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Word Count: 11203 Use Article For Free Send Article To Friend Print Article

A CHAPBOOK OF STORIES
by Richard L. Provencher  
5/16/2008 / Writing


SUNSHINE BOY

Elijah has eyes bright as light bulbs. And everyone calls him Sunshine Boy. The world seems a better place when he smiles.

Today is no different.

The little boy woke up, stretched and got out of bed. Brown eyes roamed around the room. Eyelashes moved up and down like windshield wipers.

Some little boys have teddy bears for a friend. Not Elijah. Others have a Bunny Rabbit. Or even Mickey Mouse. Not Elijah.

No way, thank you very much.

He stared at his stuffed Albertasaurus. The green dinosaur smiled back with a mouthful of cloth teeth.

Quickly dress, scoot downstairs and sit for breakfast. That's Elijah all right, run, run, and RUN.

"Didn't comb your hair," said mom.

"Nopenot yet," answered Elijah. He winked at his mom.

She looked into his eyes. And smiled. Then said, "Okay Sunshine Boy, later. Now eat."

"Toast, jam, one egg and " Elijah cradled his head. "WOW! COW! All this for breakfast?" he asked.

"Your tummy won't go KABOOM!" said mom. "Remember our picnic? And hiking will burn up lots of energy." She raised her eyebrow, "Right?"

Elijah wished he could raise his eyebrow too. Then he could look like a pirate.

Daddy waited by the car.

Elijah quickly climbed into the back seat. Everything was packed. "Yikes!" He didn't even help. No, not even one teensy bit.

As he looked at daddy, his eyes lit up.

"Sorry," his smiling father said. He knew Elijah liked to help. "But you were a little slow getting ready for our trip. Right?"

Then daddy arched his right eyebrow. Does he want to be a pirate too? Elijah wondered.

The boy liked the way everything was different in the country.

Houses were no longer stacked closely like canoes on the shore. They were spaced apart like frogs with their own lily pads.

They didn't look as tall as ones in the city, either.

Many were made of wood, with colorful sides. Some had blue and red roofs. Others had large yards. Some buildings looked like golf balls in a huge field.

Their hiking trail was really neat. No longer could he hear his feet THUMP! THUMP! upon sidewalks made of asphalt.

In the forest everything seemed cheerful. Especially after Elijah passed by. Trees seemed to stand straighter.

Grass looked greener.

Deer watching from the woods were at peace. They didn't know how to smile when Elijah peeked at them. So, they just nodded their heads.

UP and down, UP and down.

A partridge strutted. An eagle watched from his perch.

And Elijah kept passing around smiles.

Yes indeed, this was a happy boy. He decided to race ahead of mom and daddy.

"Wait for us," they called.

But he kept on going, noticing all that was around. Not wishing to miss anything. Not even a garter snake.

Sometimes it was hard to be happy. Especially when he tripped over a branch. Or fell down and skinned his knee.

"Clumsy me," Elijah would say. Once in a while, it was hard for this little boy to be brave. Like right now. "Oohit hurts," said he, rubbing his knee.

"Where is mom and daddy?" he asked. But they were nowhere to be seen.

They must have gone another way, he thought. He hadn't run that far ahead, now did he?

Will a bear smile at me, if my eyes light up? Elijah wondered.

If mom and daddy don't find me soon, I won't eat for days and days, thought the little boy. Then I might turn into a bag of bones.

Thoughts like these did not make his face light up.

In fact Elijah now had a sad sack face.

Suddenly mom yelled, "There you are!" She and daddy came quickly to his side. "You shouldn't be in such a hurry," said mom.

Elijah didn't want her to be upset and put his head down. He did not feel glad. How could he ever make people smile again?

After a short walk, they had a picnic.

The eagle flew around, but the little boy did not watch.

And the partridge kept strutting nearby. But Sunshine Boy looked the other way.

Mom and daddy gave their little boy a hug. "We love you Sunshine Boy," they said. "It's okay to feel sad sometimes," said mom.

"You can't make people smile all the time," daddy added.

"Come here son," they called. Then the three of them walked to a little pond.

"Here fishy-fishy," daddy called, throwing in a handful of corn.

A loud SPLASH! Quickly answered.

Fins showed upon the pond's surface. Rainbow trout in large numbers seemed to dance in the water as they circled the corn.

At first it frightened Elijah. But twisting and leaping fish making bubbles helped him laugh. It was good to laugh, "Te-He-He."

Then it became "Ha-Ha-Ha."

Soon he was rolling on the ground, getting all mussed up. But mom and daddy didn't mind. Their little boy was happy again.

Chasing each other through scratchy raspberry bushes was fun.

Then, it was time to go home.

After the family's return, Elijah walked past old Mrs. Frisbart's house. "Mrs. Frisbee," his chums called her.

She liked to bake Elijah the best peanut butter cookies in town. Now she came outside with a bag for him. As he looked at her, his eyes really lit up.

The smile she quickly returned proved he was A-okay. Sunshine Boy's magical smile was working again.

As Elijah strolled to his front door, the grass seemed to sparkle. The birch tree stood so proud.

And the peanut butter cookies tasted great.

* * *


THANK YOU FOR ME

When I wake up my eyes look for mommy. Then my arms throw off my blanket. It becomes an airplane flying across the room.

SMACK! right against the wall.

My feet feel like icicles after touching the floor. YIPES! They hop, skip and jump to the window. Now I can see lots of green grass.

Soon, daddy will have to cut it short. So it can grow up all over again.

A whole stack of birds are playing chase each other. Some are singing, "Want to come out and play?"

Silly me, birds can't talk. But, it's fun to pretend. "Melanie!" Mommy is calling. "Breakfast!"

I'm so hungry. "COMMMING!!" Sometimes I scream really loud. Then I crash into daddy. He's trying to race me down the stairs. Sometimes he even lets me win.

Mommy has brown eyes like mine, with thick eyelashes. When I hold up my arms, she smiles wide like the ocean.

"Hungry dear?" she asks.

I sit down at my own place at the table. Then I pat my dress really smooth. "Yes mommy," I say.

She gives me back her special smile. It's fun making mommy happy. After we eat, I go outside and look at the sky. We need sunshine for our picnic today.

But the sky is dark and cloudy. It makes me sad.

"If we still go, will it thunder and lightning?" I ask.

"Don't worry dear," mommy says. "Daddy will be beside you all the time. He won't let anything happen to you."

When I'm afraid, daddy almost cries. Today I want to be brave. We take egg sandwiches. And drinks.

My favorite is lemonade.

We walk really far until my legs get tired. I don't want a 'lift up'. I'm a big girl now. I'm a whole five years old.

Suddenly it starts to rain. Then lots of floppy drops fall from the sky.

"Our picnic might have to be canceled," mommy says.

