Disclaimer: I do not own Arthur or the Arthur characters. Arthur and all the content within belong to Marc T. Brown.
It has been eleven years since the April 9th fire at Lakewood Elementary School. Arthur and his friends, except Binky, are now nineteen years old, Binky is twenty and all of them, even Binky, are in college. They all moved out of Elwood City to go to college, but they all came back for vacation to be with their families.
Arthur, Buster, Brain, Binky, Francine, Muffy, and Sue Ellen are gathered together inside the newly rebuilt and updated tree-house, which current Elwood City kids are now using, and what their children will use later when they have some. They have with them some chips, nachos, salsa, nacho cheese, and ranch dip, some cookies, some Hostess Cream-filled Snack Cakes, and soda. It is April 9th on this day as well and the gang decide to gather together to talk about that day that occurred 11 years before and express their feelings again about that and some events that happened the days thereafter. Let's listen to what they have to say, and find out if Binky is ready to express himself now that he's grown and mature.
Starting with Arthur, "Remember eleven years ago today when our old elementary school, Lakewood, was on fire?"
"We sure do," says Francine.
"Who can forget that?" asks Muffy.
"It was a scary day indeed," says Brain.
"And a very sad one too," says Sue Ellen, "at least for me."
"Because of you losing your journal?" asks Muffy.
"Okay, yes," says Sue Ellen, "I admit that bothered me more than anything. But it wasn't just the fact that I lost my journal but I also lost my postcard from Bolivia."
"But I got you a new one," says Muffy. "Well, actually two new ones."
"And you found a piece of your postcard," says Francine, "remember?"
"Okay, okay, yeah," says Sue Ellen. "It's true I got two new journals, and I did find a piece of my post card, which I still have."
"And you turned down the first journal I bought you," says Muffy.
"I know," says Sue Ellen, "and I'm sorry, but I accepted the second one you bought me, and the pen that came with it, and I thank you again for it."
"Um," says Brain, "hate to break up this conversation but shouldn't we be focusing more about what happened to our school instead of just the journal, and not be pointing fingers at each other?"
"Brain is right," says Arthur.
"You're right," says Muffy. Then she turns to Sue Ellen and says, "Sorry Sue Ellen. This was in the past and I shouldn't still be giving you a hard time about that. For one you were devastated and we're grown-ups now."
Buster finally talks, "I'm still a little disappointed I wasn't there to see it."
"Trust me Buster," says Arthur, "you should be glad you were not there."
"Well, I know," says Buster, "still, I can't help but wonder how it would have felt to be in that burning school. I have still never ever been in a fire to this day and still wonder what it's like."
"Believe me Buster," says Francine, "you don't want to know what it's like."
"Yeah," says Arthur. "Even though this was just eleven years ago and I feel better, it still affects me to this day. I mean,"
Arthur pauses and struggles a little.
"Give me just a minute please," he says.
"It's okay Arthur," says Francine, "go on."
Arthur cannot help but give way to some tears when he says, "I mean, I could have lost my dad that day."
Then Arthur quietly sobs a little and his girl-friend to be, Francine, comes over to him, puts one hand on his left shoulder and rubs his back with the other.
"It's okay, Arthur," says Francine, "let it all out."
Arthur cannot help but cry as he says this: "I know he made it out alive and well and is still alive to this day and I am thankful for that. Still, what if he never made it out? I'd be fatherless. (Sobs some more.)"
Buster then comes and tries to comfort his best friend and puts one of his hands on Arthur's other shoulder.
"Don't worry Arthur," Buster says, "We're right here. And you're father is still here."
Sue Ellen then tells Arthur, "When you get home, find your dad and spend a little time with him if he doesn't mind."
"That's a good idea," says Brain.
"It is," Arthur agrees, "that's exactly what I'm going to do when I get home."
"Just try not to be too possessive of him," says Sue Ellen, "I mean he is your dad but do try to give him some space."
"Alright," says Arthur.
"I know should be glad I wasn't there," says Buster, "although I shouldn't have over slept that morning and should have had my butt at school!"
"These things happen," says Francine. "I can't tell you how many times I've overslept."
"Yeah," says Muffy, "me too."
"Me three," says Sue Ellen.
"Even I have slept in on occasion myself," says Brain.
"I've overslept a lot," Binky finally talks, "I can still do that to this day."
"I think we all can," says Brain.
