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Related article: Date: Mon, 06 May 2002 19:55:52 -0400 From: Rory M Subject: A Family Chapter 3A Family Chapter 3 By Rory M. This Chapter will be told from the Perspective of Liam Arrisen He's been here for two days already and I still haven't seen him. I hate hospitals. They reek of disinfectant that over powers the smell of the rancid stench of various body fluids. This one is no different. The only thing that has changed since the last time I stepped foot in one is the brightness. The nurses are dressed in extravagant colors and there are animals and clowns on the wall...little handprints and finger painted names of countless children from god knows when. And when the hell is someone going to tell me where the damn elevator is? Fuck the lobby and reception, I'll find it myself. 7th floor, Nurse's station 8, room 710. 7th floor, Nurse's station 8, room 710. I got it, no sweat. God I hate elevators. This thing is too slow and my stomach isn't moving smoothly with it...or maybe it's that smell. The climb finally stops and I step off Dark Bbs the lift onto the oncology floor, as the sign right in front of me so boldly spells out to me. There is a little boy, or maybe it's a girl, waiting with their mother to get onto the elevator. There are red, white and blue streamers on the handles and his legs are covered in a navy blue and silver star blanket. He smiles at me, why I don't know. There isn't a hair on his head and doesn't look a pound over 50. I hold the door open as they get onto the car. I suddenly feel ill. Under the sign on the wall an arrow points towards Nurses' station 8 to the right and 7 to the left. I go to the right and start counting off doors. 707, 708, 709, 710...they've got his name already under the number on the wall. I cup my hand over my mouth and drag it down, to loosen my nerves. If I look like hell he'll be upset. I turn the handle and open the oversized door into the brightly lit room."Lee!!" Ave was scratching at the oxygen tube under his nose. An oversized, vertical pillow propped up his small body on the bed. His color was gone, and it looked like his eyes were heavy. No smile lit his face when he saw me and called for me, only an urgent call of help. I placed the bag of toys and clothes I had with me on the moving bed table and sat on the edge of the bed, scooping him up into a delicate hug."Hey, Avey baby. I brought you some stuff to play with if you want. And Ava drew you a picture this morning before school," I pulled out a crayola masterpiece of stick figures and rainbows to show him, "Do you want to put it on the wall?""Nothing goes on these walls," his little voice was faint and labored, like if he were congested. He looked away from the picture in his lap and then to the blank, grayish wall that only held random teddy bears around the room."What do you mean, nothing? You can put whatever you want on these boring old walls, they're your walls. Did you see your name on the door? That means it's yours, and you can do anything you want with it," if I could do anything, I could brighten up his world. Noah has been great the past few days, but uptight. I guess I woke up this morning with the notion that it was my place to be silly Lee...since I've been so reminded by Maren, the staff, and society that I'm definitely not his parent. And fuck it, I don't want to be like his parents, too consumed in figuring out schedules, insurance set-ups, everyone's mental state, treading lightly around Maren so she doesn't fucking snap. I'm contented Dark Bbs in being the house boy, the babysitter, the one that reads to those kids at night and feeds them 3 meals a day. I'm the one that keeps their father's head on straight and kisses them goodnight and to school, but I can't do it in front of Dark Bbs Maren, god forbid. And I'm the one they ask when they miss those parents and tells them that their mommy and daddy are visiting Avery. It gives me a place of belonging when Maren's word is paramount to what I may think.But I don't have a place to be upset and suffer during any of it, and it's only been three days. I shouldn't, it's selfish and they need me, I just wish that Noah would realize that a little more. I know this is hell on him, especially Maren, but what am I supposed to do? I'm not a part of this family. I'm the invisible force that makes things a little smoother around the edges who is now taking off on a Thursday and changing around my entire shift schedule to accommodate.It's a nice feeling when you can pay the bills and buy your children nice clothing, the long hours of dealing with bad camera men, bitchy anchors and horror stories are worth it to come home to Noah and the kids. Until I'm reminded that they aren't my kids and that I have no say over them legally or not. It's not so bad though; the night producer