Chapter 2 Ward of the State

Chapter 2

Miss Maryanne Whittaker stopped her automobile at the curb in the answer front of a large, one story, white house, that stood about twenty feet from the street. It was late in the afternoon, and the lawn, which was overgrown with grass, was in the shade.

“This will be your new home until we can find better facilities,” Miss Whittaker said. “I’m sorry we can’t take you to your aunt’s funeral. It’ll be in Butte and … well … you know … it’s just too expensive.”

“What did my grandfather say about me coming to live with him?”

Miss Whittaker shrugged. “Just that he couldn’t accommodate you.”

“Didn’t he even want to see me?”

“I don’t think he had time,” Miss Whittaker said as she got out of the automobile. She opened the back door and withdrew the box that contained Tom’s belongings. “You’ll find Mr. and Mrs. Edmonds very nice people,” she continued, as she shut the door, and walked around the automobile to meet Tom.

Miss Whittaker handed Tom his box, and they walked together up the sidewalk and onto the porch. She pressed the doorbell button, and when the doorbell did not ring, she knocked on the door.

Moments later a short fat woman with jet-black hair opened the door. She hid her obesity in a plain print housedress. The fat hung from her arms and from her face so that she had no chin, and Tom noticed a slight mustache on her upper lip.

“Yes. What is it?” the lady said. Then her face showed signs of recognition. “Oh! It’s you. Come in won’t you.”

“Sorry for the inconvenience,” Miss Whittaker said. She stepped inside and Tom followed.

“Yeah? Well …” the lady’s voice trailed off as she closed the door.

“Mrs. Clara Edmonds. This is Tom Packard, the boy I told you about on the phone.”

“You wet the bed?” Clara asked Tom.

“What!” Tom exclaimed, startled by the question. Then, recovering, he said, “No. I don’t.”

“That’s a relief,” she said, turning to Miss Whittaker. “That other kid you brought … Bobby … or Robby … or Robert … whatever he wants to be called; he wets the bed every night. I tell you, it puts a lot of stress on me’n Ed.”

“I’m awfully sorry about that, but he’s an ‘only child,’ and children like that have all kinds of special needs.”

“Yeah? Well …” Clara said, her voice trailing off.

“How is Mary doing?”

“She’s okay,” Clara said, brightening to the question. “She doesn’t wet the bed, thank God, and she keeps her mouth shut, and she plays with her doll all the time, so she’s no problem. She’s okay. The kids are out back playing now.”

“That’s …”

“You’d think it’d be the other way around,” Clara interrupted. “Him being eight and her being only five.”

“You mean: the bed-wetting?”

Clara nodded.

“It’s like I said, he’s an ‘only child,’ and he has psychological problems, but I am glad to hear that Mary’s getting along well.”

Clara looked at Tom. “Come on. I’ll show you where you sleep.” She turned and click reference waddled down the hallway followed by Miss Whittaker and Tom. Clara stopped and opened a door to her right and motioned for Tom to follow.

When Tom entered the room he noticed the faint odor of urine. Tom surveyed the room and saw two twin beds separated by a two-foot space.

Between the two beds stood a small nightstand on top of which, stood a small lamp. A narrow, folding cot was in the corner, and against the far wall, below the window, stood a bureau.

“This one’s yours,” Clara said, patting the bed closest to the door.

Tom put his box on the bed.

“This is pretty small for three,” Miss Whittaker said.

“Well, we only got two bedrooms, so after you called, Ed’n me moved this bed in here,” Clara said. “Anyway it’s only temporary like you said, right?”

“Still it’s awfully close,” Miss Whittaker said.

“Yeah? Well … where’d he sleep last night?”

“We had to keep him in the jail,” Miss Whittaker said. “We had no choice.”

“Well then,” Clara said, “seems to me that this is better’n jail.”

Miss Whittaker did not reply.

“Anyway, he’ll be gone in a couple of days, right?” Clara continued.

“Yes, and you’ll be paid extra for your trouble.”

