Mark’s loud stomps were heard as he ran down the stairs, the smell of freshly made waffles inviting him to the kitchen. With a watering mouth and a tapping foot, Mark sat in his seat at the table, practically shaking in excitement for his favorite food to be brought out for him.
“Good morning, Mark!” exclaimed Momma, while ruffling Mark’s brown head of hair. Mark didn’t know Momma’s real name, and he hadn’t thought to find out. “I’m glad to see you up and ready for the day!” This was one thing Mark never understood about his mother. She was always exerting happiness, and sometimes he wondered how she could keep a constant smile on her face without having her head fall off from exhaustion.
“Well momma, I’m excited today because-well, I’m excited because I g-get to eat wa-waffles!” Mark had a stutter when he spoke, and he sometimes had to restart his sentences, but it wasn’t his fault. Mark had Autism, so his speech was slightly impaired.
“That’s great, baby. Let me go get you a glass of milk,” Momma stated, as she placed the plate of waffles on the table. Mark always ate fairly large meals, as he argued that to be a pirate he had to fill himself with food to fuel his endeavors. The real reason was that he was fairly large for a boy of only twelve years old, making his appetite bigger than most.
Mark quickly dove into his meal, and by the time his mother returned from the kitchen, he had practically licked his plate clean.
“Mark, sweetie, we have to go to the store to buy some milk. If you want to make cookies this afternoon we have to leave for a sec,” Mark’s mother warily stated. She knew to be careful with her words and her tone, because Mark absolutely hated going to the supermarket. The constant beeping from the cash registers and the sudden changes in temperature while walking by the freezers gave Mark a headache. Momma knew that him throwing a fit in the middle of the store was a great possibility, so she always tried to gently coerce him into going with her. Being a single mom, she occasionally left Mark home alone when he would go into one of his “moods,” though Momma hated the thought of anything happening to him while she wasn’t there.
Mark slumped down in his seat, his mood being ruined from the thought of having to walk through the supermarket. He then continued on to carry out the strategy that always helped him get what he wanted; he groaned. As soon as Mark began to loudly groan, Momma knew that he would not stop until he got what he wanted.
“Fine, fine, Mark! You can stay home alone, but you stay in your room with your toys.” Mark silenced at these words and smiled to himself. He let out the tiniest of giggles and nodded five times, because five was his lucky number and he wanted his mom to be happy with him.
“Okay, Mark. I’ll be back soon. Go up to your room, bubs, and please behave yourself while I’m gone.” With one last worried glance, Momma left the house, making her way down to the supermarket.
When Mark was left alone, he let his hidden world escape his brain and take over him completely. This hidden world was constantly playing a story in Mark’s head, usually about pirates, and sometimes he couldn’t help but get lost in it. In this particular moment, Mark was engrossed in a storyline involving him as a pirate, of course, questioning the ocean on why it swallowed the sun every night, because it made it hard to see. This thought in particular got Mark thinking even more than usual, and his inner-pirate knew it was time for an adventure.
Completely disregarding his mother’s previous statements, Mark decided to head out to sea and witness the ocean swallow the sun himself. Living in Blue Hill, Maine, Mark’s home was right by the ocean. Momma had gotten him a small rowboat for his eighth birthday, so he was very prepared for his adventure. Stuffing five packaged waffles into his backpack and slipping on his favorite pair of sneakers, Mark was ready to go. He then skipped out of his house and completed the short walk to the bay area, where he kept his small rowboat.
As soon as Mark reached his boat, he untied it from its usual spot under the large oak tree, and dragged it along the sand to the water’s shore. Checking five times to be sure that he had everything he needed, Mark hopped into the vessel and began making his way further into the ocean, towards the afternoon sun.
Mark was a very strong boy, and he had practiced rowing his boat quite often, so going into the ocean was not much of a problem for him. All Mark had to do was hum a steady tune, and as if someone flipped a switch in him, he would get lost in his own world. It was only when he looked over his shoulder to check his progress after a couple of hours that he snapped back to reality and realized what he had done. The vast ocean went on for miles in every direction, and there was no sign of any land nearby.
“M-m-momma!” Mark shouted in despair, his voice echoing into the distance.
“M-m-momma! M-momma! Mo-omma!” his shouts became more urgent, and his breaths became more frantic.
“MOMMA!” with a scratchy voice, Mark let out one final scream, his mind having a hard time comprehending that he was all alone. Tears steadily streamed down Mark’s face as he sunk down into the rowboat and placed his head between his knees. Slowly rocking back and forth, cries silenced by the sound of waves.
Not only was Mark left alone without his mother, but he realized that trying to find where the ocean would swallow the sun was hopeless, for the sky was covered in stormy clouds, and the sun was nowhere to be seen behind the grey wall up above.
Soon enough, thick drops of rain began to mix in with Mark’s salty tears, causing him to lift his head up from between his knees and scan his surroundings. The sky was practically black, even though the sun had yet to set, and heavy winds were causing the ocean’s waves to grow larger and larger with every passing second. Mark let out a shaky breath and closed his eyes, suddenly feeling like he was going white water rafting with Momma that one time at Acadia National Park. The only difference was that this time Momma wasn’t there to hold him close while the bumpy, scary water surrounded him.
As the waves grew, so did Mark’s fear. He refused to look at his surroundings any longer, so he shut his eyes, covered his ears, and continued to rock back and forth while groaning and counting “1, 2, 3, 4, 5…” over and over again in his head to try and block out the sounds of the sea. At that moment, a large wave crashed down on Mark, causing him to plunge into the water, though he resurfaced moments later. Mark was left floating on the ocean’s surface, praying for the storm to be over so he could go back to his rowboat and sit and wait and groan and cry and wish that he had never gone out to find out why the ocean swallowed the sun every night.
As if some higher power was reading Mark’s mind, the sky soon cleared up, though his rowboat and bag were nowhere to be found. Floating on his back, Mark weakly opened his eyes, taking in the view above him. More stars than he had ever seen before dotted the royal blue sky as the sun continued to make its path to the horizon before it would set.
“M-m-momma,” Mark whispered, “I-I miss y-you.” Mark’s teeth chattered and his body shivered as the cool, summer's night wind blew on his face, washing his tears into the ocean. Mark didn’t know what to do because he didn’t have five of anything and he was too weak to say even one word five more times, so that meant that he was out of luck.
As the sun reached the horizon, Mark’s heart began to race. Mark was glad he at least reached his final destination. He did not need to know why the ocean swallowed the sun, because for that moment, Mark let his mind wash away in the ocean’s waves, taking away all of his worries and fears. So as he took one final, shaky breath, the sun held Mark in his arms, letting the ocean take them away.
Mark’s favorite place was the ocean, so since the day she went to the grocery store, Momma sat at the shore. She would pretend that Mark was right by her side, drawing pirate ships in the sand, with the biggest smile on his face.