Archie Smith, Boy Wonder

August 23, 2013
Archie Smith could sleep through anything. The bustle of the city was no match for him, the loudest siren on the fastest police car like a lullaby. His poor mother had to cook him chocolate chip pancakes and bacon every morning, and the smell of chocolate and the pop and sizzle of bacon cooking was the only thing in the world that could get him up. Archie had been like this his whole life, which at the time of this story was nine years, four months, and one day. For every one of those nine years, four months, and one day, Archie had been nothing special, just another grade school boy would could walk in and out of your life without leaving a mark. In fact, in all of Archie’s life, which at the end totaled to a healthy ninety one years, eleven months, and twenty one days, he only changed the life of one person. This is her, his, and their story.
Archie snapped awake, expecting the sweet aromas of fluffy pancakes, gooey chocolate, and crisp bacon floating through the house. But all he could smell was exhaust fumes from the alleyway behind his house drifting through his open second story window. He coughed and checked the clock by his bedside table. One oh two and thirteen seconds.Archie was shocked. Not only had he never stayed up this late before, but something other than his mother’s cooking had woken him up. At first Archie was unaware of what could possibly be, but then he heard it. It was one of the quietest sounds he had ever heard, but Archie had no doubt that it was the thing that woke him. It was crying. A soft, scared crying coming from the flat next door to Archie's. “Funny,” Archie thought, “no one lives in the flat next door.”
Archie woke up again, this time to his familiar wake up call. When he walked into the kitchen, Archie’s mother was rushing around the room, even more frantic than usual. She stopped for only a moment to explain. “we have new neighbors, Archie. I’m cooking them breakfast. Here, take this plate next door.” She shoved a steaming pile of pancakes at Archie, and shooed him out the door. “you can have breakfast when you get back.” She slammed the door behind Archie, leaving him alone with the pancakes. “Goodmorning to you too, Mum.” He muttered, and rang the bell of his new neighbor’s flat. No one answered. Archie knocked, getting impatient. Still nothing. Archie out his hand to his mouth and yelled, “I’ve got pancakes if you open the door!” The door cracked open slightly, and Archie peered inside. Everything was dusty and smelled like granny perfume. He nudged the door open with his foot. “Hello? Is anyone home?”He heard a faint yelp from somewhere in the flat. “Is everything okay? Do you want me to leave?” A girl came into view, and walked up to the front door. “Yes and No.” the girl smiled, but Archie could see that she was out of practice. Archie shoved the plate of pancakes at the girl who looked to be about his age. “I, um, my mom, uh, here’s, umm, i guess, uhhh, pancakes?” The girl smiled a little wider. “Thanks... um, what’s your name?” Archie stood there, stupid. The girl tried again. “Unless you want me to call you pancake boy then you’re going to have to say something.” Archie panicked. “MynameisArchieSmithandyou’repretty.” The girl raised her eyebrow. “i didn’t understand a word you just said. Catch you later, Pancake Boy.” The girl started to close the door, then opened it again. “Oh, and my name is Marilyn .” She shut the door.
Archie stood, staring at the door for another minute, then stomped back to his flat, cursing his stupidity. When Archie walked into the kitchen, his stomach rumbled. “Mum! Where’s breakfast?” His mother pointed to a box of Yummy O’s on the counter. “Eat up.” Archie frowned. “You didn’t make me pancakes?” His mother sighed. “I did. They’re sitting in the flat next door.” “You gave SOMEONE ELSE, MY pancakes?” His mother shrugged. “It’s about time you tried something different. Besides, Yummy O’s are GOOD for you.” Archie rolled his eyes and poured himself a bowl of Yummy O’s making sure to make the process look as painful as possible so his mother would feel bad. No luck. “Bye Archie, I’m off to work. GO play with the neighbor girl if you get bored. See you at eight.” and she was gone. When the car sped off Archie started to pace the room. “Should i go see Marilyn? No. I should. No way! Ugh. I can’t do this. Archie ended up spending the day eating junk, watching junk, and saying junk at the tele when it wouldn’t change to the channel he wanted. The whole day he worried about Marilyn, and what first impression she had of him, with his slurred and stuttering speech, bedhead, and rocketship pajamas. She probably thought Archie was the biggest loser ever.