“Oh … me’n Ed trusts you on that.”

That evening, the makeshift family sat at the kitchen table. Edward Edmonds, a balding man with a large stomach, sat at one end of the table and Clara sat at the other end. Tom sat on one side of the table and the two small children sat across from him.

“Ed, Mary, Bobby,” Clara began to say.

“Robby,” the small boy interrupted.

“Whatever,” Clara said. “Anyway I want you to meet Tom. He’ll be staying with us for a few days.”

Edward Edmonds grunted something unintelligible.

Clara glared at Ed. “Mary will be starting school this fall and Robby’s …”

“Bobby,” Robert snapped at her.

“In the third grade,” Clara continued.

The little girl smiled at Tom. “I used to sit on that side of the table.”

Tom smiled back at her. “You did, huh,” he said, then looking at the small boy he said, “Hi Bobby.”

“Robert,” the little boy snapped back at Tom.

“What you smiling at her for?” Edward asked Tom.

“Just being friendly,” Tom said.

“Don’t want no preverts in my house,” Edward said.

“Leave him alone,” Clara said angrily.

“How old’re you?” Edward asked Tom.

“Twelve. I’ll be thirteen in October.”

“What grade you in?”

“I just finished the seventh grade.”

“How come you ain’t visiting relatives or somethin’?”

“Tom’s got no relatives,” Clara said. “Now leave him alone.”

“Just trying to get to know the kid,” Edward said. “Nothin’ wrong with that. Most kids around here go away for the summer to live with their relatives.”

“Well, he’s got no relatives,” Clara said.

“Out’a school. Too young to work. What do you do all day?” Edward asked.

“I go to the library and read,” Tom said.

“All day!” Edward said.

Tom shrugged. “Most of the day.”

“I can read already,” Mary said.

“Readin’s for when you go to school,” Edward said. “You have to read when you’re in school. Why would anyone read when he didn’t have to?”

“Well … during school I read a book called, Penrod, and it was so interesting that I checked it out of the library and read it two more times. And I thought that I’d like to be able to write a book like that someday.”

“You want to be a writer, then,” Clara said.

“Yes,” Tom said, “and, when I told my aunt, she made a list of books that she thought I should read. She said that if I’m going to write, I should get to know my competition. You know … to get some knowledge of what some of the good writers wrote.”

“Don’t make no sense to me at all,” Edward said. “When …”

“I read a book once,” Mary said.

Tom smiled across the table at her.

“You hush up,” Edward said to Mary, “and eat your supper.”

“You hush up yourself,” Clara said to Edward. “And quit picking on the kids.”

“Well …” Edward said, his voice trailing off.

“So he likes to read,” Clara said. “I like to read too. Is that so bad?”

“So you want to be a writer, huh?” Edward asked Tom.

Tom nodded. “I’d like to try.”

Edward nodded enthusiastically. “I could’ve been a writer,” he said. “I got plenty of stories I could tell. What kind of books are on this list?”

Tom removed the list from his pocket and handed it to Edward.

Edward unfolded the list, looked at it, and his eyes became large round openings below his forehead. “Tom Sawyer!” he exclaimed. “That’s a dirty book. You reading dirty books?”

“I didn’t read it,” Tom said quickly. “It isn’t in the library.”

“Then how come it’s on the list?”

“Because my aunt put it on the list.”

“I oughta tell your aunt a thing or two,” Edward said.

“Tom’s aunt’s dead, you goof,” Clara said. “That’s why Tom’s here. So leave him alone.”

“Well … I don’t want no dirty books read in my house,” Edward said.

“I read Tom Sawyer, and I didn’t think it was so dirty,” Clara said. “They even made a movie about it.”

“When did you read it?”

“Years ago,” Clara said. “Before you‘n me met. Did you ever read it?”

“Well … no … but …”

“Then how jew know it’s dirty?”

“I was told it was dirty.”

“You believe everything you’re told?”

