Thursday, February 23, 2017

the boy in the water

James looked into his backyard and saw something unfamiliar. For a 3-year-old boy, this unfamiliar thing looked like a giant monster. It was large and yellow, growled noisily, and puffed black smoke. Slowly on the grass between the trees in his back yard it crawled on top of metal belts that squeaked and clanked. At the of he monster was a giant arm with a scoop for a hand, fitted with large dangerous looking teeth.

James looked away from the window where he watched the machine and turned to his mother. “Mommy, what is that?” His mother said, “Well young man, I think you better ask your father. Let’s pay him a visit.”

Hand in hand, James and his mother walked out of the house and into the back yard toward where the now silent machine sat. James could see his father talking with another man. In his father's hands he saw a large piece of paper with lines all over it. His father and the other man were talking while looking at the paper and pointing to the back yard.

“Dear, when you have a second, James has a question for you,” his mother called out to his father. “Just a moment and I'll be right there,” his father answered back. James watched the other man nod at his father and then roll the paper up and place it under his arm. He then turned and climbed onto the machine as his father jogged back to James and his mother. “Now,” said his father, “what is your question young man?” Pointing to the yellow machine, James said, “What's that?”

“Oh,” said his father, “this machine is going to help me introduce you to a friend of mine.” “You mean, that man?” James said pointing at the man on the machine. “No not him,” his father said gently, “Soon I will introduce you to the boy in the water. Now, things are going to get noisy and dusty here today so you and your mother better get along.” “But who is...” James started to speak, but the machine roared to life and his mother nudged him back toward the house.

All day long, James sat by the window so he could see what was happening. He watched with wide eyes and great concern as the machine tore large pieces of grass from his yard. Then it started digging and made piles and piles of black and brown dirt with its large claw. As the sun rose high in the sky the piles grew and grew. And as the sun fell the machine pushed and spread the dirt around so they didn't look like piles anymore but like dark hills in a circle. Finally as the sun was setting, the large yellow machine clanked and squeaked as it rolled away leaving the back yard for good.

Just then James heard the kitchen door open, followed by his father and mother talking. He raced around the corner from the living room and said, “Do I get to meet him now?” Pausing for a moment, his father answered, “The boy I want you to meet will be here in the morning so we better eat supper and get a good night's rest.” James sat with his mother and father and ate supper, all the while keeping one eye looking out the window, hoping to see the boy his father told him about.

James did not sleep well that night. He kept thinking about the boy. In the morning as his room grew lighter with the rising sun, James heard a knock at his door. “James,” called his father as he walked in, “I have a present for you.” His father held out a bag toward James. Inside he saw a pair of rubber boots. “Put them on quickly. I want to introduce you to the boy in the water.”

James jumped out of bed and quickly placed his feet in the boots. He was excited to finally meet the boy who lived in the water. Dressed only in pajamas and the new shiny rubber boots, James followed his father into the back yard. “Where are we going?” James asked his father. “We're just going over here,” answered his father as he pointed to the fresh dirt piles in the back yard. James and his father walked to the top of one of the dirt hills and stopped. James looked down and saw the hole the machine had dug was now filled with water. Looking up at his father he said, “What's this?”

“When I was a boy,” his father said, “we had a pond in our back yard.” Holding hands, he and James walked carefully toward the water's edge. “I would spend every day in the summer by that pond feeding ducks that would come by to swim and trying to catch frogs. Then one day I met him.” James asked, “Met who?” His father smiled and said, “The boy in the water, and look James, there he is now.” His father pointed at the water's edge and James looked down to see a handsome little boy looking back with a big smile on his face.

That summer, and everyone after, James and the boy in the water played at the pond together. They caught frogs, fed ducks, chased salamanders, and skipped stones, but most of all they smiled at each other. Year by year, James grew older as did the boy in the water until one day, James wasn't looking at a boy in the water anymore but instead saw a handsome young man who was ready to leave his home.

That day he thought of his father, and all of the summers, and the large yellow machine. A cold breeze blew, warning James that Autumn was coming. Soon school would start and he would have to abandon the back yard for his studies at a school far away.

“Hey,” he said to the young man in the water, “I just want to let you know I had fun playing with you. Thanks for sharing all that time with me.” James looked back at his house, then back at the water. “I'm going to go away for a while, but someday soon, maybe in a few years, I hope to be able to bring someone to meet you.”

And as James turned to walk away, so did the boy in the water. The boy then turned back and watched James walk away, thinking of his memories of the little boy who was now a man. He watched the leaves of autumn land on the shimmering water surface above him and closed his eyes, hoping that while he waited for James to return he would dream of all they had done together, all those summers so long ago.