I worked at Truman Smith, a long-term care home for special needs children. Much like some nursing homes, children rarely had family visits.
Joseph Stevens watched Kevin sitting on the bench in the middle of the park. The young man fed some birds hopping around his feet. The scene irked him tremendously. A woman who pushed her toddler around in a three-wheeled stroller waved to him in a friendly greeting. The sheriff was not in a pleasant mood. He was tired of seeing Kevin wandering about in the town as if nothing were wrong with it. He turned his car to the curb and stepped out with a measure of agitation.
The sheriff approached Kevin from behind and stared upon him with disdain before speaking. “Why are you loitering in this park?” He asked with the self-assured arrogance that his assumptions about Kevin were justified.
Kevin did not register the insult immediately but was confused by the wording. “Excuse me?”
“I need to ask you some questions,” Joseph Stevens pressed as he tried to hide his accusatory stance. “Who was that little boy you were talking to yesterday?”
Kevin caught his breath to suppress his own agitation. He hoped to get rid of Joseph Stevens and tried to be casual with his reply. “He was some little kid who wandered up. I did not ask his name.”
Joseph Stevens wanted to find dirt he could use. “Why were you talking to him?”
Kevin sensed the danger he was in and thought carefully about how he needed to answer. “He wanted to know about the garden. Momma had let him help her in it a long time back. That is all I really know about him.”
“I am going to contact the parents of that little boy and let them know what type of person you are.” Joseph Stevens threatened. “Children should not be around ex-cons. Most people do not know what a man goes through in prison, how dangerous he is, or how warped his mind becomes.”
Kevin knew what the sheriff alluded to and lost some of his composure. “You need to shut up right now! You don’t know anything about me.”
Joseph Stevens realized he had found a weapon to use against Kevin. “I know what happens to nice looking, young white boys who go to prison.”
“Shut up!” Kevin added with more force.
“Did your mind get warped by some huge black man who took a liking to you?” Joseph Stevens seemed to relish his new advantage over Kevin. “How many times did he get to you?”
Kevin nearly lost all control and stood abruptly with both hands clenched and ready for action. “Shut up, damn you!”
Joseph Stevens stepped back out of the reach of Kevin's fist. His hand went instinctively to his revolver. The move helped Kevin to realize what was happening, and he quickly recovered from his aggressive stance.
Joseph Stevens tried to keep his dominance over Kevin. “Please do it. Nothing would please me more than to lock you up again.”
Kevin tried his best to turn the battle against Stevens. “What happened to me is no one's business but mine! Get the hell out of my face and leave me alone!”
“Did you like it? Is that why you don’t want to talk about it?” Joseph Stevens moved close enough to stand nose to nose with Kevin. He glanced briefly to the woman with the stroller, intending to be overheard by her. “It should be known when a sex offender is living in our hometown. I want our children to be safe.”
Kevin caught the woman’s troubled reaction, and his blood began to boil. “Don’t you know how ridiculous you sound? Are you really that clueless?” He began to lose the struggle to calm his rage. “I have not done anything wrong! I know my rights! I studied law while I was in prison! You think you can intimidate me, but you cannot! This is baiting and I won’t let you get away with it!”
Joseph Stevens blinked in recognition of the mistake he had made, in front of a witness at that. He instinctively took a step back. “Well, that's a fine crock!” The sheriff spit at the ground at Kevin's feet in disgust. “Murder my best friend's boy and get yourself a free education! Do you have any idea how Robert Murchison has suffered because of you?”
“Robbie was my best friend.” Kevin groaned. “How do you think I feel?”
“How dare you compare your grief to Robert’s?” Joseph Stevens growled out in a dark and menacing voice. “That boy was his life! When you murdered Robbie, you murdered his father as well!”
“Why can't you just leave me alone?” Kevin grabbed at his head with painful exasperation. He needed to keep his hands from getting him arrested.
“I will not let you get away with merely ten years for the murder of that boy.” Joseph Stevens believed an injustice had been committed in Kevin’s release from prison. “You deserve to suffer every single day for the rest of your life.” He turned away in anger before he committed his own crime.
Kevin hurt with a burning rage. He sat back down on the bench and buried his wearied face into his hands. After what seemed an eternity, he pulled himself together enough to get up and go to the cemetery. The woman with the toddler was long gone. A squirrel chattered at him from a nearby tree, but he hardly noticed it. He still trembled from his uncontrolled anger, but he needed to talk to the only person he knew who would listen to him.
