Sit-a-Spell Stories

“What a Difference A Day Makes”

Written by Alan P. Scaglione

3/21/2020 7am

4:45am Alarm rings!

RIIIINNNGGGGG!!!

Sam slaps the alarm to snooze for just 5 more minutes!

4:50am Alarm rings!

RIIINNNGGG!

Sam slaps it again!

But he knows– he has got to get up..or else!

Or else?

Or else…his Pops is going to come in and slap his foot and yell “GET UP BOY!”

Or else…his Moms is going to start whining “you’re gonna lose your job if you don’t get up son!”

None of which does he want to hear this morning!

Not today– of all days!

Because today is the day he has been counting down for 6 months!

His girl comes home from college today!

Ashley has been away this year in her first year at college.

Sam and Ashley have been high school sweethearts since 9th grade.

They both decided– Ashley would go to college; Sam would start working as an electrician’s apprentice and work his way up to being a master journeyman.

That was the plan– and they were sticking to it.

Once she graduated college and he got his journeyman’s license– then they could talk about marriage– and only then! They had plans, they had goals, they had a future– together!

If he could just call in sick today.

If he could just call in late.

If he could just sleep in another 30 minutes.

But… he could not– and he knew why.

His life was waiting for him.

Sam rolled out of bed, jumped in the shower, got dressed, had a cup of coffee and got in the truck in only 18 minutes– he had this down to a science.

It was 5:25am! He was 5 minutes early but he was on the road to work.

And he was just so dog tired.

His eyes were having trouble focusing.

His body just wanted 5 more minutes in bed.

His mind was drifting between thinking of Ashley coming home tonight and just wanting to sleep.

But he had to make it to work!

He went down Crawford.

Took a left on Hightower.

Followed the curves of Samson street.

Went over the bridge on Clemson.

When you live in a small town– and you live on a small farm outside of that small town…

You have to know the backroads to get to the other side of that small town–

Where the factory was!

Harlem was a small town outside of Augusta– best known for the big golf tournament.

Augusta– that is–not Harlem.

Harlem was best known for NOT being That Harlem!

Other than that– Harlem was forgettable.

Nothing ever happened in Harlem.

No murders!

No bad accidents!

No sad stories!

Nothing bad ever happened in Harlem.

I guess that was a good thing…

But Harlem was simply forgettable.

That’s why Sam and Ashley planned to move away after she finished college and he got his journeyman’s license…move to somewhere a little bigger with a whole lot more history.

Maybe Savannah!

They had always talked about moving to Savannah!

With its rich southern charm and old world aristocracy —

All of the antebellum homes and the 16 separate squares in the heart of Savannah.

Sam and Ashley had spent the day in Savannah many times– and they just loved it.

They dreamt of living over on White Marsh Island, on the way to Tybee.

Someday, Sam thought as he closed his eyes for just a minute…

Someday.

Bam!

Screech!

Whoosh!

CRAAAASSSSHHHH!

5 hours later!

“Hey Otis– sorry to hear about your boy! I think he will be okay once he comes to. We had to sedate him because he was fighting us while we were trying to treat him. We just gave him enough to put him out so we could tend to his wounds. I think his right arm will heal okay. It’s broken but the break is clean. Now his right leg might take a lot more mending. He crushed his knee when the truck hit the pole. They say he was going 65 in a 35 and hit it full on– no braking was detected. I guess he must have fallen asleep at the wheel? That’s what the sheriff said. Otis– you gotta just be thankful that he made it. Not like the Brazwell family. Clara didn’t make it Otis– she was just driving herself to work when the live wire touched down on her car and electrocuted her– instantly– she was gone! Thank God she wasn’t taking her 2 kids to school that day due to Teacher Work Day. But the Brazwells are mourning her loss. Such a freak accident– Sam falls asleep at the wheel, hits an electric pole going 65mph, the pole snaps, causing the power line to fall to the street, right as Clara Brazwell is driving by, on her way to the hospital for her 6:30am shift– she was a good Nurse– I had her once– she was kind and sweet and knew her stuff– she will be sorely missed, not just by Donnie and their kids, but by the whole hospital staff at St. Barnabas. Such a tragedy all the way around. I’m sorry for you having to tell Sam all of this when he wakes up– I do not envy you this task. But Otis, you gotta remember, Sam will make a full recovery and you’ve still got your boy, and he still has Ashley.

