The Oldest Son
The first bell rang just as we shut the gate behind us. He was in his thick, orange jacket and thanks to the green cargo pants he sported he was looking much more Aquaman than Kenny. He clutched a stick of bacon in his fist and his eyes were awake with wonder and mischief. His school was a block away.
I had coffee on my breath and breakfast in my teeth. My hair looked like Mel Kiper, Jr., and Dan Zanes had slept in it. I was hurried and the ringing of the bell in the distance added a longer stride to my step. He had to jog to keep up. He kept time with the chewing of his bacon.
Mornings are dizzy—a blur of orange juice and vitamins, papers to be signed, shoes to be tied and lunches to be packed. There are animals underfoot and sleep in our eyes. Octaves are hit that echo down the block, joining with similar sounds from other homes, howling through the streets, causing parents to look slightly askew at the nearest clock and daring so many birds to fly from the bare-branched trees that they dance upon. It is the sound of morning broken.
The school does not traffic in such concepts as time. Their clocks are roughly 4 minutes off. They deny this. A team of sleep-eyed parents stand out front and compare the time on our iPhones. We assume that a time we can’t change must be correct. We assume that an atomic clock is involved. The school starts four minutes earlier than the rest of our day and they do not care about Steve Jobs. It is a Microsoft town. My son walks into class earlier than he should and he beats the bell with time to spare. His teacher has already started the morning lesson. I am still learning mine.
I walked home in the cold, bright morning. The mountains laughed at our molehills.
The Youngest Son
His body flushed with fever. I lay against him in the dark, trading his warmth for my comfort. He fell asleep after hours of fighting. I went to my corner and tried to count the rounds.
It was the second day of his being ill, days spent between the playful banter of denial and the moans of agony that filled the holes left behind where the medicine retreated.
He spent his afternoons crying and not napping, sitting on my lap and curling up in the arms of his mother. He spent his afternoons being as small as he had ever been.
He lay in our bedroom, having agreed to rest upon our bed. He sobbed beneath the pain in his head.
“Why,” he cried, a tiny, desperate voice lost in the distance, “does ... it ... keep ... turning ... on?”
I stood in the hallway and watched the flicker of light from my room as his cries continued to tease the Clapper I had received for Christmas.
Laughter, as a medicine, is hit and miss.
He cried long through the night and slept very little. Morning arrived before the sun, breaking in a dizzy blur of heartache, exhaustion and figurative kicks to the head - and it has lingered forever after.
Originally published on WhitHonea