doesn't have nearly as many meetings to sit in on, plus I won't have anymore 4 AM wake up calls if news breaks. It'll be fine, I'll spend mornings here and nights working.... it'll work out."Lee?""I'm just looking for tape, babe." Masking tape is good for such an occasion. I placed the drawing on the wall next to his bed, so that if he ever lies on his left side he'd be facing it. The blank wall didn't do it justice. There was only 4 feet of space between the bed and the wall, which wasn't filled with anything except for a few monitors near the corner where the head of the bed paralleled. On the other side of the bed was a large chair that separated Avery from the large window that only had a view of the courtyard of the multiple story building. It was too high up to see the trees and play ground at the bottom unless you looked from the window; all you could see from the bed were more windows..."Don't you think that window is boring, kiddo?" he looked at me with a quizzical expression. I placed my hands on my hips and surveyed my canvas, "Do you want to decorate it?" I rummaged through my bag for the package I had picked up from the art store."Decowate it? With what?" he had a large smile across his face now, under the breathing tube."We'll decorate it like the windows at church, ok?" I pulled out sheets of plastic in all different shapes, colors and sizes, "These stick to the glass, see?" I smacked a blue triangle onto the large pane, to which he giggled, "Come on, we've got a window to beautify," I picked him up around his thighs and held him Dark Bbs upright against my chest so he had full mobility of his arms. After a little bit of arranging wires and moving an iv stand to the window, we started making pictures with the shapes, a smile returning to his face."Look Lee, it's a face," there was a happy face made with multiple colors of unfitting shapes, but it definitely was a face."I think it needs a tongue," I placed a purple rectangle in the middle of the lower lip, causing Avery to laugh, "Hey, do you want to spell anything out, we can make words.""What would we say?""I don't know, it's up to you. But we gotta make this window more interesting, it's sooo boring. How about.... Avery's Room?""YEAH!!" For the next 20 minutes we assembled a very unique stained glass window. The room soon had shards of different colored light coming through the glass. The dirty Philadelphia gray sky now looked red, blue, purple, and green, as did the other side of the building across the view. The dreary walls were now rainbows of colors, and anyone walking by the door would see the lively mural of colors...and see that it was "Avery's Room.""You like it, Ave? There are a few more pieces left if you want to fit them in," for a few minutes his head had been on my shoulder and arm around my Dark Bbs neck, just pointing me in the direction where he wanted something. He was tiring fast, which was something that I expected, but not so quickly. He pulled his hand from my neck and tried to suck his thumb in vain, because a band-aid covered the tip and the IV board his lower arm was taped to was getting too heavy for him. He flashed his bright green eyes at me and nodded his approval of the project, again trying to suck his thumb, which he always did when he was tired. I brushed my free hand through his hair as I sat on the edge of the bed, lying him down carefully. I pulled my hand from behind his head and pull the blanket over him."You wanna watch the rescuer's, Kiddo? I brought the tape.""Yeah!! Is it the second one, the one with the boy?" I nodded my head to his excitement and went to retrieve the very used Disney movie. As I turned back to the toy bag for the tape I looked down at my right hand, my right hand that was covered in fine little black hairs, like I had just pet a shedding cat. My mind jumped to the child in the wheelchair with the red puffy eyes and baldhead. Looking back at Avery I grimaced. The white pillowcase had stray snips of hair all over it, little ones. His eyes were tired and he still tried to suck his thumb, now being a little easier with the pillow supporting his arm. I now noticed little patches of thinning hair in the back of his head, and around his ears, where the hair was the shortest. He had to have his hair cropped short and flipped at the front like Aiden. I remember that tantrum. And now it wouldn't matter, he would look like that child on the elevator and all the other children on this floor. Snapping out of my stare I placed the video in the TV/VCR that was bolted into a stand from the ceiling. He smiled around his thumb as the cartoon classic started, no longer paying attention to the tubes all over his body, the beeping monitors or even me who sat in the chair next to him. A nurse came in around noon to drop off lunch and medicate the IV tube, all without him paying much more