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Memoir Nonfiction

Red fire trucks and police cars

I remember her, too. Not well. Her face has been clouded by time. Her voice, I remember it was gentle and kind. She used to give me jellybeans when I went into the bank in Phenix with my mom. She worked there. Her hair was shoulder length if I recall, some blonde to it. Her cheeks a little rosy. She always made sure I didn’t get the black licorice jellybeans.

We all ran to the window and peered out. Young boys, most of us. We watched the red fire trucks and police cars race down the road—sirens blaring, lights flashing.

“Oh, cool,” someone said, as we pressed our small hands against the window sill.

The sirens were so loud our teacher had stopped class. The boys were too distracted. That’s why we were allowed to stand there as long as we did.

Third grade.

J. Murray Jeffress Elementary.

He was there, too, and like most all boys our age, amazed by the emergency vehicles that had sprung into action. What we didn’t know, he didn’t know, was that just around the corner from J. Murray Jeffress Elementary, his mom had been in a deadly car accident.

It’s one of those days forever etched in my memory that returns whenever I see emergency vehicles racing to help.

“Oh, cool,” my five year old son said recently as we sat at an intersection on 29 in Charlottesville waiting for the light to turn green as the fire trucks, police cars, and rescue squads zipped through.

I remember her, too. Not well. Her face has been clouded by time. Her voice, I remember it was gentle and kind. She used to give me jellybeans when I went into the bank in Phenix with my mom. She worked there. Her hair was shoulder length if I recall, some blonde to it. Her cheeks a little rosy. She always made sure I didn’t get the black licorice jellybeans.

Occasionally, when I was younger, I’d go to his house. I went there once after his mom died, and for some reason, I had forgotten. I kept expecting to see her there when I arrived or when we went down for a snack. But she never appeared. And every visit to the bank thereafter, she was never there. I remember picking out the black licorice jellybeans from the others, thinking of her.

By Jeffrey Pillow

Jeffrey Pillow is an American short story writer, memoirist, and poet. He is the author of The Lady Next Door. His writing has been published in Urge Magazine, The Nervous Breakdown, 16 Blocks, USA Today, Sports Illustrated, TheBody.com, New York Times, Washington Post, and Richmond Times-Dispatch.

He grew up in the small town of Phenix, Virginia, population: 200, and now lives in Charlottesville with his wife, two kids, and a dog named Mozzarella Cheese. He is a graduate of the University of Virginia where he was a Rainey Scholar. This is his blog.

One reply on “Red fire trucks and police cars”

Remembering that Thanksgiving break so incredibly well. Her giggle so sweet. We met about the same age as you and her son. Her mom made my Easter coat as a child and while at their home, she gave me samples of Avon lipstick. Her mom sold Avon makeup products so many years ago.

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