Loud banging brought William in a hurry to his bedroom window.
He watched a boy about his age hammering on the fence. It looked like their new neighbor who just moved in.
"Mom I'm going out, I'll eat later!" William said, forgetting not to slam the front door.
He rushed up to the noisy boy, with a bucket full of questions. William was also annoyed at the racket so early on a Saturday morning.
Noisy boy looked up. "I'm fixin' your fence," was all he said. "You had a couple of loose boards."
"Thanks," said William, feeling foolish. Now why was he so upset? "What happened to your face?"
"Nothing," answered the stranger. The pounding continued.
One side of the boy's face was chocolate. The other was coppery colored. But his forehead, nose and chin were all white.
"The name's Mike," he finally said.
Mike asked, "Want to come over to my house?"
"Got to eat breakfast first," William answered.
"OK," was all Mike said.
William couldn't wait to tell his mother about his new friend.
But she was so busy she didn't have time to listen. "Just don't get into mischief," she said.
William hurried over to Mike's house and couldn't believe his eyes.
There was a wigwam in the back yard, with hand-painted symbols on each side.
A Mi'Kmaq boy stood in front of him. He had braided black hair and a band on his forehead.
He wore a deerskin outfit with fancy beads. There was a ring of bells on his ankles. He skin was Native all over.
"Mike?" William asked.
"Sometimes I am Oapos the rabbit," the boy that looked like Mike said.
"Mi'Kmaq are also people of the deer."
Then William listened to numerous tales about Glooscap, the Native God. And even watched Mike perform different kinds of native dances.
William was certain he heard drums beating in the background. It was as if a crowd of people stood beside him in the backyard.
Chills rushed down William's back.
This was fun.
Before long, William danced the Circle dance. Later, he shared pieces of Lusgi, a short name for Mi'Kmaq bread.
" William! Dinner!" roared his mother's call across both backyards.
"Got to go."
"Coming back after dinner?" the copper-skinned Mike asked.
"OK." William couldn't wait to return. He still had so many questions. At the dinner table he was very excited.
"Mom, it's like we talked about at school. About how everyone can be different but still be friends."
"What's that hon?" She asked, not listening very closely.
"Mike, the new boy next door. He's different. I really like him!"
"Eat up hon. I'm glad you're getting along so well." she answered, not understanding what her son was saying.
After gobbling up his food, William's sneakers couldn't race next door fast enough.
But things were different. William stopped and stared.
There was a boy standing in the middle of the Mike's yard. Except, his skin was black.
"Hi William," the black-skinned boy said. "I've been waiting for you."
"What happened to Mike?" William asked.
"I am Mike," the boy answered.
Then William listened to stories about Black Heritage in Nova Scotia. About Black writers, painters, singers and sailors.
This time he was sure a group of people was walking around and listening along with him.
"I had a great afternoon," he said.
"Come back after supper," the black-skinned Mike said.
"Don't eat so fast," said William's mother, as they sat together at the table.
"Mom, I have to hurry. I can't wait to go back."
William's mother couldn't believe how excited her son was. She wondered what was so special next door.
"Got to go."
His sneakers were speedier this time.
William stopped in his tracks when he heard bagpipes coming from Mike's yard. This time Mike's skin was all white. His freckles matched his red hair.
"What's that you're wearing?" William asked.
"It's a kilt." And it belongs to our clan MacLeod. It has our family colors."
Then William sat on the ground and listened to stories about the Scots. They first arrived on the Hector, a ship that landed in Pictou, Nova Scotia.
He learned about the rich heritage that came with them from Scotland. In his mind he heard their cheering as they sighted land for the first time in many weeks.
Nighttime came shortly after Mike's last Scottish dance was completed. A tired Mike finally sat down.
"I'm glad you're my friend," was all William could say.
"You're not just a red-skinned Mi'Kmaq boy. Not even a black-skinned boy, or a white-skinned Scottish boy. You're all colors. "You're a really neat Multiplication Boy."
William went home and told his mother about his adventures today.
As she listened, her eyes opened wider and wider. She watched nervously as the skin on William's face began to change.
One side of his face was now chocolate colored. The other side turned reddish.
But his forehead, nose and chin remained white.
She now understood the lesson her son learned today.
* * *
Richard & Esther Provencher 2008
Richard enjoys writing and has many poetry e-books listed on he and his wife's Author Page: www.amazon.com/Esther-and-Richard-Provencher/e/B00O8K9UKE. PTL.
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