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A Big Enough Army; His mother was troubled, and his father was gone now. But his sister found out that's not the only kind of loss a sensitive young boy can feel intensely. Story by Kerry Clare SHORT STORY CONTEST
[ONT Edition]
Toronto Star - Toronto, Ont.
Author: Story by Kerry Clare
Date: Jul 23, 2006
Start Page: C.06
Section: Entertainment
Abstract (Document Summary)

Carmen's brother Lucas hadn't spoken since their father left and so now when she got his breakfast, she had to point to every box of cereal in the cupboard until he nodded at the one he wanted. It would have been easier if he'd had the same kind every day but Lucas liked variety. It was difficult to accommodate his needs, but this was Carmen's job now. And so she and Lucas ate their Marshmallow Crunchies together in the morning while he concentrated hard on his spoon, quiet as ever, and she read the newspaper. The front page with its usual news - President Reagan's Star Wars and that girl her age who had been missing since May. Carmen wondered if the Russian spies in satellites ever noticed where the missing girls went. She read the newspaper purposefully that summer, every single day, every single page. She was afraid the world might end without her knowing it, and it was being caught unaware that frightened her most of all.

Carmen knelt down on her knees and peered into the hollow. She reached in to feel around the dark and damp. She pulled out the box and sat with her back against the rock, the box in her lap. It was her jewellery box. When she opened it, a ballerina in a pink tutu used to spin to plinky music, her arms outstretched. Nothing plinked when Carmen opened the box now, but everything inside was still safe and dry. The picture of her dad outside their house in Germany, holding her when she was a baby, looking right at her so you couldn't see his face. Another photo of her mom and dad together at their wedding, with smiles as wide as their faces and it was strange how people never know what's going to happen to them. Her parents' expressions reminded Carmen of the way the missing girls beamed out from the newspapers, and how everything just seems sadder when it's unexpected. She held the letter her dad had wrote from Saudi Arabia, about souks and sheiks. She knew the whole thing by heart now. And then her mother's wedding ring, which wasn't Carmen's to keep exactly but her mother had just left it in a bathroom drawer where it might have gone missing and no one would have noticed. And so Carmen had taken it, but she was only saving it until her father came back and her mom might need it again. And until then, she had to keep the out box here because her mom didn't understand that somebody should preserve these things. Carmen closed the jewellery box slowly, folding the pink ballerina inside. The box gave a little plink as it shut and Carmen tucked it back up inside the hole.

"Did someone take your bike?" Carmen asked, and Lucas broke then. He began to cry and it was the loudest sound he'd made in months, snorts, sobs then wails and Carmen got down on her knees to wrap her arms around him. She imagined that she was a cocoon and that Lucas was a caterpillar shaking inside of her. She looked up at her mother's bedroom window but nothing stirred there. Everyone on the street must hear Lucas now. And then she heard another noise behind her and glanced back at Jamie McNickle, coming up the driveway carrying Lucas's red bike in his left hand. Carmen rose to confront him, but Lucas was clutching her shoulders and he wouldn't let go of her shelter.

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