Friday, February 1, 2013

Redemption


     His feet jiggling excitedly as if they didn't belong to the rest of his body, Tyler calculated the minutes until the school bell rang. He liked learning how to tell time. After his Little League game last Saturday, Grandpa and Grandma had come over for dinner, and Grandpa pulled him aside, telling him he'd brought a big surprise. "But first, Tyler," he'd said, peering over his tiny Mr. Potato Head glasses, "you have to eat seventeen of those delicious peas on your plate." Tyler hated peas, especially the kind with tiny onions in slimy sauce. Grandpa must've been watching as he raked his wrinkled green mortal enemies beneath a miniature volcano of mashed potatoes. Gulp. "Do I have to, Grandpa? How about if I just eat one?" "Tell ya what, Tyler, how about we make it an even eleven?" Solemnly, Tyler pushed eleven peas onto his fork, raising them to his mouth with the same apprehension of a dead man walking. He could feel Grandma, Grandpa, and Daddy observing him with amused anticipation. "Stop lookin' at me!" Mommy, please come out of your room. The peas were smushy and yucky, and Tyler swallowed them without even chewing, washing them down as quickly as he could with an entire glass of chocolate milk because he already knew the surprise was a Mickey Mouse watch with a grey wristband; he'd seen it inside the clear plastic box that was poking out of Grandma's purse.

     Mickey's little hand was almost on the 3, and his big hand was between the 8 and 9. Three more minutes. I won't forget my lunchbox today, Mommy. Mrs. Purcell's mouth started moving, and she was holding up a yellow flashcard with "4 + 6" on it, but her voice sounded like a Transformer robot, and Madison was eating paste again, and Zachary was digging inside his nose, and Kayla's arm was shooting up into the air like a rocket, her hand flapping just like the brook trout he and Grandpa had caught last summer, raising out of her seat and bringing her desk up with her because she knew the answer was "ten." Outside, it was still raining, but only just a little bit. Sunday had been rainy, too, and he and Bob Boxley were stuck inside, looking for buried treasure, but Mommy came out of her room in her pajamas with her hair sticking up, saying they couldn't be pirates inside the house because she had a headache, and could they "please play more quietly?"

     Mommy had lots of headaches. She was so sad and tired now that Daddy asked their housekeeper, Mrs. Kelly, if she'd come to live with them. Mrs. Kelly wore a hairnet, and she was fat and smelled like cabbage. She drank brownish water from the flat silver bottle she hid under her skirt, and after she cleaned the house, she'd lock herself in the bathroom, smoking cigarettes and talking on the telephone, the fumes of orange Glade curling out from around the edges of the door. Tyler hated Mrs. Kelly even more than he hated peas. When she was downstairs doing the laundry, he'd take the can of air freshener from the windowsill and spray it right into his nose, intrigued by how much it smelled just like a real orange. If the can was empty, it would spray a different kind of spray, not the kind that smelled like oranges, but the kind that made the walls wobbly. Mrs. Kelly? You've got a hole in your head. He'd told Daddy about the hole in Mrs. Kelly's head, hoping that maybe he'd seen it, too, but Daddy kept reading his newspaper. "Tyler, sweetie, you're just imagining that," he'd said without looking up. "Why don't you and Bob Boxley go outside to play?

     When Mickey's big hand pointed at the 9, the bell rang. Tyler bolted from his desk into the hallway, through the double doors, across the playground, and onto the sidewalk in front of the school where the buses parked. He could see his lunchbox, right where he'd left it, dangling from the outermost branches of an old oak tree that was across the street. Last Friday, he and Robbie Johnson were messing around after school, waiting for Mr. Ernie's bus, and Robbie had sailed his baseball mitt into the tree's crown to see if he could hit an old bird's nest, but it got stuck, so he grabbed Tyler's lunchbox and flung it upward as hard as he could, trying to knock down the mitt. The box's plastic handle immediately looped over a stubby outgrowth directly beneath the hopelessly wedged mitt, eliciting peals of hearty boy laughter. "Hey, it looks like your mitt's a hand, holding onto my lunchbox," Tyler observed. Climbing onto Mr. Ernie's bus that afternoon, Tyler hadn't given his lunchbox a second thought. Now, he was on a mission to retrieve it. Maybe if he started remembering things like his homework and his lunchbox, and not leaving his shoes outside in the rain, Mommy wouldn't be so sad.

