We lived on Vendome Place, a street with nice homes but on the far edge of a good neighborhood. My father and his brother had built very similar brick homes right next to each other.
Then they bought land across Lake Pontchartrain and built two identical wooden cottages right next to each other in the middle of 300 acres in Folsom, back when land cost $3 an acre. Misery for my city-loving mom, heaven for my cousins and for me, youngest member of the Black Widow Club that met in the hayloft to discuss all the scary things like snakes and spiders and make vaguely ominous plans of attack.
But I digress. I took the bus home from school one day and, two blocks from my house, I could see fire engines and police cars. Oh god, not another bad thing.
My eyes stretched open as I saw that whatever was happening, was happening at my house.
“What’s happening” I asked.
“They’re burying something,” a man said.
I could only think that it was my pug Nicky who was deserving of this much attention.
“Who are they burying?” I quietly asked.
“Nitroglycerin,” he answered.
“Who is that?” I asked, relieved that my Nicky was safe.
That same morning, as I’d slipped into my brother’s souped-up 1955 red/white/black/and chromed Chevy to drive to Newman School, he’d said, “Hold this.” It was a little vial with liquid in it, and he hadn’t bothered to say to be careful.
Typical. Marshall lived, and died, on the edge. He loved fast cars, motorcycles, planes, things that went boom and anything else that fell into the category of dangerous. One day he’d cut off the gorgeous red ponytail of the girl who sat in front of him in school.
His bedroom was speckled with pretty patterns from past explosions, and he had a mutually beneficial relationship with the neighborhood cops, who waited at the stop sign at Vendome and Fountainbleau.
On the front page of the next morning’s Times-Picayune, alongside articles like “Dulles Goes to Seek Suez Pact” and “Adlai Answers on Hiss Verdict,” was this one: “Nitro Disposal Found Problem: Youth Makes Explosive; It’s Hot Potato.”
It was Sept. 18, 1956, but it could be today, with articles like “Two Men Are Shot; Third is Beaten As Feud Erupts.” For the TP in all its glory, and Marshall, too, a brief, hot, strike-of-a-match life.