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A sudden large gust of wind blew his hair around as he sat on the bench outside of the little one-room church building. He let his short little legs swing back and forth as he pondered. People started to leave the church one by one, dressed from head to toe in black. Everyone dabbing tears from their faces. Her death was so unexpected, and everyone in town had taken it hard. However, it was especially difficult for her son Sammy who was only five at the time, and her husband.
Sammy sat on the top step to his Aunt’s house, the house that built him, an old white farmhouse with black shutters. Cradling his head in his hands, his shaggy dark brown hair draped across his face, he could hear Thomas barking at a far off squirrel and the bells of the cattle grazing in the nearby fields. The sun had just peaked it’s way above the horizon, shining a beautiful glow upon the land. Sammy continued to sit still, contemplating if this was the right move. He had been dreaming of doing this since he was a young boy. Now at the age of seventeen after spending years saving every penny he earned in his converse shoe box, he was doubting himself. Time was up, the sounds of a car coming down a dirt road forced him to rise. As he approached the dusty navy blue pick-up truck, he heard his aunt calling from a window above. Glancing over his shoulder, there she was, leaning out of a second story window, her light green eyes sparkling in the sunlight wishing him the best of luck. Just before he turned back around, he saw her wipe a tear from her eye.
His best friend Jim had a lot to say on the way to the airport. Although, after knowing him since before his mother passed away, this was nothing out of the ordinary. With the unengaging comments of ‘yeah’ ‘thats cool’ and ‘mmhmm,’ Sammy sat mostly quiet on the long ride. Staring out the window, watching as the trees, the small town and everything he had always known passed in a blur right before his eyes. He couldn’t help but think about his papa, and the good old days, and wondered if he was somewhere out there thinking of him too.
Before he knew it, Sammy was sitting on his first airplane ready to leave, ready to leave everything he knew, and venture into new territory. After an introduction to all the safety features of the aircraft, he finally heard the pilot come on the intercom and announce that flight 2A with service to JFK international airport was ready for take off.
Along the way Sammy figured he should put good use to the time he had and pulled out his folder labeled 'Important,' and sifted through it, trying answer the biggest question of all, 'Why?' Finally, the old man sitting next him looked over.
“What do you got there boy?” He asked curiously.
“Nothin’” Although he was normally more talkative, there was something about this special day that made him not want to say much.
“I was your age once you know, and that ain’t lookin’ like just nothin’ to me.”
Sammy looked down at the map he was holding and back up at the man. He was a peculiar old man, his face wrinkled with age and experience, containing bushy gray eyebrows that almost covered his eyes. After a moment of trying to study the man, he finally said,
“I’ve lost somethin’.”
“What’s that boy?”
Not knowing what he meant by the question, and not wanting to find out in fear he would have to tell the whole story, he decided just to rephrase his last answer.
“I’m tryin’ to find somethin’ I lost a while ago.”
Detecting that the young boy was not willing to explain himself, and disappointed the old man turned back around and picked up where he left off reading To Kill A Mockingbird.
An hour passed and Sammy realized the curiosity of the man he learned was named Mr. Henry. Feeling guilty for the unusual manner in which he acted previously, he had quickly taken a large dive into his story and was explaining everything in detail to his new friend.
The plane landed with a thud and was soon parked at the gate. After retrieving his backpack from the overhead, Mr. Henry glanced back and said,
“Don’t get lost in the world boy.”
This was Sammy’s first and last encounter with Mr. Henry.
A long morning’s travel required some lunch. Sammy located a decent table at a nearby sub shop and spread out his map while munching on his sandwich. The eastern half of the United States was featured on the map, with many lines and dashes across it. If there was one thing could remember about his papa, it was that he would never go to the West Coast for unknown reasons. The second thing Sammy could remember was probably the most important. Just weeks before he left, Sammy found a postcard of New York City with an unfamiliar address on it.
Along with these two things Sammy clearly remembered about his father, he spent the past school year gathering anything regarding his father. He packed all of this into his backpack that he guarded with his life, including the only photo Sammy had of him, photos of his few belongings, and memories collected from people around the town.
With his eyes back down on the map, Sammy figured he’d better start where he thought he could get the most information, yet was the most risky.
He stood on the front step, staring up at the ornate numbers on the oak front door, 312. The door
finally opened with a screech following what seemed like a lifetimes wait. A thin gentle lady appeared in the doorway and without a word led him into the grand home. Assuming its what she meant, he followed her through the halls decorated elaborately however photographs were a foreign object in the house. As they walked she said in a calming voice,
“I am sorry about your mother.”
It was that moment Sammy realized he had met this woman before. At first when planning who he was going to visit he didn’t recall ever meeting his papa’s step-sister before. Of course he knew he had one, but since their argument years ago she never came around. Suddenly, it was this moment an image popped into his head. The sweet, kind lady standing in the corner of the funeral home, out of place, with never ending streams of tears rolling down her face.
They sat together at the kitchen table and after a long period of silence she finally said her eyes full of sorrow,
“You look so much like your mother.”
“That’s why he left, isn’t it?”
Sammy couldn’t believe what he had just heard, it took a moment for it to sink in, she knew.
“You- you know?”
“Although I wasn’t around much, it wasn’t hard to tell how much he loved your mother. Then one day a letter came in the mail. I am not even sure you can call it a letter, but anyway I figured what had happened.”
“Do you still have the note? Where is it?” He demanded.
