Only The Beginning

Teddy Mitchell sat calmly on a small wooden stool in the living room of his tiny apartment on the west side of the city.  His tan skin and long grey hair still wet from his walk home in the rain.  His hair was slicked back to keep it falling into his eyes.  Individual strands danced down the back of his neck in a tangled pattern.  The tips of his hair causing the tan collar of his trench coat to turn a darkish color from the water.  The ends of his coat dangled down his side, grazing the surface of the carpet and the sides of his black loafers.  His outfit was completed with the same grey pants that he wore nearly every day to work, the color complimented his hair nicely.  

Next to Teddy sat his four-year old son, Leon, his eyes glued to the colorful children’s show airing on the television five feet in front of him.  Teddy, as well, had his focus turned to the singing characters dancing around in a beautiful open field, all holding hands in peace and unity.  He turned and looked down at his son on the ground, who was smiling and clapping along with the characters as searchlights went scanning past the window, followed by the roar of helicopters above.  The harsh roars mixing with the sound of the thunderstorm ahead.  Rain beat down on the window pane with such force.  Leon remained unfazed in this troubling time, unaware of the looming danger all around the apartment.  To him, it was just another evening, to thousands of others in the city, it could be their last.

Teddy looked around the room, taking it all in.  They had been living there for a mere three months, yet from the looks of it, one would assume that Teddy and his family had been there for years.  Musty green wallpaper hung off the wall, torn in many places.  Only three pieces of furniture were in the room, a chair, a couch, and a stool.  Each faced towards the old television set that sat up against the wall on the north side of the room.  The deep blue fabric of the chair and couch were far from being in good condition.  Tears and scratches were visible all around each piece of furniture, looking to come from a cat, most likely.  Even the carpet lay stained and torn, making one not dare to walk upon it without shoes on.  Teddy finished his scan, his eyes coming back to his son, sitting on the dirty carpet.

“Leon, I know you are young and are not going to understand or remember much of what I am about to tell you, but as your father, I feel that it is my duty to tell you this now in case I do not get the chance to later in life,” Teddy spoke slowly to his son.

“What do you mean daddy?” Leon asked confused by his father’s grim tone.

“What I am about to tell you is more important than anything they will teach you in those retched excuses for schools.  Now I know most of this will not stick with you, but I wish to tell you anyway,” Teddy paused for a moment and took a deep breath. “Do not believe everything they tell you.”

Leon looked up at his father in confusion. “Who’s ‘they’ daddy?  The Wiggletuffs?” Leon asked pointing at the television.

Teddy chuckled for a moment.  “No Leon, not Wiggletuffs.  I’m talking about out here, in this city, in this country!  Do not trust anyone with authority over you.  What they tell you may seem real and sound like the truth but it is not.  Nothing they tell you is true.  It is all a lie. The only one you can believe is your mother and I got it?” Teddy looked deep into his son’s eyes.

“Got it daddy,” Leon said giving his dad a playful thumbs up.

Teddy knew that Leon was not grasping what he was telling him, but it would have to do for he was running out of time.  He was not sure if we would ever get a moment to have this discussion.

Teddy began to cough.  He sat up slightly and reached into his back pocket, pulling out a handkerchief to cover up his mouth to avoid being a disturbance.  Leon looked up at his father, Teddy motioning back with a thumbs up to signal he was alright.  Leon nodded, then turned his attention back to his show.  Teddy’s slight fit ended, so he folded his handkerchief back up and put it in his pocket.

Teddy sighed before proceeding onto his next topic of discussion.  After his son’s failure to absorb any of his previous advice, Teddy knew it was safe to go through with the second part.  Despite his sense of security however, he still elected to keep out certain information just to be safe.

“Now Leon, I know you won’t remember any of this, so I am going to get all of this off of my chest, just so I do not die without telling you the truth.  I am not what your mother and I have told you I am,” Teddy began, his voice soft and calm.  “I work for an underground organization against the very government we live under.  The president is not who he says he is.  The world is not what he says it is.  People are suffering and people are dying and I work to stop that.  Now because of this, daddy isn’t very well-liked by the people your teachers at daycare talk to you about.  I just want you to know that I do this to make this world a better place for you to grow up in, a place where you can do what you want without having to worry about your safety.  I do this for you,” Teddy said looking down at his son.

