair cascaded over her shoulders, and her bright green eyes sparkled playfully. Men would whistle as she walked down the street, and her swaying hips attracted much attention. Somehow Sarah, who had been voted “Most Likely to Be Famous” in high school, had become involved with Buck, Willow’s dad, dating him since their freshman year of high school. The type of boy that she was attracted to had at least three tattoos, was an underage drinker, and owned a motorcycle. Buck was the epitome of that. He had entranced Sarah and sucked her into marriage by the time graduation rolled around. Buck had gone on to work as a mechanic while her mother stayed home, cooking and cleaning. Looking now at her somber expression, Willow realized that nothing had been the same since that day when Cale had gotten hurt.
Buck had been drinking again, straight up whiskey instead of beer this time. After a long nap, Cale was sitting on the threadbare carpeting doodling in his Farm Animals coloring book. He had been illustrating a rooster with a red marker. The marker slipped and streaked the pale carpeting. Buck Dearing had risen out of his well-worn in chair and picked up little four year old Cale by the arm. He drunkenly jerked Cale back and forth, while Willow and her mother looked on in horror. Buck was screaming obscenities, threatening to kill Cale if Sarah did not clean the marker up right away. With a sudden burst of flaming anger, he had traipsed to the door and threw Cale out onto the icy porch. Landing with a thud on the frozen stairs, Cale plummeted through the top stair and lay there, unconscious. Willow had called 911 and then rushed to Cale’s side, sobbing. The police had arrived, and when the inspection was over, the paramedics claimed that Cale was very lucky; he only had one broken arm and a minor concussion. Many inquiries were made about the nature of Cale’s accident; however whenever Buck was asked, he threw the investigators an icy glare and repeated the story that he had prepared. Cale had been playing outside and had fallen through the rotting wooden step. Neither Sarah nor her daughter had the willpower and defiance to contradict him.
Now Sarah’s hair was streaked with gray, despite being only 36 years old. Her eyes were watery and shriveled, and a pair of crow’s feet had settled into the corner of her eyes many years ago. Looking at her mother with sadness, she realized that it wasn’t only Cale being affected by her father’s antics, it was the whole family.
“Mom, have you been outside today? It’s really nice out,” Willow said hopefully.
“You know that Dr. Montgomery said not to leave the house for six days on account of my cold,” Sarah said quietly.
“Yeah, but that was three weeks ago. Come on, maybe we can go on a walk?”
“No, Willow. I'm not feeling very well today,” her mother said, and turned back towards the roaring fire.


Turning back towards the kitchen, Willow heard a small whimpering noise. Sitting at the decrepit wooden table was Cale. Under the table’s legs were various sized books, to prevent it from teetering; however, it just made the problem worse. Cale was cutting a grape in half with a knife, again and again until the pieces were smaller than his little pinkie nail. While watching him, Willow scrutinized him. He was very small for his five years, and delicate looking. Fine brown hair covered his head and ended in little curls by his ears because he needed a trim soon. He had a sharp chin and defined cheekbones, and haunting blue eyes. They were the palest shade of blue imaginable, like the silk on a summer dress. To Willow, it seemed as though his eyes had grown increasingly lighter since the incident with Buck. Like a translucent shell, his eyes seemed to be hollow. They were the eyes of a convicted person on death row, a Jew in the Holocaust, or someone at gunpoint; completely devoid of hope.




Now that Cale was healthy again, the bruises around his neck had long faded away and the cast on his arm had come off. Despite being healed, his personality had suffered. He was no longer the bright and eager little boy that he once was. Instead he spent his days alone in his room, playing with his toys. He had no friends at his daycare, and the teacher constantly called to express her concerns about his welfare. She suggested therapy, medication, and school counseling. Each time her father ignored the request.



“Hi, sweetie,” Willow said to Cale. She went over to her little brother and picked him up in her arms. “Want to come listen to me play?” she whispered to him. Nodding into her shoulder, he held on tight and she carried him upstairs, past her parents’ bedroom and into the one that she shared with Cale. After the “accident”, all Cale had wanted to do was sleep in Willow’s room. He would cry and scream if he couldn’t sleep in her room so now he was a permanent resident in Willow’s room. Leaving Cale on the bed, Willow turned around and grabbed her violin.



