Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: In and Out (04/30/09)
TITLE: The Other Side of the Window
By Linda Germain
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Every day at the same time there was a boy, about his age or older, sitting all by himself. Nate always held his breath at the sound of the diesel engine as the lumbering vehicle rounded the corner. In the winter, when dusk came earlier, the lights were on inside and he could see the boy drop coins in the holder by the driver and then sit down. Where was he going? Why was he alone?
Nate’s parents barely let him go to his room by himself, much less outside… or out anywhere for that matter. He had a nanny, body guards, drivers, and tutors. Being the son of a high-placed political official was like being in jail. He ached to be what he thought was normal. For a fleeting few minutes every day, he stared out his window and wished he was that kid on the bus. He wondered how that kind of freedom would feel.
Joey didn’t mind so much sitting at the semi-enclosed bus stop when the weather was nice. He wasn’t too fond of the cold or rain. He liked to look at that huge mansion across the street. When he first caught a glimpse of a boy in the upstairs window he tried to imagine how it must feel to be on the other side of that big front door, clean and full from a delicious supper. He never dreamed of having things a rich kid might have…only of the security and safety and the love. There just had to be love. He would have been surprised.
“Nate? What is so interesting outside? It’s almost dark.”
The youngster jumped at the sound of the upstairs maid’s harsh voice. He was a little scared of her. She didn’t like for him to make a mess or get anything in his room out of order. He left his perch, never answering her uninterested inquiry, and watched her turn his bed down and lay out his night clothes. When he returned to the window, there was a light rain. The bus stop bench was empty. For some reason he felt sad.
Joey was almost asleep when it was time to get off the bus. He stumbled down the rubber covered steps and pulled his thin jacket over his head to keep rain out of his eyes. It wasn’t far to the old rental house where his single mother tried to keep the two of them from starving, and the Human Services Department from knowing he was alone so much. He used the key hanging on a string around his neck to get in the rickety old door. She wouldn’t be home for another hour. It was his job to set the table and open some soup and pour it in a pot. He wasn’t allowed to turn on the stove.
After Nate brushed his teeth and put on his warm pajamas he climbed into a bed way too big for a kid and snuggled under an expensive comforter, ready for his Nanny-Lola to read to him. When she came in carrying a big story book he was staring into space. She stood in the doorway watching him for a few minutes.
“Penny for your thoughts, Nate.”
He decided to confide in her.
“Lola, I look out my window every evening and see a kid about my age sitting across the street. He gets to ride that big bus all by himself. Why can’t I do that?”
He already knew the answer.
When Joey’s mother went in to cover him with the old worn quilts on the couch where he slept, he seemed to be lost in his own world. He was almost too serious for a child.
“Hey, Sweetie. Whatcha’ thinking about?”
“Mom, why are some people poor and others rich?”
“Well Joey, it depends on if you mean in money, or more important things.”
She explained about what really matters in life in a way that made an indelible mark on his heart. The next day at the bus stop Joey waited for the kid in the window to appear. He waved to him.
Nate saw the poor boy arrive at his usual time. As he looked out across the gated yard, he was surprised to see the greeting.
He smiled and waved back.
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