Her mom called her and told her what happened– we are picking her up tonight since he can’t do it. Our families have been connected since those kids started licking each other–and we are here for you and Doris as you help Sam cope with the events of today. Just know– you are the lucky ones– you’ve still got Sam. It’s Donnie and his kids that really lost a lot today.”

Otis Johnson stood in the ER waiting room while Dr. Turner placed his arm around Otis.

Otis had to shake off the sense of loss– his son had killed someone–inadvertently, sure…

But Clara Brazwell was dead nonetheless.

And now– he had to find the words to tell his 18 year old son that all of this had happened.

All because– he had fallen asleep at the wheel.

On the same day that his Ashley was coming home from college.

On the same day that Sam woke up so excited to see her.

On the same day that their Summer was set to begin together.

What a difference a day makes.

%MCEPASTEBIN%

==============================================

Papa’s  Gloves

January 29th, 2004

He probably bought them at K-mart

Maybe Cooks was the one

Never considering

Those old black gloves

Would be cherished by his son.

To the world, he was quiet and reserved

Never taking the lead in anything

Not much riled him or moved him to action

But at 3011 42nd, my Papa was king.

Almost every August day,

he sat in the shade

Sipping hot coffee in wait

Cool breeze just might come

While he was sweating

Sitting in his chair by the gate.

His ocean blue eyes would glimmer

When the subject was one of the two

Either baseball and all of his memories

Or his sons…that’s when they were bluest of blue.

Not the kind of father to hoop and holler

At a basketball game while being thrown out

Not the kind of man who carried much presence

Never in business would he carry much clout.

But…hurt one of his boys, touch a hair on their head

And his fury would come from the deep

Innerpart of his being…his passion for his boys

Was the one thing you knew he’d always keep.

Always told the same line

“went to separate schools together”

With someone famous or talked about

He would do that one ball trick

for all of your friends

Dropped it behind him and swore “you were out!”

But to see him at his best, when he shone like a knight

One of his sons would have to be ill

And he’d show up with a smile that revealed his true love

And a bag of Campbell soup and ginger Ale.

Not much with the words, not much to the touch

But in deed he was a father to treasure

And years later since he’s gone

With only his gloves that remain

I find myself compared to his measure.

Not much like him as a father,

Did all the things that weren’t done

Spoken, felt, hoped for

Things would be different with my son.

To my daughters and son

He’s alive to this day

With the stories I continue to tell

His body cold in a grave

No more smile on his face

But his heart…still beats… in their hearts… as well!

And my little boy, his only grandson

Is no longer a little boy too

He’s now a man on his own

With a spirit like a stallion

Ready to take on life and show what he can do.

Nanu’s little boy put on those gloves

On a day in Kentucky

While going to rescue his friend

A sense of pride

Surge of heritage

Papa’s hands… my hands… Now my son’s hands—

Guess Papa’s passion would never end.

So…K-Mart, Cooks,

From wherever they came

Just doesn’t seem to come into play

But Papa’s gloves are now his gloves

As he feels his Nanu with him each day.

I see those ocean blue eyes

And the passion they showed

As they gleamed with the smile of that one

But today they are placed

In the face of our future

As they gleam and they dance through my son!

========================================

*One Unexpected Event

A BEAUTIFUL DAY

It was a beautiful winter day in florida. 74 degrees, blue skies and breezy. Felt like a spring day in January. The rest of the nation was enduring unseasonable rough inclement weather, with snow storms in Tennessee and Atlanta shutdown; the NorthEast was experiencing a WhiteOut, with days of continued snow and nights of threatened loss of electricity. But in Florida, we had a beautiful day waiting with our grandson Max.

