1871: Amidst the Flames


“Master Lawrence! Have you risen yet? I have called you three times now. Your father wishes to have a word with you,” Archibald yelled from behind the door, letting out a deep sigh.                A minute passed, and Lance still had not made a sound. Archibald forced the door open and was greeted by a rock-solid Lawrence Parker, snoring lightly. He strolled over to the window by the bed, which was covered by a curtain, and yanked it wide open.

“What the- close the curtains! Close them right now, I command you!” Lance bolted up, eyes still closed and a flustered look plastered across his face.

“Look here! The beast arises. Get up and dress yourself. Breakfast was served twenty-three minutes ago, and, like I said earlier, your father needs to speak to you.” Archibald turned and exited the room, leaving Lance blinded and vexed.

Lance fell out of bed and trudged over to the window. As he gazed over the city of Chicago, he rubbed the sleep from his eyes and wondered what his father needed.

When he finally made his way to the dining room, Mr. Parker–Lance’s father– sat at the head of the table, tapping his index finger rhythmically on the table. The moment that his eyes landed on his son, he bolted out of his seat.

“Lawrence! I am hosting a dinner tonight; it is an extremely important affair, and I cannot risk having you mess it up.” Lance’s heart twinged as his father continued, “So, you need to find someplace to be this evening. I will have Archibald wait for you to lock up.”

“Fine.” Lance shortly replied. Their eyes never met as Mr. Parker thundered out of the room, grasping his flask tightly.


The ball soared above the trees and vanished into the neighbor’s yard. Lance turned to grab another ball, but the basket was no longer there. His eyes glanced up, revealing Archibald with the basket in his hands.

“What do you think you’re doing?” Lance stepped forward, reaching for the basket.

“You only hit like that when you are upset. What is the matter with you today?” Archibald reluctantly handed the basket back to Lance, trying to catch his eye. Lance only told the truth if his eyes were locked.

“Nothing. Am I not just talented? Can I not naturally hit a baseball that far?” His voice began to rise. “I can do some things right, you know! I don’t mess up everything!” Breathing heavily, he forcefully threw the bat. Archibald let out a deep sigh, turning and starting back to the house.


A thud against the wall caused Lance to set down his sketch book.  He heard a sharp breath and shuffling feet coming from outside his bedroom. Cautiously, he rose to his feet and tip-toed to the door. He noted that it was cracked open, but when he peeked outside, he found nothing.

He returned to his desk and closed the sketch book, placing it back into the desk drawer. Then, he proceeded toward the music room to practice Chopin’s Bercuese.


The sun had set, and guests began filing into the house. Lance grabbed his coat and bolted at the front door, not wanting to embroil with his father anymore today.

“Where do you plan on going at this hour?” Archibald questioned.

“My father told me to leave. Now move out of my way.” Lance was not in the mood to be interrogated. He had made plans to meet his girlfriend, Clarissa, at the court house.

As he began the short trek to the court house, he spoke to his late mother.

“Mother, why did you have to leave me with this oaf of a father? I’m so sorry. You did not deserve to die. I’m sorry. . .”


“I want to be the next Rockefeller. Start at the bottom, and climb up the ladder of success. Did you hear about hisStandard Oil Company?  People say that it will bring in a surplus of oil and become ‘the largest oil refinery firm in the world’ (“Standard).” Lance jumped over a small gate and sat in the judge’s seat. The pair met up at the Cook County Courthouse; Lance often brought Clarissa here, because it was quiet and easy to sneak into.

“I do not care what you do, as long as you earn a first-class income.” Clarissa, Lance’s girlfriend, stated, dramatically rolling her eyes. She attempted to sit in a chair, but her dress’s enormous train hampered her from completing the task.

The room was silent. Conversations often flowed like this. Lance only stayed with Clarissa because it was easy. They had nothing in common, but Lance figured that as long as they both have money, they could be happy.

“Actually, I-” Lance paused, wondering if he should bring this up, “I was thinking of training to be a baseball player.”

“Why would you do that?”

“I love baseball. You heard that theNational Association, ‘the first professional baseball league’, debuted earlier this year (“U.S. Timeline). I’m actually pretty good at it and I just-”

“Like I said, I do not care what you do. As long as you can provide for all of my needs.” She flipped her hair off of her shoulder and strolled to the back of the room. “Lawrence. . . do you smell that?”

Lance inhaled deeply and his face instinctively scrunched up. He rose to his feet and jumped back over the gate, joining Clarissa near the door.

“I think I’m having a heat flash,” Clarissa whined, whipping out her fan. “Why can’t we simply meet at a nice restaurant? Earlier in the day? Why must we always sneak out in the middle of the night and break into these places? I know, you’re father hates you and all, but you can at least take me on a proper date!” As she continued to prattle, Lance placed his eye up to the crack in the door and was nearly blinded.

“Clarissa. We must get out of here right now!” The blinding light, he soon realized, was a burning flame. He took her hand and pushed the door open. His eyes scanned the room, looking for an exit. There was only one, to the left. He guided Clarissa in front of him, pulling his coat up to breathe into it.

