The sun is warm as Nathan sits on the creaking swing. He kicks lazily at the earth.
"My dad coming today?" he asks the Blue Jay.
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.
He likes getting up early Saturday morning before his foster parents. It gives the morning sun a chance to wink at him.
Nathan gets off the swing and walks around the yard. He likes living beside Victoria Park, with lots and lots of acres.
His ten-year old arms slap at his sides. If only he could fly.
It would be so easy, just raise his arms andfly away. 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 hung loosely over his thin face.
His foster parents didn't mind him going outside on his own. But he isn't allowed to wander away from the yard.
Sometimes the kids at school yell "Hey retard!" He learned to shut his ears to their, "talky-talk," and their "snappy" lips.
Nathan spends much of his time watching everyone else have fun. Watching. Not playing.
What is a 'retard' anyway? They must be hurtful words, especially when he sees others smiling or laughing out loud.
"Hey you!" he remembers shouting one day. "Names and faces!" Then the other kids laughed even more. They weren't polite.
He knows because his foster parents are teaching him things. And Nathan has to listen carefully. The school says he is 'Mentally challenged.'
"I am not mental! I am not mental! comes 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 tomorrow Nathan would try again. No time for lots of talk now.
He has to make plans, to do things. Nathan keeps clenching and unclenching 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 tummy says "YesYes." But his lips keep shut.
"Come on now. 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.
"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 didn't ask why his packsack is so full. Maybe she doesn't care if he runs away. 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.
"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.
Nathan lets his foster mother take his hand.
Together they head to the park to find his dad.
* * *
Richard & Esther Provencher 2007
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