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Marvin T. Bear

And the journey to America

By Bonnie Joy SludikoffPublished 2 years ago Updated 2 years ago 7 min read
Marvin T. Bear
Photo by Oxana Lyashenko on Unsplash

He was my best friend.

I knew he was a little bit afraid of the ship because I was, too. We were just so far up from the water is all. When we looked over the edge, I was just positive we were going to fall in. But we helped each other be brave because that's what best friends do for one another.

Mother said we shouldn't stand that close to the edge anyway, which certainly did not make me feel any safer. But I held my best friend's hand and tried to enjoy the journey.

We were about to start a new life in America. In fact, that's where he had come from in the first place! That's what father said when my best friend had joined our family.

I asked Marvin to tell me all about where he came from, but he didn't really remember all that much. I told him that was okay-- he'd be making plenty of new memories when we reached land again!

We weren't allowed to do much on the ship. We had to be quiet while mother spoke to the other ladies. They'd turn to us and comment on how precious we were. I hated that. Marvin hated it even more.

But if we were quiet, sometimes mother handed us a scone under the table. Well, she handed it to me. But I always shared with Marvin. Our nanny was supposed to have joined us on the trip, but mother told me she found out Greta never had any intention of it. Turned out she was getting married to the son of our cook.

I was happy for her. I wondered if she'd send for me so I could come back and be her flower girl. I can throw flower petals more gently than anyone I know. I've been practicing for years, just in case someone should ask me to be in their wedding someday!

Marvin thought I was running out of time, but I'm still pretty short, especially considering I'll be seven pretty soon. And I have absolutely perfected my technique. The secret is all in the wrist- just a little rotation, and you let go of the flowers slowly so they don't all go at once.

Marvin said he could be just as gentle, but between you and me, his flower tossing skills were pretty stiff. But to me, that didn't matter. He wasn't good at sports like other boys and I was okay with that. I'd much rather just observe things and people. And Marvin never made me feel like I had to fill the quiet.

Before he came to live with us, I was always making my parents so exasperated, but once I had a best friend, sometimes it was like I wasn't even there. Marvin and I were wonderfully invisible together.

When we got to America, I decided we would be spies. Or maybe acrobats. After all, mother said anything would be possible.

She was in such a hurry to get to the lifeboats that night. I'd slept through the crash, but Marvin was awake the whole time. Can you imagine?

Mother had left the room with father, but they came back to get us. He had to help other passengers first and he said he'd meet us when we got there. Marvin whispered to me that he thought father was so brave. I thought so too, even though it looked like he might cry when we got into our lifeboat without him.

I gave him a little salute the way he had taught me when I was a little girl. And then I showed Marvin how to do the same. Father sent back the salute with a wink.

It was crowded on the lifeboat. Some people were crying. There was woman with a baby next to us and she smelled like spit up. The baby...not the mother. She drooled right on Marvin, but he was a pretty good sport about it. Mother was calmer than usually. She gave me some medicine to help me sleep, but it didn't do anything for a long time. I tried to get one for Marvin, but she took all the rest for herself; Four of them.

I thought Marvin would sleep, but it was too cold for him. And for me, too. So we just snuggled quietly.

Mother slept, and eventually, so did the baby next to us. So did her mother, the old women in the next row, and just about everyone else. Except me and Marvin. I told him it couldn't be that much longer. I told him if we went to sleep, we'd probably reach land by the time we woke up.

But when I woke up, we were still just in the middle of the ocean. And it was still cold.

And Marvin wasn't there.

"This is not the time for tricks, Marvin." I whispered, looking at my feet. But he wasn't there. "Marvin T. you come out this instant." I demanded trying to sound like my mean old governess.

I shook my mother's arm frantically. "Marvin isn't here."

She looked at me blankly. I think she thought she was in a dream.

But it was a nightmare. Why would he leave the boat? He wasn't a good swimmer at all.

Maybe he got on a different boat, I thought. Maybe while I had been asleep, father's lifeboat had floated past and Marvin hopped on to keep him company. Because after all, he had said that he didn't want him to be alone.

But there was only one other lifeboat we'd seen nearby and that one only had girls, just like ours....

Well, when we fell asleep, ours only had girls and Marvin. But not anymore. What was that bear thinking?

I tried to imagine what Marvin would say. I wanted to cry, but I knew other people on the boat had lost their loved ones, too. When I started sniffling mother pulled me close.

"It's okay, dearest. Father's boat will be just fine," she said.

She hardly ever spoke in that nice, quiet voice. Her unexpected softness broke through and the tears I'd been holding onto came plunging out. "But Marvin's gone," I cried.

"Who's Marvin?" she asked.

I didn't even know what to say to that. But don't you see? It's just as I said before. We were practically invisible. What I would have given in that moment to go back to hiding under the desk in father's office or spending a whole Saturday laying under a tree.

Mother tucked my hair behind my ear. I thought she was going to say something soft and kind the way Marvin always did, but moments later it was like she moved on, overtaken by another thought.

I looked over at mother, still beautiful even with her disheveled hair. I didn't really care about mine- I liked to keep it in two little puffs so Marvin and I could be like twins. Mother said that was not very ladylike, but I had no need for being a lady. Not yet.

I was still just hoping to be a flower girl.

When we were finally back on land and it had been a few days, mother bought me a dress that would be perfect for a flower girl. Only I didn't think we'd be going to any weddings for a long time. Only funerals.

The dresses she picked out for us to wear to father's funeral service were plain black, but mine did have pockets. I gathered all of the petals from the roses in the vase and stuffed them into my pocket. And when they let me go up to his little gravestone by myself to say goodbye, I used my perfect wrist technique to release them gently into the grass...

I asked him quietly to bring the flower petals to heaven for Marvin, so he could practice his technique. Because why wouldn't there be weddings in heaven? Especially when so many people died earlier than we thought they would.

I hoped I would get to be married on Earth someday. Marvin had been right though, I probably would never get a chance to be a flower girl.

When we went shopping for things to put in our new house in the country, Mother let me pick out anything I wanted. She brought me over to the teddy bears and said I could have them all. But I didn't want any of them. It felt rude and they would just get jealous if I told them about Marvin.

I chose a doll and I named her Mrs. Buttermilk. But she was so proper. She didn't like to do any of the things I did with Marvin, so she mostly sat in my room by herself.

Even though I didn't have my best friend with me, I pretended. I chose a shady spot in our garden that I knew he would love and I made him a little rock garden in the shape of an M. I hoped he made one for me too, wherever he was.

What's this "W" my mother asked one day. It was like he never existed to her. Or maybe it was too painful for her to think about Marvin. After all, she didn't like to talk about father either.

But I remembered them enough for the both of us. We visited father's little gravestone again a few weeks after his funeral service. Even though he was not buried there like most of the other people, mother said he knew when we came.

And he must have. Every last flower petal was gone.

Young Adult

About the Creator

Bonnie Joy Sludikoff

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