Monday 15 – Wednesday 17 November 2010
‘Is there anything your mother would like us to bring, son? Some of Mrs. Phelps’ apple pie for dessert, perhaps?’
What should he say? His mother had not explained to him how to respond to these types of questions. Mr. Phelps caught the bewildered expression on the child’s face, and worried that he might burst in to tears, he made the decision.
‘Young Bailey, I’ll tell you what, you let your mother know that Mrs. Phelps insists on bringing one of her famous apple pies to dinner. It’s only right that we bring something to thank your mom for her hospitality. What time are we expected?’
This question, Bailey knew how to answer, ‘Seven o’clock sharp. And please, don’t be late. I can’t hold out much longer than seven, to eat. I get awful hungry, sir.’
The old man laughed again, the boy’s honesty was amusing. ‘Seven it is, young sir. And I promise that we most certainly will not be late. Now, you best be getting on your way. It’s far too hot for you to be standing out here talking to an old coot like me.’
Bailey wasn’t going to disagree. The sun was beating down on his head and despite wearing his favourite Yankees baseball cap his face was burning. He smiled at the old man and turned to head off to his family’s farmhouse.
‘Nice to talk to you sir. And don’t forget, seven o’clock sharp – ’
‘Because you get awful hungry if you have to wait. I’ll remember, young Bailey.’ He laughed as the boy turned around, beaming from ear to ear, and gave a slight nod of his head.
Bailey headed home, happy about Mr. Phelps’ acceptance of his invitation. He couldn’t wait to tell his parents that Mr. Phelps had finally accepted one of their invitations. And finally, Bailey would get to see the elusive, Mrs. Phelps.
Running as fast as he could back to the farmhouse, Bailey’s mind wandered. What would Mrs. Phelps look like? Would she be as kind as he imagined? Did she make nice apple pie? He never imagined the sight that he would come across when he arrived home.
Police cruisers were parked all over the front yard. Bailey could see them before he even reached the property, and Mr. Phelps would certainly see them from his tractor as he drove by in a few minutes. He continued to run as fast as he could, towards the police cars and the farmhouse.
‘MOM? DAD? MOM?’ His little boy voice breaking under the strain of running and screaming.
An officer he had seen a few times in the town, ran towards him, arms outstretched as if to scoop him up if he approached any closer. Bailey ran straight towards the man, unable to pull up.
The officer’s arms wrapped around the boy; Bailey’s face buried in the man’s shirt. He struggled to break free from the officer’s grasp, but there was no escape. The man was too strong.
‘Settle down, boy. Just calm down. You can’t go in there.’ The policeman spoke slowly, in hushed tones. Bailey knew he was about to hear bad news. He’d already begun to sob, and felt foolish about it. His father would have told him to stop being such a girl, and then he would have tussled Bailey’s hair, kissed him on the head, and hugged him until he stopped crying. Somehow, Bailey already knew that his father would no longer be doing this.
Behind the officer, two gurneys were being wheeled away from the house. Had Bailey been able to see, he would have noticed his mother’s hand slip from beneath the white sheet that covered her blood drenched body. A junior medical examiner spotted the woman’s hand and quickly poked it back under the sheet. It wouldn’t do for the small boy to see. If he did, it would possibly be the only image he ever held of his mother, for the rest of his life.
. . . To be continued . . .