"Quick. It's time to get up. I have to bring you to the hospital in one hour."
"Aunt Vida, is mom coming too?" the sleepy-eyed boy asked, yawning.
"Don't you remember? She had to leave early to get your dad to the Halifax airport." Then she paused, adding softly, "She'll be back in a couple of hours, my young nephew."
"I'm not young. I'll be ten next month," Bryant grumbled.
Much of last night was spent watching the stars. Besides, he could barely sleep thinking about his knee operation.
"Well, if I have to, I have to." He painfully got out of bed, dressed slowly and joined his aunt for breakfast. She ate, but he didn't. Not fair.
A glass of water was all he could have. A handful of Tostitos would taste good right now.
Bryant scratched his head. Then rubbed his nose, and closed his eyes wishing the next few days could be over quickly. Then the operation would be finished.
"I'm sorry to tease you like this," his aunt said. "I should have eaten before."
"It's alright. Okay if I bring my Simmons telescope?" Bryant asked.
"Do you think you'll use it?" Aunt Vida answered.
"Auntie, I'm supposed to be there a whole week. So I can recup"
"R-e-c-u-p-e-r-a-t-e. Recuperate," she said.
"Okay, okay. Recuperate. There, satisfied?" Bryant asked.
"Now, don't be nasty," she said. "I know you're afraid"
"Auntie, I'm not afraid!" Bryant bellowed. "I have to keep busy when I'myou know that word. Please don't say it again."
"The car leaves this house in ten minutes. Are you going to be in it?" Aunt Vida asked. "I'm sorry, but we do have a very important appointment. Hospitals have schedules to keep."
Bryant went upstairs slowly. The doctor said his knee would feel a lot better after the operation. Right now the pain was so bad, he felt like crying.
But big boys don't cry do they?
He checked his traveling bag. Mom packed pants, shirts, socks, underwear and toothbrush. Bryant added several chapter books, a pocket baseball game and of course, his trusty telescope.
Last night, he pointed it at Venus, the brightest planet. But, Bryant saw no sighting of UFO's.
Driving to the hospital took them along Brunswick Street in Truro, Nova Scotia. There was a left at Willow, then up a steep road to a building that seemed to cover the hill. Colchester Regional Hospital had a large sign in front.
Bryant was suddenly very nervous.
It was as if he had his own sign pasted to his back. "Scared-Cat boy" was not a good feeling. He felt tiny, like one of the many stars in the Milky Way.
After signing in at the Admittance desk, Bryant was taken by wheel chair to his fourth floor room.
Gritting his teeth was normal for him as the nurse pricked his skin for a blood test. Doesn't she know he hates needles?
"Know something?" he asked his aunt, trying to take his mind off the operation. "Jupiter produces the strongest magnetic field of all the planets." He saw tears fall down her cheek.
Why do grownups cry? He wondered. Good thing he was a big kid.
Later, when Bryant woke up in his room, he was alone. No one seemed to care he was even here. Did his friends at school miss him right now?
And where are his parents? What about aunt Vida? Did she abandon me too?
Suddenly, laughter came charging down the hallway. His heart felt an excitement, same as stars reflecting their glitter during a moonlit night.
Before long his room was overflowing with family and friends. Mom, dad and his grandparents were part of the crowd. His best friend Nathan was here also.
Nathan even brought along his twin sister. Bryant saw the wink Tenesha gave him.
Then Aunt Vida carried in a cake with ten burning candles. Everyone began singing, "Happy Birthday Bryant!!" His doctor and a nurse led the off-key voices.
"We wanted to surprise you," mom said. "You're not ten yet. But, today is a good day for a party."
Bryant carefully counted his candles. Ten. Correct. He watched as flames flared brightly. Just like sunspots. I want to be brave, like an astronaut, is his silent wish.
Then he 'whooshed' a mighty breath, missing just one candle. It seemed lonesome, like Mercury. It had no moon like the other planets.
One last puff of air finished the job.
Each gift he received was special, a comb -- a watch. Another lens for his telescope, all precious. Best of all Aunt Vida baked peanut butter cookies, his favorite.
He'd save them until after the surgery.
Bryant closed his eyes. The room remained packed, people talking and laughing. Awesome he thought. It was busy here as a meteor shower.
Happy Birthday thoughts marched across his face.
Would he be able to play baseball after the operation? he wondered.
Thin arms reached up as mom leaned to give her son a hug. Then Bryant received the same from dad and his grandparents.
After aunt Vida's turn he gave a high five to Nathan. When he peeked at Tenesha, she made a funny face.
A strange feeling came from deep within his chest. Wiping his eyes, he waved fingers for his mother to come closer.
Bryant whispered, "Is it okay if I cry?
"Yes," mom answered.
And he buried his head in her arms.
* * *
Richard L. Provencher 2007
81 Queen Street, Unit 6, Truro, Nova Scotia
Canada B2N 2B2 Phone (902) 897-2344
Word Count = 904 for the above story.
Richard enjoys writing, especially poetry. Many poems have been published in Print and Online Journals. He and his wife, Esther are co-authors of Kindle e-books which are now available on Amazon.com. They are "born again" Christians and very busy in their church, Abundant Life Victory International.
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