Kevin approached his mother's headstone slowly. Weeds partially obscured the lower half of the pink granite. His looked haggard and felt lost. A cool wind whirled through the ancient live oaks sheltering the cemetery. He kneeled beside the grave and clutched his coat tightly around him. He rubbed his face in deep thought with the other hand.
“Momma, I don’t think I can stay here any longer,” Kevin said in a mournful tone. “No one wants me to be here after what happened to Robbie. Brother Jamie has offered to let me stay with him for a while, but I don’t know. I need to go somewhere where nobody knows me, so I can start all over again.”
Angel strolled up and sat on a nearby bench. He watched Kevin with mournful eyes. He sensed the tremendous pain mixed in anger ravaging the young man’s soul. Kevin started to cry, unaware of his audience. The little boy got up and cautiously approached him. A tender hand reached out and touched Kevin’s shoulder.
Kevin looked up at Angel with surprise and fear. “What are you doing here?”
Angel answered with a voice both sweet and gentle. “I came because you need me.”
“Where are your parents?” Kevin seemed more conscientious of his surroundings as he searched for other adults. “You are too young to be out alone all the time.”
“You need a friend,” Angel added softly.
Kevin shook his head vehemently. “People get the wrong ideas when grown men spend time with young children.”
“The sheriff only wants to protect his town. All that matters is what is in your heart. That's where the truth is.” Angel spoke with a wisdom that was beyond his years. “People will recognize it when it is there.”
Kevin studied the child closely. “Who are you?” For a moment, he thought he recognized the boy.
Angel took Kevin's hand. “Do you want to know where I live?”
Kevin hesitated for a moment and glanced at the tiny hand that was within his. Uncertainty was overwhelming him and memories of incarceration instilled trepidation. What was he doing? He checked around again for the sheriff and the woman. Was this act going to be fuel for the fire? He glanced down at the little boy and prepared to withdraw his hand, but the endearing expression from the boy reached into his heart and tugged at his soul. From a deep place within him, he heard his mother urge him to go with the little boy.
“It will be okay.”
Angel spoke the words with such gentle care, Kevin began to know who the little boy actually was. He then closed his hand over Angel's and managed a smile. The little boy started to pull gently as Kevin stood up and allowed himself to be led away. The two of them exited the cemetery hand in hand.
At first, Kevin was curious about where they were going, but also fearful that someone would discover and report a child in the company of a stranger. For some reason he felt compelled to follow along behind Angel. He pondered what it was about the child that he recognized earlier. Soon, though, as they turned up a neighborhood street near to his father’s, his apprehension began to fade away and his curiosity compounded.
Twisted Oak Lane was named for a primordial live oak tree that survived a tornado’s wrath some time deep in the town’s history. The location of the tree was at the top of a hill that Kevin knew well. When the two of them had first turned up the street, he guessed Angel must have resided within one of the seven modest frame homes that lined the street on either side. Three of them were vacant and falling into disrepair. Kevin assumed that Angel resided in one of the four remaining homes, but he soon realized his wrong assumptions.
When they passed all the houses and began the final trek uphill toward Twisted Oak, old memories began to invade Kevin’s peace. He began to slow down on purpose. Angel glanced back at him and the smile that had graced his face began to fade. Kevin was slowing to almost a stop as he gazed at the large, gray brick building that stood on the hill behind the ancient live oak. He began to pull backward away from Angel, but the little boy would not relent.
Angel pulled Kevin to the perimeter by the hand. “This is where I live.” He pointed timidly toward William H. Mabry Extended Care Facility for Children, known more commonly in town as ‘The Mabry Home.’
Children with special needs were guided through play by adult caregivers and volunteers. Some were in special swings designed to keep them from falling out, which were suspended in various locations from the massive limbs of the live oak. Others, deformed by birth defects or victims of incomprehensible violence against them, sat on special chairs that held their undeveloped bodies in a well-padded position. They were pushed about in the warm sunshine.
“How...” Kevin struggled over the sudden loss of words. “How long have you lived here?”
Angel turned to face Kevin. “Are you disappointed?”
“Heaven's no!” Kevin was surprised. “I simply did not expect a healthy child to live in a place like this.”
Angel bowed his head with reverence. “The Father put me here several years ago…a little while before your mother died.”
Kevin, gasped, suddenly overwhelmed as a childhood memory he had buried in the depth of his soul, resurfaced unabated at the back of his mind. “But these children are all sick.”
