Family Fiction posted April 29, 2010


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Bruce and Dorothy find a friend

A City Boy

by Readywriter52

Bruce stood by his mother, while she looked at the engine. The engine light had flashed on, and his mother decided she should check the engine before they drove any further. While they were both eager to get away from his father, they didn’t want to walk to their destination, which was several hundred miles away.

The area they stopped was peaceful. Bruce had spent his first fourteen years in the city, so the countryside came to him as a shock. Looking over her shoulders, all he saw was a mass of wires and metals. The bus was his preferred mode of transportation, so he knew very little about automobile engines. He suspected his mother didn’t know much either. While his mother checked the engine, he left the car to investigate.

On one side of the road, he saw cows peacefully grazing. They looked rather big, so he decided to avoid them. On the other side of the road, he saw trees. When he got closer, he saw apples hanging from them. He looked around, but he didn’t see anyone, so he hopped over the split-log fence. The trees were short, so he could pick the apples with ease. He took a huge bite from one, and a tangy flavor squirted into his mouth. He never ate an apple more delicious than this one. It was tart and crisp.

“Hey, stop thief, drop my apples.”

He looked around and saw a short gray-haired woman dressed in a long green skirt and a yellow pleasant blouse running towards him with a club in her hand. If she hadn’t looked so grim, he would have laughed at her.

“I’m sorry. I didn’t know these were your apples.”

She stopped and lowered her club, as she carefully studied him. “Child, why are you stealing my apples? Where is your mother?”

Bruce pointed to his mother who was still trying to determine what was wrong with the car. “Your apples are delicious.”

“I know that. But why are you stealing them? Hasn’t your mother taught you any manners?”

He stiffened at her words. “My mother taught me manners. I didn’t know people owned trees.”

“People own everything that’s on their property. Where were you born?”

He looked at her with chagrin. “I grew up in the city. There aren’t many trees there.”

Her look softened. “Why are you so far from the city?”

Bruce’s face turned red. “I can’t talk about it. My mother told me it wasn’t proper to hang one’s laundry in public.”

“Meaning you don’t talk about what happened in the family. Let me guess, your father is abusive, and your mother couldn’t take his treatment anymore.”

His eyes widened at her words. “How did you know?”

“Just because I live in the country doesn’t mean I don’t understand abusive relationships. Most mothers don’t drag their sons cross-country except if there is a good reason to do so. Your mother is very brave. It takes courage to leave an abusive relationship. I hope you don’t follow your father’s footsteps. No one deserves to be abused.”

Bruce shook his head. “I’m sorry I stole your apples.” He started to hand them back to her.

She shook her head. “My name is Freda Usery. Some people just call me the cranky old lady.”

Bruce smiled at her words. “My name is Bruce Birkhead, and that’s my mother Dorothy Birkhead who is trying to fix the car. You wouldn’t know anything about fixing a car?”

Freda walked over to the car and introduced herself to Dorothy. “Do you know what’s wrong with the car?”

Dorothy laughed and shook her head. “No, I hope the car lasts for another couple hundred miles. I have a sister who lives in the city. She’ll let us live with her until we get back on our feet.”

“My son, Sam, is a mechanic. I’ll call him. He’ll look at your car.”

“No, I don’t have any money. I can’t afford it.”

Freda smiled. “We can negotiate. In the meantime, my home is open to you.”

***

A few hours later Sam reported to them about the condition of the car. They sat around a table in an old-fashion kitchen, which smelled of apples and cinnamon. Bruce had helped his mother cut apples while Freda baked them in an apple pie. He had never seen a pie baked from scratch. His apple pies came in boxes.

“I’m sorry, but your car is in bad condition. It won’t make it to the highway, let alone to the next city. I can put in a few repairs, but I can’t guarantee them,” Sam said.

Dorothy sighed. “I don’t have enough money for bus tickets. I wanted the car to get us to my sister’s house. Now, all I can do is go back home. I hope my husband will forgive me.” She looked at Bruce. “I should have known I couldn’t escape him. He has to let his son into the house, but I can live in the car.”

Bruce knew his mother didn’t want to return home. He could hear their arguments from his bedroom. By morning, his father’s beatings had left huge bruises on his mother. He stood behind her chair and hugged her. “No, there must be another way.”

His mother cried. “There is no other way. You can’t live in the car. School is important, so you need to attend it.”

“I can find a job.”

“No one will hire a fourteen year old.”

Freda looked at Sam. “Why don’t you stay here? I need help in gathering apples from the trees. I’m getting a little too old so most of them end up rotting on the trees. There are several stores and restaurants in town looking for help. The schools are excellent. Why don’t you stay here until you get back on your feet?”

Dorothy looked at them both in amazement. “You’re willing to open your home to two strangers.”

“No, I am willing to open my home to two people who need my help. I just hope you can put up with a cranky old lady.”

Dorothy and Freda grew to be best friends. Dorothy never left. Sam taught Bruce how to repair cars. Sam left for college in a few years, but he came back to town to practice medicine as a doctor. Both Dorothy and Freda hope for the pitter-patter of grandchildren.



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