I called Sam that morning to make sure it was still okay for us to pick up Max for our playdate. I have to admit that, after the heart attack, spending time with Max was the only thing that made me feel normal. Max was born only 2 months before my heart attack, so he really didn’t know me as anything different. He didn’t have memories of my gregarious, larger than life laughter and spontaneous actions that may be breaking out in song in a mall or doing a Chinese firedrill at a stop light. All Max knew was…Nano! Nano! When he said those words, I picked him up and wouldn’t let him down. Max was my buddy! And I gave him anything he wanted, including picking him up and walking him around anywhere he wanted to go, eventhough…he was now 2 years old and had been walking for over a year!

My daughter-in-law said Max woke up saying Nano and was excited because he wanted to see his Nano. Our son Brandon was working part of the day, but he was waiting til we picked up Max so he could see me.

Wanting to spend as much time with Max as possible, Nana and I arrived at 10am, as scheduled. Max ran into my arms and gleefully shouted, “Nano!” There he was, blonde haired, blue eyes, fair skinned, chubby cheeked cherub who looked just like Brandon when he was that age- sometime took my breath away- felt like I was holding my son 25 years ago, but it was his son. Such a special feeling.

My time with Max- Aww! This was the best moment of my week, seeing Max and hearing him say my name. I hugged Brandon and thanked him for letting us take Max for the day. He said, “Pops, Sam and I know when Max is with you, he’s safe and spoiled…two things we can count on!” I smiled and agreed to both…told them, “I would always guard Max with my life, just like I did with Bran when he was a boy.” We laughed and waved and…off we went!

Now the question…What to do today?

Today, it was Nana’s choice, and her choice was ANTIQUE-ing!! I give-in for two reasons: it scored points with Nana and Max would NEVER remember this day or antiqueing! So, it was a Win-Win!

We were headed to Plant City but first, a stop at Parkland’s for Max’s first strawberry shortcake! It’s a tradition in our family. Parkland opens its season in January on our way to Strawberry Festival in March. We can never wait until March for our first shortcake—we had to get in line, wait 30 minutes, just to have our first shortcake or the season, and today, it would be our grandson’s first taste of strawberries! We knew, like it was for us, this would change his life forever! Strawberry season is the reason we look forward to March! We love our strawberries!

Max dug in like he was a pro! Nana sat next to him and fed him his first bite- his eyes got big and his lips were filled with this heavenly taste called strawberries. Max licked his lips again and again! Then, he looked at Nana and said, “Spoon!” He was off to a lifelong relationship with strawberries, just like his Dad before him and his Nano before Brandon. Our family’s tied to our enjoyment of strawberries, but part of that is living in Plant City. Just not possible to escape it—the city lives for strawberry season, from the pickers who show up to harvest the crop to the tourist who show up to sample the berries—it’s in our blood!

Memory made—seeing Max tackle his first strawberry shortcake…priceless! I knew, just like watching his Dad years ago eating his first shortcake, this day would be etched in my mind and heart forever!

And now, onto antique-ing! Nana would be happy and Max and I would stay outside, Max in his stroller and Nano pushing him up and down the streets, keeping him occupied while Nana spent my money on junk! I know, it’s not junk, but it smells like, looks like, feels like junk!  But, it’s true: somebody’s junk is somebody else’s treasure! And, it made Nana happy to do it. And making Nana happy was my pleasure!

So… in she goes into the first store, and I know..this is gonna take a while. I tell Max we will have fun walking up and down the street while Nana has fun looking through her junk piles. Max responds, “Nano!”

It’s his usual answer to most questions, but today, he startled me with his expanded vocabulary. I would walk by something, he Max would say, ”Red! Dog! Woof! Car! Buoo(Blue)!Cat!”

Where did he get all those words? It had been two weeks since our last play date, but WOW! Max was talking! I was so impressed with how smart he was and how fast he was growing up!