I know she feels sad now.

When lightning comes, I get really afraid. Daddy has to pick me up and we all run home. I'm glad Victoria Park is close to our house.

After we get home, mommy gets us hot chocolate. That makes me very happy. Especially when she puts in two marshmallows.

I get brown whiskers on my face. Is that why JC, our cat is looking at me funny? It must make her neck sore, looking up all the time.

I'm really tall for my age.

Now Daddy has to watch TV. His football game is on.

Mommy brings me my 'rainy day' kit. I draw two eyes with my pencil. They can see right through the window. They watch water making little rivers in the street.

My own eyes help me count my fingers. TEN! Then I count my toes too. TEN! I make my eyes look really huge. Now they can see everything in the whole world.

Then I draw my nose. So I can smell all the roses in our garden. And the baking my mommy is now making.

YUMMY! Smells come from the kitchen.

Now I draw two great big ears. They can hear flapping wings. Maybe it's from little ducks in the pond outside.

I even hear "BUZZ-BUZZING" from mosquitoes. Listenfootsteps are coming down the hall.

"Melanie?" Daddy asks.

I pretend I can't hear. I hide under the bed.

"WHERE ARRRE YOUUU?"

I hope daddy doesn't hear my cheeks laughing. I pinch my nose. My face is like a circle, full of pictures. That way everyone will know me.

I'm like a painting on a wall.

Or, I could pretend to be a wave on the lake.

Maybe even a little girl hiding under her bed. And all rolled up, like a kitten fast asleep.

Soon someone is carrying me. When my eyes open a teensy bit, I'm in my bed under the covers. Teddy bear is under my arm.

I look up. Then my mouth opens wide. I give the hugest smile in the whole house. My head turns right, then left. JC is beside me.

Mommy and daddy are here too.

When I reach up with my arms, mommy smiles. Daddy too.

I'M SO GLAD I'M ME!

* * *


SKIPPING STONES

"Mom!" Colin shouted, as he watched ocean waves smack against the shore, at Big Cove beach.

Looking up from her beach blanket, she asked, "What?"

"Did ya see the sail boat? Want to see me skip a stone? Okay if I go for a swim?" asked Colin. "Can I mom? Huh?"

"Which question do you want me to answer first?" mom asked.

"The one about skipping stones," answered Colin.

"Yes," mom said with a smile.

"Thanks mom." His first stone went KEPLUNK! "Shucks, only one splash," he said.

"Nice try," mom said. "Okay if I get my suntan?"

"Watch this one mom," Colin insisted.

"Okay, once more." she said.

Colin's stone simply went KERPLUNK! He could do better. After all, wasn't he the best 'skipper' on the beach?

He proved it last weekend when he did seven skips. Even his buddies said it was something special.

He watched his mother cover her face with Sun Block.

Colin came from Truro. Some friends came from Merigomish, a few miles past New Glasgow. "Oh-my-gosh, MER-I-GO-MISH" Colin said out loud.

The words sounded like a poem.

"What's that?" his mother asked.

"Nothing," Colin answered.

It was time to look for a perfect stone. It had to be small like a quarter. Colin asked, "May I go over to that big tree?"

"No further than that," mom said, sitting up.

Colin skipped across the sand, toes feeling like sausages sizzling on a barbecue. Thankfully the wind was chilly, as waves continued to slap against the beach.

Stepping on mushy seaweed was gross. Colin picked up a few dried up crab shells, and colored bits of clamshells.

He found several rounded stones. The first one had a lump on one side. But, it gave a good grip. Colin stood sideways facing the ocean, feet spread out.

Toes dug into the sand until they were almost hidden like baby clams.

He was a sailor ready to set sail, and his stone a speedy boat. It would ride the waves, skipping over and over.

He hoped it might even hit the other side of the bay. Colin raised an arm, leaned down and threw with power.

"Take that!" he shouted.

His stone soared noisily across the water.

"SLURSH! SLURSH! then KERPLUNK!"

After three skips it was swallowed up by the ocean. He was sure that sea gull was laughing at him.

"Not fair!" Colin shouted. The joke was on him.

Imagine, he could not get seven skips today. If only he was allowed to check the whole beach. The perfect stone may be underwater.

After checking out driftwood pieces and an old rope, he returned to mom. "I'm hungry," he said, pushing away any more 'skipping' plans.

After eating, Colin and his mom had a contest to build the best sand castle.

Mom won.

They had a tickling contest. She won again.

"I could beat you skipping stones," Colin said.

"You think so?" mom teased.

"Yes, I can." He smiled.

The contest was on. Colin would prove he was the best stone-skipping champion in all Nova Scotia. It would be fun to beat his mom at something.

He searched all over the beach for the perfect stone. Colin looked under driftwood, and little sand dunes on the shore. He even searched under squirmy seaweed.

Finally, he found the perfect stone. It was the size of a Canadian 'Toonie' except heavier. Yes, this was a winner.

Colin even practiced his winning laugh. "Ha-Ha-Ha." Or should he say, "I finally won!" But, that might be bragging. He didn't want to act like that.

As Colin sat on the beach he remembered the many times mom helped him.

She always listened when he had a problem.

Mom brought back his balloon when it escaped.

She even lifted him from the ocean when a wave knocked him on his face. Having a mouthful of salt water was not nice.

Yesterday she barbecued those tasty hot dogs. Besides, his mother gave the best hugs any boy would want.

Did he really want to win over mom?

Maybe he could think of another contest.

What should he do?

"Colin?"

"Yeah, mom?"

"I'm ready for our skipping stone contest," she said.

"Just a minute, I'm thinking," he said, placing his sure-fire winning stone in his pocket.

"Come see what I found," his mother said. Hers was a nice round one, but not quite as fine as his. Colin was sure he had the winning one.

But it didn't seem so important right now. "I know another game we could play," he said.

"Is it a new game?" asked his mother.

"Yes," Colin answered.

"Is it a fun game?" she asked.

"Yes," her son answered with a huge smile.

"Do you think you can beat me this time?"

"Yes! Yes!" he yelled.

"Okay, what is it then?" mom asked.

"The first one to say, I LOVE YOU TEN TIMES!" He shouted loud enough for the seagulls to hear.

Colin won.

* * *

DADDY

There are still things I want to
tell you...

I want daddy to give me a great
big hug. Sometimes he is too
busy. When I grow up I'm going to give
him lots of hugs.

The creek we fish in is full of freezing water.
I fall in. Then my fish wrestles
with the wiggly worm on my hook. That
smelly fish is sure yummy.

When I wear my sailor suit, daddy says
I look super, dooper neat. Then
we chase each other
around the room. Playing tag is fun.

There are no more moose at Moose Bay
Beach. The sand there plays
peek-a-boo between my toes. Where did
all the moose go?

