I love this story/novel. It allows me to explore/insert parts of my past. Gardening is a passion shared with my Grandpa & Great-grandmother.
Kevin wiped the sweat from his forehead. The sun seemed unusually warm for late March. Thin, wispy clouds raced above the tops of the pine trees, promising neither rain nor shade. He worked diligently in the garden, pulling at the last weeds and vines from the soil.
Paul stepped out of the house at a measured step, watching the fevered pace of his son’s work. He rubbed an irritating ache at his left shoulder as he approached Kevin. He stopped just before stepping into the loosened damp soil with his dress boots.
He reached out and touched Kevin on the shoulder. “I wish you would go with me to church.”
Kevin countered with a casual shrug. “I’m not into crowds right now.”
Paul nodded his head slowly. “I can understand how you feel.”
Kevin grabbed a clump of weeds and pulled on them. The roots were not deep and came out easily. “I can still worship God without going to church.” The vines caused him to exert more effort.
“I was not condemning you,” Paul offered in defense.
“I know,” Kevin said softly.
Paul was looking at his watch. “I better get going. I’ll see you after the morning services.” He fished his keys out of his pocket and turned to walk away.
Kevin waived his father on and returned his focus to the work in the garden. He was content to kneel in the warm sun and pull on the weeds. He listened for the truck door to close and the start of the motor. He looked up and watched as his father backed out of the drive, wondering if he should have gone to church with him. He yearned to be in some sort of worship service, but he still lacked trust in other people.
When Kevin returned his attention to the garden, the sudden appearance of the young boy startled him. Angel was standing on his tiptoe at the garden gate. The child's presence awakened a long-lost memory. The little boy smiled, barely able to see over the top of the gate.
Kevin stood up and offered a cheerful greeting in return. “Hello, little man.” He wondered how his father could not have noticed the young child as he was leaving.
Angel replied with a curious, “Hello.”
Kevin approached gate. “How long have you been standing there?”
“Not long,” Angel piped cheerfully. “I just wanted to see your work in the garden.”
Kevin looked around for Angel’s parents or another guardian somewhere nearby. “Do you live around here?” Surely somebody was nearby to care for a child so young.
Angel answered in a solemn reciting, “These days, little children should not tell strangers where they live.”
Kevin nodded with mute caution. “You are a bright little boy...except you are talking to a stranger now.”
Seeming to ignore the mild admonition, Angel peered past Kevin into Carla’s garden. “You’ve been working hard on her garden. All the weeds are almost gone.”
“There were a lot of weeds and thorny vines when I started.” Kevin opened the gate with the intention to step out onto the sidewalk and hunt for the child’s parents.
Unhindered, Angel surprised Kevin when he marched straight into the backyard. “She was very sad when she could no longer take care of the garden herself.” He spoke in a bittersweet, almost mournful tone. “I came here sometimes to see her while you were gone.”
“You knew my mother?” Kevin asked with thrilled astonishment. “How old are you?”
Angel walked over to the garden and reached out to touch one of the plants Kevin had left in it. “It’s much too cold for the blooms, now. Will you wait for the end of spring?” He turned back with a quizzical look in his eyes.
Kevin’s brow furrowed with a puzzled expression. “How did you know I planned to leave?”
Angel kneeled to look at a tiny insect crawling through the dirt. “Will you wait for the end of spring?” He repeated, seeming to plead with Kevin.
“I’ll leave when the daffodils will bloom.” Kevin shoved his hands into his pockets as he stood by the gate. The little boy’s actions slightly unnerved him.
A dejected expression came to Angel’s eyes, and he started to pout. “The spring is early this year. I hoped that you would stay around for a while.”
Kevin was now curious. “Why?”
“’cause I like you,” Angel appeared saddened as he reached down to carefully pet the bug with his index finger.
Kevin smiled as he walked over to the edge of the garden, but not close enough to touch the youngster. “You are merely a little boy. It’s hard for you to not like anybody.”
“They all say that.” Angel stood up with a mournful gaze.
