The sunís glare reminds me of a cameraís flash, blinding me for an instant. Laughter, horseplay and splashing fill the air like the screech of first-year orchestra students. This was to be my summer of firsts. First time to kiss a girl, hopefully Connie. First time to hit a home run. First time to go off the high dive into the deep end of the pool. Iím eleven now, so these things are important
I choke on saltwater. I will surely drown after the shipwreck. I make it to a deserted island, so alone until my faithful dog appears. Perhaps Connie will be shipwrecked too. No, only someone I name Friday. Oh, Connie, where are you?
ďJericho Jackson, whatíre you doing? Shut that window.Ē
My mind is lassoed back to reality like a tethered calf. I wish I was a cowboy like Roy Rodgers. Grandma has brought lunch. I hobble to bed but leave the window open. ďWatchiní my friends swimming at the pool. I hate staying inside. And call me Jer, Grandma. I hate Jericho.Ē
She doesnít respond. She looks tired, making me feel bad. Grandma named me Jericho. She says it seemed fitting cause Mom was six days in labor. I was born on the seventh day. Dad had already been killed in World War II. Mom died from complications three days after I was born.
I was six before I realized ďcomplicationsĒ wasnít some disease. I was afraid Iíd catch it like my best friend, Bobby, caught mumps from his sister. Through the window I see Bobby on the high dive. Heís not afraid of the deep end. Heís the bravest boy I know. I broke my leg after climbing up the tallest tree in the park to show Connie how brave I am. Iím always showing off, hoping sheíll notice.
My spine tingles. Someoneís here. The door crashes open and a filthy band of pirates grab Grandma. They grab me next, and tie both of us up. Itís Captain Flint and Long John Silver. Before we know it, weíre on a ship and theyíre making Grandma walk the plank. She canít swim. I scream as she falls into the deep. Iíll save her.
Thump! Grandma neatly stacks my books by my bedside. Treasure Island is on the top. I finished it last night. All I do is stay inside and read, unless Bobby stops by. As if six weeks with a cast on my leg isnít awful enough, I got sick. The doctor says itís bronchitis. Grandma couldnít afford the hospital, so old Dr. Nelson comes by every day. I think he likes Grandma. They went to school together.
We live above Carsonís grocery store. Grandma says itís all we can afford. I love it. The fire stationís on one side and the public pool on the other. Maybe Iíll be a fireman some day. Then Iíll take care of Grandma. She says Iím all she has.
When she leaves the room, I go back to the window. I see Bobbyís talking to Connie and Iím jealous. I whistle. He looks up and waves. Connie looks up too, shading her eyes with her hand. She turns around without waving.
Huck wants to go down the river on a raft heís built. I know Aunt Polly wonít let me, so Iíll sneak out when sheís asleep. First, though, Iím gonna see Becky Thatcher. She has blonde hair and a cute smile like Connie, only Becky really likes me. Iím sure of it.
ďHey, Jer, did you see me go off the high dive?Ē Bobby cupped his hands around his mouth and is hollering.
ďYeah,Ē I holler back. I smooth my hair, hoping Connie will look, but she doesnít.
ďTouched the bottom of the deep end with my hand,Ē Bobby hollers.
Iím so jealous I could puke, but I smile and wave. And close the window.
I could scream, Iím so bored. I look at the stack of books and grumble. Swiss Family Robinson. I havenít read it yet.
I jumped off the high dive when my cast came off. I touched the bottom of the deep end, making sure Connie saw. I felt grown-up.
I became a lifeguard at the pool when I was a teenager. The deep end lost its appeal by then. I dated Connie, but it was Bobby who married her.
Grandma married Dr. Nelson. I became an author of childrenís books. Jericho Jackson sounds catchy, donít you think? Grandma named me well.
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