A boy and his dog: what could be more natural?
For Kerry, nothing seems to be easy, and a dog is just another complication.
Kerry stopped at the doc’s place and retrieved Lucky, who seemed happy to see him. Of course, the puppy seemed happy to meet complete strangers, so he didn’t let it go to his head. Well, not too much.
“Was she any problem?”
Maryann smiled. Kerry thought the smile might have been a little too large a response for the ordinariness of the question, and the way she tossed her head seemed unnecessary because her hair wasn’t in her eyes, but girls always did things that didn’t make any sense to him and he’d long ago stopped trying to figure any of it out. “Lucy was a darling. She’s really affectionate, which shows me she loves me.”
Huh? He’d just asked her whether the dog had caused any problems. Now Maryann was talking about affection, and love! He’d just have to file this with all the other strange things she did and said.
“Well, that’s good then. I hope you kept her busy.” Kerry had told her when he’d dropped Lucky off that morning that as much as she could, he’d like the puppy to be kept active so she’d sleep well when he got her home.
“Yeah, I played with her, showed her a lot of love.”
There she went again! Boys didn’t talk like this! It made him feel funny inside, hearing this, seeing the way he was looking at him. Was she trying to tell him something? With body language and words he never used? Well, he spoke English, verbal English. He spoke fluent Boy and absolutely no Girl. If she wanted to communicate with him, she’d have to learn that.
“Well, thanks,” he said, and he said it almost gruffly. “I’ve got a lesson at the lodge tomorrow morning. Can I drop her off here again?”
“Sure. You can come whenever you want. I’ll be looking for you.” A very slight pause, and then, “And her.”
When he turned to leave, she stepped up and lightly rested her fingertips on the back of his shoulder, just touching him, and walked with him, keeping her hand on him till he’d reached the door.
Kerry got home a little before five. He quickly made Lucky her slop of milk replacement and dog food which the pup had taken to almost inhaling, took her out for her business trip, then ensconced her in his room. The puppy didn’t feel like playing. She wanted to sleep, and that’s what she did.
Kerry spent some time just thinking about everything that was going on, and about how hard it would be once school was back in session. It was really important that a détente with his mother, a détente that had already possibly begun, be continued, and allowed to blossom into full-time peace if possible. He knew he’d have to stifle his urge to argue every little thing she said, and that wouldn’t be easy. What should make it easier now was knowing he had a reason to do it. It was the only way he could see for him to keep Lucky, and that was certainly his prime objective.
With that in mind, and with Lucky snoozing, dead to the world on his bed, Kerry decided to make dinner. His mother loved it when he did that. She came home tired from her long hours, hours spent making money for the two of them to live on. He felt a momentary stab of guilt for not being more appreciative, but then moved past that, knowing thinking about it would also allow him to remember his own grievances, and that would be counterproductive.
He looked in the refrigerator and found some pork chops, some hamburger meat and some chicken breasts, along with spinach and broccoli. He looked at all three meats for a moment, thinking, then opened a cupboard and pulled out his mother’s Better Homes and Gardens cookbook. After a bit of reading, he decided on a recipe for the chicken that they had the ingredients for and that would take an hour to cook. His mother wouldn’t be home for a couple of hours yet which should give him plenty of time.
The recipe was easy. He had to mix condensed cream of mushroom soup with an equal amount of sour cream. As the recipe called for using six breasts and he was using two, he cut the recipe proportions in half, figuring if he had an abundance of the sauce, it would complement the rice. He sprinkled salt, pepper and garlic powder on the chicken and put the pieces in a small casserole dish, spread the undiluted soup and sour cream mixture on it, covered it and was ready to put it in the oven. He had to wait till it was an hour before she’d be home to do that. He also got out some rice to cook. He washed the spinach and put it in a covered glass bowl, ready for the microwave. He’d watched his mother make rice and spinach and knew he could do it, too.
When his mother came home shortly after 7, she walked into a house that smelled yummy.
“What in the world is that I’m smelling?” she asked, shrugging out of her coat by the front door. “It smells wonderful!”
Kerry stepped out of the kitchen, and his mother almost laughed. He was wearing her apron, his hair was tousled, but he had a big smile on his face, a smile that brought back memories of him when he was younger and they weren’t at each other’s throats; to her, he looked adorable. “Wash your hands. Dinner’s just going on the table,” he said.
She did just that, sighing as she sat. He had put a glass of white wine in front of her along with milk at his place.
