The Harper Brothers

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Historical Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
The year is 1914, a time when flying in man made machines seems to become more and more possible, especially for young Aiden Harper, whose only dream as a dying child is to meet the Wright Brothers themselves. In desperation to fulfill his brother's wish, 14 year old Cayde is willing to do anything he can to find the Wrights. Will he succeed before his brother's death?

Submitted: July 28, 2012

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Submitted: July 28, 2012

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July 14, 1914 Dayton, Ohio

“Whoa!” My brother called after stifling a cough, “Cayde! You have to come and see this!”

Hearing my name called, I walk into our small kitchen, and leaned up against the counter, directly across from my younger brother.” What is it, Aiden?” I call to him sweetly. I’m never this polite to anyone—except to Aiden. I love my brother and because he’s so sick, I don’t know how much longer I’ll have with him.

Everything has been different since Aiden has had tuberculosis. It’s basically a bacterial infection in your lungs that spreads to all your organs until it kills you. It’s normally highly contagious, but my father and I have been immune to it for six years, so we don’t take too many precautions. This how my mother died—and since the infection passes through coughing, and Aiden was just a new born infant at the time, he was prone to the illness.

At first, after my mother died, we thought he would be fine. The illness just…went away. Symptoms stopped. He was fine again—for about five years, until the disease woke up from its dormant sleep, and reactivated. And now he’s sick again. Except this time…with no cure… it won’t be going away.

When most people get tuberculosis, they are isolated by everyone. Left alone to wait for death. When my mother became sick, my father wouldn’t leave her. Even if it meant getting all of us infected. Soon after she died, when my brother caught the sickness, my father refused to isolate him as well. My brother and I…we’re all he’s got. The only part of my mother that’s left. He can’t leave that.

Since we won’t isolate him with other victims, we have to keep him at home. No friends. No school. No relatives. He can’t even go out to play with other six year olds his age. The sickness is worsening, the symptoms are increasing, and his time left alive is ticking away on the clock.

Aiden pointed to a copy of Scientific America. I read aloud the text, “February 22, 1902. “Mr. Wilbur Wright, of Dayton, Ohio, recently read a most interesting paper… “ …to glide from the tops of sand hills…” On the side of the article there was a picture of an airplane. No wonder Aiden wanted me to see this. He loved anything to do with airplanes!  Even though they were a very new idea to people, it seemed natural and exciting to my little brother. Not being very old he had grown up with the idea. And now his “bright” idea was to fly himself.

Sometimes I’d walk into his room to find him with his arms stretched out, about to jump off of his bed. I never let him, of course. My father wouldn’t be happy if he had walked in, he didn’t like any one mentioning anything to do with my mother. She loved the idea of flight, and would save newspaper clippings for me and Aiden. Aiden was only six. The first airplane had flown five years before he was born, in 1903. Planes are the most important thing in that little six year old’s mind.

“Yes, Aiden. I see.” He reads the articles over and over. He’s shows me all the old news about the Wright Brothers

“Cayde…do you thing I could fly someday? Like the Wrights?” He asked, looking at me with his innocent blue eyes. I had to think about my answer. I didn’t want to hurt him.

“Maybe someday you’ll be like the Wrights. But for now, you’ve just got to be like the Harpers.” I replied, ruffling his blond hair. He looked disappointed, but it was a better reaction than what I expected.

“I want to meet them.” Aiden said, looking out the window. “If I saw them…I know I could fly! They live somewhere close… can I, Cayde?”

I sighed. “Well…if you want to. Maybe we’ll look for them tomorrow, after breakfast. C’mon, it’s time for bed.” I grabbed his hand and lead him to his room. He put on his pajamas and climbed into bed. I stood up to turn off the light.

He coughed. “Cayde?” Aiden said softly, already nodding off to sleep, “Me and you can be the Harper Brothers. We’d be just like the Wright Brothers. We could fly away”

“We’ll see.” I said, as I left for my own bed. I wish he wasn’t sick. Then maybe he’d have the chance to meet the Wright brothers. Besides, they would be too busy for him anyways… and how am I supposed to find them?

I shrugged off the thoughts as I climbed into my own bed.

“Harper Brothers, “I mused, before closing my eyes.

July 15, 1914 10:35 am

“Are you boys finished with breakfast yet?” My father asked, sipping his glass of milk, “We’re going out for ice cream.”

Ice cream? Huh? What is dad talking about? We never go any where because of Aiden. Is he crazy? I don’t say anything though, how could one object to ice cream?

“Yay! Ice cream!” Aiden cheered, setting down his spoon.

“Yay.” I repeated, setting down mine as well. I stood up from the table, “When are we leaving, dad?”

“Now.” He briskly replied, and then we were off.

11:55 am

I watched as Aiden licked his ice-cream happily. It was such a beautiful day, with blue skies, and fluffy white clouds, complete with birds whistling a happy tune. It all seemed wrong. The day shouldn’t be happy. Here I was, sitting on a bench with my little brother, waiting for my dad to come back. He was inside a shop across the street, where he was visiting with someone who was not my mother, and who never would be.

I forgot about my ice cream. I don’t even care if it melts. I don’t even care at all. Aiden is sick—how could we be out here?

“Cayyyde!” Aiden shouted, “Look! Bikes! Can we go look, can we?” he pleaded, tugging on my shirt.

“Sure.” I cheerfully said, snapping out of my mood, “Let’s go see the bikes.”

I grabbed his hand and carefully crossed the street, to where the bike shop was. I stood in front of the window for a second, not sure of what to do.

The sign above the door read, “Wright Cycle Co.” painted in white letters. The only problem? The shop hadn’t been used since 1907, when the Wright Brothers stopped keeping the shop, since they had enough money to continue their flying career.

“Aiden… I don’t think anyone is here.” He looked up at me, sadness in his eyes. He looked away, and didn’t say anything. I couldn’t say much more, either.

A voice came from behind us. “Excuse me boys, but are you just going to stand there all day?”

I turned around, and couldn’t believe my eyes…

“Daddy!” Aiden shouted, leaping into his arms.

Dad looked to the lady next to him, and smiled. “This is my boy.” He said, patting Aiden’s back. “You sure you know what to do?” he asked her.

She looked to Aiden, then back to my father. “Yes. I’m sure I can heal him.”

July 16, 1914

I looked up at the sky. It was quite the change from yesterday’s pleasant weather. In the place of the blue sky was a dark gloomy shade of gray. No birds were singing. But  I could’ve been the one whistling a happy tune! Today—I had a smile on my face.

The woman who had been with my father turned out to be a doctor of some sort, who claimed she knew the cure for Aiden’s sickness. My father is desperate for any help he can get for Aiden. I don’t trust the “doctor,” but it’s not my place to say anything.

So while my family was at home with the doctor, I was on a mission. I know Aiden’s time is short…I’m going to fulfill Aiden’s dying dream…and find him the Wright Brothers.

I heard a rumor on the streets yesterday while we were on our way home that Orville Wright enjoyed a meal at a local diner every now and then. That’s where I’m going. I have to find them…before it’s too late. I’ll take any chance I can get for my brother.

I slowly opened the door to the diner. This could be it! My chance to make Aiden happy before he…dies. It’s too hard to think about that… I could find them, I could find the Wrights and then maybe, just maybe Aiden would be better, and…No. I had to stop thinking like this. Just focus on what’s ahead of you.

I swung open the door and walked up to the counter. I sat down at the booth, and waited.

“Can I help you?” A pretty waitress asked me.

“Actually… I was wondering…” I stumbled, “Does Orville Wright ever come here, at all?”

“No,” She replied, “Where’d you hear that?”

I could feel my face turning red. My eyes swelling up with tears. I tried to fight them back. “Oh…no where.” I lied, as I ran out into the street.

I could feel the hot tears streaming down my cheek. This time I let them fall. There was nothing I could do. That was the only lead I had to finding Orville and Wilbur. The only lead.  Now Aiden would never meet them. He would die knowing I failed him. There would be no miracles. This was real life, and I had to face it, and go home.

Getting home didn’t take long. But it was agonizing. Who knew how much time was left?

I wiped my cheeks with my sleeves to destroy the evidence from my tears. I was fourteen… I needed to learn to control myself. I was a Harper boy, and Harpers don’t fall that easily.

The door swung open before I could place my hand on the knob. I looked up to see my dad standing in the frame, a worried look on his face.

“Where have you been!” he shouted, hurrying me through the door, “You’re brother needs you!”

I can hear my brother coughing up a storm from the other room. Quickly, I run past my father to where Aiden was lying in his bed. His chest was heaving up and down rapidly, and his coughing still hadn’t stopped. I pushed the woman who claimed to be a doctor aside, placing my head lightly on Aiden’s head.

“He’s got a fever!” I yell to the woman, “I need a wet rag, now! Cold!” She ran out of the room, along with my father, whose expression had softened, and had been overtaken by grief.

“Cayde?” Aiden managed between coughs. He had broken into a sweat.

“Shh. It’s ok, it’s ok. Just relax, buddy.” I say, trying to soothe him. Oh, gosh, what am I supposed to do?

The doctor returns with the wet rag, and I place it gently on Aiden’s head, trying to cool him off.

“Now what?” My father questions the doctor, hands up in the air.