The next day Archie woke up and scarfed down his pancakes and bacon, then took a plate next door. This time Marilyn answered the door on the first knock, and she invited him inside. They sat at a big oak table that took up almost the entire dining room. Marilyn smiled at the plate of breakfast that Archie had brought her, but pushed it away. “Sorry Pancake Boy, I’m not hungry. Thanks though.” Archie nodded and pushed the plate back. “Just keep it n’ case you get hungry later, okay?” Marilyn rolled her eyes, but then she laughed. “Fine, Pancake Boy, you got me. I’ll save it.” She got up and put the plate in the tiny ice box in the kitchen. For the minute she was gone Archie looked around, staring at pictures hanging neatly on the walls. They were all family portraits, and there were more than a dozen of them. Marilyn walked back in and caught him looking at the pictures. She frowned. “Mum and dad like to take family photos all the time. It’s torture.” Archie realized that Marilyn was wearing a frown in all the pictures, similar to the one she wore now.”Why don’t you smile? In any of them?” Marilyn pretended to be busy picking at her thumb nail. It took her awhile to answer, and she didn’t look up when she did. “Smiling is work. I only smile when i need to. And my mum and dad aren’t a good enough reason. Understand?” Archie didn’t understand at all, but he nodded. “Ya, i understand.” Marilyn smiled. “Finally someone does.”
Every day after that Archie went over to Marilyn’s, every day he brought her breakfast, and everyday she stored it in the icebox, claiming she wasn’t hungry. Archie’s mum and Marilyn’s mum and dad all worked during the day, so for the majority of the summer Archie and Marilyn talked and laughed and hung out at each other’s houses, playing cards, making skits, and telling ghost stories. Archie taught Marilyn solitaire and Marilyn taught Archie how to bake cookies. Marilyn always messed up and Archie always burnt the cookies, but it was fun.
One day, the first day of school only two weeks away, Marilyn didn’t open the door. Archie knocked, pancakes in hand, but no answer. Archie slowly walked back to his flat, disappointed. He spent the day how he did before he met Marilyn. Eat, watch, and say junk into empty air, wasting the day away with only a bag a Cheetos for company.
That night Archie woke up, the air totally absent of cooking smells. He checked the clock. One oh two and fourteen seconds. Archie heard crying once more, but this time it seemed louder, and more urgent. Archie sat up awkwardly in bed for a few minutes, unsure of what to do. The crying grew louder, almost sobbing now. Archie pressed his ear against the wall. The crying was definitely Marilyn, Archie was sure of it. Archie sat in bed for a moment longer, then got up. Archie tip toed into the front room and grabbed his jacket and the key to the door, stored in a bowl of fruit at the table. As quietly as he could, Archie unlocked the door and slipped outside into the cool night air.
Archie took a deep breath and knocked ever so lightly on Marilyn’s door. The sobbing stopped. Light footsteps came to the door and Archie heard a whisper. “Go away Archie.” Archie whispered, “I’m not leaving.” Archie heard a key turn in the lock, and the door swung open. Marilyn stepped outside, shutting the door behind her. Marilyn’s eyes were red and watery, but she stood tall and looked Archie in the eye. “Why did you come?” Archie shrugged. “I heard crying. I wanted to know if you were okay.” Marilyn shook her head, “Thanks, but you can’t help.” there was a moment of silence. “How old are you anyways?” Marilyn asked. “Nine.” Archie replied. “ How old are you?” Marilyn bit her lip. “Thirteen.” Archie was shocked. “But you look so much younger... i mean... that’s a good thing...” Marilyn shook her head. I look younger because i’m too short and too skinny, but I’m thirteen, fourteen in two months.” Archie sat there, thinking. “Why can’t i help?” Marilyn smiled sadly and ruffled Archie’s hair. “Because you wouldn't get it.” Marilyn moved towards the door, but Archie stopped her, and pointed to thin red lines tracing the inside of Marilyn’s arm. “You should really trim your cat’s nails. That way it can’t scratch you so easy.” Marilyn shook her head and opened the door to her flat. “I don’t have a cat.”
Archie couldn’t sleep. His mind was going at a million miles a minute, and every thought he had reminded him of Marilyn and the scratches on her arms, no matter how hard he tried to think of something else. He tried everything he could to get to sleep, counting the dots on the ceiling, humming songs, playing solitaire on the covers with his old deck of bent-up cards. Nothing worked, and Archie ended up simply laying in bed, staring and thinking. He stayed up all night like that, and that’s why he was the first one to hear the sirens.