Horsey-back is my favorite game. Why
does daddy have to go
work far away? I'll be a good boy
until he comes back.

When we go grocery shopping
I help. I put in a box of corn flakes, even
push the cart. Later I hold
daddy's hand.

When daddy is tired, I make
him supper. He likes toast and milk and
sometimes a bag of peanuts. I'm
glad to help my daddy.

We walk far after daddy is upset. I must
not go back to the lake by
myself. I love you, daddy.

I LOVE you.

* * *

COME BACK, SOON

Think of a mouse
as a piece of cheese
with legs

that's you little one
my daughter, my
little girl

full of fun and
lots of play,
yesterday and today.

Go to school, read books
see your friends
play games, 'Dear Playmate'
your favorite.

In the warm afternoon
between two alders, among
the willow trees, I
carefully step over pointy
thistles, ouch

you bounce
past the rope swing
and
more prickles.

I bend really low
to follow the
leader,
you.

When children grow
and grow
little girls are not around
anymore.

Where is daddy's little girl?
Where is
mommy's little girl?

Everyone
loved that sweet
little face

who once dreamed
of mice all over
the
basement.
Do you remember?

"More like a rat nightmare
for a six
year old girl," you said.

You grew up one day
like a calico cat
proud
and beautiful

like the time I used
to see you

pointing your
pink water pistol
beside the
pretty yellow flower patch
near the cabin

in the woods, bare feet
walking
past forget-me-nots.

You, picking puff balls
then through
tall grass
over thistles
past daddy's hammock

running with the wind
at your back
across panels of wood
for a sidewalk.

Now I'm here again
alone-
trees surrounded by walls
made of blankets
still hanging
after all these years

that old
cushion and table
and daddy's piece of
panel roof.

What's missing
is a little girl's
bare feet.

No longer here.

Little angel,
come back soon
and be my little girl
once again.

* * *

USED AS A VESSEL essay

I believe there is time for restoration in hearts and minds amid challenges of this world. And can best be accomplished through the word of God.

Especially leaning on the sanctuary of Psalm 23, beginning with verse 1. Reading these blessed words is like sinking one's teeth into a delicious meal. It can be a comforting wind pushing encouragement forward as a series of ocean waves.

I know a fellow who once had Acrophobia, and his wife was quite discouraged.

He had been a successful businessman who lost everything, followed by bankruptcy. Unable to hold his head up high he withdrew into his personal cave, a bedroom from which he barely peeked.

Apparently, that was the way he lived for several years.

At first, his wife did not know what to do. She was a Christian woman and listening to the Holy Spirit brought a solution that came as a flash of electricity. After holding our weekly Bible Study classes in her home, he eventually joined the group.

It began with his coming to watch, then sit and finally becoming a valuable member of our conversational studies.

Although it took several months, he joined his wife and both were used as vessels of God's work. He is a happy man today, able to blink back his hesitation and quite capable of participating in the adventures of life.

Similar limitations can descend like an Alzheimer affliction, upon each of us, thus transferring memories into shadows in daily living. Such disabilities can severely limit our role in society, and destroy any effective communication.

But we can overcome difficulties if we are one with El Shaddai, our God and Protector. Yes, as it says in the opening curtain of Psalm 23, the Lord is my Shepherd and I have everything I need.

It is our choice to reach out, and believe. And most times is our only escape from darkness into the changing light.

We serve a living God, One who desires we arise in His strength.

Only then can our hopes among sorrows be presented to the world. Hope can be used as a method of honoring Him, since a positive-minded person can be more effective in society. Especially if we wish to help others achieve by overcoming their own personal struggles.

Sorrows are not wholly negative since they provide a training manual from which we grow to succeed.

God's Word says He will never overload us with difficulties to the point we cannot be successful in life. And I believe it to be true. During our childhood we escape the world by hide and seek. Another is Kick the Can, then run away before someone catches us.

After growing into adulthood there is learning to do, and we must persevere with a whole new set of rules.

We do wish to graduate from childhood. And we do desire to be a helping person in today's society. Indeed, it is truly possible with our God, a Living Spirit who dwells within us.

* * *


THE HEALER

The telephone call came from mom 7 PM. April 26, 1999. Actually it was her neighbor, Mrs. Good Person who asked, "Is this Richard, the son of Ed and Millie? Yes? I'm afraid I have some bad news for you. Here's your mother."

"Dickie? Your father passed away suddenly tonight, a massive heart attack. It was so fast. I can't believe it. He's gone."

And then the crying began.

Thoughts and feelings swirled through my brain. It was four years ago since seeing you, dad. At the time you had been operated on for lung cancer. "He should be as good as new," the doctor said, trying to be cheerful after the hardship we had gone through.

You had survived eight days in the Intensive Care wing. Usually a patient was out of danger in six, and relocated within the hospital. Or, they were dead. You survived being on life support on two occasions after the removal of one third of your lung.

"He'll have no second wind," the doctor stated at the time.

I remember that hush in the room at home in Nova Scotia, where close friends had gathered. They shared my concerns upon hearing you had undergone a lung cancer operation. A hurried decision had been made, arrangements completed and soon the plane was taking off from Halifax airport.

My prayer was, "Dear God, please don't let dad die before I get there. I have things to say to him." And my prayers were answered.

I now had the mission statement from St. Joseph's Hospital in my grasp. "Caring hands" was the best part. Four years ago, you looked like the recipient of many hands. A twinkle sparked in your eyes briefly, then the doctor was gone to share some news to others waiting, on behalf of their own kin.

I remember the Family Room held ten or twelve people. Most had been crying for a loved one in the Intensive Care unit. Except for a couple of teenaged children. They shuffled nervous feet, unsure of what to say or do.

As I stepped through the doorway, my sister came out. Susan held a handkerchief to her face. After a brief hug, I went in to see you, dad. The other patients could barely lift their eyes as I walked past.

You had tubes coming out of tubes. "He's on Life Support," they said. You looked old, much older than 76. Still so young, I thought. I knelt and said a prayer. Later you would challenge me with, "I suppose you came all this way to save my soul."

I didn't know what to say at the time. If I had been quick enough on the draw, I would have answered, "Of course. I sure didn't travel 1,500 miles by plane for nothing. And certainly not to see you die," I would have added.

"The farthest dad ever walked was from his apartment to the liquor store down the block," we used to joke.

At St. Joseph's hospital in Toronto, most patients aren't aware of the hundreds of thousands of cars whizzing by a short distance away. One of the busiest highways in Canada propels vehicles forward, almost like out-of-control kites.

But, inside the hospital most people don't seem to care about the traffic. Their concerns are about getting well, walking home, and returning to family. Some had working shifts waiting for them, and children to care for.

It was a dream for many patients to climb down from the hospital bed. Then sit at their own dinner table with family. Maybe even have a glass of water, wine, pizza, or salad. Anything. Just to be away from the medicine, needles, and pain.

