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Voices In The Wind
I knew what was going on the moment sheriff Bryant walked into my class. It wasn’t anything but the look on his face. He couldn’t keep a straight face about anything. All the other students stared at me as I walked out of the room with him. Some of them just watched but others, like Tommy Brown, shot curse words at me under his breath.
You see, my parents had gone out of town over the weekend and were supposed to be back by the time I got out of school that day. Bryant sought to be the one to tell me that my parents were dead. He loved to cause me misery. Once when I was about ten some kids I was hanging around threw rocks at the window down at the old mill, I wasn’t throwing anything and he stilled took me to the station.
There wasn’t anything he loved more than to torture me. We went into the library and he sat me down all nice and quiet and looked me square in the eye and told me what had happened, but like I said I already knew.
“Jacob,” he started, “I came here today to tell you that your parents were in a car wreck. Neither of them made it.” He paused waiting for it to take affect, but all I could get out was one gleaming tear and he went on talking. “Now, you are going to be eighteen in a month but until that time your parents are sending you to live with your grandmother.” I could see a partial smile at this point. He knew I didn’t like my grandmother and therefore loved the fact that I had to go live with her.
He smiled and smiled until I asked the one question I knew would bug him.
“When do I leave?” That smile vanished faster ‘n grandma’s pie on thanksgiving and that was saying something. Down in the south we loved us some apple pie and her more ‘n the rest of us. I couldn’t wait to go, only ‘cause I knew it would upset Bryant.
“I’m taking you down there tomorrow. Seeing as today is the last day of school.” He seemed somewhat pleased with himself, somewhat of a god mind you. But he was less than that to me. I had lost everyone except Mary. She was the one person that wouldn’t know how to die if you laid out the instructions right in front of her. I lost my baby sister when she was six, I lost my baby brother just after he was born and I just lost my parents.
“Great, can I go now? Lots to do.” I walked out not waiting to be cleared because I knew this to upset Bryant. I walked out of school leaving my stuff there. I walked home well that was home, yesterday, now it was a waste. Why was I the one that had to suffer so much?
When I got home I went straight to the bathroom where I turned on the shower and got in, fully dressed. I got in the shower to somehow make myself feel better about crying. You couldn’t see the tears if water was running down my face. I stood there for what felt like hours. I contracted a huge head ach as I stood there. The only reason I vacated was so I could get some aspirin and some food. I ate my dinner and walked up stares, not even bothering to change I got into bed and hoped that it had all been a dream.
The next morning I realized it wasn’t. I heard Bryant at the door and I gathered my stuff. I walked out the door and sat in that blasted police car for six hours to get to my own personal prescription of hell. This is it. I thought as we pulled into the driveway. Mary was waiting for us on the porch and almost knocked Bryant upside the head with her cane when he put his arm on my shoulder.
“Don’t you touch my boy!” she exclaimed as she pulled my in for a hug. That was the first time she acknowledged my existence with a hug since I was a child. I usually got an insult about my hair or t-shirt, but today she wanted to comfort her daughter’s son and for the first time in years I let her. When she walked me inside, the door closing wasn’t followed by a loud curse word shot at me like a knife to the throat. She walked me to my room and even carried my stuff for me. This was the side of her that I missed.
That night and several after that, I cried myself to sleep. I never knew what a parent was until I had none. I would miss our walks out by the old railroad on Connolly Drive. Those were the best times of my life. I had never known this kind of pain. I never thought of introducing myself to it, but it had my name it’s list and I have shaken his hand. He is cruel and I can’t wait to get ride of him.
The morning I was leaving for college grandma cried harder than I have ever seen anyone cry. Her crying made me cry and my crying made the sky cry. It was not scheduled to rain that day, but the clouds had. I drove as fast as I could. I tried beyond belief not to cry but it hit me like a punch to the gut. I had to pull off to the side of the road to try and control myself. I was the saddest I have ever been and nothing could ever make me feel worse. I saw lightning in the distance and chased it as well as I could. I had to fill up three times with gas to get to Dallas. When I entered the city I thought a bit of music might make me forget my horrible life so I turned on the radio and I was hit again.
“Listen, baby ain't no mountain high ain't no valley low ain't no river wide enough, baby.” I had to pull over again. That was our song. That was my mothers, my fathers and my favorite song. I couldn’t handle this. I didn’t know how to be without parents.
