"Mom, are you goin' to marry James?" Sheldon's look was nasty. He noticed his mother's nervousness. She always looked around the room when she was lost for words.
Just the other day Sheldon reminded her dad left three years ago. He often thought of mom getting married again, but to James? What would she say? Would she answer him straight out? Sheldon kept his eyes steady not staring, a little sad at his mother's discomfort. But he had to know.
"MOMMM," an impatient whine dragged on his tongue.
"Well Sheldon, you know James has been coming around more often lately...and yes, it has been discussed..."
"I knew it! I just knew it!" he exploded. "What happened Mom? We used to talk. Why didn't you ask me how I would feel about it?" Sheldon grabbed his schoolbooks and rushed out of the room. He was really upset. Each step stomped out a message, "Why me? Why me?"
Only his reputation of being the politest kid on the block kept him from slamming the door. Echoes of his feet attack on the stairs soon faded away. How could she think about marrying again? What's wrong with her? "Gee whiz, mom."
Slumping on his bed, Sheldon's thoughts rushed around in all directions. Dad had been gone since the winter he'd turned ten. Sheldon didn't even know why he left.
"My leaving has nothing to do with you. I'll always love you," dad had said. Then he stepped out of his son's life, like a ghost.
There were times Sheldon cried like a baby. Over something he knew was missing in his life. Usually alone on a hike secret feelings would bubble up. His trips to the woods provided an escape from his problems. It gave him a chance to think. Hurt was still there, an ache lying deep in his chest. Kicking off his sneakers he lay back on the bed.
Arms tucked under his head, he scanned the room carefully. On one wall the pennant from Halifax. There was also a picture of mom, himself and his buddy, Troy. It was taken at Boy Scout Summer Camp last year. They stared back at him.
Sheldon got up and walked slowly to the window. He knew he had the best view in Sheldon, a village of 200 people near Truro, Nova Scotia. Overlooking the highway, he felt like an owl settled on a branch watching the world move along. Old houses, trailers and newly aluminum-sided buildings settled comfortably on both sides of Highway 104. Like salt and pepper sprinkled on eggs.
Right now the stars were bright. Their sparkling eyes keeping him company, feeling his sorrow. He could see the Big Dipper, "Ursa Major." Seven eyes in the Dipper's outline winked back. "It's tough growing up," he said aloud. He knew he was acting silly but things seemed much simpler when he was younger.
Sheldon enjoyed staring out the window at night. Elbows rested on the windowsill, chin cradled in his hands. There was a time when he dreamed of being an astronomer. He tried to spot a satellite, watching carefully for the telltale steady moving light. "Guess it's not dark enough to see."
His furrowed brow relaxed a little, thinking about his neighbor, Larry who took him fishing last Saturday. Now he would make an awesome dad. But he's already married with grown up kids of his own.
"So I'll probably end up getting stuck with someone like James," he sighed. It wouldn't be so bad if James didn't have to work all the time. He never once took Sheldon anyplace. Besides, he's so crabby. Tiredly the boy made his way back to bed and flung himself down.
He remembered the first time he and Larry had met. It was last year when Sheldon began his paper route. People wondered who the new neighbors were last fall. Sheldon had marched up the front steps
"Hi there, Mr. Reynolds." He forced himself to speak up, determined to get over his shyness. "How about taking The Weekly? I guarantee top of the line service." They hit it off just right the first time.
"You can call me Larry, unless your parents object."
"Mom won't mind. She's divorced and lets me make a lot of decisions. Nice to meet ya, Larry."
Since then he met Larry's wife. And toured their big 140 year-old house, once a Church Manse. He learned to play chess and came over numerous times to help pile wood. And mow the grass. It was to become his second home.
"Instead of paying you," Larry had said, "I'll be glad to take you hiking. Or even fishing. That suited Sheldon just fine. He wanted someone to teach him things. And Larry cared enough to tell him useful bits of information. Like when they used the canoe at Lake Simpson last Saturday.
"Let's get the canoe moving, chum," Larry had said. Fishing rods were loaded food packs placed in the center and life jackets worn. They waded barefoot into the water carrying the boat to a depth so as not to scratch its bottom. Sneakers were laced to the thwarts, in case the canoe tipped. "That way, Larry said, "You won't lose them in the water."
While Larry held the canoe, Sheldon carefully placed cold feet inside one at a time. Then sat down. As Larry sat in the stern, Sheldon said quickly, "OK dad, let's go." He glanced back to see if Larry noticed what had slipped off his tongue.
But he must have missed it. Sheldon hadn't said it on purpose, sort of snuck out.
At the time Sheldon turned away quickly, his heart pounding. He missed having a dad. And he was glad his face was turned away as moisture gathered on his cheeks. He wasn't crying. Not really. He felt like a traitor for even pretending Larry was his dad. But then it must be okay. The sky didn't explode or anything.
Now Sheldon shook awake from his dreaming as he heard his squeaky doorknob being turned. Through half-closed eyelids he watched mom come into his room. He pretended to be asleep, one arm out-flung, fingers open. It was as if he waited for a handshake.
His mom crossed the room, footsteps padding on the floor. Sheldon's carefully controlled breathing the only other sound.
She retrieved a blanket from the closet and placed it over him. The bed sagged as she leaned and kissed his forehead. His mom began to hum softly with made up words, about a mother's love for her son.
Not something you'd find on a Hit Parade's top hundred, he thought to himself.
Sheldon could barely stop from bawling, as tears escaped down his cheeks. Before drifting off to sleep, he opened his eyes and said, "Love Ya, mom."
* * *
Richard & Esther Provencher
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: email@example.com re comments on our work. We live in Truro, Nova Scotia, Canada. Pray for others.