Cover of Time Magazine

Flash Creative Non-Fiction: The Unfortunate Finding of Betty Gow

Note: For background information regarding Flash Narrative Tuesday, go here. Thank you to D.M. Cunningham and Kelsey Ketch for the inspiration to choose this particular diary entry upon which the following flash narrative is based. On March 11, 1934, Hattie was 52 years old.


March 11, 1934: The Unfortunate Finding of Betty Gow

“The nurse-maid, Betty Gow, was the first to notice.”

Mrs. Whitcher stopped drying her plate long enough to look me in the eye. “They were the kind of people who would have a nurse-maid to care for the children, Sophie, not like you or I am ever likely to have.”

Mr. Whitcher was still in Pine Ridge scouting for horses, and we were alone in the house, finishing the dishes, lit only by moonlight through the kitchen window. It was Mrs. Whitcher’s turn, and she was in the middle of a story spun straight from a radio program we’d listened to earlier in the day, marking the second anniversary of the kidnapping and the finding of the body with its crushed skull. She told her tale so well, I couldn’t untangle which parts were true.

“Betty felt a cold breeze coming from the nursery. When she walked through the doorway, the wind from an open window blew across the empty crib where the baby had been, and on the floor were the safety pins she’d used to secure his blanket around his body to the sheets, to keep him safely tucked in for the night. That’s when she saw the muddy footprints. Her scream rang through the house like an alarm.”

The night air was so still that at times we could hear the sounds of Thomas’s saxophone from over the hill. Mrs. Whitcher didn’t say it, but I knew she was worried about her husband, who had been gone now for three days. Mr. Whitcher’s car sat lifeless in the yard, broken beyond repair.

“Later they found the splintered ladder outside the nursery window and more footprints on the ground. The thing of it is, the whole time, the parents were in the house. While they talked about the day, the kidnappers were climbing the ladder. While they laughed at each other’s jokes, baby Charles was being torn from their home. When the nurse-maid discovered the crime, Mr. Lindbergh was reading in his library and Mrs. Lindbergh was soaking in her bath. It was Mr. Lindbergh who first saw the white envelope.”

I nearly whispered, “Can you imagine what it would feel like to know you might never see your baby again, or even know if he were alive or dead?”

Mrs. Whitcher wrung her dish towel and stared into the night.

“Sophie, will you stay up a bit longer with me as I write in my diary for today? I don’t want to forget how we worked side by each tonight, telling spooky stories.”

Neither one of us moved. At some point, the saxophone melody had stopped. We heard the sound of a car in the distance, but whether it was moving toward us or away, we couldn’t tell.Cover of Time Magazine


Comments

Flash Creative Non-Fiction: The Unfortunate Finding of Betty Gow — 8 Comments

  1. Thanks so much, everyone! I am finding that when the weekend rolls around, I start getting very excited about writing Tuesday’s Flash Narrative. It’s fun to see if a particular diary entry pops up and says “use me!” :D

  2. I’m enjoying these Tuesday treats as well. I love learning about history this way. You have a great way of weaving the setting into the story–I can easily see the action unfolding.

    • I’m so glad that others are enjoying these narratives as much as I’m enjoying writing them! Thanks, Elle Marie. The historical aspects are fascinating. I got an email recently from the daughter of my grandmother’s childhood best friend, who said that a diary entry I had posted about Red Cross blankets made her think of a Red Cross blanket she’d found at a thrift store, and she wondered about the stories that blanket could tell.

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