— Chapter Four —
AT NIGHT BEFORE he went to bed, Preston had marked the moon’s cycles and felt an undercurrent of expectancy, barely contained. Mama Luna had kept a nightly vigil in the garden as well, and the loom continued to rest. The two of them shared an unspoken pact as though they were waiting for something to break. Preston wondered if Sybilla had detected the strain of excitement galvanizing the household because, instead of rushing off on far-flung assignments, she stayed home. Periodically, Preston noticed her contemplating him with a fine eye. Other times, she scrutinized Mama Luna going about her daily activities, perhaps trying to tease out something in her actions. For the first time ever, instead of longing intensely for his mother to be there with him, Preston had wished her gone for a while.
Finally, she did go. The assignment to Norway came suddenly, probably too good to turn down. She threw some clothes in a suitcase and left, after giving him a perfunctory kiss on the head and some short instructions to Mama Luna. The moon was waxing. In two nights’ time it would be full.
That will be when time is best, he thought to himself. For some reason, he chose to remain silent about this secret thing. Even though he had no clue what the “best time” was about, he knew it was well revealed to both Mama and Smoky but equally unspoken.
If you speak about some things, they lose their power. Smoky gave him this advice some time ago.
“Why, Smoky?” He hadn’t quite been able to figure out that one.
It’s natural to want to share with your friends. But sometimes people don’t understand some things, particularly things they can’t see with their eyes. Or things that don’t make sense to them. It scares them and they don’t like to be afraid.
Preston stared, his lips forming a perfectly round “o.”
“Like when I tried to tell Mom about you?”
That would be one example.
After Smoky started keeping him company, Preston wanted to share his new friend. He had asked his mother if he could invite him to lunch. She set a place for Preston’s guest at the table. But when no flesh-and-blood little boy showed up, yet Preston carried on a lively conversation toward the chair across the table, her brows knitted in confusion. After a while, a slight smile began to play around her mouth. Later he overheard his mother on the telephone to one of her co-workers.
“I wish you could have seen it! It was the cutest thing! PJ jabbering away to an imaginary playmate!” His mother’s friend must have had something to say on the matter. “Do you think I should worry about him? His father had problems, you know.”
His ears had pricked up at mention of his father, but indignation overcame his curiosity. Smoky wasn’t imaginary. He also felt a little ashamed, like there was something wrong with him. So he decided not to ever mention Smoky, even when his mother said to invite his friend to lunch again. He didn’t want her to laugh at him. He longed to tell her everything in his small life. But, from that point on, there were some things he made the decision to withhold.
The day his mother left for Norway was a Saturday. Preston had felt liberated. To express it, he played really hard in the back yard, running and jumping straight up in the air, pretending his feet had springs. Indeed, it felt like he could leap right up into the sun. He talked Smoky into a sword fight. Smoky called it “fencing.” Their implements looked different, too.
Preston made his sword about a month before during arts and crafts at school. It had a wide cardboard blade and handle. He’d glued aluminum foil over the blade and sprinkled glitter on the hilt. Not too much. It didn’t stay glued anyway. Every time he held the shaft some of the glittery stuff came off on his hands. One time he must have accidentally smeared some on his face because his mother noticed and proclaimed it fairy dust. He liked the idea that his sword was magical. He remembered the story about King Arthur. The magic rubbed off on him, just like the fairy dust, and made him wise. Preston relished knowing things other people didn’t. After all, he had Smoky advising him on how to notice things, and Mama Luna confided offhand tidbits.
When Preston ran circles around Smoky jabbing the air with his sword, Smoky gave his own arm a sharp shake. A long band of vibrating light emerged from the end of a finger. Preston thought in terms of Smoky having arms and fingers, but it wasn’t really like anyone else’s. It was more that he could see with his inner vision. Smoky’s blade, though, he could make out clearly as throbbing luminous pixels. Smoky had allowed Preston to thrust and yell until apparently he had enough. Then he took laser-like aim with the light particles, and tapped the spot where Preston’s hand met the shaft. The sword inexplicably flew out of his grasp and arced over to land several feet away. Astounded but gleeful at the challenge, Preston retrieved his weapon and charged back to win the day. Several times these events repeated themselves until he was just plain worn out.
Red-faced and sweaty with play, Preston huffed and puffed, “How do you do that, Smoky?”
Instead of running and expending his vitality needlessly, a true warrior becomes still. Then he can tell where the openings are for things to go his way. That’s when he acts because he knows the truth of his action.
“That’s what I want to be! A true warrior!” Preston beamed and waved his own finger in the air with half a hope that light would project.
“Solocito!” He heard Mama Luna calling him to dinner, sticking her dark head out the back door. When he came tearing into the house with a last bit of rambunctious energy, she laughed and exclaimed how stinky he was from his hot play. At least that was the gist of what he understood her to say. But she allowed him to sit at the table with her anyway and fed him his favorite meal: franks and beans mixed with some yellow mustard, carefully sprinkled with sweet pickle relish, and tater tots on the side.
After dinner she bustled him off to take a bath, ignoring his loud protestations. It was their way of joking. With his mother, he’d learned to be quiet most of the time. She usually seemed to have something on her mind.
“Very important tonight for you to take your bath, Solocito!” Mama nodded knowingly at him and closed the door to give him his privacy.
“Oh,” he peeped. A light bulb went on. He quickly discarded his clothes and submerged himself in the warm water. He thought briefly about playing frogman, but it seemed bathing had taken on a new significance based on Mama’s words. So, instead, he dutifully soaped himself and made sure all parts of himself were sweet-smelling and clean. By the time he had emerged from the now dark-ringed bathtub, he felt the effects of his earlier exertion, a full belly and freshly scrubbed body.
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Genre – Fiction / Coming of Age / Historical
Rating – PG