Jessie Macgill: Kid Detective
Don’t own the characters, don’t own the storyline, don’t own the TV show, etc.—all I can lay claim to are the thoughts in my head, which I present to you here…
“Jessica Beatrice Macgill!!”
The gangly girl stopped mid-step on her flight up the stairs, stopped dead in her tracks by the sound of her mother calling her by her full name. Whenever that happened, Jessie knew she was in trouble. She turned and descended the stairs, at a speed much slower than that which she employed in her ascent just a moment ago. She racked her brain to figure out why she was in trouble, but could not even hazard a guess.
Her mother’s call was from the kitchen, and Jessie entered the sweet smelling room, still clutching her schoolbooks to her chest. “Yes, Mom?” she answered her mother, as she looked down at the floor with embarrassment for which she didn’t yet know the reason.
“Young lady, are you ashamed to be a member of this family?”
Jessica looked up in utter confusion, and said the only thing that popped into her twelve year old mind, “Huh?”
“Huh, indeed. Sit down and explain to me why your teacher called to tell me that you are signing your schoolwork as Jessica Drew. It doesn’t take a detective to figure out that you are still pretending to be Nancy Drew.”
Jessie then understood why her mom was mad, but not why it so horrible that her mother was required to invoke her full Christian name. “Gee, Mom, I must have just forgotten.” Her face flushed as she looked down at her saddle shoes, ashamed to look her mother in the eye, embarrassed even further by the answer that she knew was completely lame.
“Daydreaming is more like it, Jessie.” The girl was heartened by her mother’s use of her nickname, it signified that she wasn’t r-e-a-l-l-y mad at her, but listened as her mother continued. “Don’t think I don’t remember what it is like to be a girl. It’s just that when you’re at school, you have to pay attention to your schoolwork, not daydream about solving mysteries or pretending that you’re Nancy Drew. You have your head in the clouds way too much. I know things haven’t been easy for you lately; Lord, I’ve never seen a child sprout up like you have these past few months.”
Jessica visibly winced at the reminder that she was now not only taller than three fourths of the boys in her class, but also her older by two years brother, Martin (a sore point that made it nearly impossible to deal with him at all these days, though she was hardly happy about this state of affairs either). A lot of the kids were teasing her and calling her Giraffe or Stretch, and it seemed her only escape was to pretend she was Nancy Drew. That teenage detective certainly had no problems with feeling as awkward as an aardvark, and the way Carolyn Keene described how Nancy Drew just sailed gracefully through her never ending adventures—surely nobody ever called her “Giraffe”.
Jessica’s attention was drawn back to the matter at hand by her mother’s voice. “Look, just promise me that you’ll focus yourself at school. I know your grades are good; that isn’t the point. Honey, I just don’t need any more on my plate right now.”
Jessica was brought up short by
her mother’s words and realized what really had her upset: the fact that her
father was so rarely home, what with his work as a military contractor working
fourteen hour days because they were so busy due to the Lend Lease Act. Now, with war declared in
“I’m proud to be a Macgill, with all that Daddy is doing for
Angela Macgill looked at her only daughter and smiled as she patted her cheek. “Go on and put your books away, and do your chores.”
“Okay!” Jessie was out the door
like a flash after having grabbed her books, and before her mom could think of anything else.
Once she got to her room, she dropped her books on her bed and went to
her calendar, carefully “x”ing off another day. She was counting the days until the release
of the newest Nancy Drew movie—she was so eager to see it sometimes she felt
like she would burst. It had already
opened in other parts of
After quickly changing from her school clothes into a pair of her oldest brother’s old dungarees and a shirt, she went off to do her chores. As she exited her room, she turned and straightened out the sign on her bedroom door, the one she tacked up that said “Jessie Macgill: Assistant to Nancy Drew”. A smile creased her face as she contemplated how nice that title sounded, and with a more cheerful heart she started her chores. She saved the most hated one for last, cleaning out the wastebaskets. She put the trash from her room into the larger wastebasket and then went into the room shared by Marshall and Martin. Marshall, the eldest, was doing his homework. As a junior in high school, it did seem like he had a ton of it, especially now that the school year was almost over. Martin had no such scholastic ambitions; he was sprawled on his bed reading yet another of his stupid comic books. She wondered again why her brothers seemed to be through with their chores long before she was, and again she could find no other reason but that she was given more of them. Fueled by the crabby mood that thought put her in, Jessica dumped the contents of their basket in the big wastecan and as she left she grabbed the comic book from Martin’s hands and put it in as well.