“Well … no, but …”

“Would you jump in front of a speeding car if some one told you to?”

“That’s different,” Edward said.

“Just leave Tom alone,” Clara said. “He’s got plenty of problems without having to add you to the list.”

“Well … like I said. I don’t want no dirty books read in my house, and I don’t want no preverts in my house neither,” Edward said as he put the list in his shirt pocket.

“Give Tom back his list,” Clara said.

“It’s okay,” Tom said. “I’ve memorized the list.”

Realizing he had lost control of the situation, Edward scowled and returned the list to Tom, and the group ate the remainder of the dinner in silence.

Later in the evening, after Tom had brushed his teeth, he went along the hallway towards the front room where Clara and Edward sat listening to the radio.

As Tom approached the room he heard them talking, over the sounds of the radio.

“That stupid Whittaker woman sure can come out with a load of crap,” Clara was saying. “She don’t know her ass from a hole in the ground about kids. She told me the reason that kid, Robert, wets the bed is: he’s an ‘only child.’ She wouldn’t know an ‘only child’ if one come up to her and knocked her on her keester. Hell! Mary and this new kid, Tom, are both ‘only children,’ too, and they don’t wet the bed. I wonder if she knows that she contradicts herself like that.”

Edward grunted.

“Anyway I want you to behave yourself,” Clara continued. “I want to keep this foster parent thing goin’. I’ve always wanted kids but couldn’t have any of my own, and this foster parent thing is the next best thing, and we get paid for having kids. It’s the only source of income we have now since you got fired. You just shoot off your big fat mouth too damn much, and you get yourself fired. So I want you to promise me that you’ll behave yourself from now on.”

Edward scowled at Clara. “If I could just find another job we wouldn’t have to put up with all this.”

“We? What jew mean, we? You got a turd in your pocket or something? I’m the one who’s putting up with all this. Anyway you had plenty of chances to get jobs. They wanted you to go to work in the Bull Mountain mines …”

“Mining is dangerous, Clara. You want me to get killed? I’m a good gas station attendant.”

“But everybody in this town including the owners of the other gas stations know you shot off your big fat mouth and got yourself fired. What about your drinking buddy, Roy? Wasn’t he suppose to help you get a job in the oil field? He said he’d train you. What happened to those plans?”

“That blowhard couldn’t train a bird to fly. Anyway those oil workers climb on those high derricks and I’m afraid of heights.”

“Well, then, I guess you’re just gonna have to behave yourself and put up with this foster care job.” Her voice softened a bit. “Besides these kids ain’t causing us no trouble, and we need the money, and this new kid, Tom, seems real nice. Tom won’t be too much trouble, and I’m gonna ask Miss Whittaker if we could keep him permanent like. It would mean more money, and he could help me around the place … God knows.” Her voice became harsh again. “You never help me none. I’ve asked you many times to fix that damn door bell and …”

“I don’t know anything about electricity …”

Clara waved his remark away with her hand. “And you won’t even mow the lawn.” Then her voice became enthusiastic. “Tom could baby sit with the kids and do some work around here like wash clothes and the dishes … like he did tonight. Can you imagine that? He done the dishes without even being asked to.” Then her voice took on a pleading tone. “So promise me you won’t foul this up.”

Clara’s remarks enlivened Tom. Perhaps he could become a permanent resident of the Edmonds household. At least he would know what his future was to be. Putting up with Edward and Robert would be no problem and he liked Clara—she was fiesty and he liked that in a woman. And Mary was so sweet.

“Okay,” Edward said with an annoyed tone of voice. “I think I’ll go down town for awhile.”

“You come home early. We got to go to your mom’s funeral tomorrow, you know.”

“I’ll come home when I’m ready,” Edward said.

Just as Edward stood up, Tom entered the room. Clara and Edward looked up in surprise.

“Oh! Excuse me,” Tom said. “I hope I’m not interrupting.”

“See, Ed?” Clara said. “Tom’s a real gentleman. Polite and all. These kids ain’t no trouble at all.”