"Still," says Buster, "I just wish I knew what it would have been like to be in that fire. I know it sounds silly of me, but it feels lonely that I wasn't affected like the rest of you were. I can imagine it but it's just not the same."
"I understand," says Muffy.
"We all do," says Francine. "In fact, can you imagine how the rest of us feel when we hear of the places you went with your dad and you send video postcards about them? You go in person but the rest of us, well Arthur has been with you at least once, only get to experience it through what you send us in postcards and through your videos."
"Well yeah," says Buster, "that's true."
"Of course," says Francine, "I wasn't trying to guilt you and if I did I'm sorry."
"That's okay," says Buster, "it's normal to envy one-another."
"But believe me," says Brain, "had you been there, you would have wished you weren't. I know you don't agree with me but trust me, you would have felt worse than you did that day."
"Yeah," says Francine. "I remember that day you came running to the school and then found out that happened and you were pretty bumbed."
"I sure was," says Buster.
"We all basically had negative feelings that day," says Muffy, "whether we were in that fire or not."
"Muffy is right," says Brain, "each and every one of us were affected in our own way, right Binky?"
"Um," Binky says, "I'd still rather not talk right now."
"Okay," says Brain.
"Actually Brain," says Buster, "I may just agree with you a little on that. Maybe I should count myself fortunate that I wasn't there. Still, I wish I felt the same way the rest of you did, and I'll never completely get over it. I'm going to be wondering about this until I actually go through a real fire, then maybe I'll know how the rest of you were affected."
"You may feel a lot more than you bargain for," says Brain, "I know some people that dealt with fires worse than we did. Some people were even trapped in fires and barely made it out alive."
Arthur breaks down and sobs again hearing this.
"Okay," says Brain, "I think I'll stop on that now."
"It's okay Brain," Arthur says, "I know you didn't mean to hurt me. Now I really can't wait to go back home and see my dad."
"You can leave right now if you want," says Muffy.
"Yeah," says Francine, "you should go see your dad."
"Thanks," says Arthur, "but that's okay. I don't have to see him that badly, but I do want to go see him soon."
Arthur goes on to say, "I really hope that you don't ever go through a fire Buster. It's bad enough my dad went through it, I can't have my best friend going through it too. I mean I'd be grateful if you made it out, and at least you'd know how the rest of us felt, which I don't want you to feel, but what if you don't make it out? What will I do without my best friend?"
"Wow," says Buster, "I don't really know."
"And I don't care if we're in it together," says Arthur, "if I made it out and you didn't, I'd feel a lot of grief and guilt. There's nobody that can ever replace you, and it will be much worse than the day you left Elwood City to travel the world with you dad. Man it's hard to hear and even harder to say the word 'Dad.'"
Buster cries a little hearing what Arthur had just said.
"Oh, Arthur," he says with tears in his eyes, "I'm glad you feel that way about me. I'd feel the very same way about you."
"And I'd feel the very same way about you Muffy," says Francine.
"Same here," Muffy replies.
"It would be really unfortunate if any of us lost each other," says Brain. "Even if the rest of us survive, it would still be hard, at least on me, if one of you in here was to be lost in a fire or anything else."
"Even I would feel the same way about you guys too," says Binky.
"Like I just said Buster," says Arthur, "I know you want to feel the way the rest of us do, but I hope you never go through a fire in your life. And if you do, crazy as this sounds, I almost hope I'm there with you, even though I never want to go through a fire again myself."
"I hope none of us in here ever go through another fire," says Sue Ellen, "even if we are together and even if we were all to survive it."
"Hey," says Buster.
"What?" asks everyone.
"I'd like to hear how you, Francine, Muffy, and Brain, were affected by it."
Binky is relieved that Buster didn't call on him to speak.
"Well me," says Francine, "while it is disturbing knowing I was in the same building as a fire, I wasn't too affected. All I saw as I was walking out was the smoke over my head. Not once did I see the flames or I would have felt more affected than I was that day."
"Yeah," says Muffy, "as that fire alarm was going off and Mr. Ratburn was having us evacuate, all I was focused on was getting out of the building like we do with all fire drills. It wasn't that big of a deal to me either, although it is scary knowing you are sharing a building with a fire."
"I'm riding in the same boat as Francine and Muffy," says Brain, "but admittedly it did hit me and sometimes every once in a while it still hits me knowing I was close to a fire. I mean things could have been more serious than they were. But like Muffy and possibly Francine, who didn't say it herself, I too was focused on exiting the building."
