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.
A light snow began drifting down through the headlights as we drove to the house. Nicole reached over from the passenger seat captured my hand to hold in hers. I couldn’t help but smile. Snow always put her in the mood to snuggle.
The smooth baritone of Bing Crosby serenaded us all the way into my parent’s driveway. She probably didn’t notice it, but her hand squeezed mine a little tighter when we arrived. I knew she was nervous, but mentioning it would only get me punched in the arm. Truth be told, I was a little nervous too. But not for my own sake.
Mother’s intuition was not needed to see that something was wrong. After the dishes had been cleared from dinner Jimmy remained at the table with his chin in his hands.
“I’m never gonna do anything great” he mumbled.
Myra dried her hands and walked over to sit next to her troubled twelve year old. She wanted so badly to ruffle his messy brown hair like she had done when he was younger, but knew it would only arouse his ire.
“Why do you say that? I think you’re great right now.”
He let his hands drop and cocked his head to the side. “You only think that because you’re my mom.” (more…)
A warm breeze twisted above the water leaving tiny ripples in its wake. The lake reflected a blue sky speckled with clouds as if designed by Jackson Pollock. The scene stood unnoticed by the boy as he scoured the shoreline for skipping rocks.
His father trailed behind, watching his son with quiet joy. Long ago he had promised himself that he would not let his son grow up the same way he had. These walks to the lake started with that promise in mind, but had eased into a favorite habit between them.
Enthusiasm for one of the few times he was allowed to throw rocks drove the boy to gather a small mountain of stones. His father eyed the growing stack with thoughts of the sore shoulder he would feel tomorrow. He bent down to sort through the puzzle of rocks looking for just the right piece.