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Bradbury's Missing Chapter
Montag watched the coals dance under the moonlight. He watched the oranges turn to reds to grays until they blended into the thick, milky darkness. The smoke blew into his face, encasing it in a cloud of gray. Just as I remember. But it feels so good not to burn anymore. When the fire went out, he slumped under the tall oak and drifted off.
The light slipped through his eyelids startling him from a nightmare. He was back there- at the old woman’s house. He could see the determination and regret in her eyes. He could hear her repeat the same words over and over; Master Ridley…Play the man…Master Ridley…Play…” Every night it was the same thing. But it was morning now and he had work to do.
“Fred! Granger! Dr. Simmons! West! Padover! Up and at ‘em!” He nudged the five laying nearby. Only Granger began to stir.
“Okay,” he cleared his throat. “Thank you, Montag. Now, come on men! Today’s the day. Let’s get moving!” The others began to move and gather up their belongings.
“So, today’s the day we finally get to see the city.” Montag tried to strike up conversation.
“You should be.”
“What do you mean, Granger?” His only response was a slight smile. The six packed up their little things and took off in the direction of the city.
The city was completely destroyed. Glass was all over the place and they could barely step without cracking a piece under their boots. Bricks, dust, and rocks lay amongst the shards, concealing all kinds of horrific sights.
Montag walked down the too familiar street. He closed his eyes and pictured the sights. His house- the one filled with sorrow and secrets. No, he could see that again. Instead, he stopped near the yard next to his. This was the place where it all began. Clarisse McClellan. He felt his eyes beginning to water.
Granger cleared his throat. “Are you okay?”
He gave a slight nod. “Fine.”
“It’s okay you know?”
“To cry. It helps sometimes.”
“I’m fine.” Montag looked down at his boots. There, right by his big toe, was a small, magenta flower. “Granger, look at this. Granger?” But no one was within the block. “How can something so beautiful end up here?”
“Who are you talking to?” It was a voice, a serious, yet playful voice; an all-too-familiar voice.
“Clarisse? But…but you’re dead.”
“I can assure you that I’m alive.”
“No, it’s not possible. Beatty…he had you killed.”
“What does Beatty know?” She laughed. “I’m sorry you lost your wife.”
“It’s not a big deal. You were right.”
“Still, I’m sorry.”
“So, what are you doing here?”
“My uncle needed some help. Have you seen him?”
“Clarisse, I don’t think that…”
“I know he is. He told me he’d be here.”
“Right there! Uncle Granger!”
“Yes, Montag, this is my niece, Clarisse.”
“Yes, Montag. We came here after I was released from prison for being a pedestrian. You just never noticed it was me because you were like them. How else did you think I knew your name? Anyway, I fled from the city after punching Beatty in the face when he tried to burn my library. This little girl,” he nudged Clarisse, “followed me, but was held hostage by Beatty before she could quite reach me.”
“It was horrible, but thankfully, he got a call. However, it was your house. I left as quickly as I could and made off into the woods. When I came back, it looked like this.”
Montag smiled at the story, but it disappeared the more he thought. “So are you joining us?”
“Of course, there’s no doubt in my mind.”
“I promised your parents I’d keep you safe. So I get the final decision.”
“Running from the law, playing in the shady areas of legal, helping better the society? Since when did that stop me, actually any of us? Look what happened to the law abiders.”
“You’re just like your mother. So, I guess you’re coming?”
She nodded. “Even memorized a book…
‘Tom he made a sign to me—kind of a little noise with his
mouth—and we went creeping away on our hands and knees. When
we was ten foot off Tom whispered to me, and wanted to tie Jim to
the tree for fun. But I said no; he might wake and make a disturbance,
and then they’d find out I warn’t in. Then Tom said he hadn’t
got candles enough, and he would slip in the kitchen and get some
more. I didn’t want him to try. I said Jim might wake up and come.
But Tom wanted to resk it; so we slid in there and got three candles,
and Tom laid five cents on the table for pay. Then we got out, and I
was in a sweat to get away; but nothing would do Tom but he must
crawl to where Jim was, on his hands and knees, and play something
on him. I waited, and it seemed a good while, everything was so still
“The good ole Huckleberry Finn, you can’t go wrong there. Now, where to next?”
The three looked at each other, clueless. Then, Montag heard a small yelp. Sitting in a small pile of rubble was a young child. She was probably only two, if that.
Clarisse walked over. “Hello. Are you hurt?”
The child began to cry.
“Okay, it’s okay.” She began to hum. Granger and Montag stood back completely unsure what to do. They watched in awe. “Hey, what’s that?” Clenched in the toddler’s hand was a small brass circle with flowers etched on it. “Diana?” The child smiled. “Her name’s Diana. Can we keep her?” She pleaded to Granger like a five year old who brought home a stray dog.
“I guess so. She’s just going to die here. It’s going to be hard running with her with us though.” Clarisse wore a giant smile on her face.
“Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! You won’t regret it, I promise.” She picked up the child and brushed off the dust. Diana was much smaller than they realized. She had little, blond curls poking out of her pale face. Her plump, tiny body was covered in blue fabrics that blew in the wind. There was no doubt about it; she looked just like Clarisse.
The men began to dig in the rubble trying to find other survivors, but failed. At times, one would scream out in fear. By three in the afternoon, a majority of the group was shaking with fear and pleading to stop.
“Clarisse,” Montag spun around, “How are you handling up?”
“I’m perfectly fine. Why?”
“Well just seeing that all the men are struggling with the sights…”
“I’ll be fine. How are you holding up?”
“These sights are rather scarring. I didn’t know how much damage those German bombs did
back from the river.”
“It’s very disappointing that such a small group of people can hold so much hatred and then use it to cause so much harm. We could turn all of this around though.”
“What do you mean?”
“Well, we could tidy up all the glass and rubble. Then, build new buildings with front porches, antique rocking chairs, and bookshelves. There will be fresh, green grass and wide windows. The streets will be freshly paved and the speed limit will never exceed 50mph.” A smile spread across her face. “What do you think?”
“Clarisse... Clarisse, I don’t think that it would work. Look at the damage, there’s no way we could fix all of this. I’m sorry.” Granger walked over with crying Diana.
“How do you keep her quiet? What’s wrong?”
Clarisse held Diana and she instantly stopped crying. “Is it impossible to build the city?”
“Anything is possible; you of all people should know that.”
“Then, let’s get to work.” She cupped one hand around her mouth. “Come on men! We’ve got
work to do!”
So, the two girls and the handful of men began to clean the debris and start the slow process of restoring the city for the better.