And all those white-smocked people coming into the room and staring. Many would bend towards the patient and whisper concerned thoughts. After leaving, the patient was left wondering how long the healing would take.

A few family members were on their knees in the corner, praying. I joined them with my own lips moving silently. It was like being a child again. Many years ago, I did this very thing. On my knees in the classroom, facing the back of my wooden chair.

My bony knees always hurt. A priest once told us, "Pain and hardship brings you closer to God."

The first time I had a confrontation with you dad, I was three. At the time we were living on Taschereau Street in Rouyn, Quebec. Even at that age, I realized one has to be quiet on wooden sidewalks. Mr. Rubick owned the apartment house we lived in. And chasing noisy children was not on his list of favorite things to do.

Thankfully, we lived upstairs at the back, out of his sight.

One day when I was older, I let a kitten drop from the second story onto the grass below. It was a stupid thing. Thankfully, the pussycat was not hurt. I never forgot that moment of pain when I rushed downstairs to check on the cat. By the time I got there, she was gone. Since then, I have always taken excellent care of my cats. It's as if I had to make up for that mean moment in my life. I was eight at the time.

How do I remember that incident, dad? Not long after, I had a birthday cake party. I still have the picture and count eight candles.

Back to age three. Once again I wandered off down the street via the wooden sidewalk. I was always on the go. And my growing legs became bolder and wanted to see over the next hill.

And I still have this child-like curiosity today.

Except, at that young time in my life, it was a "No-No" to head to Osisko Lake, situated in the center of our town. I was enthralled by the sound of engines. Otters and Beavers constantly landed and took off for parts unknown. My soul wanted to be part of their excitement.

Years later, I had the pleasure of travelling all around James Bay by Beaver aircraft. And its destination was totally at my command.

When I stood watching the activity on Lake Osisko, it sent sparks up and down my t-shirt and short pants. Then the back hairs from my head stood straight up. I dared to turn around and saw you coming with a willow branch to 'beat my stubbornness off.' I must have blanked out due to the results of that visitation. For some strange reason I remember no further details about the incident.

I remember doing a lot of praying all my young life. Everyone told me I was going to grow up, be an altar boy, then join the priesthood. I did neither. But, I never stopped praying for your recovery.

That time four years ago, my prayers covered me like a blanket as I traveled to Toronto. If only this blanket of precious memories could be kept intact and wrapped around your coffin, if you didn't make it by the time I arrived.

I was lucky to be able to mooch a ride with dear friends. Actually they felt sorry about my sadness. It's not the most pleasant news to hear your dad has died. So many thoughts kept churning in my mind, and words about some love still left for my father, left unsaid after all these years.

Yet, glad to have made peace with you in Toronto. It's as if the prayers I had brought then all the way from Nova Scotia stirred your soul. You had recuperated enough in the week I was there to be released shortly after I caught a plane home.

If only those words, left in a corner of my mind had been spoken. "I forgive you, dad," just a short phrase. I know you would have loved to hear not just the quiet closing of my mind to your ranting in the past, but my quiet whisper of forgiveness as I stood over your hospital bed.

As I watch through the car window, thoughts of your funeral occupy my mind. Why is it we don't visit often enough when someone is still alive? Somehow I must make an effort to visit my siblings, scattered from Toronto to Vancouver.

My friend's car takes us through Fredericton, NB. It's a lovely city, with trees of white birch surrounding many beautiful homes, and secluded back porches. An Irving Big Stop whizzes by, city of Salisbury too then another truck resting place. Some drivers are snoozing, others playing in the games room.

Instead of prowling the highways like those men of steel-eyed resolve, I'm on my way to dad's funeral. With friends who kindly changed their travel plans, leaving a day earlier for Toronto. Imagine just for me, and for my dad. We're going to be together again, one more time.

My spirit is numb as the countryside blurs along. My eyes glaze over, torn between memory, scenery and tears. Trees flip by, acreage stretching far into the next ridge. My mind flips through a journey of recollections, progressing from childhood forward.

As I breathe, I can still smell the pizza we ate a little while ago at Pizza Delight. 10 toppings. I had my usual ample share. Licking my lips, the aroma still covered me like mist.

Edmunston sprawls beside the highway outside my window, like an alley cat snug across several hills. Houses are sprinkled in random bunches, shingles scented with colored patterns. Mismatched shingles remind the owners where rain used to penetrate into rooms below.

Someone must have had to duck between raindrops.

A friend perhaps, someone without much knowledge in matching properly, was kind enough to volunteer the job. In any case, the act is done and the rain now redirected across the roof, to rusting eaves troughs.

Notre Dame de Lac this time of year is like a breath of icy surface. Its Bays are finger-shapes spreading in five directions. One of them is an outline similar to Moose Bay Beach, from my childhood in North-Western Quebec.

Dressed up patches of white lay in lazy clumps, aside the highway.

Leaving New Brunswick, the sun splits the mountain from sky. It pierces eyes, distracts vision, and slowly creeps into hiding as our highway dips into the next valley.

I'm like you, dad. I care. I hurt. I cry. Remember that time mom and I went looking for you? It was Payday at the mine and you weren't home in time for supper, for two straight days. Looking for you meant that a boy of twelve had to be a man and take his worried mom from bar to bar.

Gambling and booze loved your precious paychecks. And yours was a favored feast. I found you sitting at the table in a back room, cards on the table with a stack of loose paper money in the center. My young hand shot forward and grabbed a bunch of bills.

"Take your hands off that kid," a boozy voice said at the time. You just sat there, bleary eyed, proud of your boy. You knew I was only a kid but gutsy, making his move, because the time presented itself. That attitude often helped me in my quest for future employment years into the future.

"Mom's outside in the foyer waiting, dad," I said at the time.

No movement, just sadness in your eyes. No money left in your pocket, and five kids and a wife needing more than words of love. As I grew up into the world I felt that same helplessness mom felt, knowing there was going to be little to eat for a few days.

I remembering this young boy, me, retreating to the front of the Sports Taverne, weaving between tables of empty glasses, stale air and go-go dancers wearing hardly a thing. My eyes flicked around, right and left, a tightness growing between my legs. I wasn't supposed to like coming in here, but I did.

Mom was waiting. Unescorted ladies couldn't enter the Sports Taverne, but male kids like me could. It was confusing.

We drove into the Province of Quebec at 8 pm; 7 pm Truro, Nova Scotia time. Greeted by purple streaks, pastel strands of cloudy wisps, silver and gold wrestling for space. It was a nice welcome for a return to my home province.

As darkness descended, rumbles of wheels followed. Trees mashed together in darkness, only their tops bathed in rays of descending sun, reluctant to leave this world. House lights lit up like flames from jack-lanterns, directing us to Riviere Du Loup. Hills as sleepy lions humped along the shore followed our car's movement as it sped along on rubbery steps.

