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And Then The Monarchs Flew AwayA NOVEL
By LOU JONES
iUniverse, Inc.Copyright © 2011 Lou Jones
All right reserved.
Chapter OneAn exciting part of the day for Billy was when his Dad came home from the office. Sanders tried to be punctual because his son and Callie would be waiting for him in the front yard, playing ball. Callie was a golden retriever. Her retrieval instincts had to be satisfied by chasing the baseball-sized pink rubber balls Alice bought at K Mart. Callie had a ritual of soft-chewing the balls before she sat them at Billy's feet for tossing. This teething action and the ferocity of Callie's ball retrieval style left the ball in a sodden, shredded condition after several tosses. Many of Billy's little buddies refused to touch the balls, let alone pick them up and toss them. It was not optional for his Dad. He was expected to play ball with Callie when he came home, and naturally this practice, once established, couldn't be revoked. Alice kept an ample supply of the balls on hand. No one in the Mason household kept track of the annual pink rubber ball expense. Billy earned the balls by keeping his room picked up and picking up after Callie in the yard and on the family walks. Everyone was happy with this arrangement. Sanders contended, "Billy would rather have pink rubber balls for Callie than toys for himself."
Callie slept with Billy. An arrangement they both liked. Billy's only complaint was the slumbering canine did bad stinkers sometimes.
After the ball tossing session Sanders would change clothes for the family's early evening walk to Cambier Park. These excursions were called "family observation and conversation hour." Billy particularly liked their Sunday outings. They would go earlier and stay longer at the park. On these walks he asked lots of questions and gathered treasures for his Nature Box. He picked up things matching what his Dad referred to as his "treasure acceptance system." This included such items as pine cones, twigs with leaves on them, dead bugs, feathers of any size, tree bark, brightly-colored little rocks, maybe an expired butterfly, flower blossoms having fallen from their stems. Billy took the blooms home and put them in water to give them bonus life for an extra day or two. When he took them out of the water they went into the Nature Box.
Billy's Mom established a rule. Each time he placed new things in the box he had to remove an equal number of older treasures. These he scattered in the wooded area behind their house where he and his buddy, Tubby Skoggs, could still check on them from time to time; little Billy the conservationist.
June 13, 1982
Billy was hiding behind the front yard Magnolia trees. He loved this game. His Mom and Dad, playing their part, came out of the house and called for him.
"Billy, Billy, Billy Maaay ... son," they called in unison. And playing her part, Callie barked and ran in circles around Sanders and Alice. "Where oh where is Billy?" Alice asked aloud, with mock concern in her voice.
Sanders chimed in, "Where could he be? I don't see him anywhere. I guess he won't be going to the park with us today."
"I'll bet he will want to go," Alice called out, "I see lots of butterflies headed that way."
That was Billy's cue. He jumped from behind the trees, his arms spread wide. "Ta da! Here I am ya silly birds. I'm here. Right here."
His Mom and Dad responded as one, "Billy wherever have you been? We have been looking for you."
"Ya know! I've been away, far, far away, on a trip. But now I'm home. Home to stay, with you guys and Callie."
"Was it a good trip Billy?" Alice asked.
"No. Not just good. It was a great, great trip. I learned a lot."
Alice said, "We are off to the park. Would you like to come along?"
"C'mon Billy," urged Sanders, "let's go."
"Yeah! Yeah! Canabeer Park. We're going to Canabeer Park! Callie we're going to Canabeer Park, c'mon," shouted Billy, engaging his Cambier Park parody.
Cambier Park is a ten-acre public park and playground located right off of Naples' elegant Fifth Avenue, between Eighth and Park Streets. Dedicated in 1948 the park was named after the city engineer, William Cambier. The facilities include tennis courts, a baseball field, shelters, benches, band shell, shuffle board and basketball courts. The park is also home to the Von Liebig Art Center. The Mason's lived in a three-bedroom ranch house about a half-mile from the park. They had considered proximity to the park when choosing their home.
"What will we talk about?" Billy asked.
"How about telling us about your favorite things," Alice replied, "you haven't done it for a while."
"Besides you and Daddy and Callie?"
"Yes," Sanders said.
"Gosh, I like lots of things, lots and lots of things."
"But tell us about your favorites, your very, very favorites," urged his Mom.
"All right. Hmm, let me think."
Callie sat obediently while Billy hooked the leash to her collar. "Good girl," Billy gushed, hugging Callie around the neck as she licked his face. "Are you guys ready?"
"You bet, let's go," Sanders answered as they headed down the gravel path.
"Do you suppose someday we will get a sidewalk on our street?" Alice asked with a smirk.
"I am sure we will," replied Sanders with more than a hint of wry skepticism.
Dog in hand, Billy and his Mom and Dad headed down the street toward the park.
"Here goes; my favrit stuff, but only my most favrit. I'll tell ya about em while we're walkin, okay?"