Edward said nothing. He put on his coat and left.

“What do you need, Tom?”

“Just wondering if you had anything to read.”

Clara pointed to a magazine rack by her chair. “Just some magazines there. We don’t have any books.”

Tom searched through the magazines, withdrew a Saturday Evening Post, and, saying goodnight to Clara, he returned to his assigned room.

When Tom entered the room he saw Robert sitting on the bed adjacent to his own. Robert had his back turned toward Tom, and Mary was sitting on her foldaway bed, in her pajamas, arranging and rearranging the clothing on her doll.

Mary looked up at Tom. “Hi.”

“Hi,” Tom said. He looked at Robert’s back. “Hi, Robert.”

Robert did not respond.

“He doesn’t like anybody,” Mary said. “Because he’s an ‘only child.’ That’s what Miss Whittaker said, and his mommy and daddy died in an accident.”

“That’s too bad,” Tom said. He propped the pillow up against the headboard of his bed and sat down on the bed with his back resting against the headboard. He swung his legs up onto the bed.

“They don’t allow shoes on the bed,” Mary said.

“Sorry,” Tom said. He kicked off his shoes, leaned back against the pillow, and started to leaf through the pages of the magazine.

“Is your mommy and daddy dead, too?” Mary said.

“My mom is, but my dad is still alive …”

“Did your mommy die in an accident, too?”

Tom did not want to upset Mary so he said, “I think she simply went to sleep and didn’t wake up.”

“Where’s your daddy?”

“I don’t know. They tell me he died in the war, but I believe he’s alive … out there somewhere … I think.”

“Why doesn’t he come and get you?”

“I don’t know,” Tom said, shaking his head.

“Want to know my dolly’s name?”

Tom put down his magazine. “Sure.”

“Mrs. Belfrey.”

“Mrs. Belfrey?” Tom said with a smile.

“Yes. My daddy said, ‘I’ve brought you a new dolly and her name’s Mrs. Batsin Belfrey.’ I always call her Mrs. Belfrey.”

Tom smiled at her again. “You said you can read. What kind of things do you read?”

“I try to read the newspaper, but mostly I read the comics. My daddy always use to read me the comics.”

Mary became silent then and lay down on the cot. She pulled her legs up to her chest, put her thumb in her mouth, and began to weep.

Tom got off the bed and knelt down by Mary’s bed. “What’s the matter, Mary? Did I say something wrong?”

“I miss my mommy and daddy so much,” she said, continuing to weep. “I’m so lonely without them.”

Tom instinctively touched her arm, and Mary reached out and put her arms around his neck while she continued to cry. “You don’t have to be lonely anymore, Mary,” Tom said, as he continued to hold her tightly. “You got me for company, and you got Robert …”

“Bobby!” Robert snapped.

“And you got Clara and Ed. Clara’s a nice lady. She cares about you. She really does. And when you start school this fall you’ll make a lot of new friends.”

“But Bobby’s in the third grade …”

“Robby!” Robert snapped at her.

“And he doesn’t have any friends,” Mary continued.

“But he doesn’t want any friends, remember?”

Mary continued to cry until she was asleep. Tom eased her down onto the bed, pulled the covers up around her and returned to his own bed.

Eventually Robert undressed and crawled into his bed and went to sleep.

Tom turned on the small lamp on the nightstand and turned off the overhead light. Then he rummaged through his box and brought out Aunt Elizabeth’s journal, located the place where he had discontinued reading, and began reading again.

September 30, 1929- This was to be Martha’s second year, but she has surprised everyone and married a university professor. Then she stopped attending school.

Her withdrawal from school upset Arthur very much because Arthur thought that once they were married, Martha would continue with her studies.

Arthur, of course, wants, and certainly needs, a wife who is able to fit in with his lifestyle and his peers.

Arthur’s peers hold doctorates. They are all highly educated and Arthur realizes that Martha will clearly embarrass him if she does not continue with her education. I am sad to have to agree to that, because she is as ignorant as a post. She can’t discuss anything, because she doesn’t know anything.