     The rain had made the tree trunk slick, but there were plenty of low-lying branches to use as rungs. Tyler was a natural at tree-climbing. Daddy liked to kid him about being "part monkey, just like Curious George." Today, he was wearing his baseball cleats because his brand new shoes were still wet, and they offered good traction as he scaled the trunk, inching his way toward redemption along the high slippery scaffold limb, until the rogue lunchbox was almost within reach. Almost there. See Mommy, I didn't forget! Hugging the limb tightly, as if he was embracing his mother's thighs, he strained and let go of his right hand, extending his arm as far as he could, desperately wrapping his outstretched fingers around the lunchbox's handle just as his weight started to shift, and determination gave way to gravity.

Part I: The Appointment
Part II: Amplitude
Conclusion: Insurance


19 comments:

  1. Wonderful story Kris.
    Your writing makes me keep reading till the end. Something I don't usually do. :)

    And I have a feeling where this is going and its going to be sad. :(

    BUT I await to read the rest of it.

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    1. Glad you're enjoying it, Angie. I appreciate what you've said here about my writing; made me smile :-)

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  2. Ah, I've got to find the time to read the first parts because I missed it. I enjoy the way you write which enables me to visual the whole story. I quite like the Mrs Kelly character so far, smelling like cabbage, fat, and a secret bathroom smoker ha ha ha.

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    1. Once you read the other parts, RPD, it'll all make sense. Mrs. Kelly was one of Spartacus's housekeepers growing up, and the orange Glade incident really did happen.

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  3. Once you read the other parts, RPD, it'll all make sense. Mrs. Kelly was one of Spartacus's housekeepers growing up, and the orange Glade incident really did happen.

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  4. Wonderful story so far. Such well-crafted imagery and descriptive words. Can't wait for the next installment.

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    1. Thanks, Janene...I appreciate you taking the time to read my story.

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  5. This is the first time anyone has gotten me to read a story online, I like your writing style and am enjoying the tale.

    Eagerly waiting for the next part.

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    1. Thank you, PB! It makes me happy to hear that you like what I've written. I'm having fun weaving bits and pieces of people I've known together in this way.

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  6. You have a real knack of capturing the essence of scenes with wonderful little details. A master class on 'show, not tell'.

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    1. Robert, thank you! That's a real compliment.

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  7. Great Story Kris! Amazing how everything always boils down to one simple reality........gravity. You are definitely showing your gifted skills in story telling with all 3 parts. Always such a grand pleasure to read, thank you for sharing.

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    1. Thanks, IM. I know that you know a thing or two about gravity :-D

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  8. Kris, your stories are so rich in concrete detail one can actually sense what your characters are feeling and thinking. You do a great job of combining experience, observation and imagination with your love of language.

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    1. I appreciate that, NP. Developing these characters is such an interesting process...I'm free to do whatever I want with them. It's a very liberating way of writing.

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  9. This story gets better with each part, Kris. Hoping for a part 4. You have my rapt attention! Your writing is so vivid and descriptive that I feel as if I know these characters. I understand Tyler thinking that if he didn’t forget things, maybe mommy wouldn’t be so sad. I think it’s a common feeling when a parent is ill. I felt that way as a child too, only for me it was not forgetfulness, it was doing more to help mom around the house. My mother had lots of headaches too. She rarely ever joined my father and the rest of us for dinner; she stayed in her bedroom.

    I especially love the part with Tyler, Grandpa, and the peas, and the part about Mrs. Kelly in the bathroom and then Tyler playing with the Glade can. I saw in the comments that Mrs. Kelly is based on Spartacus’ housekeeper as a child and the orange Glade incident really happened. That’s pretty funny. Spartacus was quite the curious child!

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    1. So glad you're enjoying it, Madilyn. Headaches like Minerva's seem very common in severe states of depression, and they can really control the entire mood of a household, and that aspect of her character is based on someone I know in real life. Spartacus has lots of colorful characters from childhood, so he's a never-ending source of material! The incident with the peas actually happened to me when I was about 6 or 7 and was learning to tell time...my grandparents came to visit and my grandpa made me eat all my peas before I got to have the watch. I still have that old Timex, lying around somewhere! :-)

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  10. The bad part about this not being a book is having to wait for the next wonderful installment!! I love that you chose to let us see through Tyler's eyes (and heart) this time. Looking forward to part 4!!

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    1. Hey Gina, yes, I wanted to try and view the situation through the eyes of Minerva, Peter, and Tyler to give the story dimension. I have no idea what's going to happen next...

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