The sun is warm on Nathan‚s thin arms, as he sits on the swing in Victoria Park.
"My dad coming today?" he asks a Blue Jay. It's easy to talk out loud when you don't have any friends. Nathan looks up at the sky. "Why is it so blue? Hi sky! Hi blue!" He must ask his favorite teacher Miss Martin on Monday.
Today is Saturday. He likes getting up early before his foster parents. It gives the morning sun a chance to wink at him. Miss Martin says he is a morning person. He likes her. And he knows she likes him too. "Nice lady."
Nathan gets off the swing and walks around the yard. He enjoys living in Truro. Especially being so close to the park with lots and lots of acres. Maybe hundreds. Now his ten-year old arms slap at his sides. He feels like a bird sometimes. If only he could fly away. Nathan begins to flap his arms.
If he was a bird, he could travel over the trees and find his dad. When is he going to visit again?
Nathan's brown hair hangs loosely over his thin face. His foster parents don‚t mind him going outside on his own. But he isn't allowed to wander away from the yard. Sometimes the kids at school call him nasty names. He learned to close his ears to their, ‚talky-talk.‚
Nathan spends much of his time watching everyone else have fun. Watching. Not playing. Why do they call him names anyway? The words hurt, especially when he sees others smiling or laughing out loud, as if they are sharing a joke.
"Hey you!" he remembers shouting one day. "Names and faces!" Then the other kids laughed even more. That wasn't polite. He knows because his foster parents are teaching him things. And he has to listen carefully. The school says he is 'Mentally challenged.'
"I am not mental! I am not mental! shoots like fire from his lips. This early-morning he looked in the mirror and tried to grin like his foster mother. But he couldn't. He had to be happy to look like that. How could Nathan be happy? He doesn't have a home. Not a real one. He wants a house with a nice kitchen and a yard. For a dad and son.
Nathan's mouth twists into a funny shape. Only half his teeth show, like a dog ready to bite. "Growl," says his mouth. But he isn't like that at all, only lonely inside and hurt. He has to find his dad. "Coming. I'm coming, dad."
Then his foster mother stood beside him in the yard. "I thought you would be extra hungry this morning," she said sweetly. He tried his half dog smile. It just didn't come out right. Maybe Nathan should wait until tomorrow to find his father. Nathan has to make plans, to do things. He keeps squeezing his fingers. He slaps at his sides.
"Shucks," he says." I ate one, two. No, three toast. I'm okay. I have to go now." And he turns to leave.
"Pancakes? Sausages? Would you like that?" his foster mother teases.
His lips keep quiet. But, his tummy says ‚Yes‚Yes.‚
"Come on now,‚ his foster mother says. ‚You can't turn down pancakes. With maple syrup?"
His eyebrows lift. His mouth is watering. But he has plans. When his mind is made up, it is made up. "Oh good, good. I like pancakes. But not to-day," he says. Is it okay to change your mind? Nathan wonders.
"Where do you want to go today Nathan?" Her smile floats over him like a warm summer breeze. He likes his foster parents but they act too kind. Maybe they want me to forget my dad.
"You mean nowhere special don't you? But you have to go somewhere, Nathan." She always corrects him. He hates that. He gets mixed up with his talking fast. "I am not a retard," he says to himself.
"It's okay Nathan. I'm just trying to help. Now try it. Nowhere."
"No-where," He repeats very slowly.
"Now, wasn't that easy?" She didn't ask why his packsack is so full. Maybe she doesn't care if he wants to run away and find his dad. He has to hurry. His dad is waiting.
"Dad, I'm coming."
The thought has been building in his mind for the past two weeks. It is something he has to do. He must prove he isn't afraid, even if people call him names and more names. "Dad. I'm coming." His heart hammers. His fingers clench. His knees have springs. His legs feel bouncy like a rubber ball.
Two big fat crows fly by and say "Hi. Hi." Except Nathan doesn't call them big fat crows. He calls them 'flying houses'. They are so big and fat their wings can barely keep them in the air. He likes to make up new names. He is smart. He will show everyone. He can even fly like the crows if he wants to.
He stands there wondering what to do next. Then his foster mother comes. Nathan lets her take his hand. They head to the park to find Fred.
* * *
¬ Richard L. Provencher 2010
Note: Richard and his wife, Esther, expanded this story and wrote a novel about, Son of Fred. One day they would like to publish it.
My wife, Esther and I really enjoy writing. It is an excellent salve, in addition to prayers, a great wife and family during my continuing recovery from a stroke/aneurysm. You can contact us at: firstname.lastname@example.org re comments on our work. We live in Truro, Nova Scotia, Canada. Pray for others.