The man in the moon seems sad. He must have looked into my soul. Truck trains, two 52-foot trailers, full loads attached to a semi roared alongside. Trees whizzed by, water flashed silvery reflections, and the sky tumbled into a sleepy stillness as late farmers completed plowing their fields.

Bedroom lights peek between blinds, peering from windows. It's as if a ranch is tired and now shutting down after a hard day on the range.

You enjoyed reading Zane Grey westerns. So did I. I always wanted to be a cowboy, ever since I was around eight. I remember running around in the snow after opening up my neat Christmas present, cap guns blazing. I wanted to be the hero, the brave one capturing villains.

And rescuing helpless damsels, waiting for someone like me.

I was so young and innocent at the time. And as I grew older, much of that bravado left me. Life's bruises stuck like shades of brown skin. You kept telling me how tough the world could be, especially after you climbed back home after the Second World War.

Dear dad, so much to remember. My head feels like a cliché. Burnt fields outside my window appear as darker patches within a spreading quilt. A car begins to race ahead on a road parallel to ours. Front and sidelights challenging. Wants to play -- now going ahead.

It's just like you, isn't it dad? I know it is. Always telling me I can do better. Sometimes I can't move fast enough to keep up. Guess I'm not supposed to get ahead of myself. And I know you'll be there waiting for me this time.

No nagging, no complaining and giving me no chance to sulk and run off into the woods where my respite always waited, by some bank alongside a wilderness lake.

I can see where Levis Ultramar oil storage tanks are followed by the Quebec City Museum of Civilization; then Travelodge Motel. Signs and more Signs appear. From Quebec City, buildings of glass are trim bricked footsteps of light adorning the highway, pointing the way to Toronto.

The eastern sky is a sliver of silver, peek-a-boo eyes of orange on the horizon. Residential developments arise as splayed models of architecture. Hewett Caterpillars are in rows of yellow, sleek tools of construction.

My transformation from wimp to overbearing at times began as a six year old. In frustration over some silly disagreement, I tried to punch a boy in the schoolyard, missed and hit the cement wall instead. Pain and shame accompanied my hurting in class. I remember the taste of blood on my knuckles, upturned edges of skin raw, causing me to wince.

Even now I can still make out the scars on three knuckles of my right hand.

Billboards are colors of information- CAP SANTE one reads. My tears begin to fall, recollections of our few times together fade as our car continues on Highway 40 Ouest. A black sky hovers overhead, surrounds us like a piecrust. Moving forward, onward, a metronome in my head, while in the background of our car, a song. "God is Good."

Waves of geese are squadrons of newness, a journey of their return. And they remind me of the wonderful year I spent in James Bay. I wasn't lonely at all, with the Moose River breeze confronting me as I stood on the shore looking across towards the Federal Reserve. I know you were proud of me dad, going all that way up north to work with the Cree Natives. And it helped me grow up quite a bit.

More signs begin to show up, as we get closer to our destination.

TROIS RIVIERES 35

MONTREAL 205

Fleur de Lis are painted on the side of a wood shed. Separation used to be such a big thing among the people when I lived in Rouyn. Now it's mostly the politicians trying to figure out who will be King of the glorious hilltop.

We turn off on Highway 40 Ouest to Montreal. Wood chip piles waiting for usage like us, wanting to be useful, and piled higher than a rockslide.

BAR COUNTRY is another billboard of information.

Steeples from churches rise boldly among the lesser buildings, as a mother hen surrounded by baby chicks.

8:30 am traffic now begins to pick up. Cars of all sizes, makes, colors are hurrying. Why? The flow of civilization is the first sign of human activity. (If only, you could do as it says in the Bible, dad. "Arise and come forth," Jesus said to Lazarus). I wish you were here right now, talking with me, instead of just listening to my ramblings.

Lawnmowers cough all over the boulevard, a man picks up refuse on the side of the road, and I close my eyes. It's two days now that dad has died. And I continue on my way.

RUE SHERBROOKE, ST JEAN BAPTISTE billboards.

I remember that lit up cross on the hillside. It's been about twenty years since I climbed those steps to St. Joseph's Oratory. And remember Brother Andre and his saintly ways.

Long lines of traffic match acres of oil refineries on either side of our highway. Montreal roads seem to be covered in endless rows of slow, then faster vehicles. I'm pleased that my driver knows the way. The condition of my mind wouldn't allow me to concentrate on driving.

40 OUEST CORNALL 59

OTTAWA-HULL TORONTO 490

BRIDGE TO USA TORONTO 360

Construction continues on our overpass, more developments to maneuver around. Kemp Park Playground is a collection of swings, wired up baseball backstop and grass.

Remember dad? When we played 'scrub-baseball' with the neighbors? Everyone used the empty lot beside the Veteran's town-site in Rouyn, Quebec. Boys, mothers, sisters and fathers of all ages, shapes and sizes.

I could barely swing the bat properly then. I'm better now. I almost got a homerun when I played on my wife's Montreal bank team in Sarnia, Ontario. In fact our team won the championship. It was so exhausting, that I never played since.

Highway 401 now seems to separate at Kingston. Did driving fools cause this? It's such an expense to prevent careless ones from smashing into one another. We stopped and ate at Arby's in Brockville.

I remember flying in a Cessna with a friend way back in 1968. We drove speedily from Toronto to Brockville to pick up a plane and practice landings. The ground below was like squares of color. I was the navigator trying to find highways on a road map.

Imagine, me? I used to be so shy, the kid with google-eye glasses. The bullies used to chase other 'four-eyes' like me. And here I was telling my friend where to fly his plane. Wow, I was the Navigator.

TRENTON 19

TORONTO 154

Trenton Air Cadet memories remind me of my first summer camp in 1955, an LAC at 13. And the second time there at age nineteen I was a Pilot Officer. There were six of us in charge of about 400 kids, under the supervision of adult officers, of course. What a summer that was. And I know that page is still fresh in my heart. I know you were proud of me.

PETERBOROUGH

At Haliburton Scout Camp nearby, I was a Composite scout leader for two summers. You were surprised that I would drive 400 miles on a Honda 50, with a top speed of 30 mph. And I drove all that distance including every secondary road imaginable. It was a great experience for me.

Learning to organize canoe trips and work with a team to help 32 kids from the Toronto area enjoy a summer of bugs and trees. And lake water where new swimmers learned a thing or two. And that small motorcycle my best friend Steve loaned me in 1964 sure came in handy? Yes dad, family and friends sure make life worthwhile.

It's now 3pm.

OSHAWA 17

TORONTO 72

Remember the Cub camp I went to, and my old girl friend in Oshawa? "About time you got interested in girls," you said at the time. I wonder where she is now.

