Son of Fred (Part 1)
A Mini-Novel for Ages 8-12
SON OF FRED
Esther & Richard Provencher
(c) 2017 Esther and Richard Provencher
Dester Publications. All rights reserved.
My wife, Esther and I went to visit a facility (now closed to allow all students into public classrooms) for “challenged” persons in Bible Hill, Nova Scotia. Looking in from the doorway we noticed one young boy sitting forlorn on his bed. He noticed us and said, “Please come.” And we did.
During our conversation Shawn said he was lonely and one day, his dad-Fred, would be coming to visit. We were so taken in with the positive vision of this lad we began this short novel, ‘Son of Fred,’ after returning home.
Mr. Rick Wilks, a co-founder/publisher of Annick Press once told me, regarding a shorter version of this story —“This is one of the best stories I read on the issue of a mentally retarded child.” He had phoned me to say he would be unable to publish the novel, as promised, since his firm decided to cancel their short novel series – Window on the World.
Note: A more understandable phrase is now being used today, “Intellectual Disability,” and not Mentally Retarded, nor Challenged, nor Able, nor Capable --- and it is a wonderful replacement.
--Esther and Richard Provencher
CHAPTER ONE - A Father’s Son
My name is Shawn. But I like son of Fred. I’m almost ten years old. SOON. At school they say
Names about me. What does Mentally Challenged mean?
In the morning my hair is messy. It’s brown, like cow pies. CHUCKLE. I use four fingers
to make a rake.
Now my hair tumbles over my forehead, like Niagara Falls. I went there once.
SCHOOSH. The water falls and falls. SPLASHING ALL OVER!
My head is shaped like a football. So I yell LOUD when our team plays. At school, I
mean. And my eyes look like black diamonds. RAHH.
One kid said I look ugly. But I run faster than him, so there. Maybe I can be a movie star.
That will fool him. YESSS.
I make funny faces in the mirror. Half my teeth show when I GROWL. At school they
laugh AT ME. And laugh. More names. BULLIES!
I’m a skinny dude. When I walk fast I flap my hands like a bird. HA…HA.
I have two friends, my foster parents. Mr. And Mrs. are nice but sometimes I get mixed
up. “Dad, are you lost?”
Fred didn’t come to visit for a long time. That’s my dad’s name. FRED! I miss him.
CHAPTER TWO - Early Morning Time
Shawn sat quietly looking around. The sun was warm on his thin arms. Creaking sounds
came from the backyard rope swing.
His feet kicked lazily at the earth.
"My dad coming today?" he asked the Blue Jay that flew by three times. Shawn liked to
talk to birds.In fact he did it quite often.
Shawn was glad for the company. Sometimes chick-a-dees and woodpeckers came by.
And squirrels too.
Shawn looked up at the sky. "Why is it so blue? Hi sky! Hi blue!" He must ask his
favorite teacher, Miss Silver on Monday.
But today is Saturday. He enjoys getting up before his foster parents. And it is a ‘Super-
Duper’ treat to see the early morning sun.
It always had a wink just for him. His eyes hurt when he looked up, and saw its large
“Did you know you are a morning person?” Miss Silver once said. He liked her. And he
knew she liked him. "Nice lady," he thought.
Shawn got off the swing and walked around the yard. He liked living in Truro, Nova
Scotia. And being so close to Victoria Park with lots and lots of acres.
At night floodlights could be seen through his window. Their glare lit up four tennis
courts and made it seem like daytime.
Even until snooze-time he stared through his window at the forest. Most of the beautiful
tall trees were pine. To Shawn they looked more like Popsicle sticks reaching up.
Or they could be the same as fingers wagging at him.
Nighttime was always full of darkness. It was like a huge blanket that covered everything. But still could not hide bright stars that kept calling him.
"What are you waiting for?" they seemed to ask.
"I’M COMING!" was his answer in a loud voice.
As Shawn lay each night in bed, lips whispered, "I am coming."
Right now in his backyard, arms slapped at his sides. If only he was a bird and fly away.
Shawn tried flapping his arms. It might be easier if he wasn’t so heavy. Then he could
travel over the tallest trees.
And have a better chance to find his dad.
“Why doesn’t Fred visit as often as before?” Shawn asked the wind. The boy’s thoughts
travelled quicker than fireflies. His brown hair hung loosely over a thin face.
When Shawn shook his head from side to side, it meant he was happy. Like right now,
because he had a plan. YESSS.
His foster parents wanted him to play outside, and get a tan on his face. It also got him
away from the TV set. But he wasn't allowed to wander outside the yard.