"But when we were outside," says Francine, "it was not pretty to see all that smoke coming out of the windows and doors."
"No it wasn't," says Muffy.
"But at least we were out of there before the smoke got anymore intense," says Brain. "We could have gotten lost in that smoke, even suffered from smoke inhalation and collapsed and either that would have done us in, or made us easier targets for the flames. Well actually the flames would have finished us off either way."
"What made me more nervous though," says Buster, "was being at Mighty Mountain. I thought those kids…"
"Were aliens?" asks Arthur.
"Actually that's not what I was going to say," says Buster, "but good guess."
"You've said it a lot that I thought you would again," says Arthur, "sorry about that."
"Ehh," says Buster, "I can't blame you for that. Anyway, I was worried the Mighty Mountain kids were going to bully and clobber us. And even pulverize us! Boy was I wrong, especially when I told them the story of what happened despite my not being there, and I admit that was wrong of me to do."
"The Might Mountain Kids weren't so bad," says Francine. "I couldn't even get one of them to beat me at thumb wrestling! I even smoked a few of them at basket ball and soccer!"
"You know what," Brain said, "so did I. Well they did score one point with me but I still beat them. Of course, we better be careful, we don't want to be braggarts."
"Yeah," says Francine," you're right."
"And I did get to share some interests with them on fashion," Muffy says, "and before we left Mighty Mountain, I got their contact information and kept in contact with them and even met with them a few times."
"I've gained some friendship with them myself," says Sue Ellen, "and I still contact them once in a while myself."
"Some positive things did come out of this generally negative event," says Brain.
"I liked that after we returned to Lakewood," says Buster, "we were given cake in Mr. Ratburn's class."
"Don't forget," says Arthur, "you also became friends with Mr. Morris."
"That's right!" says Buster. "Thank you for reminding me of that. And you even said it yourself, we wouldn't have become friends if it weren't for that fire, which I called stupid. Well it's still a stupid fire to this day."
"And you even wanted to bring cake for him," says Arthur.
"I sure did," says Buster, "but I was just simply unable to because he wouldn't be there and I wouldn't have been able to leave school, and I had no way of getting that cake over to him anyway. Plus, Mr. Morris told me more about himself and gave me his daughter's accordion. So now I play the tuba and an accordion, oh and a guitar. It's too bad he had to move down to New Mexico with his daughter, who I did get to meet when I went to New Mexico. But I understand he needed his daughter to help take care of him. I wonder how Mr. Morris is doing now if he's still alive."
"It's been great talking about our experiences about April 9th and what happened that day," says Francine.
"It sure was," says Brain.
"And I gotta hand it to you," says Francine to Sue Ellen, it was a really good idea you had to decorate the school walls."
"Ehh," says Sue Ellen, "I wouldn't have came up with that had I not witnessed somebody painting another building."
Just then, Binky starts to speak up.
"Uh guys," he says.
"What's up Binky?" asks Francine.
Everyone else gives him their undivided attention as well.
"There are some things I should tell you," says Binky.
"What's that?" asks Buster.
Binky answers, "I think it's time you guys knew the truth about how I felt about that fire."
Everyone is silent and waits for Binky to speak.
"You see," Binky goes on, " I never told any of you this, in fact, Francine I only told you father this, (then Binky talks to everyone else again), but that fire really affected me."
"Tell us more," says Sue Ellen.
"As we were evacuating the school," Binky continues, "I stopped and looked at the flames in the teacher's lounge. Man did it have an impression on me! I was very shocked, traumatized, and a bit mesmerized by those flames, until Mr. Morris went and closed the door and Mr. Ratburn had me resume the evacuation. I have never seen something so scary in my life!"
"I'll bet," says Arthur."
"It still affects me to this day too at times," says Binky. "In fact, that's why I was so mean to you guys that day, and the reason why I pulled that fire alarm at Mighty Mountain, as you guys are aware. Well at least you, Arthur, Buster, and Francine are."
Binky goes on to say, "And I feel really bad about that. That fire did shake me up a bit, but I know that was no excuse for what I did. I had to write a note and do community service under the supervision of Francine's dad, I mean, sorry Arthur, Mr. Frensky."
"Don't worry about it Binky," says Arthur.
"And I wouldn't talk about it to anyone because for one, I wanted to seem like I wasn't afraid, and I didn't want anyone to think less of me or make fun of me."
"Binky," says Francine, "We wouldn't have made fun of you. Well, at least I wouldn't have."
"Yeah," says Brain, "we would have understood."