TORONTO 57

Traffic is now picking up, all heading for the big city.

AJAX 67,000

I remember the population was 10,000 in 1965.

SHEPHERD/KINGSTON RD

Now we're driving on the outskirts of the big city. I'm always amazed at how such a large gathering of cars and trucks can pour into Toronto and even find a place to park. Imagine, the sign says TORONTO 2,260,000 pop (now amalgamated). There was a lot of hullabaloo about how it would be more efficient if all the surrounding towns and cities joined together for the sake of efficiency. Well, time will tell.

CTV, and other huge business towers are like tall trees over the residential areas. Cars are approaching as an army on the move on our left, the other side of a never ending-cement road divider.

'NEW EXPRESS TOLL HIGHWAY' is an interesting message.

AVENUE ROAD signals its approach. Remember the summer job I had in Toronto as an Air Cadet? I was learning about Orenda engines, ugh. You knew I hated grease and oil. But I wanted to do anything to get away to the big city.

KEELE ST/BARRIE

WESTON RD

The signs keep marking our way. They're like some link to my destination, to your side. Even though we won't speak again, I look forward to seeing you once more dad. Sadly though it will be to see you lay in your coffin.

Memories of an orange cat haunt me. It was run over right in front of my eyes at the intersection of Weston and Dundas Streets. And I really like cats.

Cars shimmer in sun's reflection on overpasses. Remember your accident in Toronto, the year after our whole family moved there? You followed that car into the yellow light, the fellow stopping suddenly. It was the last time you drove after that fine and suspension.

I believe you now dad, it wasn't your fault. After all these years of driving I now understand how easily it could happen.

AIRPORT sign.

My driver-friend says we're now 1,710 km from Truro, NS.

TERMINAL 2 - NEW PARKING (Large Garage) This was certainly a surprise that a whole new area was needed for incoming planes. You didn't like to travel by plane much, dad. But I did. I guess it was because of my enjoyment of six years in the Air Cadets.

Then HWY 427 to QUEENSWAY to STEPHEN DRIVE.

I get out at the apartment where you lived for 30 years. Did you have really good memories living there those years dad? It was where your sudden and massive heart attack took place. I'm glad mom was there. I hope my wife is with me at the end. She and I are also very close.

By my side, forever and always, she is.

At the apartment your personal effects are well marked. Hatboxes with dark fedoras, scarves, gloves, paper bunched up in boots barely used. Papers in drawers are tidy and organized. Shirts out of style, pointy collars, some with large wings like old friends.

Pills in your desk drawer masked the silent death that was lurking at your door. You had some heart problems not even known to mom. Arthrotec- 1 tab by mouth every 4 hr (personal note marked painful). Idarac- 1 tab every 4 hr. or when required. (pain is a note scribbled on your RX bottle).

This is not really the end of my journey, dad. Yes my car trip is over. Now I'm here with the family; your sons and three daughters giving solace to Mom. Her pain is now my pain, our pain. We're sorting your memories and also getting ready for the funeral.

Your oldest son made it. And he's grown up, not only on the outside dad, but also on the inside. Yes, I made it dad. And I'm here for you.


* * *


SPECIAL MOMENTS

Each morning the sun opened like an egg yolk through Travis' window. Today was no exception. The boy sat up suddenly. Having an inner clock was like someone shaking him awake. Travis rubbed his eyes then skinny legs leaped from the lower cot, his feet slapping on the cold wooden floor.

He watched a Blue Jay pecking at sunflower seeds from the bird feeder he and mom had fun building last week. The boy's blue eyes matched the brightly colored plumage of the wild bird. If only he could fly around like that bird and soar above his home and school. And maybe have a different home, or a different life.

The boy shook his head at that awesome thought.

He pulled on yesterday's jeans and sweaty T-shirt. Mom wished he would put on clean clothes each day. Well, at least a fresh pair of socks should keep her happy. Travis quietly opened an old dresser drawer and selected his favorite white ones. Then tiptoed past Pete, his twelve-year old brother asleep in the upper cot. Fair-haired Travis was two years younger and didn't seem to need as much sleep.

Besides, each morning he had private plans. He had to get up before his brothers and sisters. It was his only chance to get to check on different animals and birds visiting his backyard. These days, they were his only friends and helped him feel more worthwhile. Knowing someone depended on him meant something.

Now Travis quietly slipped past sleeping forms in other bedrooms. And made his way to the back of the house, where the freedom of a large back property awaited. The boy was met with chilly air and a ghostly mist lingering in the field. Massaging his goose bumps brought shivers to arms and shoulders.

Actually, Travis was happy living here. Five glorious acres of wooded paradise belonging to his grandmother stretched before him as he filled his lungs with fresh air.

Sounds drifted alongside the wind, stirring pleasant memories. Various melodies brushed against his ears. They came from the throats of Sparrows, Chickadees and Pine Siskins. "CAW! CAW!" from Mickey his pet crow, was a more familiar sound. Being around them caused the boy to feel more alive. His body tingled all the way to his hand-me-down sneakers, a gift passed on from his thirteen-year old brother, Jeff.

Feathered friends helped him forget how poor his family really was. "Don't worry so much, Travis. You still have a lot going for you," lingered in his mind from mom's words. And the boy felt really sad knowing his family was the only one around without an indoor bathroom. It was quite embarrassing and after a few visits, friends stopped visiting.

With tail waving a reply to Travis' friendly hello, a red squirrel scurried into view. "Hey," the furry animal almost seemed to say." The boy knew squirrels couldn't talk. But did it really matter? It was neat pretending as the little animal came close, trusting. Travis held a few peanuts in his hand before they were snatched away.

He spent the next twenty minutes roaming the back yard checking for other outdoor activity. Mouse trails looked like tiny ditches in the muddy. And Travis noticed bird-scratchings, where worms were sought. Then he was sure he discovered what must be an eagle's feather. Perhaps it came from that huge bald eagle during last evening's fly past. A startled cottontail bounded away in a rush, whiskers twitching at low speed.

"Travis! You out there?" mom called. Edna Carter came into view, colorful housecoat tied tightly at the waist.

"I'm over here," the boy replied. Then he ducked around the corner of the house in a game of hide-and-seek. His mother found him and wrapped her son laughingly in a warm hug. "You deserve to stay in bed longer, mom." It was more of a word game he played, knowing he and mom enjoyed this special time together.

"Not when you're out here with just a T-shirt. Here, put this on," she said.

Raising his arms, Travis allowed mom to pull a sweater over his head. Sometimes she acted more like a friend than a mother. Wisps of gray snuck through her thick hair, brushed back into a ponytail. Some people say it made her look cross, but not to Travis.

