Was It Arson, Or Not?


There were two hotels in our small town, the Grand Hotel, which was uptown, and the Frontier Hotel, which was a few blocks from the Missouri River and was certainly not “upscale.”  It was built long before our parents were born and old timers told many a tale about sitting on the wide verandah and watching the Jesse James Gang ride by over the cobblestone street.


Our high school drama club chose the Frontier Hotel as the place for our annual banquet, because we felt as budding actors that we should display daring personalities.  So we dressed up in wild costumes, mostly handmade, and turned ourselves into movie stars and the current gangsters.


Once seated in the Frontier Hotel’s banquet room, we suppressed giggles as the weary waiter, heavily burdened, placed platter sized plates before us.


Upon inspection of the meal, we discovered that the contents were in many layers with each person’s offering differing from their neighbors.  There were cries of “I got sausage and cherry pie” and “I found chocolate pudding” and so forth as everyone dug away, roaring with laughter.


Mig lifted up a pork chop on her plate and discovered a lettuce leaf, some spaghetti on the next layer, a slice of ham and two radishes underneath that, with cheese and a cinnamon roll at the bottom.  It was the wildest, but the best banquet we could imagine.


The next day, Kookie Wilson, whose dad was a volunteer fireman, called with the news that the Frontier Hotel had burned to the ground after midnight.  It was thought that the cause was due to the structure’s advanced age, but our drama club disagreed.  We agreed; it was arson, no doubt about it.


Just look at the evidence.  Some kindly cook could not bear to waste food, so she cleaned out the icebox and pantry for our meal, before some villain, no doubt the sour waiter, set fire to the place.


The town disagreed.  But, we who lived in the grand world of creative imagination as teenaged actors knew the truth.


Mary Elizabeth Mruzik

Pacific, Missouri