Kevin placed his hand on Angel’s shoulder without realizing what he had done. The little boy recognized the significance of the touch immediately and his spirit was lifted, but he did not say anything about it. Happiness returned to brighten his eyes.
“I’ll tell you what.” Kevin said cheerfully. “If you want, you can help me with the garden and then, when I leave, you and my father can work on it together. That way, I know it will stay in an appropriate shape.”
Angel gave a slight frown, as he was satisfied for the moment. “I suppose that would be okay.”
Kevin smiled at Angel and gave him a playful tussle of his hair. He then noticed the sheriff’s cruiser parked down the street. His cheerfulness suddenly departed, and he became acutely conscious of his touching Angel. He carefully retracted his hands from the child. He did not wish to draw suspicion to anything.
“You better get on home now,” Kevin said with growing caution.
Angel followed Kevin's gaze, and sadness filled his voice once again. “Don’t worry about Joseph. He only wants to protect the people of his city." He trudged to the gate with a broken heart.
Kevin nodded slowly as he followed Angel to the gate. He watched the young boy start walking away and turned to look at Joseph Stevens. He could almost feel the hate of the man’s stare bearing down upon him. The sheriff put his car into gear and drove away. Kevin looked back to Angel and frowned, for the little boy had already vanished from sight. How could the child have disappeared so quickly?
Later that afternoon, father and son sat eating lunch together. Paul made a determined effort to cook a roast for the two of them. He invited Mark and Terry to come over after church, but Mark remained reluctant to spend any amount of time visiting if his brother was still in the home. Paul even went to great lengths to whip up authentic mashed potatoes, not the watery, grainy instant prison variety his son might not have liked. He consoled himself in the fact that Kevin stopped working long enough to sit down with him to eat. Maybe there was some hope left in that small act of acceptance.
Paul started the conversation with a casual observation. “You are making quick progress on the garden.”
“I have just about got all the weeds and vines pulled out.” Kevin no longer seemed reluctant to speak to his father.
Paul was already plotting his next move to keep Kevin close to home. “What do you need for the soil?”
Kevin raised an eyebrow as he looked up from his meal. “Have you got enough money?”
Paul wagged a finger as he dismissed the question. “Don’t worry about it.”
Kevin forked another piece of roast into his mouth and then chewed slowly. He looked out through the small kitchen window into the garden. It took a moment to calculate how much product he wanted to work with. He turned to Paul and understood what he actually wanted from his expression.
Kevin swallowed the roast and then opened up. “I think eighty cubic feet of peat moss to start with…and about that same amount of manure or compost. Then I’ll need mulch and landscape fabric to protect against weeds.” He let a smile come to his eyes.
“I can get all that for you,” Paul schemed, “but I would like for you to do something else for me.”
“What?” Kevin asked just before he took a bite of mashed potatoes.
Paul proceeded with considerable caution. “I would like to have another vegetable garden where I had the old one. I’ll get the tiller from Mark tomorrow.”
Kevin was non-committal as he studied the food on his plate. “I’m leaving at the first blooming.”
“I just need help getting the garden started.” Paul knew he was pushing his luck and decided to back off. “I can pretty much take care of it after that.”
Kevin waited a long moment before he nodded slowly. “Okay.” Gardening was pleasing to him and the thought of starting a new garden was appealing, though he tried his best not to show it.
“I want to plant a little bit of everything.” Paul added with a hopeful expression.
Kevin turned his thoughts to the curious little boy that kept turning up to meet him. “Did you ever see a little boy come by the gate to look at Momma’s garden?”
Paul gave a casual shrug of his shoulders. “Kids come down the street all the time. I used to catch them trying to pick flowers when they were in full bloom.”
“This little boy has dark hair and could not be more than four or five...maybe even six.” Kevin thought back to the day he first saw Angel in the park. “I first saw him down by the square.”
“They all look the same to me.” Paul said dismissively.
“He claimed to know Momma, how sad she was when she grew too sick to work in the garden.” Kevin sighed heavily at the memory of his mother’s last suffering days. “He would have been only two or three.”