Leon stared up at his father and blinked, unsure of what he was talking about.  He looked down, then back up into his father’s eyes.

“That sounds cool dad!  I wanna see that movie!” Leon said excitedly.

Teddy laughed with a sense of relief, knowing Leon had no idea what he was being told.  Teddy patted his son on the head, then slowly got up to go join his wife, who was in the kitchen cooking dinner.  Leon stayed firmly planted on the ground, enchanted by the dancing characters on the screen.  Just as the Wiggletuffs were about to break into their song and dance about friendship, the program quickly cut to the scene of a man with gross skin and a menacing grin.  Behind him was a flag of black and blue that Leon had recognized, but was not sure what it was.  He’d seen it at the park, the store, and even daycare.  He had seen it so much, yet could not remember what it meant to him.

The strange man on the television dove into a boring speech on who knows what, causing Leon’s attention to fleet.  He decided to get up and go see his mother and father, so he stumbled up to his feet and waddled to the kitchen.  He reached the doorway as he saw his father hug his mother tightly, his mother clutching something behind his back.  She saw Leon over Teddy’s shoulder and broke away from her embrace with him.  She smiled at Leon, striding over to where he stood leaning up against the doorway into the kitchen.  Leon’s mother picked him up and carried him back over to the television while Teddy stood staring, smiling behind them in the doorway.  She placed Leon down in front of the television just as the connection switched back to the Wiggletuffs.  Leon’s mother kissed Leon on the head and went back to the kitchen to finish preparing dinner.  As she walked past Teddy she whispered something in his ear, then disappeared into the other room.  Teddy then walked back over to where he sat before in the old wooden stool, the wood creaking as he sat down.  

More searchlights went past, but neither Teddy nor Leon were distracted by the harsh light.  Sirens blasted throughout the city, but neither Teddy nor Leon were stirred by the screeching sounds.  Teddy leaned down and gently caressed his son’s head, bringing it close to his body.  He then leaned down and softly kissed the top of Leon’s head.

Teddy he let go of his son, turned his head forward, closed his eyes and whispered. “I love you son,”

As if on cue, the door burst open as the last word left Teddy’s lips.  Two SWAT units entered scanning the room, followed by two more, their attention fixated on the exits.   There was no time to move.  There was no time to react. The first two saw Teddy and sprinted towards him.  One officer proceeded to knock him to his knees, causing Teddy then to collapse onto his back.  Out of shock, Little Leon began to cry out in fear. The other officer hit Teddy on the forehead with the butt of his rifle, with the intent to knock him out.   Leon’s mother in the other room came hurrying in only to be greeted by the sight of her husband being dragged out the door by two officers dressed in black.  Teddy, dazed, but still awake, slowly opened his eyes, blood dripping down his face from the gash across his forehead.  He could hardly make out his wife and child through his dazed vision and his long, gray hair that dangled in his face.  Teddy could sense them there as he began to pass out, however, bringing a slight smile to his face before the darkness took him over.

Just like that, Teddy was gone.  Leon and his mother stood there in silence, shocked and stunned by what had just happened.  All that could be heard was the pattering of the rain on the windows of the living room.  The drops dripped down the glass of the window much like the blood on Teddy’s face.

Teddy was wrong about something that night.  He had thought Leon would not remember a single thing that was told to him that night, but he was wrong.  Leon would remember alright.  He would remember every little detail of that cold night.  It became a day permanently etched in Leon’s mind.  It became a day that left him speechless for years to come.  It became a day that set a fire ablaze underneath Leon, and what a fire it was.

