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Flag Day

Yellow Mama 2020

June 30, 2020

Flag Day

The cousins have been outside all day—even for lunch. The only time they left the yard was to walk the two blocks to see the Flag Day Parade. There were fire trucks, a float with the high school king and queen throwing out Fleer’s Double Bubble into the crowd for the kids, an old-timey convertible with geezer, Mr. Thorsen, the Parade Master, sitting on the back waving away like they were celebrating him and his dry cleaners. There was the high school band, the high school Gene Kelly Dancers, the grade school drummers trying to drum and walk at the same time and kids on their bikes waving away like Old Mr. Thorsen. The parade lasted all of twenty minutes and on the way back to Marty’s house they all agreed that last year’s parade was better.

Once home, Marty’s mom brought out fixings for sandwiches, loaves of Wonder Bread and big bags of ruffled potato chips and a huge platter of condiments in bowls: mayo, ketchup, mustard, pickles, 2 kinds of cheese, (white and yellow), peppers (hot and sweet), onion rings still in their cans, relish, hot sauce, lettuce, tomatoes, and one of the aunts followed with the cold cuts: bologna, salami, ham, roast beef, turkey, and sardines. Two uncles carried out an ice chest with sodas and the aunts came back with lemonade and iced tea.

This was Marty’s idea since everyone else always has pizza for their parties. Marty liked being different, he was worried and tried not to show it, but he knew his mom and dad were keeping their eyes on him.

Finally, after the tables and blankets were cleared Marty’s mom came out the back door and stood on the porch holding his birthday cake waiting for Uncle Tony to take out his Zippo and light the candles after it was set down.. He pointed to the table with his Zippo meaning that he’d light it when it was set down. Marty looked over at his father who slowly shook his head no and then at his mother who gave him the evilest of evil eyes. As Marty’s mom walked down the steps she began to shake, and Uncle Tony grabbed the cake and took it back into the kitchen and straightened the candles. He suggested to Marty’s mom that she go out and stand with her husband and he’d bring out the cake. As soon as she was out the door he took a can of lighter fluid from his back pocket and emptied it on the cake soaking its way through the frosting.

Marty opened the door and started down the steps. Family and friends began singing Happy Birthday and Marty tried not to cry. He was thinking about going to jail the next day and no one would sing happy birthday to him there.

Marty’s Mom was now jobless, and Mr. Thornton was suing his parents for the arson that Marty committed by burning down his store and the three-family house he owned next door. No one believed Marty that Mr. Thornton threatened to fire his mother for stealing when they both knew it wasn’t true. Marty had a choice—see his mother arrested or burn down Thornton Dry Cleaning and Martinizing, for the insurance money.

The entire family was furious with Marty for bringing the shame down on all of them when he couldn’t bring himself to do it and sat in the corner of the alley crying. He saw his Uncle Tony carry in a gas can, break the side door window and unlock the door then pour the gasoline all around the store.

Marty’s mom placed the big sheet cake on the picnic table and the aunts brought out half gallons of ice cream; Neapolitan, chocolate, and strawberry, chocolate shots (some called them Jimmy’s), Hershey’s chocolate syrup, a few cans of whipped cream, and a jar of butterscotch syrup.

Everyone parted to let Marty walk up to his cake and blow out the candles at the proper time. Uncle Tony lit the candles and with a whoosh the whole cake went up in flames and Marty did his best to blow out the birthday fire but all he did was burn his eyebrows off and get major burns to his face and body when his T shirt caught on fire.

While the ambulance was on its way so was Uncle Tony. He was heading to the meet up spot with Mr. Thornton to collect the thousand dollars for torching the store. Mr. Thornton came out of the shadows and as soon as he handed Uncle Tony the money the cops surrounded them and took Tony into custody.


Marty testified at the trial but was given six months as an accomplice and Uncle Tony went away for ten years, this being his second arson conviction.

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