Aunt Sue swiftly lifted herself from her seat at the table and disappeared for a moment. When she came back she carried a fragile piece of paper and handed it to Sammy.
He held it gently in his large hands careful not to damage it, and studied it. Scribbled on a cream paper no larger than a post-it note read the words-
‘Keep him safe. If you need-’
It looked as though he did not finish writing his thoughts. Yet, the small note managed to make its way trough the mail and into Aunt Sue’s safe keeping without a complete thought. However, there was nothing, nothing, nothing but a round drop as if a tear had found its way from the author’s eye to the small page.
He continued to examine the note. Without noticing, small salty tears began to formulate in his own eyes and wonder down the vast plain of his face.
Aunt sue was aware, yet kept quiet and after a minute she began to speak softly and slowly at first,
“Having known your papa so well, when your mother passed away I knew he would not be able stand to live the way he was living anymore,” she began. As she continued she gained her confidence and her voice rose and fell with inflection. Sammy tried to pay attention to her long speech, yet he was still surprised by the fact she knew he was going to come.
“You knew I was coming,” he said more like a statement then a question.
“I knew if you were anything like your papa you would not just let him walk out of your life like he did. You would want to know more information and somehow you would manage to find your way to me.” She spoke faintly, “But I am afraid I can't help you.”
Sammy said his goodbyes to the Aunt he barely knew and was back on the street. He was an eyesore in the middle of the city, towering over all of the hustling businessmen dressed finely and his cowboy detracted himself from the crowd even more. He pulled his map from the back pocket of his jeans and crossed off the first visit. It was getting late and he was weary from a long day’s travel so he found a place to spend his first night in New York City.
He woke the next morning with a start; the initial seconds of his morning were spent
trying to figure out where he was and why. The sounds of cars packed on the street below and blasting horns of those running behind pounded at his eardrums. Soon after his shower, Sammy found himself wandering around the city once again.
He began the day by venturing into a place called Starbucks. Despite the fact Sammy had never heard of such a place, it advertised coffee, so he went in. Taking a step in, a bell rang signaling someone walking through the door. Immediately, Sammy felt something about this place. Deja vu? No, something more, stronger, more familiar. He walked up to the counter,
“Of course, decaf or regular?”
“What size would you like sir?”
“Short, tall, grande or venti?”
Confused by what this could mean, Sammy was always one to ask questions.
With a chuckle and a grin the salesperson responded, “well then, we’ll just get you a tall.”
While the man went to fill his order, Sammy thought to himself, ‘the people in this place are so weird, nobody stops to talk to anyone except when placing their order and scolding the workers for messing it up. Jim would really enjoy hearing about this one.’ While he waited he also took note of all the employees, for he just didn’t understand what it was about this place that made him get a certain feeling his stomach. He took notice of their features, habits, and positions. Then someone caught his eye, and his heart immediately sank down, while his stomach tied itself in a knot.
He couldn’t move.
His order was up. After retrieving it he found a seat close to the counter. He wasn’t thirsty anymore, so he reached into his backpack for the folder that contained everything-. Pulling out the old tattered photograph, he looked up at the man who was hard at work filling orders, and then back down to the photo. Unsure of what to do, Sammy went numb.
After gaining back some of the feeling in his legs, he approached the counter.
“How can I help-” although his face had aged greatly, his voice was the same deep soothing voice it always was. He stopped mid-sentence realizing who was standing just feet before him.
There was a long pause before he said,
“I’ll be off in twenty-two minutes.”
Those twenty-two minutes were the longest of Sammy’s life. He had returned back to his same seat and sat thinking, reflecting, questioning. ‘What is going to happen when he gets off work? Is he going to be mad? Does he still love me?’ This question stuck in his mind like glue. He could no longer think of anything else but this question.
Suddenly, he felt the presence of a figure standing behind him. Sammy slowly turned in his chair to see his papa, staring into his eyes.
Sammy followed his papa through the door that gave a ring as they left, and down the city streets. They walked in silence, neither of them knowing what to say to the other. They continued into a parking garage just off fifth avenue, hopped into the old station wagon and drove off.
After two hours of an awkward silence, his papa finally exited the interstate and found himself traveling down a dirt road. This was the most at home Sammy had felt in the past few days, yet he was farther than ever. The sun cast a light down on the Earth that day in such a way that made everything
look so clear and crisp. They continued to drive, and Sammy thought to himself it was the most beautiful day he had ever seen. His papa suddenly jerked the car off the road and threw it into park. Not aware they would be stopping so suddenly, Sammy let his head bang against the glass window.
“Here we are.” His papa said, in a monotonous voice.
Sammy glanced around at the rugged scenery, and based upon their distance, he figured they were in the middle of New York somewhere. At first, he didn't understand what was so special about this place. Sure the tall trees formed a nice canopy above his head, but it was nothing compared to the rolling hills of his country home. Then he noticed his papa walking toward a small break in the lush trees.
“I always thought your mother was the most beautiful gift God had given the world.” He got a little choked up, for he had not talked about his beloved wife since that day.
He took a long pause to clear the coming tears. They stood together in silence for a moment, along the edge of a magnificent water fall. Its water rushing down hundreds of feet and greeted by a rocky pond below.
He then continued, “I always thought we would live forever together, and I would die one day in the midst of her beauty, holding her fragile hand. But since she died, this is the closest thing I have found to as beautiful as she was.”
Wearing a look of sorrow on his face, he glanced down at the falling water, just inches from his feet.