Wednesday, May 24, 2006

The Child's Voice

The Child's Voice
By H.A. Handy
Copyright (c) 2006 by H.A. Handy

Emma had told him then she was working on a new novel. She didn’t tell him what it was about though. She never did.

“Will you read it?” she had asked softly.

“Of course! I read everything you send me!” he had declared. Emma had looked up at him then with a sad, little face.

“I remember when you used to baby sit me,” she said.

“You do?” She had nodded. “We had a lot of fun didn’t we.”

Emma had turned back to looking out into the hollow just below them.

“Yeah, we had a lot of fun sometimes. It seems so long ago now, and just like yesterday,” she said softly.


There was a certain ritual Billy went through when preparing to settle down with one of Emma’s stories. First, there was food. Billy went through the bags and the freezer and selected two very large fried chicken frozen dinners. These he promptly slid into the oven while he hastily put away the perishables.

Next came a shower and clean clothes. Since he didn’t have pajamas and a smoking jacket, Billy settled on clean sweats, a clean white tee, and a UK Wildcats’ sweatshirt. Billy combed back his thinning red hair carefully until it as good as it was going to be. Once this was done he shaved.

Billy didn’t like to shave. His skin was very sensitive, but Emma didn’t like beards, so he made a point of shaving before he read one single word of any of her books. It was silly, he knew, but he didn’t want anything out of place when he started reading. It was OK if the stubble appeared once the book was finished, but nothing could be there to begin with.

Billy looked at himself in the mirror. He remembered when she started reading big thick books and understanding them. She was four years old, and he had been as proud of her as he would have been of his own baby sister. Sometimes she would even read them to him, but he rarely ever understood her enthusiasm and interest in history and paleontology. She had researched and read so many books the local library had to start getting books from other libraries to help keep her head filled!

Billy could understand why she read so much: the pain had been almost unbearable for her. There were times when she had been unable to physically hold the books themselves, so others had volunteered to hold the books or read them to her. He had never read the books because he was afraid of making too many mistakes, and he didn’t want to look stupid in front of the smartest little girl he had ever seen.

Billy patted his face dry carefully and gave himself a once-over in the mirror, just to make sure. Satisfied, Billy headed back to the kitchen. The frozen dinners were ready, so all he needed to do was get something to drink.

Beer, though his favorite, would not do for one of Emma’s books. Billy went under the sink and brought out two bottles of port, Taylor Sinclair to be exact. Next came the good wine glass he had just for these occasions.

Now, with food on the table and the port breathing in his glass, Billy got the reading frame from the sink’s third drawer and positioned it before his food. He had seen Emma do it a thousand times, but he had not done it himself until he had found one just like her old one, and now could not begin reading one of the Emma Williams novels without!

Billy seated himself and reached for the bright orange envelope, which, up until now, had been waiting ever so patiently on the kitchen table. With treasure in hand, Billy bowed his head and said a humble prayer of thanks for all the good things he had. Billy was smiling when he opened his eyes and ripped the end of the envelope open. Turning it on its end and giving it a good shake, a thick, hard backed volume slid easily out to land with a soft thud upon the table. be continued

No comments: