It was nearly the perfect, late autumn day for Aiden Rogers. It was the kind of day that started with a rush of excitement. His favorite National Football League team secured a spot in the soon to be playoffs the day before and he could not wait to get to school. It was the kind of day in which Mister McKay decided to give in to his fourth grade boys’ pleas and tossed them a football for the morning recess. It was the kind of day that brought an early snowstorm that was dusting the playground with fine white snowflakes. The day was a day that coats and jackets were shed for a heated pickup game of two-hand-touch football. But for Aiden the best part of the day was yet to come.
After the bell rang, Aiden ran up to his best friends Jacob and Trevor. They were slowly making their way back to the classroom. Nearly out of breath, he huffed out clouds of misty smoke while waiting for the rush of excitement to calm down. Finally, just before reaching the classroom, he looked at Jacob and asked, “How ‘bout after school we play football?”
“Whose house?” asked Trevor.
“Your house. I know your dad will let us go out and play even though it’s snowing.”
“Sure. I got to do homework and eat dinner first,” added Trevor.
“Me too,” responded Jacob.
“Good. Then we all meet after dinner at Trevor’s house.”
With the plan in place the three boys ran up the stairs and rushed to their table. They all knew not to upset Mister McKay and ruin their plan to play a pickup game at lunch recess.
* * *
Aiden quickly stopped and slightly slid on the snowy street. Out of the corner of his eyes he watched Jacob slip and just about tumble to the ground as he reacted too quickly to the patented move.
“I’m open!” he screamed at Trevor. Just as the football came flying to him in a perfect spiral Jacob came behind him and took a swat at the ball, but it was too late. Aiden caught and cradled the football into his stomach. And with finely timed precision he quickly swung around and raced to the end zone. “Touchdown!”
Trevor came running at him. The two jumped and bumped chests in celebration for the quick score.
Jacob came up to them and growled, “I swear one day I’m going to intercept that pass.”
But they were the best of friends and Jacob turned the frown upside down and began to hoot and holler with joy. It was time to switch. Aiden now became the defender, Jacob the quarterback, and Trevor the receiver.
As Jacob and Trevor huddled up, Aiden knew their time together was growing shorter. The sun had dipped below the horizon and only a little bit of light remained among the gathering clouds. It was a matter of time before Trevor’s dad called him in for the night and Jacob and he would have to go home. For Aiden, however, going home was different.
Aiden had realized back in second grade that Trevor was loved by his dad. And although he sometimes upset him by some of the stupid things he did, Trevor’s dad always forgave him and did not punish him too bad. Aiden knew the same to be true with Jacob. Just like Trevor, Jacob did stupid things sometimes but his mom and dad loved him nonetheless. And as the wind picked up and brought a chill to his body, the dark clouds beginning to move in and ready to dump more snow, the thought of going back to his house brought him sadness.
While the two still argued, Aiden took a glance at Trevor’s home and wished he could be his real brother and wished Trevor’s dad could be his real dad. The same held true for Jacob’s mom and dad. Whenever he met either one of his very best friends it was always at one of their homes and not his house. He had always liked the warm and friendly offers of overnight stays and the offers to stay for dinner. Aiden had often wished he could treat his best friends the same, but he could not. And it was not because he did not long for the company in a house where he was treated as if a stranger, it was just that his mom and dad were not very nice people.
Trevor and Jacob understood the reasons why they were never allowed over to his house and out of friendship they never let the issue come between them. That made it even harder because he had no choice to go back alone to a house where he was not wanted.
Aiden shifted the attention back to his best friends. He looked at Jacob using his finger to diagram the pass play on the palm of his hand. Trevor kept shaking his head with misty smoke puffing out with every one of his whispered words. Aiden guessed Trevor was asking Jacob for a different pass route.
So afraid this would be the last play Aiden again looked up and just about cried out to let this night go on forever. Then all of sudden something odd was caught out of the corner of his eye. He looked at the lone, white puffy cloud that drifted underneath the dark and gloomy clouds starting to fill the sky. “What is that?” he whispered.
“Hey Aiden,” yelled Trevor, “are you ready or what?”
Aiden stared at the cloud. It was so close that he believed he could touch it if he ran towards it and jumped the highest he possibly could. “It’s a woman,” he softly said, “and she is smiling at me.”
“Oh Aiden!” yelled Jacob. “Come on, we want to get this play in.”
Aiden could not take his eyes off of her. She glowed ever so slightly and was wearing some sort of dress with what looked like wings behind her. And he could not be sure, but she seemed to be lying down on the white fluffy cloud. Without notice Aiden jumped at the touch of a hand on his shoulder and spun around.
“Come on already,” said Trevor, “are you going to play or not?”
Afraid Trevor would scare the beautiful cloud away he whispered, “Look, an angel.”
“What are you two looking at? We have to finish this play,” grumbled Jacob as he stood just behind the two.
“Quiet,” whispered Aiden. “You’re goin’ to scare her away.”
Aiden pointed, “The angel.”
“I don’t see an angel,” said Trevor.
Aiden pointed again, “Right there. Can’t you see her?”
“You mean the cloud?”