"I'm always interested in seeing you stay healthy," she said, more to herself. Her brilliant blue eyes were warm and caring. Travis didn't mind being told his were the same color as moms. He didn't have a dad, just a great mom.

"So, what did you see this morning?" she asked.

Travis' thin shoulders gave an exaggerated shrug. "I dunno. Just looking around at things. You should see how birds and squirrels sometimes come up to me really close. They're my best friends, you know. I wish I could hold them and pat them. Once I even saw a deer..." His words tumbled as the waterfall at Perch Creek, where speckled trout were a decent size.

"WhoaWhoa. Hon, don't expect too much. They're wild creatures. They really don't trust people." She watched him carefully, hoping her words didn't sound mean.

"I know mom," he cut in. "But I'm just a kid. They know I wouldn't hurt them." His sincere expression brought a smile from his mom.

"What about your pig, Charlie? He's your friend too. Don't you think he's feeling a little jealous having to share you?"

"But he's more like a prisoner in his pen, mom," Travis said, shaking his head in frustration. "Besides, we're going to eat him some day. It's not the same, at all." As he rushed towards the house, tears tried to break loose. Rusty springs screamed in protest when the door clanged behind him.

"Travis you come back here this very minute!" Mom's voice carried through the screen door and froze him in his tracks. He wondered if he should pretend not to hear. No, he couldn't. Not to mom. The boy waited several moments before answering. "Coming." Now they faced each other, mother and son.

"Know something?" she asked.

"No," the boy mumbled.

"I love you," she said softly.

He cracked a smile. Now she had him.

"I'm sorry I yelled at you," she said.

Travis came closer and took her hand. He led her boldly across the yard. His hand in hers was warm and comforting. And he held his chin high.

"Come on mom. I want you to meet my friends," he said.

And she went along.

* * *


A CHRISTIAN BOY

Lug a bag of loose bones
to the bookstore, so
grown-ups can notice
those secret shapes.

My teacher told me
when you are young
you'll have weird ideas
on what is fun for
growing boys.

Pickles and pigeons, even
roaring lions make my
nose nervous, but
karate kicks help me

especially when I want to
kick the devil in the face.

* * *


LUNCH BREAK

Sitting on the front porch steps waiting for mom was no fun. She should be here by now. John had been waiting for twenty minutes. He was steaming.

In Sunday school his teacher always said, "Count to ten, John."

Could he help it if he had a temper tantrum once in a while?

"Mom, where are you?" his tongue whined. At least the key should be in the mailbox. But it wasn't.

He could see her now at work not even worrying about him. She would be sitting at her computer desk, typing away. Probably chewing gum too, he thought.

"I wish I had a piece of her gum," he said aloud.

John looked down at his black and white TNT Joggers. Dad said they were 'nifty.' Dad always worked through lunch, so John couldn't get angry at him.

But mom is always here at noon.

He watched his neighbor Mr. Lawrence come up the walk. "Hi," he said to the man.

"Hi back," the man said. "What's wrong John? You look like you've lost your best friend."

"Old joke," thought John.

"Can't even have dinner today," John said. "Mom's not home yet. And if she doesn't come soon, I'll be late for school."

"Well if she doesn't come soon, have lunch with Mrs. Lawrence and myself. Deal?"

"OK," the boy said. But he didn't want to go. He would just wait. And wait.

And when mom finally came, she would feel bad.

Hey! Maybe I'll stay home this afternoon, he thought.

But a little voice inside said, "Be patient." And a Sunday School lesson on the edge of his mind whispered, "Forgive."

It was a powerful study on one of Jesus' special messages.

He thought of his sister Esther. She should be here soon. Jr. High got out later. And Esther had her own key.

"Omigosh. Almost 12:30. I have to be back by 1:00 pm. Oh no." John placed his head on his knees. And put his hands on the back of his head.

He really felt weak from hunger now.

By the time his sister got home he'd probably be just a pile of bones. The front step would be all cluttered up with them.

What if he left now? His tummy said, wait for your sister. At least get a glass of milk.

His legs said, go to Mr. Lawrence's house next door. He was invited. But no, John was a very stubborn ten year old.

Just then his thirteen-year old sister Esther showed up. She had no school today.

Wait 'til she hears I sat here for most of my lunch hour, almost starving to death.

Esther's usual smiling face suddenly looked worried as she saw her brother.

"What are you doing sitting here?" she asked.

John said why in his saddest voice. He wanted his sister to feel sorry for him.

Her name came from Queen Esther in the bible.

His came from John the Baptist. But none of that mattered right now.

His tummy was shrinking. The skin would soon be falling off his bones. The wind might even come and blow him away.

His sister's eyes got really huge. "John," she said.

Her mouth opened to say something. It closed then opened again. Finally she said, "You silly goose."

"Don't call me names," he yelled back at his sister.

"No, I mean...you forgot. Oh John, you forgot!" Then she started laughing.

"It's not funny! I'm hungry! Mom's not here! She didn't even leave me a key, Esther." He was almost on the verge of tears.

His big sister wrapped her arms around him. He let her only because he felt so miserable.

"John," Esther said. "Mom did make your lunch. You forgot she had to work through lunch today. Same as dad."

John jumped back in horror. He did forget. "Omigosh!" was all he could say. Oh no. His lunch was in his locker at school.

"Omigosh. I forgive her. I forgive her."

He had even helped make lunch last night, delicious peanut butter and banana sandwiches. And cookies, also an apple, even his favourite drink, chocolate milk.

"For a special treat because I won't be here," his mom had said. How could he think such mean things about her? "Tell...mom...I'm sorry!" he shouted. He looked at his watch. He still had twenty minutes to get to school and eat something.

Esther yelled, "Be careful! Don't trip!"

But John couldn't hear. His feet were like thunder as they pounded across the pavement.

* * *


FACES

Saturday morning meant chores. "Uggg."

Leah dragged herself out of bed and looked in the mirror. She scrunched up her face. It looked like an old witch mask she wore last year on Halloween.

Sounds from the kitchen meant mommy was up. How come she gets up so early, anyhow?

Ever since daddy moved away mommy always washes the dishes, instead of using the dishwasher. Then she attacks the kitchen floor with a flying mop, like right now.

Is this a dirty house or something?

She had questions, and more questions. Sometimes it was almost too much for a seven-year old girl to figure out.

Leah padded into the working area and into a trap.

"Want to help?" her mother asked sweetly, holding out the dripping mop, with cat hairs hanging from it.

"Yuck" answered Leah. Her face immediately went into action. Her bottom lip quickly moved over the top one. Both cheeks spread tightly over her cheekbones.

It was a "I'm-not- awake-yet type of face." She had practiced it often.

"Maybe after," she said.

Later during breakfast, mother and child sat having pancakes and maple syrup. Leah's favorite. Their friends, the Fishers had made it from their maple sugar bush north of Bass River.