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The Calm and Setting Sun

Mosquitos buzzed and hummed throughout the thick, humid summer air of the backcountry.  Swarming, diving above and around the canoe of Dallas Brewer.  Dallas, himself, drifted along in his canoe beneath the backdrop of the tangerine sky, the sun setting like a ball rolling down the side of a hill.  A few pink clouds lay scattered throughout the sky in a perfectly random pattern.  A scene so perfect that Mother Nature decided to duplicate it in the shimmering waters of the river.  The old wooden canoe underneath Dallas split through the reflection sending ripples of color throughout the water before settling back down to its spitting image of the heavens above.  

The canoe creaked underneath Dallas as he made his way down the river.  He had owned that canoe for many years now and was one of his only possessions, along with the clothes on his back, his burgundy corduroy hat, an oar, and his beat up banjo.  His consistent actions and attitude were what made him so recognizable throughout the county.  All the locals were familiar with Dallas Brewer and respected him greatly.  None knew where he came from or where he was going, but all were happy to see him when he came drifting through their part of town.  

Today Dallas found himself in the town of Oakmont, a small community near the border of Pederson County.  The town was home to no more than 2,000, most of whom were employed by the new automobile factory that opened up a couple of miles down the way from Oakmont in the bustling city of Van Buren, a small, but fast developing city.  Most of the townsfolk elected to walk to and fro work since it wasn’t too much of a hassle and few actually could afford a car anyways, so it was not like they had much choice in the matter anyways.  

Dallas had watched most of the Oakmontites make their way back home from the factory what he figured to be nearly three hours ago.  There were a few stragglers here and there, each giving Dallas a smile and wave as they made their way past him, receiving a friendly tip of the cap from Dallas in return.  With the sun setting, Dallas figured that all had made their way home from a long day of work, already settled in around the dinner table, enjoying time with their families.

As he lay there in his canoe, looking up at the sky, Dallas heard the sounds of grass rustling underfoot, causing him to slowly look up over the side of the canoe and out onto the river bank thirty feet away, his long, scraggly dirty blonde hair, glowing in the sunlight.  He was met with the sight of little Benjamin and Thomas, two brothers that he had befriended from Oakmont.  

“Well how do you do boys?” Dallas called out to the duo.

“Oh hey there Mr. Brewer, what brings you out here to Oakmont?” Benjamin called back in response.

“Oh nothin’ in particular.  Jus’ goin’ wherever the wind takes me.  How ‘bout you two boys?” Dallas explained.

“We came out to meet our parents halfway on their way home from work,” Benjamin answered.

“What, they didn’t come home earlier with the others?” Dallas asked.

“Naw, they called ahead and said that they were gonna be home a little late.  Figured they had a long day, so we decided to cheer them up by meeting them down here,” Thomas explained.

“Why, that’s mighty nice of you boys.  Awful dangerous to wait out here by yourselves at your age, especially with the sun goin’ down.  Why don’t I wait with you boys?” Dallas offered.  

“That’d be great Mr. Brewer!  Thank you!” Benjamin replied.

“Wonderful,” Dallas grabbed his oar from the bottom of the canoe and paddled over to the river bank next to the two boys.  He slowly got out and pulled the canoe up onto the shore.  He then reached back into the canoe and pulled out his banjo by the neck before walking over to meet up with the two boys. Dallas walked the boys over to a grassy hill nearby and laid down in between the two boys, Benjamin on his left, Thomas on his right.  Dallas hummed and strummed as the trio looked out across the horizon at the setting sun.

“Beautiful, ain’t it boys?” Dallas said.

“Sure is,” The brothers said in unison.

“This is why I am out here boys,” Dallas stated.

“The sun?” Benjamin questioned.

“Not just the sun, Benjamin, but the whole universe and everything inside of it.  With the way the world seems to be going these days, focused on working and surviving as opposed to living and enjoying, people miss out on moments like these.  Moments of such beauty and awe.  So I figured that I gotta enjoy them for the people who don’t get to,” Dallas explained. “Yeah, haha, it’s hard work but, hey, someone’s gotta do it,” Dallas chuckled.

“That sure sounds relaxing and awesome, Mr. Brewer, but my parents say that school is important and that we should focus on that instead.  I wish that I could just drop out and be like you,” Benjamin said.