At school some kids called him “Ghost.” Or, "Hey retard!"
Shawn spent too much time watching everyone else have fun. He always sat by himself,
listening and not playing.
"I am like a shadow," he mumbled too often.
What was a “retard” anyway? The words hurt, especially when others laughed. “LOUD
too,” he said.
"Hey you! " Shawn answered back one day. "NAMES AND FACES!" And those mean-
mouthed kids laughed even more.
It wasn't polite. He knew because his foster parents were teaching him things. And he
listened carefully. The school said he was “Mentally challenged.” But Shawn didn’t agree.
"I am not mental!" came like fire from his lips.
CHAPTER THREE - Time To Go
"SHAWN, ARE YOU WEARING A SWEATER?" The question travelled like a hornet
from the front door to the backyard.
His foster mother made loud sounds when she was upset. "She's a mad nag," he mumbled
biting into his lip.
"Oh, oh, time to go in." He didn’t want to go in right now. Just being outside and thinking
good thoughts made him feel good.
And he was not even a teensy bit cold.
"Aren’t you hungry?" his foster mother asked. She looked at him, head bent to one side,
grinning back at her.
How come she always asked that? Shawn wondered. She wouldn't be so smarty-smart if
she knew what he was thinking. Now his thoughts scrambled around, like eggs for breakfast.
This morning he had checked in the mirror. And tried to grin like her. But he couldn't. He
had to be very, very happy to look like that.
And he wasn't that happy. Well, maybe almost.
He didn't have a home, just for him and his dad...Fred. Yes, just for a dad and a son, like
him, son of Fred.
Shawn's mouth twisted into a funny shape. And only half his teeth showed. He looked
like a dog ready to bite.
"GROWL," came from his mouth.
But he wasn't like that. Inside his chest he was lonely for Fred. Somehow, Shawn had to
find his dad. He had plans. "Coming. I'm coming, dad."
"I thought you would be extra hungry this morning," his foster mother said sweetly.
His thoughts went crashing into little pieces.
Shawn tried his half dog smile. But it didn't
come out right.
Not a good idea to be angry right now. No time for lots of talk now. I have to make plans.
To do things, he thought.
Shawn kept clenching and unclenching his fingers. And rubbed them along his jeans.
Sometimes they slapped at his sides.
"Shucks," he answered finally. “I ate one, two… NO, three toast. I'm okay. I have to go
"Pancakes and sausages?" his foster mother teased. “Say, yes.” He licked his lips. His mind could tell him things like “Yes…Yes,” even though right now his lips kept shut.
"Come on. You can't turn down pancakes. With pure maple syrup?"
Shawn lifted his eyebrows. And his mouth watered. But he had plans. When his mind
was made up, it was made up.
"Oh good, good. I like pancakes. But not to-day," he said.
"Are you going for a little hike around the yard, Shawn?" Her smile floated over him like
a warm wind.
He liked his foster parents but why are they so kind? Do they want me to forget my dad?
"I’m going no place," he answered.
"You mean nowhere don't you? But you have to go somewhere, Shawn." She always
corrected him. And he hated that.
He got mixed up with his talking fast. “I am not a retard,” was the message zipping
through his brain.
"It's okay Shawn. I'm just trying to help. Now try it. Nowhere."
"No-where." He said it very slowly.
"Wasn't that easy?"
She didn't ask why his knapsack was so full. Maybe she doesn't care if he runs away. He
had to hurry. Somewhere, his dad is waiting.
CHAPTER FOUR - Around About Then
Are you running away? His thoughts asked.
Yes, he answered to himself.
"I have to find my dad," he whispered. Two voices inside his head had a wrestling match.
It was like an action movie video.
Which one should he listen to?
“Dad, I'm coming.” The thought had been building in his mind for the past two weeks. It
was something he just had to do.
And he also had to prove he wasn't afraid. Not one little bit. Even if everyone called him,
“Slow,” or “Retard.”
"Dad...Fred. I'm coming." His heart hammered. Fingers clenched and unclenched. His
knees must have springs, because both legs felt bouncy as a rubber ball.
"Me. Not Shawn. I'm coming. Me, I’m son of Fred. That's my real neat name." He
opened the door and stepped into a bright-shiny day.
He said "Hi sun," once again.
Nearby, a big fat crow answered with a flap of wings. Shawn called them “Flying
Houses.” They were so huge their wings seemed barely able to keep them in the air.