attention than a glance. Asking him to eat got a drawn out whine, so I let it go. He drank some watered down apple juice and some wheat thins I had brought him, but the macaroni and whatever else was on that trey went untouched. He was too tired to eat it anyway. For 45 minutes he had been fighting to keep his eyes open, but even the Disney movie couldn't produce that, and he drifted into a nap. His thumb slid out of his mouth to rest on the pillow next to him, and his eyes shut to small slits that opened slightly while he breathed. I became entranced with the blipping line on his heart monitor. It was so steady, only changing once when he yawned. He shuffled on the bed dazedly until he found his teddy bear and settled against the pillow once more. I fixed my gaze then on him, the machines suddenly making me feel uneasy.The bed enveloped him into the middle, the white sheets making his skin seem even paler against his dark hair...which as I stroked it came out on my hand. The oxygen strip that led into the wall confined his little nose; it made the area around it and his cheeks red from irritation. His lips were chapped and pale, and his breathing labored. He was small for his age to begin with, but it seemed as if he had already lost weight. And I can't help but think how fast he's deteriorating. He's not getting better, he looks 10 times as sick as he did Monday and as much as I try not to think about it, I wonder if we'll ever be able to bring him home.I am broken from my train of thought when Noah walks in the door, carrying two coffees and a bag of food, his tie is flapping over his shouldn't and he doesn't look shaved, but then again neither am I."Hey," he leans over casually and kisses me, "How's he doing today?" he says as he glances at the mural on the window and smiles, I haven't seen him smile in days, either."No fever, he got chemo around 11, and he's been pretty good. Meaning, the chemo has not gone through his stomach yet.""How long has he been sleeping?""He just drifted off a few minutes ago. I'm sure he's not completely asleep yet." Noah Elliot sat on the edge of the bed and stroked the back of two fingers along his youngest son's cheek, rousing him slowly. I watched from the chair as his eyes yet again became mirrored slits and he tossed his head to the side, not aware of what was going on at all. He shifted into the fetal position on his side, pulling his body closer to Noah and myself on the right side of the bed. His eyes blinked slowly, as if in reverse from trying to stay open, they were flashing to be closed."Hey sweetheart, how yah feeling?" Noah rubbed his hand in a circular motion over Ave's back, as if reviving him.Avery focused in on Noah for an instant before holding his arms out franticly to be picked up. His face was contorted and confused. I sat myself on the bed in front of Noah as he held Ave to his chest. I was as confused as Noah appeared to be."What's wrong, Babe?" he pat the boys back."You didn't come last night. You didn't come and mommy didn't have sidewalks and you bring Lee like you said.""Shhh...I'm sorry Avery, but mommy was here and we couldn't come. Didn't mommy tell you that? And Liam was here this morning, and we're both here now," Ave sniffled his disapproval into his fathers neck, at the same time scratching at hair that had fallen onto his neck, "I'll tell you what. From now on I'll leave Where the Sidewalk Ends here so Lee, Mommy, or me can read it, ok?""NO!! YOU HAVE TO READ IT TO ME!" and on came the water works."Alright silly, you're tired. Come on, relax for us, please? Big boys don't cry over bed time stories and teddy bears.""Yes...sniffle...they do.""Well not when they're tired," I got up and he laid the exhausted and tempered 5-year-old back down on the hospital bed. He again itched at his neck, which was turning pink from the abrasive hairs and scratching. Avery rubbed the tears from his eyes and still sobbed at the air, not even sure for what he was crying anymore."Daddy...I want to go home. When am I going home?" He snorted back a sob and looked at both of us for an answer...I looked at Noah, after all, since I am not the parent it is not my parental responsibility. Sorry, I'm still a little bitter."If you do well enough sweetie, you'll be going home next week," he started to sob again."I...WANNNNA...GO...HOME," a nurse came to the door to see what the screaming was about. With a knowing look she shut the door."You will when you get better, hun. But you have to be a good boy and do what the doctors want you to, they're trying to help you," Noah, in his infinite wisdom of scaring the child, had done a nice job. Even the mention of a doctor in the past few days had made the poor kid tense up and shriek, even if they didn't touch him. "Avey baby, I know it's scary but you've gotta make the best of it. And if you get scared