Chapter OneA Chapter by TadKent
1. Meet Howard(The No-Good Day)
It wasn’t until Howard returned home from school that fateful day, that the strange feeling in the pit of his stomach was confirmed. Upon entering the doorway of his home, Howard found his mother and father sitting in the living room, waiting for him in silence. Howard had taken one look at Alice and Jonathan Longley, and he had known something was dreadfully wrong. His mind raced as to what he could have done to upset them so, and he could come up with nothing. A tear finally broke through his mother’s resolve, and Howard understood. He looked down at his shoes, closed his eyes, and broke into tears. Though he did not know what was going on, he understood that something was gone, different, and would never be the same again. His father had then moved forward and cradled Howard in his arms, shushing him gently. After a moment, Jonathan Longley stood Howard up and knelt in front of him.
“I need to tell you something, Howard,” He had said softly, his twinkling eyes on his boy, “But I need you to be strong for me and your mother, can you do that?”
Howard sniffed, nodded, and then looked up at his father.
“I’m going away, Howard. For a long time. I don’t know when I’ll be back. I’m going far away, to help people that need me. Do you understand?”
Howard nodded silently, and his father continued, “I need you to stay strong for your mother, and take care of her, okay?”
Howard sniffed, answered with another nod, and asked his father quietly, “How?”
Jonathan Longley smiled, winked, and said, “You’ll find a way.”
He had then pulled Howard close, and said the words that Howard would always remember, for as long as he lived: “Look at the moon, Howard. If you ever miss me, look at the moon. I’ll look too, and I’ll be right there.”
He broke into fresh sobs again, and his father squeezed him one last time before placing a small object in his hand; a silver compass, with Howard’s name engraved on it.
“Happy birthday Howard. I’ll see you soon.”
With that, Jonathan Longley had walked out of the front door and out of little Howard’s life.
Exactly a year later, on his eighth birthday, Howard Longley sat up in his bed and waved the memories away. He yawned, peeled the blanket off of his body and looked at his stuffed lion, Tiger. He fingered the silver compass that he had tied to the stuffed animals’ neck, and then sighed.
“Get ready, Tiger. It’s going to be a long day.”
When Tiger didn’t reply, Howard
slid off of the bed, trudged downstairs and into the kitchen, where
He poked waffle into his mouth and
swallowed, managing to squeeze out a small, “Okay” before he popped more in.
There was little talk after that, seeing as Howard couldn’t keep the waffles
out of his mouth long enough to say anything intelligible. He watched his
mother as she cleaned the dishes and wondered how badly she missed making
breakfast for three. He sighed and pushed his empty plate away.
When he got to the bathroom, Howard stood and looked at himself in the mirror, before sighing once again, unimpressed. Howard had always felt as though he looked very dull, and he resented himself for it. He took pride in his imagination, and was only disappointed that his own appearance didn't quite match up. He was short for his age, and skinny, enough so that he didn’t couldn't do much about bigger boys bullying him. He wasn’t particularly ugly or striking either, so Howard felt that he was on the whole nothing interesting to behold.
Howard had only a few choice traits he liked. He liked his eyes. He liked his eyes not because of the color or shape alone, but because he had gotten his eyes from his mother, whom Howard thought, was the most beautiful woman that had ever walked the earth. Her eyes were a deep blue in the middle, with small rings of light blue around the rim, a place where the ocean met the sky. There was a spot in each eye that seemed to twinkle like a watchful star and grew in shine when she smiled. Howard looked into his own, and was grateful he had them. They moved up to the only other trait he liked, which he had gotten from his father. There was a spot on Howard’s head on the right side near his temple, where his brown hair grew in a curly cowlick. It made the brown lock touch his cheek, just like his father. Howard didn’t like to comb that one lock. He didn’t want to forget about it.
Howard brushed his teeth with his rocket ship toothbrush and cinnamon toothpaste before bolting back to his room and getting dressed. Before leaving his room, Howard gathered up his periwinkle blue blanket with Tiger, and stowed them quickly away into his backpack. He knew he was too old for such things, but sometimes he felt they were his only friends. He pulled a blue t-shirt on over his head and his jeans with the dark blue patch, before realizing his shirt was backwards. He scolded himself as he twisted it back around, embarrassed he would do such a thing.
“Promise you’ll come back to me
“Only if you promise to be here.”
