Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: OVERSEAS VACATION (08/13/15)
TITLE: The Passing Of Sorrows
By Zacharia Fox
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“You ain’t seen nothin’ yet, Mitch. Tomorrow’s the grand finale.” Bruno gave me playful jab on the arm.
I rolled my eyes as the taxi pulled curbside to our hotel. “Whatever you say, Bruno.”
* * *
Bruno had been my foster father for fifteen years. And for fifteen years, he’d refused to adopt me. I always wondered why. I was a smart kid, brilliant really. I’d received letters from all the big schools; Harvard, Yale, Oxford.
When I told him I wanted to go to Oxford he chuckled and said, “Boy. You know how much’at costs? You’re lookin’ at a mechanic — a meat-and-potatoes man and yer askin’ for wine and filet mignon.”
That’s when it hit me — it was about the money. I was his meal ticket. So I snuck a peak at his bill folder when he was at the shop, and sure enough the state of New Jersey payed him seven-hundred-seventeen-dollars-and-sixteen-cents a month to be my foster parent. If the free-loading leach adopted me, the checks stopped.
I never called him ‘Dad’ again. A roof over my head and food in my belly, and he can have his check. I didn’t need him; I could look after myself.
When my Sophomore English teacher gave me ‘Great Expectations’ I knew I was Pip. After my senior year, I’d be off to college to make something of myself, never to have old Bruno cast a shadow over my life again.
I was finishing my application for a summer job in the IT Department at the plant in town, when Bruno asked, “Hey, kid. I’s thinkin’ about taking ya’ to London ‘fore you start yer senior year. What-a-ya say?”
I was bitter, not stupid. If he was using me, I was using him. Besides, who wouldn’t trade Jersey for London?
* * *
In the morning, Bruno flagged a cab outside the hotel, and we headed out of London. I leaned my forehead against the window as we rode, finding pleasure in the coolness of the glass. I’m not sure when I fell asleep, but I remember Bruno’s vice-grip shakin’ me awake.
“Mitch. We’re here. Come on kid, wake up.”
“Yeah, yeah. I’m awake.” I yawned and clutched ‘Great Expectations’, as I climbed out of the taxi.
“You excited, kid?” Bruno’s arm was a yoke resting over my shoulders.
“What’s your big surprise?” I rubbed my bleary eyes and looked around.
And then I froze.
I stood in front of education’s cathedral. Oxford scaled the skies, spires cresting like peaks on heaven’s crown. “This is Oxford. Are we at Oxford?” I turned to Bruno.
He pulled a folder from underneath his jacket, a tear spilling from his eye as he handed it to me.
He only nodded toward the folder, so I flipped it open. In one pocket were adoption papers from the state of New Jersey. In the other a check. I knew the number on the check. I’d contemplated the impossibility of that sum since the day I set my heart on Oxford. One-hundred-thirty-nine-thousand-eight-hundred-sixty-dollars. The exact cost of four years in Oxford’s Computer Science school.
I looked at Bruno and opened my mouth to say something, but nothing came out. I felt my chest shake as tears poured from my eyes like water from a broken dam.
“It’s every foster care check I ever got, plus a little extra just from me. I knew I couldn’t pay for yer college no other way.”
I closed the folder, dropped my tattered book, and dove at him, burying my face in his chest. He held me so tight I knew I couldn’t wiggle out; and I didn’t want out. He held me until my body stopped shaking and heaving. He held me like I’d always wanted my dad to do. He held me.
He kissed me on the top of my head and whispered, “You been my boy all these years, you know.”
My tears lamented the passing of sorrows as I cried, “I love you, Dad.”
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