The young boy, with the honey blond hair and the brown sugar eyes, looked deeply into the distance. His camouflage shirt and khaki shorts rendered him invisible amongst the jungle-like shrubbery at the back lot of his home. He imagined what it would be like to flee the sounds of his mom and dad bickering as they arrived home tired from work. His mother quickly dismissed the after-school baby-sitter, slinging, “where’s Jeffrey?” at her departing back.
Jeffrey. What were they thinking when they got married so young. To have Jared’s baby seemed so romantic at the time, sighed Lonnie. Jeffrey. Where was he, anyway? Lonnie shouted out the back door, “Jeffrey, we’re home, honey, come on in now!”
Shadows were long across the back lawn and Jeffrey knew the sun would be going down soon. He wanted to wait until it got all dark and spooky before he ran for all he was worth toward the safety of the kitchen.
The pup tent made a neat hideaway beneath the willow tree. He had taken his nap in the sleeping bag. Tina, his baby sitter, let Jeffrey do just about anything he wanted. She did her homework and watched MTV. Jeff preferred to play by himself outdoors. His dad bought him a toy helmet and bayonet for his sixth birthday. Together with his army men and tanks, he dwelt in his own little world where he was in charge.
Jeffrey’s stomach growled and his mouth watered as soon as he smelled the macaroni and cheese. He could hear his mom saying, “Go get him, Jared; he won’t listen to me!” He could see the wavering flashlight beam and hear his dad calling, “Jeffrey, where are you, son? It’s time to come in for dinner now, okay?”
Jeffrey silently climbed the lower tree branches and wedged himself into a U-shaped crook. He could see his dad but his dad couldn’t see him. Adrenalin flowed through his veins; he felt a blush rise up his neck and face. His heart pounded, yet he dared to hide from his father. He felt powerful with the first surge of rebellion. The beam of light turned and headed back toward the house. His father mumbled, “Okay, that’s it. When you get home you’re getting a spanking, do you hear me, Jeffrey?”
He swallowed a sob as trickles of dread flowed through his body. I want to stay out here where I can be the boss all the time. Tears threatened to make him feel small and helpless. He wished he could say, “Dad, I’m here! Don’t leave me alone! I’m sorry!” Jeffrey reluctantly slid from the branches, leaving stinging scratches on the backs of his legs.
Hearing his mom’s voice was even worse as he forlornly walked through the door. “Where have you been? Didn’t you hear me call you for dinner? Just look at you, you’re filthy! Eat your dinner, get a bath and go to bed. You’re nothing but a nuisance, I swear.”
“Jared, if you’re going to give him a spanking, do it in the garage. I don’t want to hear it.” Still she could hear the sounds of punishment being meted out on their dream offspring. She felt like crying, it all seemed so unfair.
Lonnie lifted her head from her hands, listening. She quietly opened the garage door. To her surprise, this was what she saw. Soft light shone down on Jared with Jeffrey on his lap with their arms around each other. One head of short-cropped honey blond hair blended with the honey blond tangle of the other. Jared’s brown sugar eyes looked into the brown sugar eyes of his son. They both looked up as Lonnie came toward them.
Jared explained how he faked Jeffrey’s punishment; he really hadn’t done anything wrong. He’d been alone all afternoon and wanted their attention. He knew what it was like to be a lonely little boy lost in his own little world.
Tears streamed down Lonnie’s face and the three of them embraced. She remembered why having Jared’s baby had seemed romantic at the time; he was the man of her dreams. Although times would be tough, especially when they were tired, they pledged to remember their love for each other. Together with Jeffrey, they would learn, and play to win, this game called life.
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