“That’s not a cloud, it’s an angel.”
“It’s a cloud,” said Jacob.
Aiden could not believe his best friends could not see the angel. After all, he thought, she’s right there. But as he watched it near a tree something came to mind to show that it was an angel. He turned and whispered, “Now watch, I will prove it to you. You see, she’s heading right for the tree. If she is not an angel and just a cloud she will disappear behind the branches, but if she is an angel she will be in front of the branches and we will see her.”
The three stood quietly staring. And just as the cloud came to the edge of the tree Trevor’s dad called out, “Okay son, time to come in. Jacob, Aiden you better be off to home.”
Trevor turned and shouted, “See you guys tomorrow.”
Just as Aiden swung around and yelled “but wait,” Jacob too turned and began to run for home. “I’ll see you tomorrow Aiden and Trevor.”
“But wait!” pleaded Aiden. With both of his best friends out of sight he slowly turned around and there she was lying right in front of the tree as plain as can be. “Wow,” he whispered, “you really are an angel.”
With that said he watched her fade away out of sight.
He looked up to the dark and gloomy sky with the wind now howling and a flurry of snow beginning to hit his face.
The freezing cold was taken away by a warmth he had never felt before in his life. With a smile beaming across his face he whispered, “Wow, a real live angel.”
To my Friend: Please bear with me.
First I ask who am I? Second I ask where am I? Third I ask do I have a purpose in this life or do I always have to face sadness? And lastly I ask do you still care about me and love me as your friend? I know these questions might be strange to you but I have to ask. I ask because you have known me my whole life and right now I do not know the answers. What I do know is that I am tired in my body and mind. I need your help once again. But I know you already knew that I needed help did you not. So, that is why I am writing to you.
But before you answer all my questions could you tell me why I felt that you just let me go? After all I know you are my best friend and know sometimes I am lost. Well, not really lost but more like trying to have fun on my own. Yes, you warned me about having fun the way I want to have fun but I became so sad I did not want to listen to you. And yes, I actually felt I knew better than you. I know that could never be true but sometimes I feel like you just do not care about me. Yes, I hear your voice right now asking me ‘why would you even think that?’ Okay then, the truth is I saw too many people having so much fun and wanted to have fun too. But come on my Friend, what did you expect me to do? I know, you’ve told me so many times before not to worry about such silly things. You always told me to just get on the phone and ask for help and you would be there. Alright my friend, the truth is I did not listen to you because I had too much doubt. At the same time you knew I was really, really sad and did not call me. In fact, you knew that I was so sad I just could not listen anymore. Okay, that is not true either. But can you really blame me for being tired and trying to have some fun? Oh who am I trying to fool. Yes, I will admit that I was just so confused.
Look, I know none of this is your fault. You have helped me so much in the past as a friend that I should never have doubted you, but I did because I was angry. There, I said it. I was just angry. I know I cannot make excuses with you, but I was so disappointed with life that I was really mad and figured I would try to change my life on my own. Oh my, what a disaster that was. Also my friend, even though I did not turn away from my own thoughts like you always told me and give you a call when I was sad or mad or confused or lost, I will admit that I just did not want to listen because I was...I was….
Wait, why am I writing you? Oh, the questions. Well never mind answering them because I suddenly realize you answered them long ago. Please forgive me once again for not remembering you are always there with me even though I am lost from time to time. THANKS for the help and especially thanks for being my best friend,
All my love to you: Plea from a Lost Soul
Excitement sent Kenny zigzagging through the crowd of giants hoping to catch a good look at the colorful cloud slowly moving down the avenue. Finally, an opening through the forest of giants was just ahead and he raced to the spot.
Kenny stood in amazement. Giant red and white candy canes beckoned him to come up for a lick of the sugary mint. He stood hypnotized by the dancing of red and green glittery fingers of strands swaying in the breeze. All around the floating cloud were elves wearing funny looking green and red hats, pointed green shoes, and standing tall and straight in green coats and pants that looked more like pajamas. They all stood tall while waving and smiling as if to tell him and him alone, that Santa could not wait to meet the little boy who had written him such a sweet and loving letter. To hug the boy who had left a plate of cookies, a tall glass of cold milk and a thick and fluffy blanket just in case Santa needed some extra warmth in the cold and windy night.
And to his joy, there was a personal note from Santa next to the empty plate and glass and the blanket. He smiled so wide when his mommy read Santa’s written words of love. Santa took time out of his busy schedule to thank him for the cookies and milk. Mommy also read that Misses Claus made sure Santa had enough warm clothing to keep him nice and toasty in the open sleigh. And not only was Santa kind enough to leave the letter, he also left the toy train that Kenny wrote him about.
Kenny stared down the street. Butterflies flying about in the stomach only reminded him of his wish to see the man that was as good as any man there ever was or is or could be. The butterflies began to fly about his stomach at a fast and furious pace. Just the thought of seeing Jolly ol’ Nick had him dance up and down with jittery legs and goofy giggles.
