Book Creator

The Great Molasses Flood

by Amelia Pearce


Short Story
by Amelia Pearce
Part 1 - Wrong Place to visit
“Ma it's leaking. Look the tanks leaking!” exclaimed the boy.
He was thin and lean and looked so pale you could mistake him for a bag of flour. He wore clothes that were barely clothes at all but rather rags, barely clinging to his body. You could see his skin through the tears in his clothes and his ribs jotted out of his skin threatening to pierce it. His feet were bare and covered in what you would hope was dry mud. The sun had caked the substance across his legs, arms, face and clothes and the sun was so fierce that day that it had dried it completely, creating cracks in the splotches. Amongst the dirt you could see blisters poking out of his skin where the sun had scorched him. He wore a faded brown ascot cap that hid nearly all of his messy hair from sight - the colour of which was masked by grime and soot.
“Now what have I told you about playing those practical jokes Will,” scolded the middle aged woman who continued to march down the street without the slightest glance or halt in her step.
“Please ma look, it really is!” protested the boy whose name was Will.
“If I look and you’re fibbing you'll be in trouble boy” 
“I know ma but it really is, look!” Will protested pointing up at the looming shadow beside them only 100 or so metres away and tugging on his mother's sleeve. 
The woman finally stops and turns around to face the tank wearing a dull unbelieving look on her face. Suddenly, her face lit up with surprise and her chin dropped leaving her lips to form an ‘O’.
“Oh my. Oh my! It really is!” she uttered in shock, her voice getting louder as she spoke. “Help somebody! It’s leaking! The tank is leaking!”
A few people gave her some odd glances and moved away to a further stall in the market. She ran up to a man who remained preoccupied examining some apples at a fruit stand.
“Help! It’s leaking! The tank is leaking, look!” She said pointing at the tank, her eyes wide with concern.
“Oh not to worry. You must be new around here aye. That tank has been leaking since the very first day it was built
“What? But shouldn't somebody be fixing it?” She asked, raising an eyebrow with confusion at the man’s calmness.
“Nah. It's lasted 4 years why worry now”
Another man walks up to the stall muttering a reply as he approaches.
“Because pretty soon some factory mishap will come about and that blasted tank will be “leaking” all over this town.”
“Nonsense don't listen to this fella he's wacko I tell ya”
“I believe him.” mumbled the boy Will, weakly.
All three adults stared down at him, noticing him for the first time. The second man smiled at him.
“No you don't, you're just a child! What would you know? Now be quiet and let the grown ups speak, boy.” screamed the first man.
“My name is Will,” Will murmured, staring at the ground.
The man either didn't hear him or ignored him and turned to face his Mother instead.
“So I didn't quite catch your name there ma'am, I’m Thomas but you can call me Tom.”
“Uh Grace. Pleasure to meet you Tom,” she replied, putting out her hand to shake.
“What’s in the tank anyway,” she asked.

“Molasses. They used it during the War when they found out it could be heated up in a process called distillation making industrial alcohol to use in bombs. It was a great hit during the war though with the kids and the mothers and bakers. The kids got a sweet treat for free from the leaks and the mothers and bakers had free sweetener for their baking. You two must have good eyesight to see the leaking all the way from here though. Usually people don’t notice because it’s painted brown. That's what Usis did in response to their workers telling them it leaked.” the second man explained, rolling his eyes and shaking his head at the end.
“What! That's appalling! Don't they care that it could burst and flood the town!”
“It wont i'm telling ya it wont. Don’t let his crazy talk get to ya Grace,” Thomas interrupted.
“Well I suppose if it hasnt for 4 years, it should last the 4 days we’re here, but I sure won't be staying here any longer than I have to, I'm telling you now,” Grace said, sighing.
“What’s your name?” Will asked, staring at the second man.
“Me? My name’s Bill but everybody calls me Johnson or Mr Johnson. Feel free to call me either of them,” he said, winking at him.
“Ok. Well, Mr Johnson, why do you stay here if you say it'll leak?” Will asked Mr Johnson with a puzzled look on his face.
“Well you must be a smart boy with such an inquisitive young mind. Truth is I’m stuck here. My wife is committed to staying here with her dying aunt and wouldn't leave if I threatened to leave her. Of course I wouldn't but sooner or later you'll all see that this tank will burst. I'll probably still be here because that old birds lasted a good 7 years already, what's another 10
“Is that when you think the tank will break?” asked Will.
“Who knows. Could be any day now but that old bird will still probably be alive.”
“Now now Johnson, don't scare the boy with your ridiculous tales. This tank won't break til’ the day I die”
“Then let's hope your death is long after my aunt in law’s gone and i’m long gone from here.”
“Why you arrogant fool!”
“What? I just said I hoped you’d live a long time, what’s so wrong with that?”
“Oh you think you’re so smart.”
“Come Will, we best be going. Don’t want to stay out in this raging heat too long” Grace said, grabbing Will by the hand and hurrying away as one angry voice grew quieter behind them leaving only the echo of fist colliding with bone as a one way fight broke out behind them, leaving poor Johnson alone to face a wild man.

Part 2 - The grumble of a Lion’s empty stomach
Grace and her six year old boy were staying in a distant relative’s house for 4 days while Will’s father had a series of important business meetings hosted in their house. Unaware of the leaky molasses tank located in Boston, Grace had thought it a pleasant vacation for her and her son. The relatives were hard to give titles to and the only known fact was that they were somewhere on Grace’s side. The small apartment was home to a family of 6 - 2 parents and 4 kids including one boy the same age as Will. This provided entertainment for her son for the time they were there, and she was looking forward to 4 long days of relaxing, reading, knitting and gossiping with the four children’s mother - who was the one somehow related to her. The news of the tank changed things though. She tried to ignore the thoughts and enjoy her vacation but for some reason the feeling stuck. A looming uneasiness deep within her. An endless thread of the man Johnson’s words. A queer indescribable feeling of wrong. The gut instincts that made her stomach flip and churn. Something was going to happen. Something bad. Something was coming.
“Race you to the tank!” screamed a high pitched voice. A boy even dirtier than Will sped along the streets curving and dodging like an acrobat. He had obviously done this many times before. He had a mischievous grin on his face that made you think of a bizarre animal in a zoo. Like a monkey or a funny looking parrot. He was a little on the chubby side which struck Will as quite odd considering he was so tall and they had just been in a war with limited food. His family definitely wasn’t rich either so it was rather strange. He was nearly a whole foot taller than Will although he was a month or so younger. He gave off waves of confidence and joy that even an average six year old could detect and one as bright and detail oriented as Will could have easily picked up on. He usually felt intimidated by these kinds of people and stuck to the sides of the meek and timid ones like himself. The only problem was there were none of those kids here, and even if there were, Will felt some strange urge to follow the boy. Like he was being pulled along by a pair of invisible arms reaching from the boy’s back. He also felt a strange pull coming from the direction of the tank. As he walked he felt as if he was dreaming or in a trance. It was like one of those dreams where he could still control some parts of his body that he found so intriguing. Like his mind and the ability to awaken or move his mouth were still accessible. He floated along the streets weaving through crowds slowly but accurately like the boy who had done so before. Somehow he knew the way. He felt like a dog following a scent. He could almost see colourful lines before him that guided him. He was soon dragged from his mind out into the cold and bitter surroundings of the winter streets as a familiar voice came pounding through an alley.