Daddy, Mommy, or me will be around, ok? And if we're not you get one of the nurses to call one of us, and say that they have to, because that's what they're here to do, anything you want," I leaned in and kissed his cheek."And if I'm not here one night I'll read to you over the phone, or I'll make you a tape, ok?""Okay," he pouted out, shortly followed by a yawn."You're so tired, sweetie," I brushed my hand up and down his back."I am NOT tired," he whined out before shoving his thumb in his mouth, which an hour before I had removed the band-aid from, "Daddy, ream me sidewalks now?""I...I don't have the book, Ave. I left it at home, I'm sorry sweetie," Oh God, Noah could bring on tears faster then Bambie's mother getting shot.""I know a few by heart, Avery. Want me to just tell you one?" he perked up, and the thumb resumed, "What's Ava's favorite poem?""BAND-AIDS!!" I cleared my throat and hoped I could remember the short Shel Silverstein poem."Band-Aids: I have a Band-Aid on my Finger, One on my knee, and one on my nose, One on my heel, and two on my shoulder, Three on my elbow, and nine on my toes. Two on my wrist," I grabbed his hand and gave it a playful tug, "and one on my ankle, One on my chin, and one on my thigh, Four on my belly, and five on my bottom, One on my forehead, and one on my eye. One on my neck, and in case I might need 'em I have a box full of thirty-five more. But oh! I do think it's sort of a pity I don't have a cut or a sore!" He giggled meekly around his thumb, definitely on his way back into the nap that had been cut short. I let out a small sigh of relief as Noah sat in the chair and pinched his brow as if he had a headache. I stayed on the bed, rubbing Avery's back as he drifted back to sleep, his eyelashes drying to his cheeks with tears. Noah laid back against the chair and reached his hand out for mine, holding it to my knee, but not looking at me. Instead he stared out the Technicolor window, the light reflecting back on his face as orange and blue. Dark Bbs He spoke very quietly after a few minutes."He's already losing his hair.""I noticed. It's starting to really itch him," he still didn't look at me."I didn't think it was going to fall out so fast." We sat in silence holding each other's hands. It's the first time in days that we had gotten a few minutes just to be with each other, to touch. It's not as much as anyone would like, but for now it's wonderful. He snapped out of his reverie and looked up at me on the edge of the bed. His eyes were tired and his jaw strained, I think everyone looked a little older this week."Did you give blood?""Yeah, this Dark Bbs morning before I came. I went to the clinic at Jefferson.""Great, now all we have to do is get the kids tested.""Is that really necessary? I don't see a point in making them all pincushions. If you think he's bad wait until Ava has to be put through those tests.""It's just a blood test, they said it's not likely they'll need anything further." He stood up and kissed me gently. 45 minutes had gone by already and he had to get back to his office. I don't really want him to go, though, the few times I've seen him this week haven't been worth much. This could last a few more hours, in Dark Bbs my opinion."I'll see you for dinner?" he said as he straightened his tie."Dinner?""I didn't tell you this morning? Maren is going to come here after work and you're going to pick up the kids instead, and we can have a dinner for once this week. So, I'll get to see you before I come back here to sleep tonight," he leaned in again for another kiss, "Sound good?""Sounds great.""I'll see you a little after 5. Liam, I love you.""I love you, too," he leaned in to kiss Avery and then was out the door within a second. Around three Maren came in, as blunt and abrasive as ever. Whatever, not my problem. I gathered my things and gave Avery a kiss goodbye on his sleeping face (Much to see her wince) and was gone from the wretched hospital to pick up the kids from school.~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~ My green Passat is the third of a long line of cars that are lining the parking lot of the small, private elementary school. I wait, dozing for it to be 4 o'clock and Aiden and Ava to get out of class. Aiden usually waits until about 10 after, always talking and playing around in the hall before he actually makes it outside. Ava on the other hand, marches out of the building usually with her nose in the air and her lunch box swinging next to her. God I love that girl. True to form there she is, ready to go on time, as we sit in the parking lot waiting for Aiden, who appears within a large group of boys."So nice of you to join us.""I had to ask Jamie something.""Yeah yeah, that's what you always say," I smirked at him and ruffled his dark brown hair, which was actually lighter than the twins', "Seat belts?""Yeah..." both