Billy insisted on cutting to Eighth Street on their stroll to the park, wanting to stop and look at the huge Banyan tree by the City Hall, across from the park. He was fascinated with the aerial roots cascading down from the branches to form secondary trunks, offshoots that inspired him to refer to Banyans as "drippy trees." He considered calling them "waterfall trees" but eventually decided "drippy" was the better designation.
"Okay," Alice said.
"Well, I like fluffy clouds and the sky when it's blue, and I like birds, speshally seagulls. Ya know that Mom. I like bugs. Uh, and I like trees, most trees, but speshally drippy trees, ya know that too. I like tree bark; little pieces not big ones. I like the ocean. Someday I will sail on the ocean and catch big fishes. Maybe you guys will go with me. I like fish, little ones too. And of course Mom I like books, mostly Johnny Seagull and the old guy and the fish story."
Alice winked and smiled at Sanders; tickled with the names Billy gave his favorite stories, Jonathan Livingston Seagull and The Old Man and the Sea, books Billy called "the greatest alleygories."
Billy went on, "I like smooth little rocks and rain when it's warm and the wind isn't blowin. I like cows, to see, not to touch or hug, they scare me a little but I still like em, cuz I can like things without touching em, speshally big things like cows. I don't get to see cows much though. I extra-speshally like flowers and butterflies. Didya know butterflies are flowers that can fly? They are. Did ya know Mommy?"
"No sweetheart, I did not."
"Jeez Mommy. Yer older, you should of. You knowed, didn't you Dad?"
"I suspected it, now I know, thanks to you little pal."
"When butterflies are in a flower garden they are visitin the other flowers that can't fly, reglar flowers. Did you know that?"
His Mom, in support of her son's colorful imagination, confessed, "I did not, but it seems to make sense."
"When they're flyin other places it's because some people don't get to see flowers, the butterflies fly around different places where people can see how pretty they are. I bet you didn't know that either, isn't it somethin?" asserted Billy, puffed with pride over his perspective on butterfly behavior.
"It is Billy. It is wonderful for butterflies to share their beauty," Alice offered, in agreement with her son's impression of butterfly practices.
"We can see them in the flower gardens in the park all the time. Butterflies hide when it rains ya know? The flowers that don't fly like rain, but not butterflies. Maybe they can't fly if their wings get wet. It's maybe why they hide. But I'm not sure. Cause I don't know where they hide. If I knew where they hide I could check, but I don't know where they hide—so I can't."
"Watch for cars," cautioned Alice, as they crossed to Eighth Street.
"Clear both ways. C'mon guys, Callie and me will lead the way."
"Good job Billy. Thanks for checking on the traffic for us," Sanders said, praising Billy's vigilance.
"You are welcome. Let's sit on the bench and look at the drippy tree. Callie and me will meet you there; we will save you a seat."
"Be careful, keep Callie on her leash," implored Alice. Running, Billy and Callie headed down the sidewalk and plopped on the bench by the Banyan. Callie jumped up, sat by Billy, laid a paw on his leg and licked his face. Sanders and Alice, holding hands, came along at a slower pace to join them.
"I like it when ya hold hands," said an observant Billy. "I love lovin. Whoops. I should have mentioned that with my favrit stuff."
Getting up from the bench Billy walked to his Mom and Dad, stepping between them he grabbed their hands; leading them to the bench he looked at one and then the other, "Gee, I love you guys and so does Callie, that's what she means when she slaps her tail on the bench, right Cal?" Callie responded with a flurry of intense tail slapping. "Let's sit down and look at the drippy tree, it's somethin isn't it Dad?"
"Yes it is Billy, it is something."
"Some—thing. Ing. I forgot to tell you I like ing's at the end of words. It makes me think of bell's ringing. Like ing, ing, ing! Sometimes I miss the ing's at the end of my words but I still like em anyway. I need to do better with my ing's. I think about stuff like that."
"I like ing's too Billy, they do make a nice ringing sound," Alice said, affecting a studied agreement with Billy's observation.
"How old is it Daddy, the drippy tree?" Billy asked, believing such questions were best asked of his Dad.
"Probably at least a hundred years old," his Dad answered, knowing his response would lead to another question.
"A hunnert years. Oh baby, a long time. How long will it live do ya think?"
"Probably another hundred years."
"Wow, double wow! Two hunnert years, did ya tell me before Daddy?"
"I don't think so little pal."
"I don't think ya did either. I would have remembered, two hunnert years old. I have to remember. I hope nothin ever happens to it. I love that tree. Do you think people will ever build somethin here and knock it down?"
"No son. When they built the City Hall they made sure the drippy tree was left alone."
"Hmm. I hope so Daddy," responded an unconvinced Billy; he had seen trees knocked down in the building of the City Hall. "I don't like it when people knock down trees. How bout we go to the park. Okay?"
"All right, you and Callie go down to the crosswalk. And look both ways," Alice cautioned.
"Callie and me will wait for you at the crosswalk. C'mon Callie let's beat Mom and Dad to the crosswalk."
"Keep Callie on her leash until we get to the park."
"I will Mommy. Ya always tell me that!"
