The boy is skinny, big-eyed, big-eared, likes being outside. He is attentive to little shifts of light, of colour, of wind, of harmonies in prairie grasses. He likes the sun, the clouds and rain storms, feels them under his skin. He likes swallows, marshes, cattails, willows, he gives willow trees first names. He likes his bicycle and smooth dirt trails that send small shudders from his stomach to his throat. He likes the creek at the edge of town, builds rafts and floats, falls asleep listening to frogs. He likes to follow animal tracks through bush, deep cow paths over pastures, and bending trails, forgotten by wheels, reclaimed by couch grass and saplings. He likes lying alone in the hayloft. He likes to be unnoticed, watch people from a distance, especially happy people, couples sitting close in cars. He is shy, nervous in Sunday School; in public school he daydreams, wonders through windows, waits for the bell. He wants to please his father, works hard at this difficult task. He loves many things, finds nothing to argue about. Like the man he loves the dawn.
The man remembers the boy. Thinks of him, wonders if the boy would recognize him if he came walking down the sidewalk in front of Springside General Store. It’s a question he wakes up to after a fitful dream. The man, too, likes the out-of-doors, the sun, the clouds, the rain, the wind, then he goes about checking and preparing many things before stepping outside. His eyes, behind glasses, have narrowed, his waist, thickened, hair thinned. His movements have slowed and his skin has slackened, it seems to have lost its receptivity to subtle shifts. He grows self-conscious about all this. The man is timorous and often nervous but has learned elaborate tricks and developed habits—he is deft at deflection. He loves many things, longs for many things, and argues with himself. He wants to please many people, have his thoughts well in hand, be received, all this makes him suffer. He waits for the dawn.
Last night the man fell into a dream. Felt the night, and ran. A dark wall swung into him like a bludgeon then fell on him—an amorphous weight, something spectral with mass, pinned him. Nothing to be done. Just try to breath.
This morning, something resembling forgiveness. But when I say this word do not think of God or sin or anything like that. Think instead of an opening, think of light at the edge of a curtain, think of a forgotten dream remembered, think of a lost thing found, carried, held with care, then passed along. Think of a man learning to follow a boy.