Chapter One

Chapter One

A Chapter by TadKent
"

Meet Howard.

"

1.    Meet Howard(The No-Good Day)

  Howard would never forget the day that his father left him. It was set apart from other days, not because the birds didn’t sing when he awoke, not because his toast and jam didn’t taste right, or he couldn’t get any of his socks to match, but because Howard knew as soon as he awoke, and the timid sun peeked out over the hills, that something was wrong. It was exactly a year later on his eighth birthday that Howard lay in his bed, recalling with a deep sadness, the events that had taken place that day on April the twenty-eighth.

            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 Alice was making waffles, Howard’s favorite. She was singing softly to herself when Howard came up from behind her and hugged her tightly.

Alice lit up when she felt Howard around her waist, and kissed him on the cheek. “Birthday boy! Good morning, my love. How’d you sleep?” she asked him warmly as she sat him at the table.

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. Alice smiled at him and took his plate before he stood, and kissed him on the head before he trudged upstairs, apparently embarrassed.

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.

Alice met Howard at the door, like she did every morning, but this time she was holding a rolled up piece of cloth. While he put on his backpack (which was almost bigger than he was, due to the fugitives inside), Alice pecked a kiss on his forehead and fixed his hair carefully. She held her pinky up in their every morning ritual and Howard locked his with it.

“Promise you’ll come back to me today?” Alice asked like she always did.

“Only if you promise to be here.” Howard said softly in return, completing the daily exchange. Alice nodded and Howard hugged her, promising to himself that he would never leave her. It seemed like a silly thing, since Howard was only going to school, but it was something they did every morning for a year, since Howard’s father left. If they stopped now, Howard felt like something terrible would happen, and he had a feeling his mother felt so too.

Alice pulled away, then grinned widely as she put the rolled up fabric in Howard’s hand. Howard unrolled it, and saw that it was a map of the backyard, painted beautifully onto what looked suspiciously like Alice’s favorite tablecloth.

Howard looked back at her, and asked, “What’s this for?”

            Alice laughed playfully and replied, “You can’t fool me Howard, I know you know what a treasure map is for! You have a birthday gift waiting for you; you just have to find it!”

            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.

Alice watched his reaction, and added quietly, “He misses you, Howard.”

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 Alice.

 

*          *          *          *          *          *          *          *          *          *          *

 

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 O Street and 32nd. On the 28th of April, Howard’s eighth birthday, he gazed up into the sky and saw that every star that had he had ever seen was shining brightly in the morning sky. Howard rubbed his eyes, and gawked back up again. Sure enough, stars big and small glittered and twinkled in the bright blue sky above. Howard struggled in his mind for an explanation and found none.

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 Maple Park Elementary School was frozen in awe of the mid-day star show.

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.

 

*          *          *          *          *          *          *          *          *          *          *

 

When Alice heard of Kirby Keller’s lunchtime bullying, it took all of Howard’s begging and pleading to keep her from “marching straight over to the Kellers and teaching that monster of a boy a lesson or two!” Howard showed her the tattered strips of cloth that was his treasure map, and her anger turned to softness. She put her hands behind his ears, and the humiliation washed away, leaving behind a kind of warmth and love for his mother. He mumbled a stifled “Sorry…” and she shushed him gently before leading him out to the backyard.  

Alice led Howard to a spot by his sandbox and behind his slide.

“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.

Alice knelt in her sundress and marked a large “X” on the ground in front of her. Howard began to dig with his hands slowly, and what he unearthed was smaller and deeper than he imagined. His hands found a wooden box, smooth and warm from the surrounding earth. He lifted it out of the hole, and set it on the ground before opening the golden latch.

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.

Alice knelt down next to him and said, “Her name is Amie.”

Howard looked up at her. “Amie who?”

Alice grinned widely. “Your star.”

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. Alice put on French music in the other room, to fill the silence, and they both tried not to look at the empty third seat at the head of the table. Howard thought about the stars, and how big and beautiful they were that day. Even as he ate he longed to look out the window, and see if they were still waiting for him. He wondered if they were as bright where his father was, off in that distant world, where Howard and his mother weren’t. He wondered if he was thinking of them as well, if he missed them as much as they missed him. He looked up at his mother, who seemed to be wondering the same thing, as she played absently with the food on her plate. She would glance every now and then towards the empty chair, and Howard had to tap her on the shoulder before he hugged her goodnight. She kissed his cheek with a “Happy birthday, handsome”, and he tried to ignore the tears welling up in her eyes.