had so much energy in their voices."Is Avery home?" she asks every day, and every day I cringe a little more to tell her he isn't."He's not coming home, stupid. He's going to the hospital for a long time. They told you that.""Aiden don't call your sister stupid. And he is to coming home, just not today. Maybe next week if we're lucky.""Did you give him my picture?""Ava, your picture is hanging on the wall right next to Avery. He gets to see it every time he opens his eyes. He loves it.""Are we gonna get to see him soon?" Aiden asked, flicking a pencil against the dashboard."The doctors say he's too sick right now, but maybe in a few days. If you want, you can talk to him on the phone tonight," both let out "yeahs" of approval and dropped the subject, for the time being. At home schoolwork was done at the table and cartoons were watched after. I ordered Chinese food just as Noah got in. No, it wasn't the best meal, but I don't feel like cooking and I don't feel like cleaning after. I feel like lying on a couch watching Sponge Bob's Square Pants with little people draped around me on the sofa. Dinner was uneventful but pleasant. Giving a 5 and 8-year-old chopsticks is a messy project, but sometimes you need the entertainment and the fun of it. I wish Avery were there. He'd be the messiest one. After the clean up and hose down the kids went back to the cartoons and Noah and me lingered in the kitchen. The townhouse was in a new development that was carved into a wooded area on the edge of the city. Our back picture window in the kitchen had a view of a swing-set, and a row of trees that blocked our view from beautiful.... route one...which was on the opposite side of that 200 yard thick group of trees. It was private, and the house was big and comfortable for us, even if we were still technically in the city. We sat together on the window bench in the picture window, looking out at the backyard and just getting in a few minutes of nothing. I sat with my back against the right side of the window, with the kitchen table five feet away from us and the kitchen to the left of that, separated by an island with two stools. The kitchen was blue and with white wooded cabinets, the floor a blue slate. It felt cold under my left foot, which I anchored to the floor as Noah sat up against my chest between my legs. It was comfortable, gazing out that window. I didn't want to talk. I was talked out."I'm gonna buy some hats tomorrow after work. You know, just for him to have fun with, feel a little less conscious of it.""Noah, I don't think he's going to care.""I just want him to have something to occupy Dark Bbs himself with.""If it bothers him that he's bald, then we'll get him hats. I don't think we should get it for him now, he'll feel ugly. I think it's best that we didn't pay attention to it, so that he feels comfortable with it.""You're right, it's just that I don't feel comfortable with it. With any of it," he laid his head against my shoulder and looked out into the swing-set, "I just want him to feel as good as he can.""Everyone does. Let's just wait a few weeks, to see if it all falls out. It might not, you know. He could just end up with thinned out hair...like his old man," I got a playful elbow to the ribs."Listen wise ass, I have more of a hair line than you do, and I'm 5 years older, and an ex-wife stronger.""Har-har. I'd rather be bald than have ever slept with Maren.""Yeah...if I had the choice over again," I kissed the back of his head.""I should get going to the hospital, so she can get home.""Hmmmmph." I squeezed him around the chest and nuzzled his neck. I want the moment to last...just five more minutes."Sorry babe. Gotta get ready for my big comfy hospital cot.""Alright, alright. I'll get you some stuff ready for tomorrow," Noah and I left our comfortable place in the kitchen to walk through the dining room (which we rarely used except for arts and crafts, homework, and storage) into the entryway, which separated the living room and the stairs. The kids were still on the couch, watching something animated...I don't know what exactly, but they were being good and quiet. We quietly made our way upstairs, Noah to the shower and myself to the bedroom to restock his over night bag with clean clothes and whatever he needed. Our room was the last on the hallway, which looked out onto the same yard the kitchen did, but our bedroom had a small balcony and stairs that led to the patio outside the kitchen. I packed his bag quickly and left our room, which had become somewhat trashed and neglected this week, I suppose this weekend I might get around to that if I'm not stuck at the station Saturday morning. I heard the shower stop as I walked down the hall towards the stairs. For a second I thought to go in, but now Dark Bbs wasn't the time, and I'm not really feeling much of anything. I kept