We went up and down the sidewalk in front of the shops about 10 times, each time I looked in to see if I could see my wife, hoping she was coming out so we could go to lunch at this new restaurant called Whistle Stop, but..Nana would see me and wave and back to it she went. Max and I would be awhile, so…I decided to turn the corner. He was bored with the view after 10 stroll-bys past the same shops.

I turned the corner and…more shops! Great!! We were never getting outta here alive! She would be here all day! And I had this little 2 year old boy who would only be satisfied in that stroller for so long! I had to find something for him to do before he started crying! I hated to hear my Max cry!  Nano would do anything to not have him cry. Even hold him for longer than I should. I was still rebuilding the strength on my left side since the heart attack. Had not been an easy road and the pain was still present most of the time, and I tended to favor my left side and wasn’t able to carry anything heavy or lift anything for too long—except Max! He was my one exception…no matter the discomfort, he was worth it all! He was the only person in my life who gave me the one thing I had wanted since becoming a parent:  Max adored me!

I walked down the street, singing to my grandson an Italian lullaby that I had sung to Bran years ago, and I was caught up in the joy of having my son’s son here with me—what a perfect day it was!

At the end of the street, I saw a pristine park tucked away in the corner of the block; beautifully landscaped and equipped with a play area and benches! This was the perfect place to let Max out of his stroller so he could run around a play on the monkeybars and swing…in other words, a place to keep him safe and pre-occupied until Nana was ready to leave!

I headed for the monkeybars and slide. Max loved the slide! He saw it and said,”Slide!” Wow…he could say slide too! That’s my boy!! Well, That’s my boy’s Boy! I chuckled to myself.

I took him out of his stoller, gave him a kiss and let him go. There was a bench right next to the slide, so Max could have his fun and I could be close enough in case he needed me. There were benches all around the playground, so I could move from bench to bench as Max moved through the playground. He was elated, and I was relieved. He wasn’t crying,and I was still his hero! All was well with the world. I was so entranced with my grandson that I never noticed…the three migrant workers sitting together on the bench on the other side of the playground..I should have noticed. Big mistake..HUGE!

FLASHFORWARD

Hmm,ahmm,AHAHhmm hello?

Brooke, is that you? I knew you wouldn’t forget. No, not a problem, we were both expecting your call. We knew you’d remember what today is, even 10 years later. It’s still like yesterday. He woke up agitated, like he always does on the anniversary date. I had to give him extra blood pressure meds, just to keep him calm, well…calmer. Nothing keeps him calm on days like today, and the other anniversaries forever tied to today. What honey, speak up? No Bran hasn’t called. Why would he? He blames both of us for what happened..and what Sam did! Especially today, 8 years to the day Sam gave up and left us! Bran forever blames us for what happened that day. You’ve spoke to him? Good…is he okay? Where is he? Is he clean? Is he in rehab? Of course he’s gonna tell you he is clean. Did he ask for money? Brooke, you can’t feed his addiction, and he can’t guilt you into sending him money. Did he give you an address? Texas? What’s he doing in Texas? Following a hunch? What hunch has him in Texas? At the border? The border to what? Mexico? Brooke, I hope you reminded him Captain Carpenter followed that lead years ago and nothing, nothing panned out in Mexico. He’s just gonna get himself into more trouble, and we can’t go and bail him out this time, Did you tell him that?

Oh Bran…my heart just hurts for him! He was so happy with Sam, and she was such a good mom to Max! they really were the perfect family. Brooke honey, just one unexpected event…changed so many lives. If I hadn’t wanted to go antiquing? If your Papa hadn’t been recovering from his first heart attack? If he hadn’t turned that corner and strolled Max into that park? If someone else had happened by when it all happened? If, If, IF!!! I am so sick to death with the eternal Ifs to this event in our lives! Brooke, what did Bran say? He did, he really said that? You know we tried to help him, took him in, cared for him, gave him all we had and offered him anything we could. It wasn’t the stealing from us, it was that he lied and then…blamed your father for killing his wife and letting them take his son! It just killed your father all over again!
To be blamed for Sam’s suicide and then to blame Papa for Max being ripped out of his arms that day? It killed him, like we was watching happen and not able to stop any of it! There’s not a day that goes by…you know what I’m saying is true! We are all victims here…and we wake up each day wondering, praying..is it possible? Could Max still be alive? They never found a body, no leads to where he was taken, who took him or why they never asked for a ransom? We dream the same dream almost every night: Max is in some home, their son, he is happy, loved and adored, and his parents are good people, just with a bad secret..paying black market for their little blonde haired, blue eyed, fair skinned son who looks just like them. They live in fear that someone is looking for their son, just one clue, one lead away from tracking him down.

