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The Boy in a Cardboard Box
by Richard L. Provencher
1/24/2014 / Family
Paul moved quietly from the bed, taking his blanket and pillow. Bare feet dashed quickly before cold toes made him change his mind. This decision made it easy to hide from the early morning sun. All Paul had to do was pull down the shade. Instead, he decided to leave his bedroom and go downstairs to his sister's room.
He was silent as a deer because he didn't want to wake up Sheeba. Her bark was known to disturb neighbors, almost a block away. Paul wasn't a mind reader, but he knew Mom and Dad would be upset, him getting up too early on Saturday. "Sleep-in," they said last night.
At least Jo-Ann couldn't complain about him using her room. Sis started college in PEI, a few weeks ago. Not having her around was a bummer though. Paul checked over some family pictures she had hung up. Three seashells dangled on beads from another wall. He remembered when she made those a couple of years ago. That was when everyone in the family helped build this room. He was still a little kid then, about eight.
Her bed was filled with leftover clothes. Paul guessed they couldn't be fitted in her suitcases. Imagine, not even in three of them. Where to place his tired head? Another hour of snoozing would do it. He noticed there wasn't even room on her bed to stretch out. Mom and dad said they might have to stop feeding him. His legs were making him so tall.
Suddenly, Paul spotted the answer to his sleeping problem. In the corner of the bedroom were two large empty boxes. Not needed, they had been left behind. That was the way he felt, since Sis left, alone and forgotten. Dad was always working on his woodpile, taking one load at a time to Truro for sale. And mom was busy with the Arts and Craft club in their Village of Bass River.
No one seems to notice me anymore, Paul thought. But then, mom and dad must be feeling a little sad too, since Jo-Ann left.
The sun shone through the basement window, making sleep impossible, same as the room he left upstairs. Paul turned off the bedroom light switch. But, it was still too bright. Suddenly a solution presented itself. He placed the largest box on the only uncluttered part of the bed. Then he climbed in, taking his blanket and pillow inside. Reaching up, Paul pulled the cardboard box flaps behind him.
Now there was no shining sun to worry about. Nor any parents to wonder where he was. He could remain in the dark box as long as he needed. At first it was quite uncomfortable. That was resolved by getting some of Jo-Ann's sweaters. Using them as a mattress helped matters. Smelling perfume from her clothes made it seem like she was nearby.
Mom was probably lying in bed. And wondering about all the work she had to do, today. And dad was maybe thinking of wood to sell so he can pay off more bills. His father had little spare time left to spend with Paul. "I bet a whole stack of peanut butter cookies, nobody's even thinking about me," he said into the darkness.
Then he heard a loud "meow." It was 'Sport', his cat. Of course, the ball of fur would have to join him. Either that or wake the whole house up. "Get in you," Paul said, happy for the company. Sport's purring was almost as loud as a motorboat. If only dad had bought the boat and ten horsepower uncle Richard wanted to sell. Think of the fishing they could do on Lake Mattatall. Paul patted his cat's head. He wasn't feeling so lonesome anymore.
He and Sis used to have barrels of fun together. And they spent a lot of moments talking to each other. Mom and dad never forgot the time he hit Jo-Ann on the shoulder. That made her really angry. She deserved it for pinching him, even if she meant a lot to Paul. When mom and dad weren't around, Sis listened to his problems. He told her about bullies at school, even failing tests when he forgot to study. Sometimes he cried. And she held him the way mom did when Paul was just a little kid.
He remembered their trampoline. Dad bought it when Paul was nine. He was a lot smaller then. Sort of a little squirt kids liked to pick on. Mom and dad almost fainted once. It was when Paul and Sis were doing really high jumps and back flips. That's a fact. He could almost hear his sister still laughing. She has such a nice smile, just like moms. Both their eyes twinkle just like his cat.
Paul wondered if mom was up yet. The box was beginning to feel a bit cramped. But, he was able to jiggle around and almost turn himself into a tire. It was more like a caterpillar's cocoon.
During Health classes he learned about babies. And how they lay in a 'fetal' position, inside their mothers. Was he acting like a child again?
He knew he wasn't a baby needing special attention. Paul was just a boy growing up, with his own developing needs.
So what if Jo-Ann wanted to move away? He knew she had to if she wanted to get a good education. If only Prince Edward Island wasn't so far away. He wished she had gone to Bible Hill's Dalhousie Agriculture Campus instead. Then visiting each other would only be an hour by car. He laughed about the times he ran downstairs and pounded on Jo-Ann's door. Sis would scream, "Buzz off Paul!!" He used to come in anyway and throw her covers all over.
They used to laugh and jump on the bed, using it as an indoor trampoline. As they got older, that kind of fun ended. Sis needed her privacy. The same way he needed the same right now. Yes, growing up was tough. He missed those fun things they did. Paul hoped dad was getting up soon.
It wasn't that Paul didn't like his own room. It was a great place. He had a nice library and good clothes. Even models of cars and tractors his parents gave him. Now he wanted a baseball glove to celebrate his 12th birthday. Would Jo-Ann be able to make it to his party next week? Paul promised himself to give her the largest piece of cake, if she did.
Just then, he heard a commotion. It must be 'Sheeba'. Or his parents might be getting up. Paul turned on his back and kicked open the box.
"Surprise! Surprise!" echoed from two people he loved most in the whole world. "Mom! Dad! How long have you been here?" Paul asked. "Only a few minutes son, both of us figured you would be down here. We miss her too, you know." As if he knew Paul's thoughts, dad added, "We haven't forgotten you either."
Mom also knew how to make the sun shine in Paul's eyes. She asked, "How about your favorite breakfast? Blueberry pancakes!" And dad put the icing on the cake. "Want to learn how to drive a 430 John Deere Loader-Crawler? After breakfast, of course," he added.
Paul's answered both questions with two jumping twirls. "Got to go now, Jo-Ann!" he yelled. Then he raced mom and dad up the stairs to the kitchen table.
* * *
Richard enjoys writing poems; many of which have been published in Print and Online. He and his wife, Esther are also co-authors of stories and a print novel. They are "born again" Christians and very busy in their church, Abundant Life Victory International, in Bible Hill, Nova Scotia.
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