The rain had ceased and the sun had been eaten by the desert. I arrived just in time for orientation, but I slept through most of it and I had thanked god that I was one of the few students who had gotten a single room. I cried for the first few nights and wanted to call my parents and tell them why I was sad but that just reminded me.
I dropped out of college six days in and I got a full refund. I took the money and drove as long as I could. I went everywhere from El Paso to Vegas and I hated every minute of it. I took many trips through the mountains. Within a month I had realized that the reason I wasn’t happy was because I wanted something more from life. I wanted an adventure. I wanted a life.
Seven days later I met the perfect girl and I stayed there for several months. Then on month ten we eloped and drove back to Dallas and stayed with Mary. She wasn’t happy that I got married without her there but she was happy that I finally was happy.
Nine months and six hours later we had our first child. But one year later we found out that Jackie had cancer in her lungs.
“Second hand smoke kills.” Was all the doctor said.
“We can get through this Jackie. We will get through this.” She only lasted three years, but that was one year more than the doctor said she would.
Buddy and I were sad to see her go and all he could say for a month was,
“Mommy went bye, bye.” It was sad to see him like that but I hadn’t the slightest clue what to do. I was losing everyone around me that I loved and I would be damned if I lost Buddy too. He was my life, I loved my kid more than anything on the planet and Death was insistent on making him just as miserable as me.
But I eventually knew what I had to do. I had to take him back to the place I had lost my other world. So I did. And other than him that was the best choice I had made in my entire life. I knew I needed something but I didn’t know I needed that town.
Buddy was the happiest I had ever seen him without his mama. I missed her but I knew this was were she would want us to be. I bought a house close to the railroad on Connolly Drive and I have never felt more safe. Buddy is now seven and doing perfectly well in school. All of his teachers have never seen such a bright student and he knows this makes daddy happy. I have a nice paying job with all the benefits.
One day we were sitting by the window in the living room and I could have sworn I heard my mothers voice calling me.
“Jacob,” she said, “Come here. Come walk with me, daddy and Jackie.” So I grabbed Buddy and ran to the door and cautiously walked outside. I took Buddy by the hand and when he asked what we were doing I quietly explained that we were going for a walk. And so we walked to the railroad and I looked down the forest of trees. I stood there and then I heard another voice.
“Jacob, do you remember all of those times we walked out here? Do you remember the time we walked out here and you saw your first train? Mama said you didn’t remember, but I think you do.”
“I do.” I said. I waited for a response that felt like forever to come.
“I want Buddy to have his turn.” Said Jackie. “I want him to see a train the way you did.” I turned to face him and I spoke so softly that I had to repeat myself to make sure he heard.
“Buddy, you wanna see a train?” I said.
“Yea daddy, I wanna see a train.” He replied softly. He sounded so much like his mother then and had to bite my lip to keep from crying. “When can I see one?”
“A train will be coming this way in about ten minutes. Why don’t you tell him a couple of stories till then?” So we sat down a ways from the track and I told him about my first time seeing a train.
“I was your age,” I started, “when I saw my first train. It was twenty cars long and the best part of it was sitting here with your grandparents and talking of their first time seeing a train.” We sat there until the train came and when he saw it coming he stood up big and tall and stretched to his full height, which wasn’t very tall, and he watched that train and counted each car.
“One, two, three, four, five.” He counted loudly so as to make sure I could hear. “Fourteen, fifteen, sixteen.” He screamed. I was laughing the entire time. “Twenty-one!” He shouted at the top of his lungs after the train had passed. He was please with himself that he got one more car than me. I hadn’t seen him smile like that since before his mama passed. He was happy and for that matter, I was happy.
“Dad, do you think mom can hear us?”
“I think she can Buddy, I think she can.”
“So if I tell her that I just saw a train will she hear me?
“Yes, son, I believe she will. Go on then, tell her.”
“Mom it’s me, Buddy, I just saw my first train and it was one car longer than dad’s first train.” He paused for a moment and looked at the sky as the wind picked up. “She heard me!” He screamed as I smiled and looked up at the peach colored sky. “I love you mama.” He said.
“I love you too.” I heard her say.
“She loves you too, son.” He smiled up at me looked to the skies.
“Listen, baby ain't no mountain high ain't no valley low ain't no river wide enough, baby.” He started to sing. And I had to join him and so did my mother, my father and my wife. And I will always remember the first time I heard voices in the wind.