What did you say? Anybody else call? Well, yes, Captain Carpenter paid his usual phone visit today. So nice of him to call each year on this day. Kind of him to not forget us. He’s gotten a promotion to detective in Tampa, but he said he still follows up on all the loose ends to this case. He shows me each time…he still has a picture of Max that he carries with him. Said he’s not giving up and asked us not to give up either!

Just wish he wouldn’t say all that in front of your father…it just gets him the one thing that hurts him the most—hopeful! Then I have to deal with the grunting noises and the sighs and the coughing as he tries to speak. The stroke left him unable to speak, but I can interpret all of his noises precisely. Like he’s saying it all for the first time! From the moment they tried to rip Max from his arms, to them pistol whipping him to get him to let go of Max; to the knife stabbing his hand to make me let go of the boy…then the fall on the sidewalk as he grabbed his chest and had the massive heart attack. No one knows how long he had been lying there when that sweet lady, Mrs. Gonzalez, happened upon him and called the ambulance. I remember coming out of a shop, wondering what the commotion was and calling your father’s cell phone…no answer! Brooke, I thought that was strange- you know your father always answered his phone! After the heart attack, he was freaked out about his cell phone—it was his security blanket. he needed it to be charged, pn and always in his hand, just in case he had another attack, so when he didn’t answer, got that feeling in the pit of my stomach. I remember following the crowd down to the park, turning the corner and …before I saw your father, I saw Max’s empty stroller, and I just started screaming, knowing in my gut, something was wrong with Max before I knew your father had had another heart attack.

Brooke, I know you know this story as well as I do. You’re such an angel to let me rattle on like this! I can’t do this with him, we both know that the last thing we want is to get him excited about this! But, I have always wondered, where did they go? Three Mexican men, holding a blonde haired, blue eyed, fair complexion, chubby cheeked little boy? Why didn’t anyone see them? Why didn’t anyone report anything? Papa was left on the ground, having a heart attack, while they took Max away, and to where? Did they sell him? Did they hurt him? Did they keep him? Ten years and still no answers! There is no closure to this..none whatsoever! And we lost such valuable time while Papa was unconscious for those 11 days. He had only whispered “Mexican men, 3 of them!” before he passed out.

You remember your brother and Sam during those 11 days? Scouring the blocks around that park, putting out fliers, getting on TV to beg anyone for leads, following anything, everything, nothing just to come up empty? Dealing with the guilt and the anger, the questions and the lack of answers, the heart breaking pain of missing their son. It was just too much for Sam after two years. But didn’t she know it would be Bran who would find her? Why did she give up? I know 2 years can feel like forever. She just put that gun to her head and never considered what it would do to Brandon when he found her! Guess she was just numb.

I know you have to go sweetie, and you are a dear to call today. We know you can’t come home right now. Just promise me please, next time Bran contacts you, please have him call your father! Papa misses his son more than you will ever know. The last time they spoke, before it happened, Bran told Papa he knew 2 things: Nano would spoil and protect his son, just like he had done him! Papa will cry each time I tell that part of the story—but it’s tears of joy, that his son had that much confidence that his father would take care of HIS son, no matter what!  Emergency open heart surgery, 11 days in ICU and the subsequent stroke that left your father speechless and paralyzed on his left side—your father doesn’t remember any of that, but he still holds onto the fact that his son knew…that his father would protect his son with his life, and he did! Then he cries, all over again!