Willow had been playing the violin for years. When she was 8 she had been attracted to the majestic curve of the instrument, in love with the soft music it provided. Her mother purchased one from a used store and had a friend give her violin lessons. Like a duck to water, Willow had taken to it. For at least 2 hours a day she practiced, more time on the weekends, and played concerts at the symphony hall that she was a member of. Her ultimate dream was to get a scholarship and join the New York Philharmonic Orchestra, but no one had ever been discovered in her little town of Avon, South Dakota. Having a population of only 561 people, Avon was a very ignorant and isolated town. They had to drive to the next town over to get all of their groceries and personal items, and there was only one movie theater that played two movies at a time. Instead of accepting the fact that all she had to look forward to in life was becoming a teacher or a nurse like all her friends would be someday, Willow held onto the dream of leaving Avon and moving to New York City.



Picking up her new violin lovingly; she thought about how she had saved up for a new violin for two years with her babysitting money. On the music website that she frequented, there had been a great violin, a Lombard model 4500. It had been time to freshen up her strings anyway, so Willow had used her money to buy the Lombard and it had just come in the mail last week. A beautiful instrument it was, and it was 150 years old, which added to its value. She placed the violin upon her shoulder and looked at Cale sitting on her purple comforter-covered bed. They shared a smile in anticipation of what was to come.



Willow raised her bow and began to play Violin concerto no.5 by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. With a rather violent slash to begin the piece, the violin emitted a low whine. There was something about the music that moved her, all of her stress went away and the music filled her blood, filled her soul. It moved through her veins like oxygen; she craved the notes. Her body shuddered and surrendered to the music. As the piece came to a close, she opened her eyes and saw that Cale also had his eye closed, and his permanent frown and drawn together eyebrows were eased and relaxed.



“WILL YOU SHUT UP?” a voice came shrieking up the stairs. Willow dropped her bow in shock. Her father wasn’t usually home this early! Hammering like a drum, her heart thumped inside her chest because she knew that Buck hated her playing the violin. All he wanted was for Willow to cook and clean for him like her mother did. “If you don’t get down here right now girl, it’s the boy that’s gonna get it!” The house seemed to sigh with the echo of his voice.



Willow raced down the stairs, tripping on the carpeted stairs. Sliding to a halt in front of her father, who was already lazily slouched in his favorite drinking chair, she breathed. “Yes, Dad?”“I think its time for you to get rid of that crap,” Buck said icily. “All you do is fill that boy’s head with music and other nonsense, its time he grew up and experienced being a man.”
“He’s eight,” Willow said flatly. With a glance towards Buck, she noticed that his flannel shirt was buttoned incorrectly, and his sparse brown hair was rumpled. So, he had been with her again. Lately, Buck had been going to see his “friend”, an old girlfriend from high school. Willow doubted that her mother suspected anything, much less cared.
“Are you being smart with me, young lady?” Buck demanded. In an instance he had slammed down the beer he had in his hand and stared right into her eyes. “You know Willow, sometimes I think about giving you a taste of your own medicine and tossing you out. You don’t appreciate anything I do here.”
Willow stood quietly and stared back at her father until he lost interest and turned back towards wrestling. Turning around, she quickly shuffled away and went in the kitchen to start dinner. Cale had somehow snuck downstairs and was already sitting at the table. Starting the stove, Willow caught her reflection in the mirror above the sink. Deep set blue-green eyes peered out from under serious, heavy brows. Her nose was straight and small, with a splatter of freckles across it. She swept her long tawny hair back over her shoulder, and pursed her thin lips. With skin like fresh milk and a pink flush on her cheeks, she thought that she looked much younger than 16. People regularly asked if she was in seventh or eighth grade when she was really in tenth. Being 5’2 did not help that situation either. Willow wrinkled her nose at her reflection and turned back towards the now boiling water.

When she turned 13, Willow had automatically become the main homemaker. Her mother was too “ill” to do housework or cook, so for years Willow had been the only one capable. Trying to keep a family of four happy, she had to constantly think of new ways to prepare dishes, especially when Buck forgot to give her money for groceries and their provisions were running low. Tonight she was making a macaroni and cheese casserole with a side of garlic toast because all she could find was boxes of instant Kraft mac and cheese. As she added the pasta to the boiling water, she heard a crash from the living room.