Arthur tried in vain to convince Martha to continue with her education, but she told Arthur that when women are married they don’t need an education; that when women get married they should stay at home and raise a family. This coming from a woman who thinks pregnant women are ugly and has no intention of getting pregnant.

How foolish people are. No matter what her marital situation is, she clearly needs an education, and she is resisting. What is to become of her?

Tom scanned ahead quickly for more entries about his mother.

October 1, 1929- Today is a very distressing day. After many arguments, Arthur and Martha have separated. Poor Arthur wept like a baby, and Martha has disappeared

I so hoped that Martha and Arthur could settle their differences and that Martha would try to understand Arthur’s difficulties, but she is gone, and I hear from some of her friends that she has already found another suitor. I am very sad and perplexed for Martha and Arthur this day.

In addition to all of this, father is urging me to invest my savings in stocks and bonds. What do I know about stocks, hog bellies, commodities, and futures?

Tom again scanned the pages for more entries:

November 15, 1929- Father wrote with bad news. His stocks are worthless.

Martha finally has surfaced and is married to a man who works for the railroad.

Father has disowned her, and he wrote some very ugly things about her.

Father also told me that I will have to leave school, because he will no longer be able to help me with tuition, but I am employed and have saved enough money to tide me over until I graduate.

In any event, father will survive. He is mean enough to survive. Although he lost most of his funds on the stock market, his business is still intact. He always has over reacted during tense times.

Tom scanned ahead to another entry that read:

April 20, 1931- Received a letter from Martha today. Martha is pregnant and is expecting sometime in October. She’s hoping for a girl, and I guess Frank doesn’t care what gender the child will be as long as it is healthy.

This is the first letter she has ever written me. I don’t know how she got my address, but I appreciate her resourcefulness.

But her English is abominable. I’ve told her many times that when you use the word ‘hisself,’ you expose your illiteracy, but her letter was a welcome item in this lonely world in which I am living.

I am teaching in a one-room school near Billings, and it gets so lonely that anyone will do for companionship. Most of the farmers and ranchers around here need cooks and someone to wash their clothes, and the local schoolteacher is fair game. They don’t seem to care what kind of a person you are or what you think—only that you are alive and female, and marrying someone is cheaper than paying someone to keep house. That way they can get free labor and also satisfy their sexual needs.

In June I will be returning to the university. Florence has invited me to stay with her.

The way the curriculum is set up, I may be able to acquire enough credits during the summer quarter to fulfill the requirements for my secondary teaching credential. Perhaps, then, I may be able to teach at a high school somewhere in a larger populated area where it isn’t so lonely.

Tom put the journal down and rummaged through his box and brought out the packet of letters. He found the letter from his mother, written in April of 1931. He removed the letter from the envelope, unfolded it, and began to read silently.

Dear Liz, I am writing you because I got to write someone or Ill go nuts. I wasnt careful so now I am pregnant and the kid will be born in October and I had another fight with Frank last night. He thinks Im silly because Im hoping for a girl because boys are so difficult to control, and his friend Charlie who is really stupid and didnt graduate from high school is always churning up the embers with his stupid questions and remarks. Frank would know what Im talking about if he went to college. Hes so stupid. Frank is critical of psychology and I resent his remarks. There is a lot to this psychology ‘crap’ as he calls it. I studied it and it makes sense. If he went to college hed know more than to put things down that he dont know anything about. He told me that I should quit thinking about Arthur and what I learned at college, and I told him that if hed make something of hisself like a doctor or lawyer or somebody important maybe I wouldnt be thinking about the past so much of the time. So this stupid Charlie tells me that Frank is somebody hes a brakeman. Thats so laughable. Frank could be something better than a brakeman. Hes talented. Ive seen it. Hes smart. Hes got a good personality too and Ive been encouraging him to become some one more important than a brakeman. You know what I mean. Get an important job where he could use his brains and his personality and his talent. Become a lawyer or dentist or medical doctor or college teacher some kind of professional like that and Charlie puts his two cents worth in by asking me do I know how long it takes to become a doctor and of course I dont know. How would I know that? And then he asks me do I know how much money we would need and of course I dont know that either.