Howard said softly in return, completing the daily exchange.
Howard looked back at her, and asked, “What’s this for?”
Howard hugged his mother, before she said dreamily, “I wish your father could see you. You look so handsome and strong, Mr. Eight-year-old.”
Howard stopped smiling and looked down at his shoes, which had just suddenly become very interesting.
Howard replied after a moment, “You think so?”
“I know so,” she declared as she
stood, “Now start walking; you’ll be late for the bus if I keep you any
longer.” Howard sighed quietly and walked out the door, saying goodbye to his
* * * * * * * * * * *
The walk to the bus stop wasn’t very far, but Howard felt like it was a long and poorly used portion of the day. So as a result, the fifteen minute trek from Howard’s front porch to the isolated countryside bus stop right outside of town was a different, fifteen minute adventure everyday. Upon stepping onto the dirt road, Howard turned into someone else, whether it was a cowboy cleaning out a ghost town, a pirate hunting for treasure, or even a gladiator in some far away arena. That day, Howard was a knight in shining armor, defending the Holy Grail on its way to a foreign castle. He brandished his sword at invisible enemies, running between trees to hide from archers. Twice he was almost caught by his foes, but in the end, when he reached the fabled ‘safe ground’ that was the bus stop, Howard returned to being a little boy with a blanket cape around his neck.
Howard sat on the old, red wooden
bench, and looked up at the sky. It was his favorite thing to look at, and he
found himself doing so quite often. He usually found little things he liked
about it, like a speck of white or a new plane that he had never seen before.
That day, however, was different. Howard noticed something rather peculiar that
day, on the bus-stop bench between
The bus arrived, and Howard shoved the blanket back in his backpack before getting on. He sat down in the front seat behind the driver, and looked out the window. The stars were still there, and he smiled.
The bus driver saw Howard’s odd grin and glanced up out of the side window. The man took a double take, and almost swerved off of the road. The bus rocked to its side slightly, and Howard almost flew out of his seat. After he recovered, Howard’s eyes remained glued to the skyward spectacle, and soon after the other children joined him, eyes wide and jaws slack. The bus-driver was still gaping up into the sky when he pulled into the school parking lot.
* * * * * * * * * * *
The entire school had eventually clued into the aerial phenomenon. Teachers left their classrooms, to gaze upwards, stand there stupidly for a moment, only to return with a puzzled expression on their faces. Children pestered their teachers to go to the bathroom, and eventually they caught on and denied them. Despite their efforts to capture their students’ attention, the children kept losing focus, and Howard caught himself unable to read about “The Lost Dog” and began to draw pictures. He drew rockets chasing shooting stars in crayon space until finally the bell for lunch recess rang, and he bolted outside to see if the stars were still out.
He found that they were, and they were even brighter than they were when he had first seen them. Howard bought his lunch and sat under a tree, drawing more pictures of stars and how he saw them. He had just finished his best coloring yet, when dirt flew up from the ground and onto his notepad. Howard looked up in shock and frustration.
Kirby Keller, a boy that was Howard’s age but twice his size, sauntered up to Howard, who was wiping the dirt off of his now filthy drawing. Kirby was laughing, which Howard always thought sounded like a donkey braying more than it sounded like a boy.
“Hey Howie, what’s the deal? Hard to draw with dirt in your eyes, huh?” Kirby sneered as he kicked more dirt onto Howard’s lap.
Howard stood, frustrated. “Why’d you have to go and do that, Kirby? I didn’t do anything to you!” Kirby ignored him and brayed more. He gathered up his pictures, only to have Kirby slap them out of his hand. More of Kirby’s friends approached the scene, grinning and guffawing at Howard’s apparent misery. Howard looked up at the red-headed braying bully and tried his best to think of something witty to say. Nothing came to mind, and he was about to gather his things and leave when Kirby moved on to Howard’s backpack.
“What’s in here, momma’s boy?” Kirby taunted, as he reached his hand inside.
Howard’s eyes widened and his heart jumped in his chest. “No! Leave it alone!”
Kirby took out Howard’s blanket, his stuffed lion, and the treasure map he had gotten from his mother. He brayed at full volume when he saw the stuffed animal, and he held it up into the sky.
“Look what I found, guys!” He roared with laughter as he threw it onto the dirt.