“What are we having?” she asked as he set the closed casserole dish on a hot pad on the table.
“Chicken Parisienne, sort of, spinach ala Kerry, rice and a tossed salad.” Kerry smiled, and she could easily see the pride in his face.
“Oh, my!” she gushed. “How in the world…?”
“It wasn’t that hard. I just hope it tastes good.”
While they were passing dishes and filling their plates, his mom asked, “And just what is spinach ala Kerry?”
He laughed. “Well, I wanted something different, something of my own. So I cooked some bacon crisp, then crumbled it into the spinach and added some butter after draining it.”
“How clever,” she said, hoping she wasn’t overdoing the praise. He had a way of reading when she wasn’t sincere. So far, she had been, but knew she had to be careful. “And it’s just like you, wanting to put your own stamp on it.” She smiled, hoping he wouldn't take offense.
They ate, and she was surprised how good everything was. The rice with mushroom sauce over it was perfect, and the chicken was delicious.
She asked him about his day, and he had to pick and choose what he told her, but he spoke about teaching Ron skiing in the morning, and even mentioned talking to Maryann. He did that knowing it would distract her, even as it would lead to opening an uncomfortable topic of conversation.
“I thought you didn’t like her.”
“Well, I don’t, but she was there when I finished a run down the hill, and she spoke to me, and I didn’t want to be rude. You know, girls are just different from real kids.”
Mrs. O’Connor almost choked on the wine she was sipping. “Real kids? Girls are real kids! Just different from boys, that’s all.”
Kerry snorted. “That’s for sure!”
They actually spoke civilly to each other throughout the meal, and then Mrs. O’Connor told Kerry she’d do the dishes, and thanked him again for fixing the dinner. He walked back to his room to see if Lucky was awake yet, and even though he’d done what he’d done for a reason, it somehow didn’t feel like such a manipulative reason now, and he couldn’t help feeling good about himself.
Kerry dropped a breakfasted Lucky off with Maryann in the morning and bicycled off for his lesson with Ron. He had the use of rental skis free at the lodge so didn’t have to bother with carrying them while riding his bike.
Ron was waiting for him in the great room. His mother and dad were with him.
“We thought we’d stay with him for the first lesson, see how it goes,” said his dad.
Kerry watched Ron’s face fall. “Sure thing,” he said, smiling at the Tasleys. “Uh, could I see you privately for a moment, sir?” he asked, looking at Mr. Tasley. Then, without even waiting for an answer, he walked about twenty feet away.
Mr. Tasley followed, looking curiously at the boy. When they were out of hearing of the other two, Kerry stopped and spoke.
“Sir, I’ve done this a lot. For a couple of years now, if you can believe that. Some parents have wanted to watch the lessons, and I’ve done it that way, and will again if you want. But I would feel I wasn’t being honest with you if I didn’t tell you this, first. See, boys want to impress their dads. Some more than others, but they all want to measure up in their dads’ eyes.”
Kerry was watching Mr. Tasley as he spoke, judging him. Mr. Tasley was doing the same.
“When I talked to Ron yesterday, I asked him why he wanted to learn to ski, and he said that he wanted you to be proud of him. He said he didn’t think you were, but if he could learn to ski, you’d like him better. Now, I don’t know how true any of what he said was, but I do know he meant it that he wanted to ski well. I’m sure you’re proud of him anyway, but he wants to ski well for that reason.
“Now this is why I called you aside. As I said, I’ve taught with parents watching and not watching. Every time they watch, it puts more pressure on the boy, and the boy never does as well in the lessons because of that. He concentrates on how he’s being seen by the parents instead of listening to the instruction. And because of that he doesn’t perform well, and it becomes just one more thing he feels he’s failing at in front of his father. Often he’ll begin to hate it. Then, no matter how hard I try, he doesn’t learn.
“This happens every time the parents watch. So, I’m recommending you two leave us alone. He’ll be clumsy at first. All beginners are. And he’ll hate it if you’re seeing that.”
He stopped to let that sink in, then said, “But of course it’s your decision.”
The two boys went to the equipment rental office. Alone. The adult Tasleys had suddenly remembered they were going to go shopping, and had done so. Ron’s face had lit up immediately.
When they had the skis, and Kerry had explained why he’d chosen the ones they’d selected, they walked outside. Instead of going to the training hill where the other beginners were learning the ropes, Kerry led Ron to a bench where they could watch the others but were alone.