Kenny knew Santa had to be close because his faithful elves had just floated by on a cloud. He could only imagine how he would look. First there would be the faithful reindeer slowly flying by towing Santa’s sleigh. Rudolph with his nose so bright would be up front because Santa needed a light to see the way in the dark night and all the snow falling from the clouds. Then Santa, all dressed up in a red suit and black belt and shoes, smiling and waving, bellowing out his ‘ho ho ho’ to all the little kids that adored him, would light up the spirit of the day with his rosy cheeks and dazzling eyes.
“Where is he?” Kenny asked his daddy.
His daddy did not say a word.
He looked up to ask his dad again but noticed there was something terribly wrong.
“Daddy!” he whimpered.
All of a sudden his family was gone. Tears poured out of his eyes. His daddy and mommy and all his brothers and sisters were nowhere to be found. They had abandoned him, left him alone in a world filled with mean monsters which looked to hurt little boys and girls when they were all alone. A spirit of fear came up to paralyze him with the thought that he was all alone and there would be no one to help the lost little boy. He stood alone and trembled as the thought that the boogeyman was waiting to hurt him when nighttime came.
“Mommy!” he cried.
But the voice of his mommy was not heard. There was no response at all. All he could hear was the laughter of children and the blaring of ‘Santa Claus is Coming to Town’ from one of the floats passing by. All he could see were other mommies and daddies pointing out the floating clouds to their kids.
Turning around Kenny stared down a very long alleyway that stretched for what seemed like miles. And just like that the tears stopped. All of a sudden he was not scared. As he looked down the alley a spirit of adventure came on him. All the worries of being lost and all the sad feelings of never seeing his mommy or daddy or brothers and sisters again just melted away. Without thinking his feet stepped into and down the alley. He did not know why or how he had done so, but he knew there was nothing to be afraid of. And even more than that, Kenny realized that somehow and in some way he was going to find the way home.
With the excitement of the Christmas day parade fading away, Kenny found himself surrounded by backyards to both the left and the right. The first few looked like they were filled with plants and trees of the darkest forests and jungles. And undoubtedly, he believed, they were all filled with tigers and lions and bears. Luckily, he noticed all the mean animals were locked away behind metal fences. Eyes looked for the monkey people flying above in the sunny sky. He knew from watching television that the bad witch used them to take a little girl to the very dark castle of the bad witch. He had no doubt that she wanted to lock him up in a dark room so she could steal his brand new tennis shoes. But as he stared into the sunny sky all he could see was a big airplane.
Feeling a little hungry Kenny looked to a big tree behind a grated fence. While he giggled, he tiptoed up to the fence then stuck out his tongue hoping it might throw him an apple to eat. When the tree did not throw any apples at him, or for that matter say anything to him, he shouted “hey tree,” but the tree just stood there doing and saying nothing.
He continued to skip down the alley passing backyard after backyard. He was not even thinking about any dangers. In fact, as he skipped along, he saw no other mommies or daddies or kids. Not only that, there were no cars or that big and noisy trash truck with its nice and friendly strong men lifting the metal trashcans and dumping all the dirty stuff into the back. They must be at the parade too, he thought.
And in an instant there it was. His eyes looked at the most beautiful thing in the world. And it was just laying there waiting for him. Wow! he thought. In its shimmering face was the reflection of a telephone pole right by its side. It called to him. He could hear the invitation to come to it and jump in. But then he remembered what his daddy said when they went to the beach, ‘not to go too far into the waves or you will drown.’ Wondering how deep the water was he threw a couple of small rocks onto the surface but the water only splashed and rippled. Finding a twig, he put one end in the water to see how deep it was but his fingers got wet before the twig touched bottom. The temptation to jump in still was there. But then he figured his mommy would be mad when he came home all wet and decided to continue the adventure.
Coming to a street, Kenny knew to stop like his mommy and daddy had told him to do. He could see that the alley continued on the other side and knew that is where he was supposed to go. He took a few steps over to the rounded part of the curb and stood there looking both ways for any cars. He remembered his mommy and daddy telling him ‘to always look very carefully when you cross the street or else a car will hit you.’ Kenny also remembered what the nice policeman taught him and his friends in Misses Kraft’s kindergarten class. He said they were ‘always supposed to cross the street where there are traffic lights, but if there are no traffic lights, then to look very carefully before you step off the curb.’ He stood there and whispered, “I’m a big boy now. I am five years old.” Kenny was so proud of himself for knowing how to cross a street without a traffic light. Following the advice of all, Kenny looked very carefully for cars then stepped onto the street and slowly walked to the other side.
Now there were even more backyards filled with wondrous forests and leafy jungles. He imagined them filled with friendly chimpanzees and knew that Tarzan and Jane were somewhere around swinging from tree to tree making sure that no boy or girl got hurt by any mean lions and snakes.
Without a care in the world Kenny all of a sudden noticed cars zipping by the entrance to the alley just up ahead. He ran as fast as his little legs could carry him. Coming out of the alley he suddenly saw buildings that looked familiar. Then a big, bright smile showed up on his face. Kenny turned to the right; for he knew that was the way that would take him home.
Text: James Gerard Burch
Images: Right to use purchased from NikkiZalwski-Fotolia.com
Editing: James Gerard Burch
Publication Date: 08-05-2014
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