He liked making up new names. He was smart. He wanted to show everyone. He was Son
of Fred. And he could fly like the crows if he wanted.
CHAPTER FIVE - At Victoria Park
It was a short walking distance down the street. Shawn's new sneakers seemed to fly
along the sidewalk.
Kids playing soccer noticed the scooting boy. He was wearing his blue cap with
WILSON'S OIL printed on the front.
"Watch where you're going!" one shouted.
“It’s that scared-cat kid,” another added.
Speedy feet turned Shawn into an, ‘Indy-500’ boy. His short-sleeved blue and white
striped shirt whipped in the wind. His best blue jeans were like a streak of movement.
And his knapsack bobbed up and down.
Shawn didn't have any friends. He was always laughed at, and he was tired of people
feeling sorry for him.
He was running to escape, to the forest. Maybe it might even lead to the ocean. His dad
might be there.
Speedy feet dug in and began to pick up speed. Arms moved around in circles like two
Everyone told him he needed to have foster parents. Some said his dad didn't care about
him. Shawn knew they were ‘Make-Up’ stories.
They even said his dad wasn't coming to visit anymore. NOT TRUE!
He didn't believe them.
His dad was lost. That’s all.
His feet moved faster. Shawn's sneakers were like roller blades. ZOOM! ZOOM! They
seemed to shout on the asphalt walkway.
People told him, “you poor little boy. So lucky to have someone to look after you.”
The Children's Aid had placed him in this foster home. Maybe I'll be there forever and ever, he once thought. Did dad want him to stay there? He wondered.
It was supposed to be only temporary, until Fred finished working for the summer in the
North West Territories. But the boy didn't understand.
Shawn’s little boy heart was afraid.
Forever was a too long time.
He closed his ears to their ‘Talk-Talk.’ He shut his eyes to their sneaky smiles. The wind
flew at him like a jet plane.
People stopped to watch.
Was that Batman? Little kids wondered.
Shawn opened his heart to the trees, and the children’s playground. He ran to the swings
and their swaying. His heart was thumping.
After skipping along, he sat himself in one for a rest. He knew he was somebody.
He was Son of Fred.
It was exciting. It felt like he could fly. His legs pumped faster and faster. Some people
standing below looked up. All they could see was a pair of sneakers dancing in the air.
His shirt flapped like a flag behind him. Pants filled with air, almost like sails on a ship.
Visitors to the park saw his smile and heard his singsong.
"I am Me. I am Son of Fred."
And they walked away, smiling too.
Shawn was scooting higher than a kite. Now he knew he could do it. He could...he would
CHAPTER SIX - Finding a Dad
Shawn’s trip was something he thought of for awhile. He had to find his dad. He must be
lost. He never comes to visit any more.
Then he remembered.
The last time Shawn received a visit, dad had tears in his eyes. He had to find him.
Shawn was on a journey of discovery.
Two ‘flying houses’ watched busy arms slap happily by his sides.
The boy lifted his head and looked way back. He was sure he could hear his house
whisper, "Be careful Shawn. Come home when you are ready. Good luck, Shawn."
He slowly stepped off the swing.
Sneakers got a good grip in the sand. And Shawn seemed taller as he headed into the park
woods. He crossed over rocks in the stream, careful not to get his feet wet.
Shawn moved closer to a bridge.
Something reflected from the water. It was glass. A pop bottle just lay there, waiting for
someone to smash it.
He wouldn't let them. “No. No way.” And stooped down to get it.
"Hey mom, that kid is cleaning up around the creek. Okay if I help him?"
“Not right now,” Shawn heard the mother say.
He looked up. Imagine, someone wanted to do something he was doing. Like protecting
the earth. It made him feel important. “Good...good.” Dad would be proud of him.
Now Shawn headed off to Jacob's ladder.
It was one place he wanted to try on his own. 132 wooden steps were built against the
rocky hillside. The last time here, his foster parents had to hold his hand.
He had been so afraid.
Now that he was alone, he must climb it himself. "WATCH ME GO, DAD!" he
thundered at the sky-full of white clouds.
“Look at me Fred!” he shouted at the first step. He felt light-headed counting the steps as
they headed up. And up.
Wooden handrails followed him on his journey. No turning back now, was a thought that urged him on. He had to make it on his own.
And he would. He could.
"YES I CAN!" Shawn shouted.
His feet stomped on the stairs. "Noise, noise, I am making noise." And brave feet
thumped loudly as he climbed triumphantly. Imagine, Shawn made it to the top all by himself.
He knew Fred would be so proud.
He was a brave Son of Fred.