A Song for Kenny Novel (Part One)
A Young Reader – Ages 8-12
A SONG FOR KENNY
HE JUST KNEW IT
"Mom, is it true? You’re goin' to marry James?" Kenny's look was unbelieving. He noticed how nervous his mother appeared. She always looked around the room when she was lost for words.
Just the other day Kenny reminded her, “Dad left three years ago.” He often thought of mom getting married again, but to James?
What would she say now? What could she say? Questions buzzed around his head like a squadron of mosquitoes. Would she answer him straight?
Kenny kept his eyes steady, not staring. He was a little sad at his mother's discomfort. But he had to know.
"MOMMM," an impatient whine dragged from his tongue.
"Well Kenny, you know James has been coming around more often lately. And yes, it has been discussed..."
"I knew it!" he interrupted. "What happened Mom? Why didn't you ask me how I would feel about it?"
“Well, we did dear. But you weren’t really listening,” she answered.
“Yah, but I didn’t think you would go through with it.” Kenny grabbed his schoolbooks and rushed out of the room. He was really angry. Each heavy step pounded out a message, "I don’t want another father. I have one. It’s Larry."
Only his rapidly disappearing manners kept him from slamming the door full force. Echoes of his feet attack on the stairs faded away.
How could she think about marrying again? What's wrong with her? "Gee whiz, mom."
Slumping on his bed, Kenny started to think of so many things. They rushed around in all directions.
Dad had been gone since the winter Kenny turned eight. The boy didn’t even understand why his father left.
"My leaving has nothing to do with you. I'll always love you," dad had said. Then like a ghost, he stepped out of son’s life.
There were times Kenny cried like a baby. It was over a huge gap missing in his life. Now he was the new kid on the block with parents who were separated.
Only on a hike by himself could he think over these hurtful feelings. The woods were like a private escape territory. On many trips with Larry he could think over his problems.
He realized the anger at his dad’s sudden leaving was still there. It was like an ache lying deep in his chest.
Kenny kicked off his sneakers. Then he lay back on the bed.
Arms tucked under his head, he looked over his room. There was a pennant from Halifax, a picture of mom and one of himself and his buddy Troy. It was taken at Boy Scout Summer Camp last year.
The pictures stared back at him, as if they had a life of their own.
Kenny got up and walked tiredly to the window. He knew he had the best view in Sheldon, a village of 200 people near Truro, Nova Scotia. His house sat on a hill overlooking the highway.
He felt like an owl settled on a branch watching the world move along. Old houses, trailers and newly aluminum-sided buildings were settled comfortably on both sides of Highway 104.
It reminded him a little of salt and pepper sprinkled on eggs. Right now the stars were bright. Their sparkling light was friendly, keeping him company, feeling his sorrow. He could see the Big Dipper. "Ursa Major," he spoke aloud in the quiet room.
Seven eyes in the Dipper's outline winked back.
"It's tough growing up," he said aloud. He knew he was acting silly but things seemed much simpler when he was younger.
Kenny enjoyed staring at the darkness. After turning off the ceiling light, his elbows rested on the windowsill, chin cradled in his hands.
There was a time when he dreamed of being an astronomer. He tried to spot a satellite. He watched carefully for the telltale steady moving light. "Guess it's not dark enough to see," he muttered.
His brow furrowed when he thought a lot. He was thinking of his neighbor Larry. They had a great fishing trip last Saturday.
Now he would make an awesome dad. But Larry’s already married with grown up kids of his own. "So I'll probably end up getting stuck with someone like James," Kenny sighed.
It wouldn't be so bad if James weren’t such a workaholic. Not once did he ever take Kenny anyplace. And he smokes. “Ugg,” he thought.
Tiredly Kenny made his way back to bed. And flung himself down. He remembered the first time he and Larry had met. It was last year when Kenny began a paper route.
People in the village wondered who the new neighbors were last fall. That had given Kenny the excuse he needed. He had marched boldly down the long driveway and up the front steps.
"Hi there, Mr. Reynolds," Kenny said at the time. He had forced himself to speak up, determined to get over his shyness. "Would you like to take the weekly? I guarantee the best service around."
“And you’re probably the only paperboy in the area,“ Larry had said with a smile. They hit it off just right the first time. "You can call me Larry, unless your parents object."
"My mom won't mind. She's divorced and she lets me make a lot of decisions. Nice to meet ya Larry," holding out his hand for a shake.
Then he was introduced to Larry's wife, Ann. They even gave the boy a tour of their huge 140-year-old house. Many years before, it had been a Church Manse. Kenny learned to play chess and came over often to help pile wood.
And mow the grass.
Not far away, Kenny now had a second home.
Larry didn't pay money, he took you on an 'outing.' "I don't believe in paying someone to help me for an hour or two with chores," he had said. "Instead, I'll be glad to take you hiking. Or even go on a fishing trip.”
That suited Kenny just fine. He didn’t remember his own dad ever doing that. He really liked it when he learned something new. And Larry cared enough to tell Kenny useful bits of information.
Like last Saturday at Lake Simpson.
"Let's get the canoe moving chum," Larry had said.
Fishing rods had been loaded and backpacks snuggled in the center, life jackets worn. They had waded barefoot into the water, carrying the 15’ canoe deep enough so they didn’t scratch its bottom. No sense damaging the keel.
Their sneakers were laced to the thwarts. In case the canoe tipped, their shoes would not be lost. While Larry balanced the canoe, Kenny carefully placed his cold feet inside one at a time. Then he sat down.
As Larry sat in the stern, Kenny said quickly, "OK dad, let's go." He glanced back to see if Larry noticed what had slipped off his tongue. But the man must have missed it.
Except the man didn’t. There was a warm glow in his chest.
Kenny hadn't said it on purpose. It sort of snuck out. "OK dad," he repeated under his breath, "let's go." It sounded really nice, he thought to himself.
As Kenny turned around he noticed Larry's peaked hat, with the fish emblem in front. Larry said it was a perch. Red vest, blue shirt, worn jeans and his bare feet fitted Larry’s outdoor scene.
His paddle was always ready for action. And his eyes seemed at peace. They were always full of laughter.
"What's up Kenny? Why are you looking at me so seriously?" Larry had said, chuckling aloud.
Kenny turned away quickly, his heart pounding.
"Nothing. I'm ready ... that's all."
But it wasn't anything at all. Kenny missed having a dad. And he was glad his face was turned away because moisture gathered on his cheeks. He wasn't crying, not really. He felt like a traitor for even pretending Larry was his dad. But then it must be okay.
The sky didn't explode or anything…
Kenny jerked awake. And realized he was in bed on top of the blankets. He must have been almost asleep thinking about fun times. He pretended to be asleep as he heard his squeaky doorknob move. Through half-closed eyelids he watched his mom step in.
His arm was stretched out, fingers open, as if waiting for a handshake.
Then mom crossed the room, footsteps padding on the floor. His carefully controlled breathing was the only other sound.
She pulled a blanket from the closet and placed it over her son. Kenny groaned softly, letting out some of his tension. The sound drifted silently as the flicker of a hummingbird.
He felt the bed sag as mom leaned over and kissed his forehead. Kenny almost gave himself away as he jerked back in surprise. He worked hard to hide his smile.
His mother began to hum softly to herself then more loudly as made up words came together. It was all about a mother's love for her son.
Not something you'd find in the top hundred, he thought to himself.
He almost laughed out loud with nervousness. What was his mother doing in his room anyway?
The sky with its many bright eyes, were witnesses to happenings below. They too heard her song for Kenny. He didn't understand why, but there were tears in his eyes.
He drifted off to sleep.