In response, the doctor throws herself onto him, placing her head on his shoulder, looking away from me and Aiden. “I can’t watch!” She slowly starts to cry, “I’m sorry…” My father places his hand on her back, and holds her close. I guess situations like this bring people together.

I turn my attention to Aiden. The color has been drained form his face, and he’s started coughing up blood. I grab a blanket and wipe blood off of his face and chin. He looks up at me and slowly smiles, grabbing my hand. He reached his other one out for our dad, who takes it into his own large one.

“Cayde…” Aiden tries to speak again, and this time I let him. “Will you fly with me, Cayde? Some day… when I’m not sick? We can fly to mommy.”

I start to cry again. I look up and see my father, and the doctor also crying. I look at Aiden, trying to look as strong as possible. I smile back at him. Choosing the last word’s he’ll ever hear from me carefully.

“Someday, Aiden, I’ll fly with you to mommy.” I say bitting my lip to stop tears,” Someday, I’ll fly for you, Aiden. I’ll fly higher than anyone has ever flown before. I’ll fly, and I won’t stop until you think it’s high enough. Someday, I’ll fly to you. Then we’ll be the Harper brothers.”

“But Cayde…” he says as he closes his eyes, “We are the Harper brothers.”

I feel his hand slip from my grasp. His chest stops heaving. Dead silence. A tear slowly rolls down his cheek. And that’s it. My blue eyed baby brother is dead.

July 16, 1918 Four Years Later

I look behind me to my fighting companion. “Cayde!” I think he called, but I couldn’t hear what he said. The air was rushing through my ears, the sound of an airplane engine filling them. We were soaring high above a city in a foreign country, on a bombing raid. The United States had entered a war, the first of the world wars, to be exact.

I haven’t been in the military very long, and I don’t intend to. Most pilots die in the air, and I had already accepted that. I’m ready to welcome death.

It had only been fours years since my younger brother died, but it feels like only yesterday. I still remember playing blocks with him, catching him as he jumped off the bed, wiping milk off his shirt. I still remember the day he died. Exactly four years from today.

A lot has changed in four years. My father married the fake, money hungry doctor, I finished school, then enrolled in the military as soon as war began to rage. My country needed me…and so did Aiden.

Four years since then, and I still remember my promise to him. To fly for him…to fly to him. Here I am, completing my promise.

Ever since my mother died, and my brother got sick, I had been on a journey to happiness. It was a game of hide and go seek, and the joy was the top hider. I never found the Wright Brothers for Aiden, but searching for them was just a part of my search for happiness…my pursuit of happiness. Not just for me, but for my family as well. The deaths devastated us. Why had it been Aiden, and not me?

The past was behind me. I had found a new life, defending my country. And, who knew, maybe someday I’d fall in love, and make a life for myself. But for now, all I had in mind was my brother. And my promise.

Looking around me, I see little green fields, and farm houses. My partner signals to me. The bomb raid had been carried out, and we weren’t needed. Time to head back to base. I turned the plane around, and flew through the clouds in the sky. Soaring higher, and higher, and higher…

Suddenly, I could see my self looking through my brother’s eyes. The silhouette of a small plane, soaring into the horizon, rising above the clouds, and above the world.

I closed my eyes for just a second, seeing Aiden’s smiling face as he uttered his last words to me, “… Cayde…We are the Harper brothers.”

I smiled, just as I did to Aiden many times before. I had fulfilled my promise, I flew for him, and it wouldn’t be long until he could be flying with me.

Suddenly, I felt…peace. Like a part of me had been missing all this time, and like a lost piece of an incomplete puzzle, finally filling up its place…strangely making me feel whole. Smiling to myself up here above the world, and my troubles, I thought of my brother, and found happiness in the peaceful serenity that finally filled my mind.

I no longer felt empty. My pursuit of happiness…to find myself, had been finished.

With the plane turned around, we began flying home. It wasn’t long until I heard more airplane engines behind me, and soon felt the impact of bullets on my plane.

“Dog fight!” My partner screams, gearing our machine gun to shoot at the enemy planes, closely approaching.

I felt an even larger impact, and now we were going down. Down…

I expect to see my life flashing before my eyes as the ground comes at me closer, but instead, all I see is my brother’s grinning face. Is that really him? Only one way to find out, and that path is soon to be traveled, at the pace the plane is falling.

I close my eyes, as whisper softly to my self, my last words swallowed by the sound of our failing engine.  “Aiden…I did it. I flew for you. I knew what would happen to me, but I did this for you. I had to, to finally feel like I didn’t fail you.  And even though right now I’m going down, I’ll find a way to fly back up to you, and I’ll be there soon.”

END


© Copyright 2017 Amber Buckles. All rights reserved.

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