“You good for nothing idiot!” Buck Dearing screamed. Sprinting into the living room and coming to a sliding halt, Willow saw a fearful sight. Cale was lying on the floor, with blood seeping into the carpet beneath him. The room reeked of beer, and Willow realized that Cale must have knocked Buck’s beer can over.
“You stupid imbecile! You did that on purpose!” Buck yelled at the cowering little boy. Realizing what had happened to Cale, Willow rushed to his side. He was still conscious, but his breathing was shallow and rasping. She turned him over on his side and saw the long jagged cut on his head where Buck had thrown something at him. Lying next to them was a broken ceramic lamp. That must have been what he threw at Cale when he knocked his beer can to the floor.
“Get up, girl. I’ll deal with him.” Grabbing her arm, Buck dragged Willow off of Cale.
“You can’t keep doing this to us!” Willow screamed, in tears. “He’s only a little boy, he didn’t mean it!” She was getting hysterical. Blood was pouring out of Cale’s wound, staining the carpet a dark crimson. Buck’s eyes glinted with hatred. They twisted and sparkled under her scrutinizing stare. In an instant, he whirled around and started kicking Cale with the iron toes of his work boots. Screams filled the house as ribs cracked and skin bruised. Just then, Willow realized what had to be done.
Running to the liquor cabinet under the sink, she reached inside her shirt and pulled out a tiny silver key. She unlocked the cabinet and rooted around in side. She skimmed her hand around the bottle and bottles of hard liquor until she felt the cold metal touching her skin. Grabbing the gun, she whipped around and pointed it at her father.
“Stop.”
That one word wasn’t enough to get Buck’s attention, but the tone of her voice was. It was the voice of a desperately crazy person, sharp and predatory. Like the last second before a tiger pounces, the air hung between them, a seemingly impenetrable curtain. Buck’s senses tingled, his heartbeat pounded into his chest, a nail being drove deeper and deeper into his conscience.
Willow’s every knuckle pulsed with anticipation on the trigger. The only way to be free was to end this. For Cale, she shot her father.

She stood there as the blood permeated the carpet. Her father’s body hit the floor with a loud slap. The terrifying grimace smeared on his face was turned up towards her. Her hands tingled with adrenaline and hate and regret. It traveled up her arms and into her brain, poisoning her eyes so that she only saw a red haze. Suddenly, her mother entered the room. Her tattered bath robe dragged on the ground behind her, getting tangled with her lumbering feet. For a moment, there wasn’t a sound, not in the house, outside, or in the world. Then Sarah Dearing fainted dead away on the floor just as Willow dashed upstairs.
“Cale! Get your shoes on NOW!” Willow screamed. She didn’t recognize the sound of her own voice. Her thigh muscles burned as she ran towards her room. Flinging open her door, she grabbed a duffel bag and two shirts and a pair of shorts for her and Cale. Socks, underwear, and their toothbrushes were thrown in the bag too. On a whim, she raced into her parent’ room and took fifty dollars from under their mattress. Then she slung the navy blue bag over her shoulder and jumped down the stairs. Cale was waiting for her at the door, staring at the scene in the living room.
“Willow, you shot him,” Cale said with a monotone fascination. He had fingerprint bruises all up his arms, and the blood coming out of the large cut on his head seemed to be slowing. Blood mixed with tears and ran into his eyes. They exchanged a look, and when Cale saw the duffel bag, he opened the door for both of them and slipped into the night.
They tore down the street, gravel flying up when their tennis shoes struck it. The road twisted and turned, and they tried to stay on the main road towards the center of town, but it was pitch dark and the musty street lamps gave off little light. Cale stumbled a bit, and Willow slowed to a walk, remembering that he was only eight and she was sixteen.
“Cale, I couldn’t let him hurt you any longer,” Willow said, as her eyes scanned the sidewalks. Checking her watch, she saw that it was close to 1 a.m. No one would be out this time of night in Avon.
“I know.”
“You don’t blame me?”
“I don’t think he was dead,” Cale said thoughfully. “You shot him in the stomach, and I think he should be okay if the paramedics get there.”
“That means they will be looking for us,” Willow gulped. Her mind was whirring with possibilities, but it wouldn’t settle on any strong ones.
“Yeah.”
“We might have to lie low for awhile, maybe we can go visit Aunt Beth, she always hated Dad,” she said. They walked along in reserved silence for a bit. The moonlight hit the street at an angle, giving everything an ethereal glow. Such a lovely night for such a terrible event, Willow thought to herself. All of the sudden, hot tears stung her heart and a python woven from razor and glass wrapped around her lungs. Her vision was getting blurrier and blurrier, she could barely see the road in front of her now.
“Cale, I have to sit down,” Willow whispered. With a sudden sob, she fell to the ground and beat her fists upon it. “Oh, what have I done!” she wailed. “The police will be after us, I just shot my father, and our mother will never be the same again!” Enveloped in sadness, she sat on the cold cobblestone, weeping. Instantly, a warm little hand appeared on her lower back.
“Thank you for saving me,” Cale said with a sad smile. “I love you.”
Looking up through her tears, Willow saw Cale standing there over her. He was the most important thing in her life right now.





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