Paul’s interest was growing. “Carla loved to entertain children of all ages with the garden. It is possible he could have met her. Does he live around here?”
“Somewhere up the street,” Kevin replied with a puzzled frown. “I did not follow him after he left.”
Paul resumed eating his lunch. “I guess I would have to see him to realize if I know him.”
Kevin took a roll and mopped up the roast gravy on his plate. “I expect he’ll be coming back. He wants to help me in the garden.”
Paul looked up with caution. “You think that is okay?”
Kevin shrugged his shoulders and nodded as if it meant nothing. “He knew Momma.”
Paul replied cautiously, "That's good for me.
Both men returned to finish their meal, each dwelling on their own plans for the garden. Kevin knew that his father was scheming to keep him around, and if the truth were told, he was not ready to go to Oklahoma City yet. The roommate who was going to help him get on his feet had told him that the apartment would not be available until the start of summer. He would have had to pay for a motel for the first couple of months, something he was not in a financial position to accomplish yet.
After lunch, they cleaned up the table and put the dishes in the sink. Kevin offered to wash the dishes, but he was quietly denied the responsibility. Paul watched his son return to the garden outside and then turned his attention upon the dishes.
As Paul reached for the handle to the faucet, the pain hit him out of nowhere. The pinching, burning flare exploded within his chest and quickly spread into his left arm and through his fingers. The force of the attack was powerful, and he clutched at his left arm as if that could stop the crippling pain from driving him to his knees. He thought about calling out to Kevin, but his breath was only a thin rasp of air escaping through his teeth. He looked up in desperation at the cabinet door to the left of the sink.
Paul prayed to God, “Not this time Lord. Don’t take me yet,” as he reached for the door.
Paul’s left arm was useless to him. He opened the door and saw with relief that the bottle was right there in front. Carla had always kept a bottle in every room of the house so that in the event of the heart attack, the emergency medication would always be at hand without hunting for it.
He smashed the bottle on the counter, forcing the lid off it and scattering the pills in different directions. He only needed one of them and urgently fetched one into his mouth, chasing it down with the remnants of a glass of tea from lunch. He hoped it would be soon enough as he slumped to the floor beneath the sink.
Kevin had no recollection of the passage of time when he worked in the garden. When he began to get thirsty, he decided to take a short break and go inside to get a glass of iced tea. He had taken his watch off and set it on the porch to keep it from getting dirty. That is when he became aware that nearly two and a half hours had passed. He wiped the sweat from his brow and went inside.
Kevin first sensed something was amiss when he saw the dishes from lunch still sitting in the sink unwashed. The chairs at the table looked as if they had been pushed out of the way. He looked around, but nothing else appeared to be wrong in the kitchen. He slid each of the chairs back in place.
“Dad?” Kevin called out.
“In here, son.” Paul called out from the adjacent room.
Kevin sensed something was wrong by the fatigued, almost painful inflection upon Paul’s voice. He approached the doorway and investigated the darkened room. In the far corner of the room, his father sat in the old wing-backed chair, which was in the family for three generations. His feet propped up on a newer ottoman. In his lap, a photo album lay open to a family picture taken when Kevin had been a toddler.
“Are you okay?” Kevin tried to hide the worry in his voice. “You left the kitchen in a mess.”
“I’m okay.” Paul touched the image of Carla with a loving gesture. “I started to do the dishes and then I began to think of your mother, so I came in here. I guess I fell asleep. What time is it, anyway?”
“Almost three thirty.” Kevin motioned to the clock. “Don’t worry about the dishes. I’ll wash them.”
Paul thought about protesting but decided not to. He knew that he probably should go to the hospital, but the medicine appeared to have done its job. The pain was gone now, anyway. They would only do what his doctor could do in the office the next day. There was too much to be done rather than spend time or money in the hospital. All he needed was to rest a little longer, make an appointment with his doctor and take it easy for a day or two. The danger should pass.
Continue reading Kevin's Homecoming - Chapters 11 and 12
- Kevin's Homecoming - Chapters 11 & 12
Paul conspires with Terri with his plans to keep Kevin home, and an old enemy escapes from prison.