“The Earning of a Name” by Kiara Scarbrough

   Crash! Seven-year-old Henry sat straight up in his bottom bunk, hitting his head off his brother Joe’s bed as he whipped off his covers. “Joe! Look out the window!” They climbed out of their beds and pushed each other toward the second story farm house window where they had to carefully avoid stepping on the shards of glass that littered their cold, hardwood floor.

   “It’s time, Ornery. The day we have spent the past three days waiting for is here.” Henry hated being called Ornery, but he knew there was no stopping it because, without question, Joe was in charge; and today, there was no arguing with him. The boys ran around the large farm house gathering their guns (they were half the size of them), ammo, and camo, masks and other protection while listening to the shots explode on the side of the old stone house.

   “I’m scared, Joe!” Henry exclaimed in a shy voice.

   “Don’t be such a baby. You know what we have to do,” twelve-year-old Joe growled.

   After gathering their things, the boys crept down the rickety old, wooden staircase and hit the floor on their knees. “You go look out the front and I’ll look out the back and we’ll find a way to get out alive.” Joe was always the one who would come up with a plan.

   “There is no way out, Joe! We are gonna die in here!” Henry said, starting to cry.

   “I have a plan. I’ll run out the cellar door to the cornfield and while they’re distracted you run for the tower. Ok Ornery?” explained Joe.

   “Yes, sir,” Henry bravely replied.

   The boys peered out the peep hole that was drilled into the old cellar door and tried to count how many soldiers were outside so that they could see what they were truly facing. “I counted fifty-one, Joe!”

   Joe rolled his eyes and face palmed, “No. You counted fifteen.”

   “That…that’s what I said…,” Henry stammered. It was a cold, misty day with light gray fog that clouded the boys vision as they got ready to run.

   “Alright Ornery, I’m a gonna make a run for it, then you count to ten. Then, you run like you did when you filled Daddy’s smoking pipe with pepper.”

   Once the coast was clear, the boys used all the strength that they had in their small arms to push open the large, rusted cellar door. Joe took off with six people shooting after him. He tucked and rolled, but then he knew he was not going to make it to the field, so he hid behind the mounded pile of discarded tractor tires. Without thinking, Henry, with shaking hands from the weight of the gun, took out two soldiers in attempts to free Joe. Once he did, the enemy noticed Henry’s position.

   In an effort to keep him safe, Joe jumped out from behind the tires and yelled, “Over here, you sissies!” as he ran for the cornfield. He had almost made it when a shot hit his leg causing him to lose his balance and trip over a rock. He jumped up and disappeared, limping into the field. Once he was out of sight, he sat down and ripped off a part of his shirt and tied it around himself where the red liquid was oozing down his leg. “This day is gonna have way more red then I would ever like to see….. I hate the color red,” he mumbled to himself.

   Back at the cellar door stood Henry, his gray-blue eyes wide with shock. His brother was the captain of all captains, he had never once been shot. “This is my fault! It’s just like that time I put Joe’s night crawlers in the fridge and forgot the lid and they got all over mama’s fresh baked pies and Joe said it was his fault!” More fear began seeping into Henry as he realized that he had just wailed that out loud. “My bad!” he yelled as he ran through the mud and muck, avoiding shots on his way to the cow shed. “Think, Henry! Think! What would Joe do?” he asked himself. As he was trying to figure out what to do next, five soldiers came into the shed. But before they could catch a glimpse of Henry, he climbed into the hay loft. As they walked in, he pulled the trigger multiple times, hitting every one of their sly faces. Then an idea hit him. He ran out to the bull pen and pulled the clip out, flinging the gate wide open. “Run!” Henry yelled to the bull with a wild look in his eyes.

   This created just enough of a distraction for Henry to safely reach Joe. On another bright note, the bull chased four of the enemy off the farm. Henry used his bird call as he walked through the cornfield trying to find Joe. A bird call was their way of secretly finding one another when separated. After searching for what felt like days, he heard Joe’s bird call.

   “Joe!” Henry called.

   “Shut your trap, Ornery,” Joe snapped at his shaking, younger brother.

   “How bad you hurt, Joe?”

   “Never you mind,” Joe barked. “How many did you get?”

   “I shot seven and four ran off like girls when I let the bull out,” Henry proudly told him.

   “All right! Good! I got three myself. That leaves us with one left.”

   The boys came up with a plan and took off for the tower running as fast as their small feet covered in combat boots would carry them. Through the broken glass window of the tower the young men sighted their last target. With one shot left each, Joe looked hard at Henry and said, “Aim for the mask.” They fired their last shots, hitting right on target. “Well done, Henry,” said Joe with a wink.

   Who knew all I had to do was be a good paint-baller to earn my name! thought Henry.



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