“Help! Someone help me please!” a timid voice cried from a small door. Lawrence turned, debating whether he should help the voice or save himself. Against every will in his body, he pushed Clarissa through the door.

“Go get help. The fire station is twelve blocks away from here. Hurry!” He shut the door, wiping sweat off of his forehead. He coughed and got down low, crawling back to the door from where he heard the voice. “Hello? Is someone in there? I’m here to help!”

“I can’t get the door open. I’m stuck,” the person let out a deep cough, “and I can’t breathe.”

“Do you have room to move away from the door? Enough so that I can kick it down?” Lance laid back and pressed his leg against the door.

“I think so.”

“Ok. On three. One, two-”

“Wait!” Deep breaths could be heard from the other side of the door. “I’m scared.” She peeped.

“Stay calm. I’m going to get you out. I promise, you will be safe.” Lance kicked down the door and backed away, allowing room for the girl to come out. When she escaped, Lance gasped. “Lou? Is that you?”

“Please don’t be angry with me! I followed you here after my mother went to sleep, I was worried about you!” Tears streamed down her face, as she took sharp breaths.

“You- ah, I am not angry. But we need to get out of here before-” a deafening crash caused his heart to stop. Glancing to the door confirmed his fear: the ceiling fell and blocked the only known exit.

“What was that? Lance, I’m scared.” Lou crawled over to his side.

“Ah- it is. . . we are going to be ok. We should. . . let’s go back inside the court room. The fire hasn’t reached there yet.”

The duo shimmied back into the court room, which was slowly filling with black smoke. It wouldn’t be long until the fire emerged the entire building. They sat down in a corner, Lou snuggled into his side, crying softly. Lance knew that they were going to die. He began to think of his life. This was not how he wanted to end his life.

“Lou, I’m sorry.” She looked up at him with a puzzled face. He continued, “I’m sorry for being such a wretched person. I never really wanted to be so rude. I wanted to change.”

“Why didn’t you?”

“Well,” he figured that he had nothing left to lose, “my father made me feel like I wasn’t worthy of change. Like, I deserved to be so awful. I thought there was nothing better for me. He blamed my mother’s death on me. I could never be enough for him.”

“Lance, I know that you are not as awful as you think. I see the good in you, and I see that you can change. Your sketches speak for themselves-”

“You’ve seen my sketches?” Lou avoided his eyes. “It was you! You were the person outside my door. No one has ever seen those. They are. . . personal.”

“Every one of them tells a story. You should show them to someone.”

Lance smiled slightly, toying with the idea of showing someone his drawings. Suddenly, his eye caught sight of another door, on the other side of the room.

“Lou! There is an exit! Come on!” He grabbed her hand and dragged her behind him. He busted the door open and saw that it dropped off about ten feet. “Lou, you have to jump. I will go right after you.”

“I can’t. I’m too scared.” Lance got down to her level and locked eyes with her.

“Lou. You are so brave, you can do this. You must jump now. The fire is spreading too quickly to wait.” She looked down and gulped. She nodded her head, eyes shut tight. “I will be right behind you. Go jump! Now!”

She leaped out, landing roughly on the grass. She stood up, running away to allow Lance to have room to land. When she turned back, she waved at Lance, signaling that she survived. Right before he leaped, the building exploded, sending debris flying. Lou was knocked to the ground, and everything went black.


“I think there is a report in the Chicago Tribune. . . Let me look,” Archibald and Louisa stood outside, a week after the fire and death of Lawrence. “The Indian Appropriation Act. . . The- look here! There was also a fire in Pesntigo, Wisconsin. The most deaths in history. Here is the article about the fire. It says that over 2,600 acres of buildings have been destroyed. Over a hundred are dead, and tens of thousands are left homeless and helpless.”

“Archie, he was different. He opened up to me. I knew that he wasn’t what everyone said he was. He really wanted something better,” Lou stated, hanging the laundry outside with Archibald.

“I know, Louisa. I’m just sorry that he couldn’t live to fulfill that wish.”

“I think he did. Even if it was only for a moment, I saw the real Lawrence Parker. And that is the Lawrence Parker that I will remember.”

Works Cited

“Chicago Fire of 1871.”Gale Encyclopedia of U.S. Economic History, Ed. Thomas Riggs,

2nd ed., vol. 1, Gale, 2015, pp. 215-218. Student Resources in Context, Web. 28 Mar. 2017.

History.com Staff, “Chicago Fire of 1871.” A+E Networks, 2010. Web. 28 Mar. 2017.

“Standard Oil Trust,” u-s-history.com.

“U.S. Timeline – The 1870s” Web. 28 Mar. 2017.


“Compositions”en.chopin.nifc.pl Web. 12 April. 2017

“History of Fashion 1840 – 1900” Web. 28 Mar. 2017.

History.com Staff, “John D. Rockefeller.” A+E Networks, 2010. Web. 12 April. 2017.

Salem Press, “The 19th Century.”  Vol. 3, Salem Press, 2007.

“The Aesthetic Movement”theartstory.com Web. 12 April. 2017.

“1871 NA Team Statistics”baseball-reference.com Web. 12 April. 2017