Formosa, Cricket, Influenza.
“Mom?” Seven year old Ian screamed bloody murder as he ran through the house, his big brother Auden right behind him. “Mom!” They slammed open the screen door and exploded out on the back porch, a ball of fists and feet. The fight was over quickly; eleven year old Auden was bigger. He landed a fist in Ian’s left eye and Ian howled.
That’s what you get, you little twerp.” Growled Auden, aiming a kick at his brothers behind.
“Auden. Enough!” Mom called from the back yard. Both boys stop and stare at their mother. She’s outside. It’s been a month since they’ve seen her out of her bed, and here she was in the back yard sitting under the Pink Formosa tree like she does it everyday. She had on a pair of big sunglasses, and had covered up in sweatpants and a long-sleeved t-shirt. The fall evenings here in North Georgia can cool quickly. Auden used his boot to shove Ian off the porch; he dropped a foot down to the soft green grass.
“Stay out of my room, you little jerk!”
“Yea you’re the jerk; I was just getting my book!” Auden acted like he was going to come back and Ian scooted back toward his Mom. Auden turned and went back inside, slamming the screen door behind him.
“Ian, come over here.” Mom patted her leg. She was lying back on a lounge chair, taking in the late afternoon sun.
“How come you’re out of bed Mom?” Ian asked, brushing dirt off his pants. “Are you better now?” She looked at him and smiled.
“Maybe a little better today, yes.” She laughed a little and that produced a fit of coughing. It sounded wet and even seven-year old Ian knew that was a good sound for her. It meant she could spit the stuff out and breathe easier for a while. Michelle Bonet was a single mother. She and the boys were staying with her mother in Helen, Georgia where she had grown up. The boy’s father was still in Buffalo, New York. They hadn’t seen him in several months.
“Sorry about that,” she said about the coughing. “But I do feel better today.” Ian looked at her; she could see the hope in his eyes and hated the thought of letting him down. “Come on,” she said. “Help me up I just can‘t…” It was an old game between them. She held her arms out in front of her and Ian gladly took each hand. He pulled her upright as Michelle smiled and made a funny face at him. She got her feet beneath her and leaned on him a little as she stood; it broke her heart to see him stagger under her weight. What kind of mother makes her little boy do this? She wondered, feeling guilty.
“Here Mom, take my arm.” He offered gallantly. Michelle smiled again.
“Honey, I’m a little too tall for that. How about if we hold hands? That would help me a lot.” She held out her hand and Ian took it.
“Just don’t tell any of the boys, okay Mom?” Ian asked. He knew he would never live it down if anyone saw him holding his Mommy’s hand.
“Of course not sweetie,” she said, “you’re just helping me anyways, right?” Ian nodded seriously. They walked around the farm, looking at Grandma’s flowers and trees. There was a small pond with a fountain in it out back. Soon they were back at the porch and Michelle was tired; it was time to go in. Ian held the door open for her.
The illness had started out as Influenza Type A. It had then developed into pneumonia. Her mother had come while she was in the hospital, and they were spending the last of the summer with her now. They would have to go home soon, the boys had school and she had a job – if it was still there. Her ex was coming down the following week to drive them home; they had spoken on the phone a lot lately. He was concerned about her and the boys, and that was kind of nice.
Ian ran off to his room to get his Nintendo DS, leaving his mom in the kitchen. Michelle sat at the table, leaving the back door open. She wanted to hear the last of the day. The sounds of an urban summer night came in through the door; a cricket calling to his lady-love, children laughing and yelling nearby. Someone’s mother was calling for him from their back door. She sounded mad, that poor kid. One by one porch lights were going on all down the street, she knew without looking. It’s just the way things are, the way they always had been. Michelle smiled; she was glad to be here, but she missed home. I really DO feel better, she thought.
Maybe she hadn’t lied to Ian after all.