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Friday, January 27, 2017

Whispers for Charlie



  Charlie and his family lived at Wossord Apartments on Main Street in Palmer, S.C. The house was one of those red brick, single story affairs where the brick formed a framed open-air front porch. He was never sure why they called it apartments.

Charlie, his Mom and Dad lived in a small recessed annex connected to the house. He never saw anyone else there though. He understood that Mrs. Wossord was a kind and elderly widow who seldom ventured out.

  His favorite thing was to sit cross-legged and watch Robin Hood on the black and white cabinet television in the den.  Robin Hood was brave, strong, exceptionally agile and always helping people. Charlie wanted to be like him.

  As the ending credits rolled, his Mom would pour a bowl of Sugar Smacks at the yellow-topped, aluminum and Formica kitchen table. The timing had to be perfect or the Sugar Smacks would get soggy and that simply would not do.

  His anticipation was palpable as the sweet crunchy pods infused the creamy white milk with sugar. (To his continued amazement the milkman had left the milk on the stoop in glass bottles). The best part was when the last “Smack” was gone and he could drink the sweet milk. His slurps echoed a bit with his nose buried in the bowl, cool ecstasy in his mouth … flowing down his throat.

  Earlier Charlie had awakened, as was his way, just before dawn. He loved those moments when his eyes first opened and all was dim silhouette. He had risen and donned the clothes that his Mom had ironed, folded then placed on the wooden high back chair by his bed.

  Ever so quiet he tiptoed to the door, reached to his highest point and grasped the brass knob. The gray light of dawn revealed his friend the weeping willow standing guard just outside the door. The sweet air caressed his face.

  He had to turn and balance on the threshold in order to pull the door to because when he stepped down he would not be able to reach it. Once he heard the click of the throw he grasped the frame with both hands and lowered down the two brick steps.

  Each day was breathless elation alone there in the morning light. All were still in their beds and not aware of his presence. He stole around the front of the house by the porch, rounding the corner to gaze upon a clearing the size of a football field.

  The area was adorned with clotheslines and well-houses.   Seven or eight white frame mill  houses with their backs turned stood like small churches. He spied an abandoned tricycle and ball glove. Once he had startled a hare and peed himself a little.

There was an old yellow and white tomcat always prowling about that would pause and stare at him with an ominous glare.  He was grateful for his shoes as the sandspurs crunched under foot in the sandy loam and scrub grass.

  When he arrived at the bare wooden steps and the peeling paint of the weathered, back door, he tapped gently, curious of the rap of his tiny white knuckles on the rough texture of the solid wood.

  Ear against the door he listened until he could hear the soft creak of her footsteps padding over the worn hardwoods. The door receded from his gaze as she cracked it open and smiled down at him while he edged sideways through the crack. The room smelled vaguely of kerosene, as he followed her back to her bunk.

  The five other children turned and rustled in their bunks along the walls. He was greeted with soft wheezes and sniffs and an occasional raised hand or sleepy smile  He watched the sway of her flannel nightshirt with tiny pink and blue flowers. She braided her hay colored hair in one long braid down to the middle of her back. Her thin calves were "white as a baby's butt" and the pink bottoms of her feet were a tad dirty from the old floor. 

  He pushed his shoes off at the heel with the opposite toes, as quiet as he could and crawled under the covers with her. She cuddled up behind him like he was her favorite stuffed animal and whispered good mornings in his ear. Other than his Mother's, her warm breaths are the first whispers he has known.

 They lay quietly while the light grew until their mother purred,


 “Time to get up children. Good morning,Charlie … hope you are well. ”

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