My Craft

Taking the Road to School

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He hid behind a branch, yet she found him. A pink travelers case, with a dancing ballerina inside, hung at his hip. She packed inside his breakfast of creamed wheat and bobbing raisins. Now she wondered if it sloshed inside covering the ballerina with a sticky sauce.

He refused to eat his breakfast. Definitely, he announced he would leave home forever. She packed up his suitcase and made sure to add his bowl. He took the case, stumbled down the deck, and ran for the road.

The road started from their trailer. It circled through meadows, pine trees, a one-room library, and finally a Spanish-styled market. A second road crossed it leading to a brown church with a tall steeple on one end and a cluster of houses on the other. A few feet away from the crossroad, a power pole buzzed. Before, she had invited him to lean against it and listen to the buzzing. He buzzed his lips all the way to the market.

His fleeing took him no farther than start of the road. Between them a dry creek full of grass and saplings cut them off from each other. He inched along the shoulder kicking up old asphalt along the edges. His eyes met hers in a dance of cat and mouse. He moved to hide himself and she followed. The case became too heavy to hold so he set it down. His mother reached out both arms from her side of the creek. He laughed and toddled around to embrace her.

Sometimes she pulled him in a wagon down the road to the library. Her hair tied back in a pony tail with two beads holding it up and him in the well of the wagon looking up. She turned back with a reassuring smile. He giggled and played with his green army man poised with a rifle. She read him picture books about rabbits or ponies or other little boys. He laughed and pointed at the pictures.

After the first week of kindergarten, he rode the bus. Seated higher, he could see beyond the row of houses to a mountain full of pine trees. Around the market, the road veered left and joined another road at a wye. At this corner, he saw milk cows in a meadow with a creek crossing it.

One day he missed the bus. Wrapped up in a blue jacket reaching to his boots, he stomped in the puddles where the bus usually stopped. It never came. He skipped along the sidewalk. He was alone.

From here he could see the buzzing power pole. He liked the buzzing sound with its rat-a-tat thrum. He walked toward the pole through the rocks holding close to the road. He climbed over a berm of snow and placed his ear against the pole. As he touched the pole, the buzzing grew louder. He pulled his ear away and the buzzing stopped. He moved close and back a few times then patted the pole. A butterfly flew over him toward the library. It floated down, up, and down again. He watched it dance along the road and followed it.

Eucalyptus lined the road leading to the library standing on stilts with a stairway to its door. He paused at the bottom of the steps and considered walking up. Across from him, milk cows walked from the creek in a meadow of tall grass. Farther down from the meadow he saw the school. He worried about his teacher. He headed toward the meadow.

At the wye, he crossed the second road to draw closer to a cow eating from the culvert. He reached through the fence to touch it and the cow jumped back. It stopped to stare at him. He stared back. Soon it dipped down and brought up a mouthful of grass. It chewed slowly.

A creek spilled out of the meadow through a large pipe. Below the shoulder, a small pond gathered up the water before it went under the road. In the pond, he could see small tadpoles dancing near the cattails and reeds. The small frogs darted closer to the running water and jumped back to the safety of the shore. At times, the water pulled a tadpole into the current where it vanished under the road. He grabbed a stick and tossed it into the water. It rushed under the road too.

He wondered if the stick came out the other side. But he had no time to look; the school was close now.

Entering the doorway to the school, he stood alone. He climbed up the stairway to his classroom over the grey tile holding on to the wooden railing. The classroom door waited below the landing. He was sure his teacher and classmates counted on him to arrive. He reached the landing and met a janitor dressed in grey.

“What are you doing here?” the man asked.

“I am here for school.”

“There is no school today due to the snow.”

The boy failed to understand why they closed the school. His walk was warm. The sun shined down on the power pole and the cows stood in the meadow. Even the tadpoles danced in the water unaware of the spring snow.

“Where did you come from?”

“I walked to school.”

The janitor made a phone call to the sheriff. He discovered a mother and father waited for news about their missing boy. His mother scooped him up after he climbed out of the truck and held him tight. His father placed a hand behind his head and tossed his hair. He eyed the road and thought about the cow. He laid his head on his mom’s shoulder. The scent of oleander blossom filled his nose as he nuzzled in her hair, closed his eyes, and fell asleep.

© 2016, Michael Shawn Sommermeyer. All rights reserved.

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