Angel glanced toward the children. “That is why I am here.”
Kevin frowned with curious concern. “You don’t appear to be sick.”
Angel cracked a smile as if he had heard something absurd. “I’m not...they are.”
Kevin shook his head. “I don’t understand.”
“It is okay.” Angel acknowledged. “The Father is working here now.”
Kevin’s brow furrowed even deeper with confusion.
Angel giggled softly. “I have got to go now. Would you like to meet some of the other children?”
Kevin faltered in his steps as he resisted. “I cannot.”
“It will be okay.” Angel tugged gently on Kevin's hand.
Kevin was nearly trembling. “I cannot go back there.”
“You were here?” Angel asked with concern.
“My mother used to work here.” Kevin started to back away slowly. “She brought me to work with her once when I was very young.”
“What happened?” Angel’s own voice faltered.
Kevin shook his head in denial. “You wouldn’t understand.”
Carla walked through the front door of the Mabry Home carrying Kevin, then only barely three years of age. Dodi Plume smiled as the mother and child walked by the front desk. Carla smiled in return. Young Kevin was obviously delighted and giggling as he reached toward Dodi Plume to welcome attention from another adult. She laughed at his antics and tickled his belly.
In the center room was a playpen where another toddler was playing. Carla lifted Kevin over into the playpen and set him down. She moved some toys between the two of them
Carla smiled at Kevin. “There you go baby. You two be good.”
Kevin reached for a ball. “Ball Momma!”
The other toddler tried to get Kevin’s attention. He obviously wanted to play. “Your name?”
Kevin took the ball and bounced it toward the other boy. Satisfied, Carla turned and stepped back to the front desk. She pulled a chair out and sat down to a typewriter.
Dodi Plume walked up behind her. “Kevin sure is growing!”
“He is just like his brother.” Carla said proudly. “Mark is over three feet tall now. Paul thinks he is going to be a quarterback.”
Dodi Plume tapped the desk. “I need a memo typed up and sent to all the employees. Corporate big wigs from Dallas will be coming out next week to inspect the facility. We need to have the place in top shape before they get here.”
“They won’t find anything wrong this time, either.” Carla added casually.
Dodi Plume crossed her arms. “I like to keep it that way. These children are vulnerable, and they want to cut the numbers of my support staff.”
Carla loaded paper into the typewriter. “This place certainly has improved since you took over.”
Dodi Plume smiled at the flattery. “It was no easy task. Just keep this between you and me for now. I hear talk that they may sell out to one of those companies that maintain chains of nursing homes. I hope not. Mr. Mabry would turn over in his grave if that ever happened. He built this place to be a home for children no one else could or would take care of.”
Carla nodded quietly as she started typing. Dodi Plume went away. After a while, Carla became aware of Kevin's crying. When his cries grew louder, she knew something was wrong. She stopped what she was doing to turn around. Just as she did, an orderly that had come to check out the playpen cried out as she gazed upon the prone form of the other toddler. Kevin was distressed and cried loudly. Carla immediately stood up, rushed to where he was, and scooped him up into her arms. She tried her best to comfort him.
Kevin stopped backing away for a moment and gazed down at Angel. He had grown pale but had regained some control over himself. “I never set foot in there again. I was afraid that another child would die if I went near them.”
Angel stopped tugging on Kevin’s hand and slowly let go. Something or someone in the children’s play yard had drawn away his attention for a moment. When he looked back up at Kevin, his eyes were full of something that could not be described with one word. In them Kevin understood peace, joy, and sadness all mixed.
“I have to go now. Tommy has to leave.” Angel looked at the play yard with an emotion that Kevin could not decipher. “You will be okay for now.”
Kevin watched Angel walk away into the yard of the children’s nursing home. He was glad to discover that most of the children seemed to become happier when the boy moved in among them. They even seemed to gravitate toward him, the ones confined to their chairs having their caregivers involuntarily push them in his direction. Angel even seemed to communicate to those who could not speak. Kevin watched their interaction a moment longer before he turned to walk away.
Continue reading Kevin's Homecoming - Chapters 14 and 15
- Kevin's Homecoming - Chapters 14 and 15
Pablo Sanchez has disappeared after escaping prison. Jordan Brown fears he is going after Kevin. Sheriff Stevens does not like that Kevin and Angel are spending time together. He makes a baseless suggestion to Mark, who then fears the safety of his 2