Jenna barely heard the rough clicks of Sam’s key in the door over the gentle hiss of the water as she washed the vegetables. A quick sigh escaped from her mouth. As much as she loved her husband, after work he tended to be a bit grumpy. The fresh stack of bills that lay on the counter would only make it worse. She turned off the water and began to wipe her hands when she saw him come into their tiny apartment, turning to close the door and lock it behind him.
Jenna grinned at the sight of him. He had an unassuming cuteness about him. When she had first seen him at their church she never would have pictured them together. He had shaggy brown hair, hazel eyes, and an average frame that could easily be lost in a crowd, but he was smart enough to know that those were not his strength.
The first time Sam had approached her it was simple and quick. He introduced himself and came off as shy. Each time they spoke after that he emerged from of his shell a little more. It did not take long for Jenna to see his heart and know that it was more beautiful than any other she knew. He had a rare combination of a sweet spirit and powerful intellect. Sam could make you feel like the most wonderful person in the world or like you didn’t exist. He knew the power of words and just how to use them.
It looked like a normal letter from the middle school Max would be attending in the fall, but as I read a hollow rattle rolled through the page from the shaking of my hands. I dropped it on table, grabbed my keys and fled. This is my default action in the face of tragedy. I first learned this when I was about Max’s age.
We were driving to a cabin on the Lake of the Ozarks. An army of trees with shades of green that Crayola could never hope to box surrounded the road on both sides. Two yellow dotted lines marked the way to a perfect weekend. Just me, my dad, and a lake full of fish. I stared over the high dashboard looking for the sign that would mark our turnoff. This would begin our game of who can spot the water first.
A flash of movement was all I saw before the impact jerked me forward. My dad told me to stay, but I was so drawn to the front of our station wagon that I barely heard his words.
The dream world Josias had found refuge in was sent fleeing by the arrival of a sound that did not belong there. His dark eyes slid beneath their lids, the only movement he allowed himself, as he waited to hear what had set off his internal security system. Each muscle in his small body tensed, ready to strike or flee depending on what news his ears delivered.
The light scratching resumed a few meters away. Josias relaxed slightly. It was just a rat and if he was quick enough, it would also be breakfast. He opened his eyes and let them adjust to the pre-dawn darkness. Though he could not see it yet, the crumpling of trash told him the rat was moving closer. (more…)
The drumbeat of footsteps shook the floor announcing the arrival of my nephew seconds before his face appeared in my doorway.
“Uncle Joe! Uncle Joe! Tell me a story!”
This high-pitched request broke sanctity of my Saturday morning sleep. I would be lying if I did not tell you that my first thought was to teach the boy a lesson in courtesy involving a boot and a butt. As I sat up I saw that his eager smile lacked any mischief and it quickly melted my anger into a warm pile of compassion. (more…)