The Escape

Marvin was confused. Aunt Gertie and his married sister, Vera, tried to convince him that he would have many kids to play with in the Lutheran Children’s Home in Waverly, Iowa. Marvin hated this place.  Aunt Gertie was sick and could no longer care for him but since Vera lived in Waverly, why couldn’t he stay with her family?  Vera had a new baby and Marvin’s younger brother, Lester was living with her.  Why not one more?  Vera promised to bring Lester to see him every month but why be here at all?  Yes, there were plenty of boys at the Home, but who wanted to sleep in a big room full of them?

It was September and Marvin began first grade.  The school was only a short walk from the main building.  In no mood to like it, Marvin was not impressed with first grade.  After all, he could read Ergemier’s Bible Stories which had almost 700 pages.  It even had maps of the Holy Land.  These kids were just learning to read in a boring reader.  Who cared about a dog named Spot or some stupid kids named Dick and Jane. How dumb, “Run Dick! Run! Run!” “Come Spot! Come! Come!” This was not very interesting for someone who had read about David, a boy who killed a giant with his slingshot and became King of Israel.  Exciting stuff compared to two kids who talked baby talk. 

In spite of himself, Marvin liked his teacher. She was quick to notice that he could read almost anything and that he was unhappy. She showed him a room filled with donated books.  Marvin thought the first grade books were baby books but his teacher allowed him to choose any book. He now discovered a wonderful world of dragons, explorers, and pirates. The world was suddenly bigger than Waverly or the Holy Land.

Then it happened! In books by Mark Twain two boys, Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn, entered his life. He could identify with these guys. Tom and Huck did not live with their parents and in fact Tom’s Aunt Polly sounded a lot like Aunt Gertie.  She was fussy, religious, and loved Tom a lot. Huck was more fun because he hung out in the woods and knew things about living on the Mississippi river.  To people in his town, Huck was bad but he was so smart. Since Marvin did not want to make friends with boys in the Home, Tom and Huck were ideal.

This was not the first time that Marvin created an imaginary world. Once Aunt Gertie told him that his mother was an angel and would always be “up there” watching over him. What was an angel? Those in the stained glass church windows and in Ergemier’s all had wings and looked like men. They could not be his mother. He did not remember his mother but imagined her to be young and pretty like women he had seen in magazines. She certainly did not have wings.  When he was alone, when kids picked on him, or when he was punished, she was always there.

Huck and Tom entered his life completely.  Together they planned to escape from the hated Home.  They would escape into the woods along the nearby Cedar River and cut tree branches and make a raft, tying it together with vines, and then float down the river. Marvin began sneaking food from the dining room for the trip but this attracted mice and made the ladies very mad. The weather was getting colder again.  Marvin had read how Indians started fires with sticks. Could he and his friends do this?  They decided that they would have to wait until Spring when it warmed-up again.

Ten years of hard times in the United States had broken-up many families. Throughout 1942-45, America was at war and many young men were killed. With so many fatherless children, the Home was full. Like Marvin, many of these kids resented their new home and some ran away.  Sometimes the older runaways did bad things in Waverly like break into homes or steal cars. Reverend Dr. Becker, the director of the home, was concerned and spoke to everyone in the large dining hall.  He said he understood the anger of some but they should give the Home a chance. Then he said something that Marvin wanted to hear.  He said that if anyone wanted to leave, they should first come and talk to him.  If they still wanted to leave after that, he would get in touch with their relatives and help them leave.

That very afternoon, Marvin knocked on Dr. Becker’s door. Dr. Becker was surprised to see the seven year old. “I want to run away and I need your help,” Marvin announced.  The director had directed his challenge to the teenagers, not little children. He began to laugh. “You should not even be here. Go back immediately to your area and never come without permission again,” he said sternly.

Marvin was humiliated and furious. He told his imaginary friends, “Dr. Becker is a liar.  The Home is a jail. When it’s warm, were leaving.” No one knows if Marvin and his friends would have carried out their escape.  All we know is that a miracle happened at Christmas in 1943.  The miracle came in the form of a wealthy farm couple, Harold and Ruth, who took Marvin home for a two week Christmas vacation. They had two children, seven year old Billy and four year old Carol. The two boys immediately became like brothers. When it came time to return Marvin to the Home, the boys and even little Carol protested so loudly that the parents called the Home and with Vera’s cooperation arranged for Marvin to stay.  Marvin had made his big escape. Of course, Tom and Huck were a little bit happy for him but they no longer felt needed and left his life forever. 

Preguntas de desarrollo:

¿Describe qué pasa en la historia?

¿Cuáles son los retos de Marvin?

¿Qué hace a Marvin diferente a los demás niños?

¿Qué lección te deja esta historia?