Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: Write a Coming OF AGE short story (11/20/14)
- TITLE: Unexpected Tutor
By Tracy Nunes
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The day before he went missing, I won an award from a pro-life group for bravery in the face of a bad prognosis for Jack. The pictures on my walls speak of success, of the rewards for believing and for not giving up. There’s a picture of Mike looking at me while I was getting an ultrasound. We looked terrified, but determined. Then a succession of birthday photos, starting with Mike handing Jack to me at birth; my joy and tears, mixed with fear, spoke loudly through the lens.
After two sleepless nights, and lots of time to think about the detour life had made, the call came. They’d found him! I rode in the squad car. They pulled up at a park in the worst part of town. I saw him right away.
Jack was surrounded by a large group of disheveled people. He was so unharmed, and seemingly enjoying himself that anger rose in me. The urge to tear into him was staggering. I sped down the park path littered with drug paraphernalia and used condoms. Bile rose up in my throat. I protected him all these years, only to find him here?
I stopped behind him. He was talking; his audience was laughing and fully engaged. He was telling the Empire State Building story. His chair had been caught in an elevator door in the lobby; his front wheel lodged in the track. The ensuing commotion made the line back up all the way to the street. He was relaying an embarrassing experience as if it were slapstick.
When the laughter died down, someone in the crowd raised his hand and said, “Hey man, ain't you that guy their looking for on the news?”
Jack paused, and then nodded, “Yeah, that’s me.”
“What you doing here? Ain't your mom some kind of hero-mom, or something?”
The crowd was quiet, waiting for his answer.
“My mom was the best kind of hero. When doctors told her I would be born without legs and have these clubs as hands, they pushed her to have an abortion. Even family thought she should save herself the heartache. But, she and my dad knew from the beginning they would have me and love me.”
A city trolley’s loudspeaker announced a stop next to the park and Jack paused till it passed.
“They believed I could do everything other kids did; they wanted me to be strong. And I was. But, somewhere along the way, I think my Mom forgot that. It’s like… I became her mission.” He sighed, “Dad got pushed to the side and - I don’t know - things just didn’t pan out. They separated. Now, I’m nineteen. They made me independent and capable, but she doesn’t want to let me go. I tried to tell her but she wouldn’t listen. Leaving felt like the only thing I could do. “
By then, I was sitting down on a bench behind Jack, trying to hold back the tears. That’s when the man in the crowd noticed me. His surprise as he looked over Jack’s head caught his attention and Jack turned to see me there.
He was calm; not anxious, like he was waiting for me to come.
The police backed off. Jack excused himself from his audience and wheeled over to me.
“Why?” I whispered, the veins in my temple told him where I could go on the Richter scale.
He reached for my hand, “Let’s take a walk Mom.”
A howl of anger wanted to explode from my throat. Instead, I got up to walk away, to get away from his words. I had a panicked urge to run home and pretend I could make things stay the same.
But, he’s right. Oh God, he’s right.
Off to the side I see a figure coming close. Jack and I both turn. It’s Mike. He stopped, looked at me for a long time. His expression was guarded. I had an urge to run to him but instead we both turned to Jack.
He looked so much like a man. When did that happen? He’d orchestrated this like the capable grown up that he is. I realized then, the tables had turned. It was a surprising lesson from an unexpected tutor.
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