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


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Author's Note

TadKent
I know it needs editing. Very rough. Be gentle with me, haha. I know I say "Howard" a lot. Try to ignore the paragraphing, I know it needs tons of work. I'm more worried about story elements, how likeable the characters are, if it holds your interest. :)

My Review

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Reviews

I really like it! I think the story is believable for children, and that they will love Howard and his adventures! You write in a very similar style to me, so maybe that's why this appeals to me. Yes, it needs tweaking, but what story doesn't? It has good bones :-) Keep it up!

Posted 6 Years Ago


I love it.
Please write another chapter!

Posted 7 Years Ago


I love it, you really need to write more. I want to know what happens next! lol

Posted 8 Years Ago


i love it Tad keep up the good work

Posted 9 Years Ago


Besides your structuring what needs work? I'm not going to ask the unanswered questions because I'm sure the answers are waiting. Your character development is strong and your situations are believable. There's nothing rough about this, it's fantastic!

Posted 9 Years Ago


You can't be surprised when I say that this first chapter already has me hooked. I am in love with Howard, because, needless to say, he is simply adorable. Your description of him is amazing, as is with all the characters. I would say more about your story here, but it seems that everyone here has takent he words right out of my mouth. This story so far is developing beautifully, and I can't wait to read more. One more thing though before i end this, I do agree with Miss Coral about the stars cocnept. I love the idea, but I definitely suggest you look into an explantation for them, seeing as that is very...curious.
Amazing write. I'm looking forward to seeing what happens next.
And sorry it took so long for me to review.

-Pokie

Posted 9 Years Ago


I really enjoyed this chapter. It seemed rather long for a first chapter though. I really enjoy that story line. The introduction was superb.

Posted 9 Years Ago


So, you say that it needs a lot of work- honestly, I really disagree. You have a great style in writing, simple and consistent in tone, which really brings a lot to the plate. I think that while you could use some more pronouns in spots, the use of "Howard" keeps us in his mindset- younger children focus very little on things that don't deal with them. Through repetition, you introduce us more thoroughly to his mindset.

I love the descriptions- as I said before, a lot of them are simply stated, but are still incredible vivid and accurate. I can see and feel and smell and hear the scene without you even mentioning the senses- very nicely done on that.

The stars being large and whatnot throughout the day were a bit weird to me- I know that it had special significance because of his present, but if you don't later include an explanation of sorts, I don't know if I would include that.

Last thing- the relationship between Howard and his mother was superbly developed. I had the same sort of relationship with my mother, and you described it really well. That gentle caring without any of the normal condescension- it really happens when there isn't a father around and the mother is having a difficult time with that. There is a sense of responsibility that the child feels, and you captured that really well without ever actually having to state that.

The end felt a little abrupt to me in the chapter- it's a great conclusion and a nice segway, but I would mention his doubt earlier on in the story- you've developed him as an innocent child who believes, and then you suddenly make him doubt it all at the end. Show the process a bit more, hint at it a little bit beforehand.

I would, as you mentioned, work on the paragraphing a bit more. But that's not a huge concern.


Overall, wonderful feel- I absolutely love Howard and Tiger, and of course Alice. :)
Your characters are very believable and your style/tone are simply excellent. I'm looking forward to reading more, and next time I promise not to take so obscenely long when getting to the review. c:

100/100

-Coral-

Posted 9 Years Ago


I looove it :) You had me hooked after the first paragraph!

There was just one thing I noticed when I was reading:

"He was short for his age, and skinny, enough so that he didn’t couldn't do much about bigger boys bullying him"- I think you meant to use either didn't or couldn't, but forgot to delete one of the words :)

I know you're wanting to hear about character/story elements, so here goes.

1. Howard is adorable. He makes for a great main character and you're doing great with developing him :)
2. The family struggle is VERY believable. The beginning when Howard flashes back to his father leaving, Alice making him waffles and Howard thinking she misses making them for his dad too, the small bit Alice and Howard exchange before he leaves for school...great stuff :) And (I can't believe this actually happened) I even teared up at the end when he asked his dad to come back. No joke. So you're doing great with that element :)
3. For some reason, I really really like the relationship Howard has with Tiger. The detail that Howard talks to Tiger and he never responds is very grounding, and almost sad. Every kid's got that one stuffed animal that they wish was really alive and could be their best friend, but then the kid has to grow up and realize that it's an inanimate object. It's just a really realistic detail and it adds a little more to Howard and his childhood.
4. Congrats. You made me absolutely hate Kirby. When he ripped the map up, I actually got really sad! So good job getting your readers involved in the story haha!

This is really great- you should be really proud of this. I loved everything about it and I can't wait to read more! :)

Posted 9 Years Ago


wow great writing. can't wait to read more! way to build suspense

Posted 9 Years Ago



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Added on October 29, 2010
Last Updated on June 1, 2011
Tags: stars, Amie, Howard, Moon, Howard Longley and the Man on th


Author

TadKent
TadKent

Fresno, CA



About
I'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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