Billy and Callie made their usual mad dash to the crosswalk and waited for Sanders and Alice.
"Street's clear everybody. Let's go to the park, Cannabeer Park. Let's go see the flowers. Let's go see the butterflies. Let's play ball Callie," yelled Billy as they crossed the street.
In 1982 the park had fewer facilities. Many of the courts and shelters were added through the years. The band shell was built in 1987. The Art Center opened a few years later. Although these additions displaced some of the park's green spaces and gardens, there were still many beautiful flowerbeds throughout the park. In warm weather the flowers attracted butterflies by the hundreds; here Billy developed his love of flowers and butterflies.
Cambier Park, or Cannabeer Park as Billy liked to call it, was at the center of the Mason's family life. They spent many of their sweetest hours in this beautiful little park. This little oasis sitting in the middle of a growing and thriving city was where they seemed to find contentment.
"Can I let Callie off her leash Mom, we wanna play ball."
"Okay, but go to the field. Your Dad and I will sit on the bench and watch you play."
Billy and Callie ran to the open space where the band shell stands today. This is where they played ball, away from the street and where Callie had developed a sense of her boundaries.
"Billy, you let Callie rest once and awhile," instructed Alice.
"I will Mommy."
Sanders put his arm around his wife. "Look at them go, what pals they are, a boy and his dog, quite a pair. He is quite a kid. Do you ever picture him all grown up?"
"I do. I try to assess his attributes and cast them out to the future, wonder how they will manifest themselves in Billy the adult. Yes. But he has something about him I can't put my finger on, it's hard to grasp, he is curious, but most kids are curious, they want to learn about the world. But at times, when I'm schooling him, I swear he knows the answers before I ask the questions, even with abstract things. He seems to have special insights that, for a child his age, don't compute for me."
"Are you sure it's not simple parental bias? Everyone believes their kids are special."
"He understands Jonathan Livingston Seagull better than most of our friends, ditto for The Old Man And The Sea. He can cut right through an allegory, even point out what he feels are flaws. No, I am objective, not biased." Alice was resolute.
Billy and Callie ran to where Sanders and Alice were sitting. "Mom, are you watching us? Callie is catching real good today."
"Yes we are watching. You can make a few more tosses and then you and Callie come here and sit with us, rest."
"Mom, sometimes she likes to rest under the drippy tree over there. Ya know she likes to lay under trees."
"When you make a few more tosses you and Callie may sit by the drippy tree."
"I'm not sure your slimy ball will stay together for a few more tosses, Callie has it chewed into a soggy sponge. Her usual routine," observed Sanders, "she destroys her little toss balls."
Alice returned to the earlier conversation as Billy and Callie ran back to the field, "You know how much Billy loves to learn."
"Yep, I do."
"When he has decided on something it can be like a confrontation, he asks questions and questions my answers, pokes and prods, cross-examines me. Maybe he will become an attorney like his Dad."
"Good. The world needs more lawyers."
"Sanders, do you ever get the feeling he's baiting us, trying to see what we think about something that he has already figured out in his seven-year old mind?" Alice asked.
"A bit of a stretch I think, don't you?"
"Oh ya? What is your take on fate, hmmm? The other day he asked me what I thought about fate. Aren't you happy you asked me about Billy the grownup?"
"C'mon, think about it, maybe the term came up while you where schooling him, maybe it was part of an answer that stuck in his head and he looked it up, he loves digging through the dictionary."
"Could be—I guess."
"How did you answer him? How did you explain fate to our soon-tobe eight-year old son?"
"I didn't. I told him it was not anything he needed to know about right now."
"What did he say? Did the answer satisfy him?"
"He said okay."
"Good god, I need to start spending more time with you and Billy in your little Q and A sessions."
"You are welcome any time. I will bet you thought we were doing readin, riten, and rithmetic. This kid loves literature, problem solving and critical thinking. And he will be eight tomorrow. I am telling you, he is something else."
"How did you close out the exchange?"
"I didn't. He did."
"'We should talk about it another time, with Daddy.' That's what he said, I suppose thinking his Dad should be involved in the more heady subjects."
"What? Are you serious?"
"That is what he said."
"Might the laws of the universe have been waived on behalf of our son?" Sanders asserted with a tongue-in-cheek observation.
"I doubt that. But he and I have a lot to talk about, all the time. Enough anyway. Here they come. A tired kid, a tired dog, and a squishy, slimy, pink rubber ball."
"Hi guys. Whatcha doin?"
"We are enjoying the park and watching you and Callie play ball," replied Alice.
"Me and Callie have to rest a minute—scoot over Dad—hold hands with Mommy.
Here Mom hold Callie's ball," teased Billy, erupting into laughter. "Ha, ha, whoopee, wahoo, c'mon, there's only a little spit on it! Hold the ball Mom, c'mon, c'mon. Don't be a sissy."
Excerpted from And Then The Monarchs Flew Away by LOU JONES Copyright © 2011 by Lou Jones. Excerpted by permission of iUniverse, Inc.. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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