When Tom’s mother launched into a description of her shopping episodes, he stopped reading, folded the letter, put it into the envelope. He put the envelope in the box and picked up the journal again.

The next entry relating to Tom’s mother read:

May 11, 1931- I wrote Martha and told her that I agreed with her friend Charlie.

Frank is a brakeman. What is wrong with being a brakeman? At least he has a job during these perilous times. I told her that perhaps Frank likes the railroad and may be thinking of moving up in the system. He may want to become a stationmaster for all she knows.

Apparently she doesn’t talk to Frank about his job.

I don’t think that this Charlie is as stupid as she thinks. And I told her that a person has to plan for things like college. My experience will verify that. You have to save money and you have to determine what you want to be before you quit your job and run off to college- doctor, lawyer, whatever. I told her that she and Frank should have a plan for something like college.

I told her that when the economy gets better, there should be plenty of opportunities for Frank. I also told her that, if she is so determined to see Frank in college, she might think about getting a job to help Frank get through college. Lot’s of people do that.

I wrote her that: she was married to someone who was ‘someone’ as she put it, so if she wanted someone who is someone she should have stayed with Arthur and worked to make him proud of her.

Poor Martha. She doesn’t seem to know what she wants.

However her marriage to Frank has lasted longer than I had anticipated, being that she knew Frank only a few weeks before the wedding.

The entries began to dwell on Aunt Elizabeth’s teaching aspirations so Tom scanned ahead.

The next entry he found read:

June 20, 1931- Received another letter from Martha today.

It appears that Martha is going to be unhappy in love again. I wrote her that a person can’t get medical degrees or law degrees at that small college in Havre and that they should be planning if they are to reach goals such as those.

Although Martha is having a bad time, I had a pleasant surprise. I received a letter from a principle at a high school in Roundup and was offered a teaching position starting in the fall. The offer is conditional i.e., that I get my secondary teaching credential this summer.

This summer term I enrolled in two very difficult courses which are required for my secondary teaching credential. It will be a grueling journey, but it will help me in my teaching career.

Tom put down the journal again and found the letter his mother had written to Aunt Elizabeth in June of 1931. The letter read:

Dear Liz, All I know is that Im unhappy and when Im unhappy everyone else is going to be pretty unhappy too until something happens to make me feel better. I forgot to tell you that Charlie also suggested that I go back to work too when Frank goes to college and I told him and Ill tell you to. Fat chance about that. Once the kids born, Im staying home and keep care of the kid.

Tom folded the letter, put it in its envelope, and picked up the journal again.

July 10, 1931, Received another letter from Martha.

She and Frank keep arguing about this college business.

She is still using ‘irregardless.’ I have told her many times that it is not a real word—it’s actually a double-double negative. Arthur often tried to correct her grammar, too, but to no avail. Usually most of us think on four different planes simultaneously i.e., deductively, inductively, intuitively, and just plain rubbish. Martha usually operates on the later most of the time.

I feel ashamed writing that about her, but Martha was not very good with English grammar or mathematics for that matter. Arthur was always embarrassed about that. I have yet to meet Frank, so I don’t know if he has an opinion about it.