Now you take care Brooklyn. Of course I will tell your father that you called, once he wakes up. I have to tell you, on a day like today, I hope he sleeps through the night. He is a little better the next day after the anniversary, and then a little better the next day and so on and so on. So if you call on the weekend, he will be better! The next date we have to brace ourselves for is in February, would be Max’s 12th birthday on the 21st!  that will be a tough one, but…like all the other dates and anniversaries, we get through it together and with loving calls of care from our daughter Brooke! What’s that? I am coming, just a minute, I’M ON THE PHONE..please quit ringing that bell, I know you’re up, I will be there in a minute, okay? I promise, just one minute!I have to go baby brooke, he’s awake. No, better that I not tell him it was you. I will tell him that you called earlier, while he was asleep. You have a good night, okay? And remember what I said about Bran next time you talk to him…alright, Good night honey, we love you! Until next time! Bye,bye.

Yes dear, I was on the phone. It was Captain, should I say Detective Lieutenant Carpenter, just checking in with us. He is always so thoughtful to remember the anniversary, each one of them, each year. He wanted me to tell you that, he has all of his feelers out, from Miami to Mexico, and if he hears anything, he will contact us. He wants you to know that Max is still out there, alive, and we will find him, he is sure of it. It was nice that he called. And Brooklyn called too. She wanted to check on you. She promised she is coming home for Max’s birthday, for a long weekend. She did say that she talked to Brandon, and he told her that he was in rehab and was 34 days clean! He  told her that he wanted to stay clean this time so he can get over the border into Mexico, he’s in San Antone right now, anyway, Bran wants to check out Mexico. I know honey, I know. Mexico was a dead lead but…at least he is motivated again, 34 days is still 34 days! Please don’t make that sound, I know what you’re saying. Yes , he’s been 34 days before, he’s been 134 days before, but we have to hope, we have to pray, our son needs us to believe in him, maybe just one more time, maybe two, but…we’re all he has, and he’s our only son…honey, come on, don’t cry! He knows you love him…he knows you did everything you could to protect Max, everything. You were fighting for him, trying to keep him in your arms as long as you could. No one could have predicted that 2nd attack or that it woud be a massive one. You almost died 3 times. Your heart stopped 3 times, we are so lucky that you are with us, you have to remember, this isn’t over! Captain Carpenter always said that it was those fibers underneath your fingernails when you dug into them that got us our best lead- DNA ,and it will pay off someday, we would NOT have that if you hadn’t fought so hard for our little boy.

Captain is looking, 10 years later, he’s still looking. He got them to run a spot on Max on America’s Most Wanted, showing what he may look like as a 12 year old boy, so… we have to keep believing that he’s alive. Honey, don’t cry, not today. He knew, we all knew, you tried your hardest to protect that little boy. Who would have known one unexpected event could change our lives like this. No one can plan for this. No one ever imagines this, not their family, not us! And, we were the same way..we were just having a perfect day with our Maxwell Jameson, just a perfect day. Let’s remember that part today, just for today, okay? Just for today, it was a perfect day! You strolling him around downtown Plant City! Just Nano and his sidekick Max! There, there… Brooke loves you, she told me so.  Just rest a little longer, just think about that perfect day, our perfect Max…just a perfect time…that’s all, it was just perfect…

EPILOGUE

Donde, Gringoito?

Que?

DONDE GRINGOITO???

Porque?

Porque?? PORQUE!!!!

Bano.

Ah Que Hora???

Why does it matter what time, Poppy…he went to the bathroom.

It matters because he didn’t ask to go, it’s still work time, and we have 3 more rows that have to be picked BEFORE we  can all go home! That’s Why IT MATTERS!!!

Poppy, please…don’t be mad. He held it as long as he could, but…we get to go when we need to, so why is it our big brother always gets yelled at when he leaves the field?

Manuel and I can help Gringoito with the last three rows. We get it done together..we can make it a game!

A Game? You want to make this a GAME?? Juan, you think this is funny? You and Manuel want to play in the field with your Big Brother? You want to play???

