Who knows whose house is older. Mine sits at the end of Mellon Road, and it's all I've ever known in my eight years of existence. Apparently, my mom and dad purchased it from the Mellons who were there before them. In an old residence similar to ours, Miss Della lives up the street with her two children Billy and Binky. It's nice having friends around my age in the neighborhood. I'm a lucky kid.
"Mom! Chris broke something again," Binky yells out to Della as Billy shakes his head and chuckles. It was the lamp this time. God gives everyone certain gifts from birth, and I swear he gave me an overabundance of clumsiness as a practical joke. I can't take more than three steps without something falling around me, which proves Jesus has a sense of humor. Thankfully Miss Della has a good sense of humor, too, as she laughs off my awkwardness and ensures that I'll grow out of it eventually.
These last couple of days have been the best. Sleepovers up until now have only happened once in a blue moon, so the chance to hang out with Billy two days in a row makes me happy. He and Binky fight all the time, but I guess that's what brothers and sisters do. Larry, my brother, is sixteen years older than me and my sister Susan is ten years my senior. When we get into arguments, it's no competition at all; they win every time. It's a pretty even match between Billy and Binky, so it's anyone's game.
A perfect bologna sandwich is an art form. After watching my dad build his own, I've learned a thing or two. Once I've laid out my fluffy white Bunny Bread on the plate, next comes the mustard. I smash the slices together after painting a smiley face on one side. BAM! Now both pieces have the exact same expression, and I won't have to worry about drippage. One thick bright yellow cut of Velveeta should do it. The most crucial part, of course, is the bologna that more than likely came from Hilltop Market. Every masterpiece needs a little crunch, so instead of filling the side of my plate with delightful Lay's BAR-B-Q chips, they're carefully placed side by side onto the canvas. Now that everything is in place, I carefully align all sides before placing my hand on top to give it a good smoosh. Hearing the crackle from the pressure and seeing my signature handprint in the bread means it's time for lunch.
Billy mentions a bike ride after we finish our feast. I'm all on board for another mid-day escapade with my buddy. We sit around the table laughing and talking with our mouths full about the lamp mishap earlier. "Chris, your mom will be here in about five minutes to pick you up. It's time to get your stuff together," Miss Della said after poking her head into the kitchen. Well, this is some misfortunate news. I guess our next grand exploit will have to wait for another day.
There must have been 25 vehicles driving by while I sat on the porch with my bag waiting on my ride. It's unusual because most days, you may see one or two. Something strange is going on for sure, and it's a little scary. A car arrives that I don't recognize, and Mom is sitting in the back seat. The window rolls down, and she tells me to get in the truck behind her with Uncle Neb. She looks exhausted, and I can tell she has been crying. "What's wrong, Momma?" I'm able to blurt out before my uncle urges me to get into the truck as she sobs uncontrollably. On the trip home, I ask Uncle Neb what's bothering my mother. He's upset too and gives me the silent treatment.
We drive over the cattle gap, and I see cars lined up and down around the barn. The truck goes into park, and I take off in a sprint toward my home with a bad feeling bubbling around in my stomach. Before I could sling the screen door, open Larry stopped me. "What's going on? Why are all of these people here? Wheres Daddy?" flooded out of my mouth before my brother asked me to walk with him. He stood over me like a titan with his hand on my shoulder, holding me tightly as we walked toward an open field. For one reason or another, all eyes were on us as he guided me through the mob. Blank stares from family members and strangers penetrated my soul as I prepared myself for the unfortunate news.
I sat in my brother's lap on the ground staring at the basketball goal; Daddy and I used just three days ago. He locked his arms around me and laid his head atop mine.
"I have some terrible news, little brother," and before he could finish, I belted out, "Daddy? It's Daddy. He's gone?" He confirmed my suspicion and squeezed me tight. Everything else around us melted away while we cried together. Just like that, I'll never see my father again.
My mind strays back to the time when Momma had to have surgery at Memorial. Kids my age weren't allowed to visit, but that didn't stop my dad. He held out his hand; I took it as he led the way through the doors and around corners. "Shh, be as quiet as you can; we don't want to get arrested," he explained as we snuck around the hospital. He'd double-check every hallway and told me to be still until the coast was clear. We had a few close calls, but we made it safely to her room because my guide had some immaculate ninja skills. Momma said, "Bud, how on earth did you get Chris up here? It's a wonder you didn't get caught." We giggled, and I knew I wanted to be just like him after that.