Tom found and withdrew the letter written by his mother in July of 1931. The letter read:

Dear Liz, If Frank had gone to college and studied psychology like I did he would know about the bell shaped curve and he would understand that girls mature earlier than boys and he would know why girls are easier to control. Thats the reason me and Frank cant talk about things. Frank hasnt got an education like I have and Frank tries to hurt me by saying Whatre you talking about you only went to college one year and then you quit. Some education you got. So I says, At least I went. Thats more than he can say. I keep telling him that if hes talented he owes it to hisself to improve hisself and you owe it to your family to make your life better. He tries to hurt me by saying but you still quit. He just wont let it go Liz. You know why I quit Liz. I quit because I got married. When women get married they should stay to home and raise a family. They dont need an education. But I got a chance to prove it when Charlie asked me about the bell shaped curve. I told him that the psychologists do studies on people and put the information on this bell shaped curve and they can tell certain things about people. Thats how they know that girls are easier to control. Thats how they discovered that girls mature earlier than boys. Thats why I can see that Frank should improve hisself. Im older than Frank so Im wiser than him and I know better. The bell shaped curve proves that girls and boys the same physical age mature at different times and the girls are always three years more mature. So being Im two years older than Frank makes me six years more intelligent and wiser than Frank. All I can say is Franks got a good mind, and I think he should go to college irregardless—

Tom stopped reading. His disappointment was growing with each letter. He folded the letter and put it in its envelope and began scanning the journal again. The next entry read:

July 15, 1931- Received another letter from Martha.

It is very painful to experience what kind of a person my sister is. It is like being constantly hit on the head with a hammer. It’s like some kind of Chinese torture technique.

I told her that one course in psychology doesn’t qualify her to determine the psychological make up of another person, and that the bell shaped curve is just another way of showing inequality.

And apparently this Charlie comes to see Martha when Frank is away at work. Not very appropriate in my estimation.

And she gets so upset about such small things. Some times I would like to punch her in the face.

Writing all this makes me feel ashamed of myself. Perhaps I should stop complaining about her and just accept Martha as she is.

Tom withdrew a fourth letter and unfolded it. The letter read:

Dear Liz, Charlie came over again the other night and I cried when Charlie and I were talking about Frank. Charlie calls Frank, Frankie and Frank calls Charlie, Charlie, and Charlie calls me Marty, which I really like, but Frank never calls me Marty. You would think it would kill him to call me Marty just once.

Tom stopped reading. It was becoming increasingly painful to read his mother’s letters. He picked up the journal once again and began scanning the entries. The next entry read:

July 10, 1937- I received a letter from father. He told me that Frank left Martha and their young son, Thomas.

Martha stopped writing years ago so now I have some news about her.

Thomas must be at home on vacation from school at this time, and I imagine it is very difficult for Martha being on her own with no one to help her with the boy.

Martha wrote to father to see if she could return home, but Father told me that he told her that he is done with her.

I wrote to Martha several times over the last years, but she never responded. Frank may have left because of Charlie. I suspect that Martha and Charlie may have developed more than a platonic relationship.

Again Tom scanned the entries quickly.

November 5, 1940- This is a sad time. Martha is dead; murdered by one of her many suitors; strangled with one of her stockings in her own home. That’s ironic. One simply cannot toy with the affections and emotions of others.

Father and I had a terrible argument when he denied Martha’s son his birthright, I told Father that Thomas was family and should be with family, and I applied to the court and I was granted guardianship of Thomas.

Now Thomas, who is nine years old, has come to live with me, and at last I have some thing to live for. Some one really needs me.

I enrolled Thomas in the public elementary school, and I have started a savings account to save for his future college expenses.

I am alive again.

Tom stopped reading then and returned the journals and letters to his box. He undressed, got into bed, pulled the covers up around him, turned off the light, lay back on the pillow and closed his eyes. At last Tom knew about his mother, and he tried to understand why Aunt Elizabeth had lied to him about the way his mother had died. Most likely she lied to protect him, but to protect him from what. Then he envisioned his mother, lying on the kitchen floor, struggling against her assailant, ‘one of her many suitors,’ as Aunt Elizabeth had put it, who was choking the life out of her. ‘Strangled with her own stockings,’ as Aunt Elizabeth had written, and although his aunt Elizabeth could see the irony in that, Tom could not.

Just before Tom went to sleep, he thought that his aunt Elizabeth would be very disappointed if she knew that he would not be going to college as she had planned.