THIS IS NOT A GAME!! AS LONG AS THOSE FIELDS ARE NOT COMPLETE…I HAVE TO STAY OUT HERE, IN THE HOT @$#@@#$ SUN!

The longer he takes in the bathroom, the longer I have to wait to leave…Your brother WILL finish these rows ALONE!!

Poppy, please don’t be mad, but…you always make Gringoito do so much more than anybody else, Why? It’s not fair…we don’t understand.

You don’t have to understand, just go get him, go get him NOW!!!

Papa Sir – I’m here! Don’t yell at them, they are just covering for me. I am going to finish the rows now, by myself, without any help. Just don’t yell at them, okay?

Gringoito came alongside the boys, stood in front of them and shielded them from their father.

Just get it done NOW!!! I want to leave in an hour! And I expect you to make up the time by working faster!! Get to it! NOW!

Gringoito waved him off, bent down and started picking the coffee beans. He loved the smell. Eventhough he had been picking these beans each year since he could remember.

He wondered why Papa was always so hard on him. Always expected him to do twice as much, work twice as hard and do it half the time.

He just rode him all the time. Faster! More! Again! Then next day…all over again! Seven days a week, only one weekend a month do they get Sunday off, to go to Family Gathering!

Those are fun! All the kids get out and play while the adults divvy up the month’s profits and give a portion to each of the fathers to live on for the next month.

Gringo didn’t care about that—he just knew, he had a day, just one day a month, when he didn’t have to pick something!

It was at those monthly gatherings that it was most obvious—He didn’t look like any of the rest of them! They were brown eyed, brown skinned and he..blue eyes with light brown hair.

The kids would make fun of Gringo because he looked different, but Juan and Manuel would defend their big brother. They would tell the boys that Gringo’s mother was light skinned with blue eyes too!

They told them that because that’s what Papa told them. He never talked about Gringo’s mother, but he said she died when he was a baby, and he looked more like her. Papa married again, and Juanita is the mother of the two boys. She died giving birth to the little girl Carmen, who also passed away, leaving the 3 boys with Papa!

That’s all he knew. He didn’t remember any of it. He was twelve years old, almost, and the boys were eleven and ten. Gringo didn’t remember any of what he was told. He just always had two little brothers and Pap always treated him different. Always angry toward him. Sometimes, Papa played with the boys, even hugged them on occasion with a kiss on the cheek on holidays, but…never Gringo.

Best kind of day for him was…being left alone, alone in the row, to pick without being yelled at or…sometimes, without being hit! He wanted to fight back, but..it just made Papa madder.

When he did get hit, it was usually no more than 4 or 5 hits and then it was over…he had learned to just zone out while he was being hit…better not to resist it..just go somewhere else…until it’s over!

Yes…that somewhere else was always….

Being found by his mother’s family, the light brown, blue eyed people! In his wish dream, they had been trying to find him, wanting him to come live with them, not stay with Papa. They were his mother’s family, and they wanted her son to live with them. Gringo never knew her name because Papa wouldn’t tell him, but..in this dreamworld, her name was Samantha and his name was Peter, not Pedro, but Peter. He had watched a show about a pretty light brown witch with blue eyes while they were at one of the Family Gatherings. He thought she was pretty, and with magical powers, she could protect him from Papa.

Gringo smiled for a minute while he was picking his beans. Son of Samantha, Peter, was going to live with his grandparents….once they found him…when they did, they would take him away from all of this!

Then he would stop himself and say…”Nobody’s looking for you! This is your family, this is your life, nothing’s ever gonna change it. Get back to work before Papa gets mad! Quit dreaming of Samantha!”

But every once in a while, when Papa wasn’t around, Gringo would stand up and look past the fields, to the horizon and wonder…Is somebody out there looking for this light brown, blue eyed boy?

But then he stopped, because he knew…who would ever find him in Mexico?

======================================

“What a Difference A Day Makes”

Written by Alan P. Scaglione

3/21/2020 7am

4:45am Alarm rings!