When they were seated, Ron asked, “How did you manage to lose my parents? Nobody gets my father to change his mind!”
“I just made it his decision. Wasn’t hard. But, now that we’re alone, here’s the deal. You said you wanted to spend the week hanging out with a kid like you. Make a friend, get to spend your time on a computer, and not have to spend a couple hours a day learning to ski. Right?”
“OK. I don’t know how well this’ll work. A lot of it will be up to you. But I know this kid. I just met him, but all three of us have something in common. We all have problems with our parents, and all for somewhat the same reason: they want to control our lives. My mother wants to fight just about everything I do. This other kid — his name is Luke — wants to be out making friends and his parents keep him inside and force feed him religion. Your dad wants you to be like he was instead of who you are. Of course, it’s all a bit more complicated than that, but in a nutshell, that’s it.
“I can’t do anything about most of that, and nothing permanent, but the immediate problem, you having to learn to ski when you don’t want to, and being lonely, well, I have a plan for that. I want you to meet this other kid. He’s lonely, too and spends a lot of time on the computer, so you’ve got things in common other than dictatorial parents.”
“But what about the skiing lessons? You said you can’t just blow them off and take Dad’s money.”
Kerry nodded. “I think I have that figured out, too. You might not like it especially, but maybe you will if you give it a chance. We’ll have to see. If you hate it, I’ll try something else. OK?”
Ron looked at him dubiously. “I’m not sure I like the sound of that.”
Kerry laughed. “We’ll just have to see. But for right now, I have to show you the basics of getting started skiing. Remember, yesterday I told you you’d have to have a first lesson? Well, that’s what we’re going to do now. It won’t be horrible. Trust me.”
He gave Ron an evil grin after saying that, and Ron couldn’t help himself. He smiled.
Ron spent the next two hours getting his feet wet — well, snowy. Kerry showed him how to stand up, how to fall down, how the bindings came loose, how to walk on the skis, how to use his poles, how to hold his body when sliding downhill, how to turn each way, how to snowplow to stop. Ron hated the fact that turning was counterintuitive, that you had to lean the wrong way, but Kerry was a great teacher, he made it all fun instead of frustrating. He fell down as often as Ron did, looking foolish as he did so, and Ron never felt any embarrassment.
When the two hours were up, Kerry took Ron into the snack bar and they both got cheeseburgers. Ron ordered fries with his; Kerry had an apple. Kerry recommended Ron try the hot spiced apple cider with a cinnamon stick.
“So, was it awful?” Kerry asked when they had their food at a private table.
“Actually, it was OK. Much better than I thought. You’re a good teacher. You make it fun.”
Kerry grinned. “Lots of practice. Besides, I want you to like it. Now, what comes next depends on you. You have to tell your parents you’re spending the rest of the afternoon with me. Say I’ve invited you to and because we’ve become friends, you’re going with me. Don’t say where. It’s best if you leave them a note rather than talking to them; they can’t argue or ask questions that way. Be vague. Tell ‘em you’ll be back sometime around five this afternoon.”
Ron’s face lit up. “Yeah. Yeah! That’ll work. I saw their car wasn’t in the lot when we came back. Hold it. Let me do that right now so I can leave the note in the room before they show up.”
His food mostly uneaten, Ron jumped up are rushed from the room, leaving Kerry grinning. It was the most emotion he’d seen from the boy. While he was away, Kerry found his mom and borrowed her cell phone and made a couple of calls.
Ron came back and said it was done. “Let’s eat and leave quick,” he said, taking a huge chomp on his burger.
Kerry was done with his snack so watched as Ron took less time than he thought possible finishing his food. It made him realize how much Ron wanted to stay with him. The kid probably really was lonely.
When Ron was done and they walked out of the side door so as not to be seen from the parking lot, Ron asked, “Now what? I saw you ride in this morning on your bike, but I don’t have one.”
“No prob. I called a kid I know at school who’ll loan you his for the rest of the week. We just need to go get it. That’s easy, too; this is a pretty small town. Then we’ll ride together to Luke’s house. On the way, I need to talk to you about something.”
“Oh, what’s that?”
Kerry looked at Ron and waited till the boy’s eyes actually fastened onto his. “Religion,” he said, and smiled enigmatically.
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This story is Copyright © 2013 by Cole Parker. The image is Copyright © 2013 by Colin Kelly. The story and image cannot be reproduced without express written consent. Codey's World web site has written permission to publish this story. No other rights are granted.
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