I Shot An Arrow

In the late 1940’s and early 1950’s, World War II Daddies with shell shock wounds were lauded to puffed up heroes. America decorated its winners with proud surface contentment, but far too often let the after effects of war fall on innocent little boys.

In the backyard at 44th and Zenith, eight year-old Peter Washburn plays in the sweltering heat with his brand spanking new bow and arrow set he received for his birthday. But there’s a problem. There’s nothing in the backyard that is okay to shoot at and not enough room to shoot an arrow any distance anyway. Peter looks up at the sky and gets an idea. Thinking it will come down right in front of him, he pulls his bowstring back with all the muscle he can muster and shoots an arrow straight up at the clouds. Unfortunately he isn’t aware of the breeze blowing above the roofs of the neighborhood’s detached garages. Peter sees his arrow drift away, but has no idea where it went. He decides to embark on a fearless one man search party. He looks everywhere an arrow could be noticed - by the blisteringly hot metal garbage cans overflowing with putrid decomposing dreck, through the fly filled weeds in the Larson’s front yard, and even down the steaming detritus cooking sewer drains in the street. After hunting for over an hour, Peter decides to give up thinking that maybe the arrow is caught up in the leafy branches of a tall tree along with his favorite kite he lost last year. Then he sees Mrs. Ryan holding his arrow and staring at him from her front stoop.

“Peter Washburn. Is this what you’re looking for young man?”

“Yes, Mrs. Ryan; I’ve been looking all over for it. Where did you find it?” Peter asks.

“Well, it put a hole right through the middle of my brand new white cotton bedsheet that I just washed and hung on the clothesline to dry in the sun.”

With the sincere sentiment of Beaver Cleaver, Peter says, “Gee whiz, I’m sorry, Mrs. Ryan. I didn’t mean to. Please don’t call my dad. Please.”

“Why don’t you want me to call your daddy?” Mrs. Ryan asks.

“Because he’s really mean to me, Mrs. Ryan,” Peter says softly, hanging his head.

“Oh, dear,” says Mrs. Ryan.

In 1957, people in nice middle class neighborhoods do not call the Department of Human Services on their neighbors. People are inclined to “not get tangled up in another family’s problems” saying they are respecting their privacy, but in truth, they do not want to get involved. Too many children suffer the unimaginable consequences of this code of silence.

“So you won’t call my dad, Mrs. Ryan?” Peter asks.

“I wouldn’t think of it, Peter,” Mrs. Ryan says. “Oh, and here’s your arrow back.”

“Thank you, Mrs. Ryan. You’re nice,” Peter says.

“Well, Peter, I had four children of my own,” says Mrs. Ryan. They are all grown up and married now so they don’t live with me anymore. Say, I made homemade strawberry ice cream this morning and it should be just the right temperature by now. Would you like to join me at my kitchen table for a bowl or two?”

“I love strawberry ice cream, Mrs. Ryan,” Peter says.

“Well you come right in then, Peter. I’ll pour you and I a glass of ice cold lemonade, dish us up some ice cream and we can shoot the breeze,” Mrs. Ryan says smiling.

“I want to eat your ice cream a lot, Mrs. Ryan, but I’m not so sure about shooting the breeze,” Peter says. “I think I’ve had enough of that for today.”

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About the Author

Julie Peterson Freeman, née Wren Dubois, has been spotted in dark piano bars and tiny cafes in the oldest sections of cities around the world. At the beginning of her career, one was most likely to find her strolling the cobbled streets in the 18th Arrondissement of bohemian Paris. I spotted her arm in arm with the notorious Amantine Dupin (better known as George Sand), exiting Le Tagada, a quaint and popular bar among artists and eccentrics in the famed village of Montmartre. It was here where the flâneur was created. Bien sûr, none of this is true, except in Julie’s imagination.

Julie Peterson Freeman
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