CARL: Third from the left.
Phrase to include: “Stop grinning.” “I can’t. It’s been stuck to my face.”
Carl rubbed his face and turned away from watching the older boys. Jack had eaten a frog. With as hungry as he was, he couldn’t really blame him. He watched Lissie walk back towards her brother. She reminded him of his mother somehow. It must be the blond hair and her large dark eyes. His heart throbbed painfully and he swallowed at the memory of his mother. It had only been a year since he had last seen her. Much more recent than all the others had seen their parents. He missed her terribly and could not seem to put it behind him the way the others did. When he was seven, his father had left to join the navy. Rather, he had been conscripted. He didn’t’ remember much about his father. It had been a long time ago. But what he did remember was how happy father had made his mother. They had been such a happy family. So full of laughter. One moment stood clearly in his memory of when they were all together. They had been eating dinner and teasing each other.
“Stop grinning.” Her mother smacked his father’s arm playfully and tried not to giggle.
“I can’t. It’s been stuck to my face.” His father just smiled even wider if that were possible, then kissed her soundly on the lips, causing his mother to blush and Carl to laugh.
He remembered how the day before he left, his father had pulled him aside and taken him for a walk, just the two of them.
“You, know son, you’re the man of the house now. I need you to take care of your mother for me. Can you do that?”
He remembered it as if it were yesterday. The way he had held his hand, the looks of sorrow and confidence in his eyes. He had nodded, hand over his heart. Promising with all that he was worth. He hated to see his mother cry the way she had after his father left. Four years they worked together, played together, were each other’s all. When that time was up, the pox had swept the town like a wildfire, claiming whoever it could. They had both been so sick. He had watched his mother grow weaker and weaker and finally draw her last breath from his vantage point of a pallet on the floor where he was unable to move from. He had been so weak and his vision blurry as she gave him one last smile. Her eyes dull from the fever, but brightening just a tiny bit with the light twinkle of amber that would always spark in her dark brown eyes when she was happy.
Carl dashed at the tears on his face with a dirty hand and rolled up on his old blanket, feeling the clumpy dirt through his think layers of clothes. He had promised his father that he would take care of her, and he had failed.
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By God’s Grace,