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The summer wind blew lightly. A red squirrel was pacing up and down a large limb of an oak tree that’s leaves were shading a second floor window of a white house. The sun was just beginning to rise. A hummingbird, who had been perched on a smaller branch , looked precariously at the squirrel that was approaching. The hummingbird chirped as the squirrel came ever closer. When it became apparent that the squirrel was going to continue to invade the hummingbirds area, the hummingbird flew away and landed in the shade, on an open window sill.
A gust of wind glided through the window and continued on through the bare room. The wind spread through out the space and flitted the pages of a book that was resting next to a bed, left there from the night before. Another blow of wind came into the bedroom and moved the bangs of the ten year old boy, who sleepily slowly opened his eyes.
His eyes met those of the hummingbird, who was a dark blue, and the hummingbird chirped a dawn song. The boy smiled.
As the turbulence of the wind increased, the branch that the hummingbird was resting on bobbed up and down, scaring the squirrel, who quickly climbed down to a lower branch that ran adjacent to the window.
The hummingbird saw the return of the squirrel and looked back at the boy with a goodbye glance, and flew away. The boy, still lying in bed, tucked in under a brown tweed blanket, was left looking at the red squirrel with the orange of the dawn blinding him slightly.
The boy sat up in his bed and picked up the book from the ground that he had began reading the night before. Across the cover of the book was the title “The Protector.” The boy ran his fingers down the spine. He opened to where he had left off, page twelve. He had stopped reading the previous night after his father had come to visit him.
His beard was starting to show, his face was worn and tired. After he had knocked and sat down on the foot of the bed, the father asked the boy “How are you?”
The boy folded the top corner of the page to mark his spot. “I’m fine.”
The father’s cold face showed a glimmer of warmth when he looked at what the boy held between his hands. “I see you are reading the book already.”
“I’ve never owned a book before,” the boy said, looking up at his father’s face which was so much larger than his own.
“It is a good one. Simple, but good. You will like it. I first read it when I was a little older than you.”
The boy thought it odd to imagine his father as a young as he was, something about that didn’t make sense, as if his father has always been the way he is and will always be that way and that age.
“Did you want something?” the boy asked the man for it was uncommon for his father to say goodnight to him after working at the vineyard.
The man looked at the boy’s eyes which were so much like his own, the same deep blue. “No, son, I just came to say goodnight.” Then the father laid his hands upon his son’s forehead and the boy took notice of the silent blessing in the man’s eyes. “Goodnight, son.” The man stood up and walked out of the room, blowing out the candles on his way.
The boy shut the book closed and decided that the wind was beginning to be a bit too aggressive. He stood up, out of bed, wearing his brown corduroy pants and his black night shirt, and walked to the window the shut the door.
One kilometer from the house is a road traveled occasionally by those making there way between Vorvuex and Santes. The boy could see the road from the window and he could see the figure of a person walking on the road in the direction of Vorveux. The boy thought it odd that a traveler would choose this road to walk upon, for there was a much better well made road only 1 kilometer south which led to Paris among other stops. It was not uncommon to see a traveler on a horse or carriage drive by, but it was a rare occasion to see a traveler on foot.
The boy saw the squirrel, who was now digging its nails into the branches wood, moving side to side with the wind. He shut the window and removed his shirt. The boy retrieved his white cotton shirt from the small wooden dresser next to his bed. After he had finished changing the boy sat down and opened the book’s cover. The opening page had a handwritten note which read “Arthur Fleetson.” The boy looked at the name with familiarity and admiration for this was both the name of himself and his father.
As the boy was turning the pages of the light yellow paper pagers, he remembered that it was Saturday and that he should begin on his chores. He retrieved his socks and shoes, grabbed his book for the possibility of free time arising, and left his room.
As he walked down the creaking stairs, he could feel with every breath that the air of the house felt different and alien, that there was a certain grainy feeling that ran through his lungs. He could not hear his mother hustling about, making breakfast for his father. As he reached the ground floor and proceeded onto the kitchen, he walked by his parent’s bedroom where he would normally see his father tying his shoes or putting on his overalls but instead saw only a lonely bed which seemed a mess due to the blanket covers not being folded this morning.
He could hear labored breathing in the kitchen. He entered and found her sitting on his father’s dinner table chair, her arms and face laid upon the table. The floorboard underneath the boys feet made a soft creek which did not go unnoticed by his mother who looked up to the source of the sound, tears in her eyes and the trails running down her cheeks.
“What’s wrong, mother?” the boy asked.
She didn’t know what to say to her son, who stood there with a face that resembled her husband’s much more than it did hers. She couldn’t form the words to say to him. The boy cautiously stepped closer to her mother. The mother found it too hard to look into her son’s eyes, and instead looked down at the tablecloth.
How clever the boy is, she thought.
His words carried with them a shockingly demanding tone which forced her to look into her sons eyes. As soon she did, a new wave a tears began to flood out.
The boy turned around and ran into his parents bedroom, pushing the door open hard, the sound of the doorknob hitting the wall cracked throughout the house and sent shivers through her mothers slim frame. She pushed back her husbands chair from the table and followed the boy into her room. She found him sitting on the bed, holding one of his father’s pair of shoes in his lap.
“Where is he?” the boy asked her mother without looking up at her, instead his eyes were focused on his father’s shoes as if hoping they could give some hint to what was happening.
“I don’t know,” the mother said, her voice croaked, her through dry.
“Mother, where is my father?” the boy asked again, this time looking away from the shoes and into his mother’s eyes.
“He just left. He kissed me and then just left. He didn‘t say anything,” his mother said, feeling pain with each word as her throat struggled to form each syllable.
Two thoughts suddenly ran through the boys head. The first was something that his father had once said to him about how to become a man: “Ask why as little as possible. Try to figure it out yourself. Then you will grow.”
The second thought was the memory of the hummingbird, who had flown away. He remembered the figure on the road, heading west towards Vorveux.
Suddenly the boy stood up and walked quickly passed his mother, his fathers shoes and book in hand. He ran up the stairs and into his room. He grabbed his tawny colored knapsack.
His mother slowly walked up the stairs, leaning on the wall for support. She entered into the boys room, which had the morning light filling up the room with a yellow tinge. She could see out the window that the clouds were lit up near the horizon, and they were moving swiftly across the sky.
Her son was putting clothes into his knapsack. She saw him grab socks, shirts, jackets, under-trousers, and pants. He removed his shoes and stepped into his fathers shoes, without even having to unlace them. The boy walked to his dresser but his feet slipped out of his fathers shoes. There was a slight look of disappointment that washed upon the boy’s face. He slid his feet back into his own shoes and put his fathers into his knapsack. The book was the final thing he put into the sack before he sealed it shut with a knot.
The woman knew what his son was doing, and for a peculiar reason, she felt a sense of relief.
“I’m leaving. I’ll be back as soon as I know,” the boy spoke to her, holding one of the hands.
She nodded to him, and purposefully looked into her sons eyes with a look of confidence.
Then the boy released his mother’s hands and walked out of the room, leaving the mother looking out of the window at the new day. She heard the front door of the house bang shut. She approached the window and lifted the pane, and she gazed out at her son who began his walk to the road. The wind had died down and the woman couldn’t help but smile as a hummingbird perched itself upon the open window sill.