Howard watched in misery, and looked at Tiger. As Kirby Keller threw his blanket onto a branch, and ripped his treasure map to pieces, tears welled up into Howard’s eyes. Right then, he wished that more than anything, his stuffed lion would come to life, roaring and growling, and scare Kirby Keller away. Tiger didn’t come to life, though, he laid there in the dirt, while Howard’s birthday was ruined in one fell swoop by a red-headed boy that laughed like a donkey. Kirby pushed Howard onto the ground, and he began to cry. The older boys walked away, towards their backpacks and their classes, and most of all, their friends.
Howard sobbed silently under the tree for some time, until the bell rang. He gathered up the bits of his treasure map and put them delicately into his backpack. He fished his blanket out of the tree and dusted Tiger off before he trudged back to class, nose stuffy and eyes tired.
* * * * * * * * * * *
When the bell rang and the children
were free, Howard made a beeline straight to the bus. His head was down in
determination, and fear. Having his head down made it hard to see, but he did
notice that everyone around him seemed to be so very excited about something;
he did not know what. He also noticed that no one was following him; Kirby
Keller and his minions were nowhere in peripheral sight. Howard furthermore
noticed that he seemed to be the only one walking toward the bus, and not in
the opposite direction. What Howard didn’t
notice, was that the stars in the cyan sky had grown three times in size and
shine, and the rest of
The dazzled bus-driver pulled away from the school parking lot after a precarious swerve, and a rather frightened and irritated cat dove out of the way, before looking up into the sky.
* * * * * * * * * * *
“Since we don’t have a map, I guess we’ll just have to settle for me spoiling the hiding place,” She said with a grin. Howard allowed himself the smallest of a smile at her little joke, and then remembered that he was ashamed.
What Howard found was not at all what he expected; a rolled-up piece of paper marked with a silver seal sat in the chest, and Howard gingerly plucked it out and looked up at his mother before opening. She nodded to him encouragingly, and he broke the seal. He could read the small printed words, in their official font, but he did not understand them.
Howard looked up at her. “Amie who?”
His eyes widened as he read the paper again. “You got me a star!?” His little body trembled with excitement, and he attempted to stutter out a spluttering,”Th-th-ank You!” before giving up and throwing his arms around his mothers legs, which in turn knocked his unprepared mother over, sending them both into the sandbox. The both of them laughed, covered in sand, and Howard forgot about Kirby Keller, and the day was restored to its former glory. He looked down at the paper, and marveled at the thought of his own star, before going inside, and enduring a very thorough shampooing.
* * * * * * * * * *
Dinner was like every other night
at the Longley house.
He trudged upstairs and began to “get ready for bed”. “Getting ready for bed” was different for Howard than it was for other boys. While other boys would brush their teeth and simply pass out on the bed, Howard’s routine was a little bit more unique. He did brush his teeth, but instead of heading straight to the bed, he sat by the windowsill, looked up at the moon, and talked. He talked and talked, not because he felt like the moon herself was listening, but because he believed that his father was. He believed that his father looked up at that same moon, thousands of miles away, and listened. So Howard talked, set up a checkerboard (made his father’s moves for him), read a short story out loud, anything he wanted his father to hear. Tonight he talked about his day, how the stars seemed to follow him (and how still they shone bright even in that instant), about Kirby Keller and his antics. He talked about how his mother had somehow gotten him a star, and that her name was Amie.
The stars twinkled in the navy blue sky, and he felt someone listen intensely, holding on to every word. Howard usually said a quick “Good night” and “I love and miss you”, before he scampered off to his bed, but tonight was different. That night, on Howard’s eighth birthday of April the twenty-eighth, Howard made a decision.
He cleared his throat, and spoke slowly: “I miss you. And I wish you would come home. Please. You said if I looked up at the moon, you would be here… and it’s not working.”
He sniffed and his voice broke softly before he continued, “So please come home. If this doesn’t work, I don’t think I believe in magic or make-believe anymore. Please daddy. I just want to see you again.” Howard repeated this until he fell asleep at the sill, stars still twinkling and moon still shining, a breeze moving the trees over the hillside.
Far and away, atop a mountain of pearl white, a plan was set into a motion.
© 2011 TadKent
AboutI'm a twenty-one year old musician from Fresno, California. I've been in an incredible relationship with the Love of my life for three years now, so I am very much taken. I write all kinds of things, .. more..
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