“Hey! Gimme that!” he yelled and grabbed it back, making a visible production of dusting off the trash that had not clung to it. “Lucky you didn’t ruin it. How’d you like it if I did that to your stupid Nancy Drew books?”
Jessie was about to snap back
with a smart retort, but before she could Marshall turned and snapped,
“Silence, infants,” but winked at Jessica—he knew what a pain their brother
could be and Jessica took the wink as yet another piece of evidence of her
close bond with her eldest brother against their common foe, the very annoying
Marty. “You leave Jessie’s books alone,
Marty, or I’ll trash your comics and they’ll stay trashed.” Jessie chuckled under her breath as she saw the
look on Marty’s face at hearing his brother’s admonition. She was also heartened to hear
Jessie left the room while the
getting was good, and as she went to the bathroom to gather that trash she
looked in the basket and noticed torn up pieces of paper sprinkled amongst the
trash, and from what she could see the wording on them was made by a
typewriter. An idea popped into her head
and she ducked into her room with the basket, quickly picked out the pieces of
the torn document, and hid them in a desk drawer, then ran out of the room to
complete her task; she knew she would not have time to investigate that mystery
and get her chores done in time to help her mother with dinner, then there was
homework on top of it all: it seemed like it would be forever before she would
be able to piece together the puzzle.
However, the time went by quicker because in her imagination, she pieced
the torn document into a nice little story entitled Jessica Macgill and Nancy Drew—The Case of the Destroyed Document,
soon to be the number one bestseller at her local bookstore. She figured
Her perception of forever finally passed and she got to bring the pieces out of their hiding place and spread them out on the floor. It took her a good fifteen minutes, because most of the pieces were quite small, and some were missing altogether, but she was surprised when she read the letter they formed.
The first surprise was, though
she recognized the address as being that of his best friend, the letter was
Dear Mr. Macgill,
We received your correspondence indicating an interest in joining the Marine Corps. However, we regret to advise that you must wait until you are at least seventeen years old in order to join (with your parent’s signed permission slip) or eighteen years old to join without parental permission.
Jessie didn’t even finish the
rest of the letter, she felt sick to her stomach from the gnawing terror that
filled her about her brother going into the military and maybe having to
fight. She didn’t want him to get hurt
or killed, heck, she wouldn’t even wish that on
Martin. She quickly gathered up the
pieces and threw them violently into her wastecan. Not knowing what else to do, she went into
her brothers’ room, only to find that
She didn’t even realize that the presence of the family car in the garage meant that her father was home as well; she only noticed when she heard him call out to her.
“What, no kiss for your hardworking dad? What has the world come to?”
Jessica turned at the sound of his voice but no smile of greeting crossed her face. “Hey, what’s the matter with my little girl?” Bruce Macgill enquired of his youngest child as she walked over to him.
“Nothing, Daddy,” she replied, placing a rather half hearted kiss on his cheek and turned to leave, then a question occurred to her. “Daddy, why did you fight in the Great War?”
“Well, Jessie, I didn’t have a choice; I was drafted.”
“Did you want to go?”
“No, can’t say as I did. But
“But wasn’t it the ‘war to end all wars’? That’s what they tell us in school!” Jessica replied, a note of fright in her voice. “Why do people keep going to war?”
Bruce took his daughter in his
arms, and pulled her onto his lap, “Jessie, I don’t know what to tell you. It seems that man has an infinite capacity
for killing each other. I just hope that
with the Lend Lease Act and the work so many of us are
doing that we can squash this conflict while it’s still just over in Europe and
“Jessie, don’t bother your father with your questions. He needs to relax and have his dinner.” Angela placed a plate of food in front of her husband. “Have you finished your homework?” she asked Jessie.
“Yes, Mom,” Jessica replied, and
quickly went off in search of
“Oh, that girl,” Angela rolled her eyes and her husband laughed; he knew what his wife was thinking.
But just in case he didn’t, Angela voiced her concern, “It’s as if we have three sons--why can’t she be a little more ladylike?”
“Aw, she’s got spunk, and she’s a great kid,” Bruce defended his girl.
“I know that, but why does she romp around this place like a herd of elephants? You should hear her when she gets home from school, the way she bounces in the door and up those stairs.”
“You just leave her alone, Angie,” Bruce took his wife’s hand and squeezed it. “Our Jessie is going to turn out just fine, and she’ll be the loveliest woman there ever was, except for her mom. She’s like a colt right now, kicking up her heels, but I wouldn’t want her to be otherwise.”