Dallas closed his eyes and smiled, his reddish-brown beard shifting with the muscles of his face. “It is quite flattering of you to wish to be like me, but for now, you must remain a student.  I was like you before, passing out from boredom in the classroom, but one day I realized how important what I was being taught was,” Dallas said.  “Take the sun for example, people back in the day used to think it actually went down and disappeared off the face of the Earth,”

“Well that’s crazy,” Benjamin said.  “Everyone knows the Earth is round and revolves like a spinning top,”

“Exactly, which is why education is important.  Believe it or not there are still people who think the Earth is flat like that.  Now don’t you want to sound smart rather than silly like those folks?” Dallas asked the two boys.

“Well, sure.  I’d get made fun of for bein’ that stupid,” Thomas said.

 “Exactly boys.  Education is more important than anything.  Learning is what pushes the world forward.  If we learn nothing, we fail to become better people than our ancestors or those crazy folks who think the Earth is flat.  Which is why it is important to Learn.  Learn as much as you can from as many people as possible.  Each person you meet has the chance of teaching you a valuable lesson, no matter who they are.  Whether they be a man begging for money on the street, or a successful businessman like the one who owns the factory your parents work at.  Each one of them has a story and lesson to be told,” Dallas told the brothers. “And I know school may be tough work sometimes, but you gotta do it.  Now I know what you may be thinking, didn’t he just go against what he had just said before?” Dallas chuckled once more. “School is a different kind of work.  Learning is a different kind of work.  It is a necessary tool to grow.  The work I speak of is the work that folks like your parents do.  Long, excruciating work that doesn’t nearly return what it took from you.  And do not take this as me criticizing your parents, because what they do is important.  They work for you two,”

“They do?” Thomas asked.

Dallas nodded.

“I thought they worked because they liked it,” Thomas said.

Dallas laughed for a moment. “No Thomas, they do it to provide you two with an opportunity to become better than they ever were.  They want you to succeed so you never have to do a day of hard work in your life.  They want you to be able to sit on a hill watching the sunset every evening and not have to worry about money.  They do it for you,” Dallas explained.

“I never thought of it like that,” Thomas sat thinking about what he was told.

“Many do not.  Many take their parents for granted, so it is important that you do not follow that trend.  Love and appreciate what your parents do for you and don’t waste the wonderful opportunity that they have given you.  Others would give their life to have an opportunity like yours, whether it be to have a chance to get an education, or have parents that love or care for them like your own,” Dallas sat up looking back and forth at the two boys.

Just as Mr. Brewer finished his last thought, he saw Benjamin and Thomas’s parents in the distance walking towards them.  Thomas must have noticed just as Dallas did, for he yelled out to his parents with joy.  Benjamin sprung up and joined his brother as they ran to greet their parents.  Dallas slowly got up and smiled as he watched the parents pull their children into their arms.  He fixed the brim of his cap and meandered over to the family

“That was awful sweet of you boys to meet us down here,” The mother said smiling. “But you boys could’ve gotten hurt,”

“It’s okay momma, Mr. Brewer was here to look after us,” Benjamin explained, gesturing towards Dallas.

“Thank you so much for watching them Dallas,” The father said, shaking Dallas’ hand.

“It was my pleasure, you have some very wonderful kids Mr. and Mrs. Lawson,” Dallas smiled.

“That’s very kind of you, Dallas.  Come on boys, it’s time for dinner,” Mrs. Lawson said, leading her family back to Oakmont.

“Thanks again Mr. Brewer!” The two brothers called out to Dallas as they walked away.  

Dallas gave a slight bow “You’re very welcome, and don’t forget what I have told you!” He called back.

“We surely won’t!” Benjamin yelled in return.

Dallas slowly strode back to the hill and picked up his banjo.  He gave it one last little strum before walking back to the canoe.  He set the banjo gently in the bottom of the canoe before getting in himself.  Dallas then picked up his oar and used it to push himself off the river bank, sending him floating once again down the river, and off into the beautiful sunset.