walking until I got to the last bedroom on the floor. Avery's room had been untouched for 4 days, and I wished more than ever to find him coloring on the walls or throwing pillows at me as soon as I walked by the doorway. The walls were green with a dinosaur trim. His bed sat in one corner next to a little desk covered in art supplies and old drawings; the other half of the room was strewn with toys. For some reason I went in and started picking up the mess. I picked up toys and threw them in the oversized Fisher Price box that was already over flowing. I made his little bed and stacked his stuffed animals on them. I found his blanky bunched up next to the bed, and folded it into Noah's overnight bag. When I got to the desk I picked up the un-orderly drawing papers and got distracted. Sitting on the edge of the bed I leafed through the pile I had just collected. There was one of just his name, written over and over again in big sloppy letters with a blue crayon. The next was of what I think is a car, my car in fact. It was green, with a stick figure in the front seat with brown hair...must have been me. I went through the drawings, most of them I couldn't make out from scribbles, some of them making me smile.One of the last in the pile I had to stop and look at. It was a picture of a house, with 6 people standing in front of it. Stick figures of I'm guessing Noah, Ava, and myself were on one side, while Aiden and Maren were on the other, with Avery in the middle. All of them had green bodies, and everyone was crying. All the figures were also holding hands except for him, who was untouched in the middle. I must have stared at the drawing for minutes, tears coming to my eyes. I wanted to understand it but I couldn't, I couldn't think of the kids as being unhappy with us here. Maybe it didn't mean anything; maybe he was in a foul mood or just didn't feel well when he drew it."Liam?" Noah startled me from the doorway, I didn't notice him standing their, "Babe what is it?"I wiped my face and shuffled the papers into a pile, "Nothing, I'm just being touchy I guess," he walked over and took the picture, looking at it as he sat down next to me."He draws stuff like this when he's being punished. When he's mad he thinks everyone's mad type of thing.""Maybe. But what if we don't make him or any of them happy? We don't pay much attention, Noah. Why don't we stop and ask them that every once in a while instead of stringing them along from house to house.""They're happy. Kids get emotional; he just drew it to let of some steam. Come on relax a little." I returned the stack of drawing to the desk and again wiped my cheeks. He's right; I'm just starting to feel the weight of this week. My back was towards the bed and Noah, but I could feel him approach me, and then wrap his arms around me from behind. A sigh does not express the meaning of what I did just as he did that. I let out my disgust for the situation. I felt as helpless as Avery in that hospital bed, if only I truly was in that bed instead of him."I love these kids more than anything, No.""I know you do. God, Liam I know you love those kids, and they love you."I turned around to look him in the eye, "But I'm nothing to them. They can't even call me Daddy.""That's not true, you know that wh...""Like hell it's not true!! We let Maren rule our lives and don't you deny it. For the past few days you've bent over backwards for that woman, instead of your family, your son.""Everything I've done has been for him, the less Maren is disgusted with us the less bitter resentment and fighting he sees.""Noah today was the first time since Monday morning I was able to go and see him. It's Wednesday, and I'm sure the only reason I got in was because she was at work. Did she even know I was there today? Because you planned it awfully well that she wouldn't have to see me."She had me blocked off the list of visitors yesterday, and manipulated you into keeping me away. But she'll use me as a babysitter whenever she feels, and I'm sure if she had the power she wouldn't even allow that."I'm just scared that I'll lose them, Noah. I don't have anything compared to what she has. If anything were to happen to you I would never see them again, and I'd have no ground to stand on if I tried. I refuse to let her keep me away from my son, Noah. He's my son, too.""She won't. I'll make sure of it. I'll ask her again about giving you guardianship. The other night she seemed to consider it.""I don't want to start a war with her, I just want to see my kids.""You always will, Liam. They are yours and they love you just as much as either of us. It doesn't matter to them who you are legally. And damn it, they call you Dad!" he smiled at me and squeezed my hand. I was shaky standing there; so mad at the situation I could barely see straight. Well, I couldn't, my eyes were filled with