Previous Challenge Entry (Level 2 – Intermediate)
Topic: Childhood (09/03/09)
TITLE: The Tear-Catcher
By Jennifer Galey
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“Who am I sitting on, Max?” Dad asked, rising from the breakfast table.
Ignoring the question, I shook my head in irritation.
“Now Luke’s clothes are all wrinkled,” I sighed, briskly escorting Luke to the laundry room.
I opened the spinning dryer to rescue my favorite red t-shirt from the tangled rainbow of cotton. “You can wear this, Luke.”
“What, Dad?” I hadn’t turned around, but I knew he was there. I could smell the air of stale coffee mixed with sadness that hovered over him since my brother left.
Dad swiveled me around and tilted my chin up so I could look into his eyes. “Who is Luke, Max?” Dad asked, pausing between each word.
I just rolled my eyes. “Don’t cha see him? He is right in front of you.”
“Your eggs are getting cold,” Dad said, kissing my forehead before he whisked off to work.
I climbed up on my chair to examine the mess on my plate that Dad referred to as “eggs.” It reminded me of a glob of yellow toothpaste. If mom had made breakfast, I would have had pancakes and sausage circles that I could glue together with syrup to make a car.
“Here ya go, Luke. You can have mine,” I offered, shoving my plate to the other side of the table.
Mom had been so sleepy lately. Last week I had tip-toed through the dark on the shaggy carpet. I flicked a flashlight on her face to try to wake her up, but she just flipped over faster than a frog on the hot pavement. I found a heap of empty bottles while I was in there. I asked Dad if I could have one for a space rocket, but he said no. I guess she needs them to store her tears.
Mom and Dad were sad since Jay had left. I was sad at first, too...not anymore, though. I had a secret plan. Dad said Leukemia had taken my brother. That’s why I had made friends with him to get my brother back. I call him Luke for short.
I decided to draw a picture of Luke to give to Dad since he can’t see him. Maybe some new glasses might help.
There goes Mom flipping through the kitchen cabinets. I know she is looking for more tear-catchers. She won’t find them though. I emptied the full ones out in the back yard to use for my space rockets. I decided to just leave her with the empty ones. I think the ones that have liquid in them are really magic tears. I noticed that every time she pours the liquid in her mouth, it just spews right back out her eyes.
I felt Mom crouch over me. I didn’t see her, just knew she was there. The air felt heavy like it did around Dad, except she smelled like cough medicine.
“What are you drawing, Honey?” Mom asked as she picked up my picture.
I scooted over to explain what she was looking at.
“This is Luke. I didn’t forget the hair, he doesn’t have any.”
Mom’s face looked like a piece of white sidewalk chalk under a microscope. She stood there so still. If her eyes weren’t open, I would’ve sworn she was still sleepin. Her eyes turned real glassy-like. I thought I was going to have to get one of those tear-catchers. Then it happened. It was like all those curled mouths on the pictures I drew of her just jumped off the refrigerator and stuck on her face. She smiled.
“So now you see Luke?” I asked, mirroring her grin.
“Can I keep this picture, Maximilian?” Mom asked, clutching my drawing to her heart. I wasn’t about to tell her it was for Dad. I could always make another one.
“You know pictures are like memories, Max. You can pull them out and look at them anytime.” Mom’s tears were splashin on her smile. It reminded me of sunshine on a rainy day.
Mom started to patch my drawing on top of the portraits that wall-papered the refrigerator. I grabbed her hand and guided her to the teetering rubble of tear-catchers. I carefully extracted a bottle from the middle, like a piece from Jenga, and rolled up my picture inside. I told her it was filled with magic smiles.
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