“You indulge her too much, that’s your problem,” Angie smiled at her husband and squeezed his hand back. “Now you go and eat, and just relax.”
Under ordinary circumstances,
Jessica’s ears might have been ringing from her parents’ discussion about her,
but she was too preoccupied about the torn letter to even give her folks a
second thought. She slipped quietly into
the garage, where she saw the bottom half of
Now that she was there, she
didn’t know how to properly broach the subject.
It just occurred to her that maybe this wasn’t any of her business, but
that did not dispel her overwhelming curiosity.
Debating what to do, she stood there silently until the issue was forced
“Hey, Jessie, what are you doing
“I—I had a question for you, Marshall,” Jessica stammered.
“Well?” he asked
“I saw, um…I read a…are you going to try to go into the Marines, Marsh?”
“What?” In the darkness, Jessie didn’t see her brother’s eyes narrow, and she missed the note of anger in his voice, as she continued, “Well, I was just reading a letter you got…”
Jessie didn’t get to finish
“What do you think you’re doing,
going through my stuff and reading my mail?
You go and play Nancy Drew with someone else’s private things, and don’t
you let me ever find you in my room again, ever!”
“Now you get out of here, and
keep out of my private stuff! And keep
your mouth shut about that letter!”
Jessica ran from the garage with tears spilling from her wide, blue eyes. She ran towards the house, but then realized
she would have a lot of explaining to do if her parents saw her; she then
turned on her heel towards the only safe place she could think of at the spur
of the moment—the treehouse. She nimbly scaled the posts affixed to the
tree which served as a ladder, and threw herself on
the floor, sobbing inconsolably. She was
always putting her nose in where it didn’t belong and now she had really done
it. She was never, ever going to snoop
around in things that weren’t her business ever again. Her small hands shook as she swiped the tears
from her cheeks. She didn’t know how she
would ever face
“I think it’s natural for children to be curious about war, Angie. After all, it’s got to be scary for Jessie to think about thousands of people getting shot and killed.”
“You know, it’s just as scary
for me, honey. I hate the thought of the
boys going. In a couple of years
His mother’s words made
Once he got to her door, he
knocked even though it was ajar.
“Jessie?” he called softly into the darkness but saw she wasn’t in
there. It didn’t take much figuring to
deduce where she would be. He went back
down the stairs and out the door.
There was no answer—Jessica pulled her knees up to her chest and wrapped her arms around them. “Jessie, I need to talk to you—I’m coming up.” Jessie heard in her brother’s voice that he was no longer angry, but that made her tears come even harder. She chewed on her lip and rubbed a fist against her eyes to stop them, but was only successful in slowing them down a bit.
“Yeah, I knew you’d be hiding
out up here; you always do.”
“I promise I’ll try not to go looking for trouble like that,” Jessica replied in a small voice, her tears finally stopped.
“Now, I suppose you want to know about that letter.”
“No! I don’t want to know anything about it,” she
replied, unpersuasively trying to convince
“Everything changes, little
sis. We grow up and move on; that’s how
things gotta be.
I really don’t want to go into the Marines, but all I can think of is
our family over in
Jessica mulled that over for awhile in silence, then turned and threw her arms around her brother, “Just be careful, Marshall, don’t forget you want to be a doctor someday.”
“I’m not forgetting; I’m hoping to train as a medic in the Marine Corps, and that’ll come in handy in med school. Don’t worry, I’ll come back—I’ve done a lot of thinking about it lately. All three of us Macgill kids have a lot to look forward to in our future.”
Jessie looked at him sideways and he added with a smile, “Yeah, even Marty.”
The pair sat in silence, their feet hanging off the side of the treehouse, contemplating that thought, until their mother’s call cut through the dusky stillness, “Jessie! Time for bed!”
First Jessie slid down the rope
to get to the ground, and
“You go on up, sis; I’ve got something to talk over with the folks.”
Jessie gave her brother a small smile to indicate her understanding, and then ascended the stairs to her room.
Several months later, the Macgill family gathered at the
“Yes, you, kiddo. I know you can do it.”
Buoyed by her brother’s faith in her abilities, she promised she would.
boarded the train, suitcase in hand, and waved goodbye from the platform on the
last car of the train. As it slowly
pulled out from the station, Jessie broke free from her family and ran after
the train, and managed to run alongside parallel to