This time Leah helped put the dishes away and cleaned off the table. Daddy used to help too, when he lived here.

She couldn't wait to get outside.

The day was so sunny.

Besides, her bicycle needed someone to take it for a ride. As her feet landed at the bottom of the front steps, Leah noticed her mother kneeling beside the porch.

She asked, "Do you want to help me plant a few flowers?"

Leah suddenly had a horrible look. This time her surprised face widened so much, her eyes almost popped out of her skull.

"Just when I was going to ride my bike," she answered sadly. There were tears in her voice.

"That's okay," her mother smiled patiently. "But, I'll be happy if you only plant two."

"Why only two?" Leah asked. Suddenly she was interested.

"One for you and one for me. I'll even give you first choice from these lovely petunias," mom's happy face said.

Instead, Leah planted four. There was one for grandma Mildred and one for grandpa Ed, too. They live faraway in Toronto.

"Don't forget to come and join me for dinner at the Fisher's. I'm babysitting Paul for a few hours while his mom goes shopping."

Leah liked little Paul. He was a year and a half old and besides, he laughed a lot at her funny faces.

Before long, morning fun rushed by. After bicycle riding, there were tag games and skipping with friends. Then Leah scooted over to where mom was waiting.

"Just in time to help me change Paul's diapers," her mom said cheerfully.

"Yucky!" Leah answered quickly as a lightning bolt. Changing stinky diapers was not her favorite chore. Now her look was awesome.

She put on the absolute worst face she could make up. This time her ears stuck way out and you could hardly see her eyes. She blew out her cheeks until they looked like small hills.

Finally she settled down and watched as mommy carefully washed the little boy. She powdered and placed a clean diaper on him.

"There now Paul, doesn't that feel good?"

"Ya-ya" he answered looking at Leah with a loving smile. His eyes always brightened when she was around. She smiled back at him.

"Do you want to come to the store with me? I have to get a few things," her mother asked.

And again Leah made a nasty face. "But mom, I want to play some more with my friends. I promised."

"Okay then, If you promised. I believe you."

It was true. Her best friend Samantha from school was coming over to play with Leah soon.

After supper that night, Leah helped with the dishes. And without even being asked. She made a face at first, but it was not as nasty as usual. She even left out her usual whining.

Before you could shake a rabbit's tail, she was into pajamas, brushing teeth and quickly sliding under bed covers.

"Mommy," she called out. "Tell me a story, please."

And her mom did just that.

"Tonight's story is about a little girl and her mommy who live in a large house. It's huge as a mountain. And it has a tire swing in the backyard that can travel to the moon.

Pretty flowers dance in front of the house. Red is the little girl's favorite color. These special people even have dear friends who give them maple syrup.

And these friends have a handsome little son.
Guess what? His name is Paul. And, oh yes, this little girl can make the funniest faces."

By now both mom and daughter were laughing out loud. They have the same color of eyes, brown. Their hair is almost the same light shade too. But the most important part they share is their smiles.

Right now they stretched from ear to ear huge.

Leah knew one day she was going to grow up and be just like her mother.

* * *


EATING OUT

Smacking lips meant happy sounds from a little boy at one end of the table. Matthew pushed his water glass away and grabbed the ketchup bottle.

His brother and sister weren't watching.

After all, his French Fries needed more 'red stuff.'

In the restaurant he could hear the sounds of clinking glasses.

"More water please," he heard people ask. Forks and knives were scraping and cutting pies and steaks. Even chairs kept moving around for a better spot at their tables.

He tipped the bottle over his plate, when a voice said suddenly, "Careful, not too much."

Matthew jumped, almost dropping the Ketchup. How did daddy sneak over from mommy's table without him seeing?

"Make sure you eat up all the 'YUMMY' fries. Costs lots of money, you know."

Matthew couldn't answer right now. His mouth was busy chewing. So he nodded his head up and down, like a teeter-totter.

"Want me to eat some?" daddy asked.

Matthew shook his head left, right. Left, right. Then daddy made a funny face and left.

Matthew's big sister was talking with her friend. And his brother Travis was busy munching a hamburger.

"That's gross. Stop eating with your mouth open!" his sister shouted.

Matthew thought it looked like fun. He tried it too.

Then mommy came out of nowhere, like a ghost. She looked about ten feet tall when she was upset.

"What do you think you're doing, young man?"

Matthew's eyes followed her foot stamping. Up and down, up and down, like a teeter-totter.

"Did you not hear what your sister just said?"

He smiled and opened his mouth to show his food was gone. Matthew was proud of the space between his two top teeth. It made him look like a hockey player. Just like his brother.

Today his family came to see Travis play goalie in a hockey tournament. Except his team lost 4-0. Now his brother was really sad.

The Irving Big Stop Restaurant began to get crowded. There were kids from many of the other teams and a whole pack of adults.

Matthew slid off his seat. Pretty soon his legs would be long enough for his feet to touch the floor. He had to do something to cheer up his brother.

"Watch you don't get stepped on," a waitress said, hurrying by with trays of food. She was moving so quickly, Matthew wondered why she didn't trip.

He carefully stepped around clumps of food on the floor. "People are so messy," he said shaking his head.

"How much for that gum?" he asked at the candy counter. He didn't have any money but he was curious.

When the lady found out he was alone, she brought Matthew back to his table.

"You're too young to be wandering around by yourself," she said.

"I want to get a present for my brother," he told her. The kind lady gave Matthew a hard candy. He tasted it to make sure his brother would like it. "Yummy." Maybe he should get him something else.

His sister said, "Don't go off on your own, anymore." Her stare almost burned holes through his ears.

Travis was still eating his own plate of french fries. And he didn't take any of Matthews.

"Can I have the rest of your hamburger?" he quietly asked.

"OK," Matthew said. He had eaten half anyways. "But don't touch my french fries," he said.

When his brother and sister seemed busy, he left the table, again. This time he headed for the large windows overlooking the parking lot. He saw a smokestack poking out from a huge tractor-trailer truck.

It looked exactly like the model he received for Christmas last year. Maybe he could buy a model like that for his brother, he thought. Or he could just let him play with his toys later at home.

Matthew wandered around the room. He stared at the cake display, his nose pressing on the glass. His mouth began to water. "Uummm!" he said. Maybe he should ask mommy to get Travis a nice cake like that for his birthday.

He was getting tired now. Matthew decided it was time to return to his table. On the way he saw the different kinds of food being eaten.

Sandwiches, pie, ice cream, and French fries were on many tables.

"French fries!" Suddenly he remembered his food waiting for him. As he hurried back he thought he heard smacking sounds coming from his table.

Was someone eating his French fries? he wondered. Rushing betw

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: richardprov2@gmail.com re comments on our work. We live in Truro, Nova Scotia, Canada. Pray for others.

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