"And we wouldn't have even had the audacity to make fun of you," says Muffy, "you were, and still are, tougher than we are and you did scare us."
"Not me," says Sue Ellen. "Okay maybe sometimes."
"Yeah," says Binky, "but I was more scared of you Sue Ellen than you were of me. I thought you were going to break me into two pieces with your Tae Kwan do"
"Whatever gave you that idea?" asks Sue Ellen.
Binky answers, "I saw someone on T.V. do it, and he split an entire car in half!"
"Oh Binky," says Sue Ellen. "Even if I could I would never have done that to you. I wouldn't hurt a fly. Well actually I would if it annoyed me but you get the idea."
Binky resumes his side of the story, "Anyway, on the day we went back to Lakewood, I started out a little okay but when I looked in the direction of the teacher's lounge, I imagined smoke coming out of there and I lost control of myself and ran out of the school, turning myself into a truant, and kicking a can and then putting it in a waste basket. Then Mr. Frensky came along and told me I should have been in school. That's when I broke down and told him how I felt. I just couldn't keep it inside any longer, it was eating me alive and I had to share it with someone and that someone happened to be him."
"Oh," the others say.
"Anyway," Mr. Frensky told me he knew how I felt because he, being a former volunteer fire fighter, faced his first fire and it was scary for him. He had nightmares for weeks, as I had nightmares myself of the fire myself."
"My dad did tell me about that," says Francine.
"About me telling him about my feelings of the fire?" asks Binky, "or me having nightmares about it?"
"No, silly," says Francine, "he told me and Catherine about his experience."
"Oh," says Binky.
"My dad would never have shared that confidential information with anyone," says Francine.
"That's a relief," says Binky. "Anyway, I was mean to a lot of people, the Mighty Mountain students and you guys. I'm really sorry I was a jerk to you guys. Buster, I'm really sorry I took your ice cream."
"That's okay," says Buster, "it's not like that was my last ice cream."
"And I'm really sorry for pulling the fire alarm too," Binky continues, "and if I spooked any of you with that, my sincerest apologies."
"That's okay Binky," says Arthur.
"Yeah," says Francine."
"I did get scared," says Buster, when that fire alarm went off, and I'm sure everyone else was too. But water under the bridge, Binky."
"Yeah," says Muffy, "we forgive you."
"And it was good you shared this with us," says Brain.
"We wondered what was wrong with you," says Sue Ellen, "now we know."
"And I wish you had just told us this," says Francine, "but I know it wasn't an easy thing to do. I think all of us here admittedly had a hard time sharing things with each other."
"I know I have," says Arthur.
"Same here," says Buster.
"Same here," says Brain.
"Thanks for sharing that with us, Binky" says Sue Ellen.
"No problem," says Binky.
After discussing their feelings about April 9th:
"Well," says Sue Ellen, "it's been nice spending time with you guys but I think I'm gonna go home now."
"Yeah," says Francine, "me too."
"I better get going myself," says Brain.
"And I'm going to go home and spend time with my dad," says Arthur.
The gang clean up the tree house, take all their stuff with them, climb down from it, say their good byes and go their separate ways.
When Arthur gets home, or what was his home but is still his parents' and of course D.W. now 15, and Kate, now 12, still live there, he seeks for his father. Then he finally finds him.
"Dad!" he calls out to him with his arms wide open.
"Arthur?" David Read says looking at his son.
Arthur runs over to his father and embraces him. Knowing what his son is doing, David plays along and hugs his son back.
"What's this all about?" asks David.
"Nothing dad," says Arthur, "I'm just happy to see you're still here and that I can still see you!"
"Arthur," says David, "why would I go anywhere?"
Then David remembers what day it is and realizes why Arthur embraces him.
"Oh," says David, "now I remember. You're still traumatized that I could have died in that fire at Lakewood."
"That's right," says Arthur, "it's a day I will never forget as long as I live."
"I'll say you won't," says David.
"Dad?" asks Arthur.
"Yes Arthur," asks David.
"Do you mind if I spend the next few hours with you?" asks Arthur.
"As a matter of fact," he answers, "I do!"
"What?" Arthur asks puzzled. "But dad, I love you and I want to enjoy having you as much as I…"
"I'm kidding Arthur," says David, "of course you can spend the rest of the night with me. But make sure you give me some space."
"Oh dad," says Arthur. "And I will give you your space, and I will leave when you want me to."
So Arthur spends the next few hours with his father.