They started off soft, like something small and non-threatening way off in the distance. But as they grew closer Archie could hear the distinct wail of an ambulance siren. “That’s weird,” Archie thought. “Ambulances never have to come near here.” Archie tried to continue staring blankly and thinking about worrisome topics, but he couldn’t help but turn his attention to the swirling red and blue lights outside his window. Finally Archie couldn’t stand it any longer, and he grabbed his shoes and ran outside. It looked like a movie, there were men and women running around in important looking uniforms, walkie talkies beeping and nonsensical words pouring out, all of them urgent and stern. Archie looked around frantically, hoping against hope that the flat next door was quiet, with nothing wrong. Archie took a breath and looked, and his heart sank. The door to Marilyn’s flat was wide open, and a two men carrying a stretcher rushed out. Archie tried to shout, but it felt like someone had stolen his voice. Archie ran after the men, and they pushed him away, barking sharply for him to go home. Archie wouldn’t, he tried to push past one of the men to see who was in the stretcher, but a police officer who had arrived a few minutes earlier roughly grabbed his arm and pulled him back towards his flat. “Stay here kid. We have this under control.” Archie nodded and looked down at the cracked pavement at his feet. “Please sir. Can you just tell me who’s hurt?” The police officer sighed. “Marilyn Fay. But don’t worry son. We’ll save her.” And then the policeman jogged off, leaving Archie huddled on the welcome mat in front of his flat, shivering in the warm summer air.
“Archie honey. Come on, we’re going to be late.” Archie’s mother nudged his shoulder. “No mum. I don’t want to go.” “Well that stinks, because you’re going.” Archie rolled his eyes and shuffled into the backseat of his mother’s clunky car. It had been three days since Marilyn was taken away in an ambulance, and the doctors said she wasn’t getting any better. In fact, she had gotten worse.
A policeman came to Archie’s door the day after and found him still huddled on the welcome mat. The policeman brought Archie inside and woke Archie’s mother. The policeman explained what had happened the night before, and Archie hated him. He hated him because those words shouldn’t have needed to be said. Marilyn shouldn’t be in the hospital, she should be here, with Archie, eating pancakes and telling him her problems. But that didn’t happen. Marilyn was in intensive care in the hospital, and the doctors didn’t get the pills she had taken out of her system in time. She probably wouldn’t make it, the policeman explained. Archie’s mother started crying when the policeman left, but Archie yelled at her. He was screaming at his mum that she didn’t deserve to cry, and she was just faking. It made her cry more, but it made Archie feel better to yell. He was so angry, angry at his mum for faking grief, angry at Marilyn’s mum and dad for not realizing that their daughter needed help, and angry at Marilyn for not asking for any. Nothing was fair.
Archie could only visit Marilyn for five minutes. When he walked into the tiny hospital room she was staying in, he stopped short. Her cheeks were sunken and her hair was thin and tangled. Her beautiful eyes were closed and had dark circles under them. The doctor had warned Archie that Marilyn was unconscious, and that she wouldn’t look like herself. But this wasn’t anything like Archie had imagined. Marilyn looked like a limp doll, skinnier than ever, wearing zombie makeup and a cheaply made witch wig. If the steady beep of her life support system wasn’t echoing through the room Archie would have thought she was dead. Archie checked the clock. He had only been visiting for a minute. Archie pulled up a plastic visitors chair to Marilyn’s bedside, suddenly awkward. He sat there a minute more, unsure of what to say. The doctors had also mentioned that there was a possibility that she could hear him, so Archie didn’t want to say anything stupid. Archie was so busy thinking about what to say, he almost didn’t notice when the beeping stopped. Archie stood up quickly, then started to whisper furiously at Marilyn. “What do you think you’re doing? You think you’re so special don’t you? You think that you can just stop eating, you can cut your arms, you can take a bunch of pills? Why? Did you want to see if anyone would care? Because listen to me Marilyn, listen to me right now. You have no reason to die. You are beautiful and i think that you are the nicest girl in the world. And maybe, but only if you decide to live, i’ll think that i love you.” Archie stood still, and for a moment nothing happened. For a second Archie was scared that it hadn’t worked, that Marilyn was dead. But then the best sound in the world filled his ears, slow at first but quickening to a healthy pace. Archie jumped into the air and shouted, pumping his fist. “YES!” Marilyn opened a weary eye, and smiled ever so slightly. “No need to get excited, Pancake Boy. It’s just me.”

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