tears and my jaw was clenched so tight I was probably straining something. He pulled me into a hug and held my head to his shoulder, the contact made me release what I had pent up since Monday night."I just...can't stand by and not be there with him.""You'll be there, I promise," he held me for a long time in the middle of Avery's bedroom, "Tonight when Maren comes to pick up the kids just let her go, ok?""It's not like she hears a word I say anyway," he smirked at me and gave me a kiss."I've gotta get to the hospital, I'm already late.""Alright, just tell him that I love him, ok?""Every time." Within moments he was gone, and within 45 minutes so were the kids. I sat on the love seat in the living room for an hour, just staring into nothing. It's hitting me, hard. Cancer I always considered to be for the elderly and smokers, never did I imagine my own son. My son. For the first 6 months of being with Noah I never thought I'd be able to call his kids our kids. Never did I think I'd have kids at all, and now I can't imagine life without them, especially Avery. Since we've been living here, I've realized, with the guidance of Noah, that they are just as much mine. They'll even call me Daddy once in a while, when Maren isn't around to program it out of their systems. I was thinking about how small and scared Avery looked in that bed when the phone rang, startling me from my daze."Hello?""Honey, I'm a dumbass," Noah was one for greetings."What happened, what did you do?""On the key table next to the door I left the Silverstein book, can you possibly read him a little over the phone? He's throwing an tantrum.""Yeah," I snickered, "No problem," I retrieved the book from the front entryway as I heard the raspy sound of Avery's breathing fill the ear piece."Lee..." you could tell he had been crying, his voice barely audible and cracking with the lack of breath."Hey little man, I've got Sidewalks here if you want me to read to you.""Ye-yeah," the pout was still in his voice, but it was settling to hear the poetry. I flipped through the book to find one I thought was long enough to put him to sleep."How about The Long-Haired Boy?""Ok""There was a boy in our town with long hair- I mean really long hair- And everybody pointed at him And laughed at him And made fun of him. And when he walked down the street The people would roar And stick their tongues out And make funny faces And run in and slam their door And shout at him from the window Until he couldn't stand it anymore. So he sat down and cried Till his whole body shook, And pretty soon his Hair shook too, And it flapped And flapped- And he lifted- And flew- Straight up in the air like a helicopter. Jenny Ricks saw him and dropped her Knitting Dark Bbs and screamed, 'It's a flying kid!' Lukey Hastings ran and hid Under Old Man Merrill's car, Miss Terance fainted, Hnery Quist Tried to shoot him down, but missed- 'I thought he was a crow,' he said. And 'round he sailed all through the day, Smiling in the strangest way, With the wind in his hair And the sun in his eyes. We saw him swoop and bank and rise. He brushed the treetops And skimmed the grass On Yerbey's lawn and almost crashed Right into Hansen's silo-but Zoomed up in time and almost hit The courthouse. Old Man Cooley bit Right through his napkin when he was A kid Fly through the dinner door- And out of Dark Bbs the window, tipping the ladder- Where Smokey was painting, he almost had a Heart attack-he clung to a rafter. The kid flew on- Us runnin' after, Cheering and sweating And screaming, 'Horray!' Mayor Lowry shouted, 'Hey- Com down here kid. We'd like to say How proud of you we are today. Who ever thought out little Town would have a hero in it? So I'd like to proclaim this day-hey, kid! Will you please come down for just a minute?' But the flying kid did not come down. He tread air above the town, Sort of cryin' and looking down At all of us here on the ground. Then up he flew, up into the clouds, Flapping and flying so far and high, Out past the hills and into the sky Until a tiny speck against the sun Was all we could see of him...then he was gone.""Worked like a charm," Noah was whispering over the receiver."Next time don't forget the book, slick," I mocked. In honesty I wouldn't mind this."He didn't last through it. He was over tired. The meds make him agitated.""How long was I reading that to nothing?""Maybe a minute. I just wanted to hear your voice.""You're so strange, No.""I love you, too.""I'll see you tomorrow?""Yeah, I'll see you here for lunch.""G'night Noah. Love you."The same, love."~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~"Band-Aids" and "Long Haired Boy" are published in Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein.Any comments or questions can be sent to St_Roryhotmail.com or IM me at Rory Danial.

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