RIIIINNNGGGGG!!!

Sam slaps the alarm to snooze for just 5 more minutes!

4:50am Alarm rings!

RIIINNNGGG!

Sam slaps it again!

But he knows– he has got to get up..or else!

Or else?

Or else…his Pops is going to come in and slap his foot and yell “GET UP BOY!”

Or else…his Moms is going to start whining “you’re gonna lose your job if you don’t get up son!”

None of which does he want to hear this morning!

Not today– of all days!

Because today is the day he has been counting down for 6 months!

His girl comes home from college today!

Ashley has been away this year in her first year at college.

Sam and Ashley have been high school sweethearts since 9th grade.

They both decided– Ashley would go to college; Sam would start working as an electrician’s apprentice and work his way up to being a master journeyman.

That was the plan– and they were sticking to it.

Once she graduated college and he got his journeyman’s license– then they could talk about marriage– and only then! They had plans, they had goals, they had a future– together!

If he could just call in sick today.

If he could just call in late.

If he could just sleep in another 30 minutes.

But… he could not– and he knew why.

His life was waiting for him.

Sam rolled out of bed, jumped in the shower, got dressed, had a cup of coffee and got in the truck in only 18 minutes– he had this down to a science.

It was 5:25am! He was 5 minutes early but he was on the road to work.

And he was just so dog tired.

His eyes were having trouble focusing.

His body just wanted 5 more minutes in bed.

His mind was drifting between thinking of Ashley coming home tonight and just wanting to sleep.

But he had to make it to work!

He went down Crawford.

Took a left on Hightower.

Followed the curves of Samson street.

Went over the bridge on Clemson.

When you live in a small town– and you live on a small farm outside of that small town…

You have to know the backroads to get to the other side of that small town–

Where the factory was!

Harlem was a small town outside of Augusta– best known for the big golf tournament.

Augusta– that is–not Harlem.

Harlem was best known for NOT being That Harlem!

Other than that– Harlem was forgettable.

Nothing ever happened in Harlem.

No murders!

No bad accidents!

No sad stories!

Nothing bad ever happened in Harlem.

I guess that was a good thing…

But Harlem was simply forgettable.

That’s why Sam and Ashley planned to move away after she finished college and he got his journeyman’s license…move to somewhere a little bigger with a whole lot more history.

Maybe Savannah!

They had always talked about moving to Savannah!

With its rich southern charm and old world aristocracy —

All of the antebellum homes and the 16 separate squares in the heart of Savannah.

Sam and Ashley had spent the day in Savannah many times– and they just loved it.

They dreamt of living over on White Marsh Island, on the way to Tybee.

Someday, Sam thought as he closed his eyes for just a minute…

Someday.

Bam!

Screech!

Whoosh!

CRAAAASSSSHHHH!

5 hours later!

“Hey Otis– sorry to hear about your boy! I think he will be okay once he comes to. We had to sedate him because he was fighting us while we were trying to treat him. We just gave him enough to put him out so we could tend to his wounds. I think his right arm will heal okay. It’s broken but the break is clean. Now his right leg might take a lot more mending. He crushed his knee when the truck hit the pole. They say he was going 65 in a 35 and hit it full on– no braking was detected. I guess he must have fallen asleep at the wheel? That’s what the sheriff said. Otis– you gotta just be thankful that he made it. Not like the Brazwell family. Clara didn’t make it Otis– she was just driving herself to work when the live wire touched down on her car and electrocuted her– instantly– she was gone! Thank God she wasn’t taking her 2 kids to school that day due to Teacher Work Day. But the Brazwells are mourning her loss. Such a freak accident– Sam falls asleep at the wheel, hits an electric pole going 65mph, the pole snaps, causing the power line to fall to the street, right as Clara Brazwell is driving by, on her way to the hospital for her 6:30am shift– she was a good Nurse– I had her once– she was kind and sweet and knew her stuff– she will be sorely missed, not just by Donnie and their kids, but by the whole hospital staff at St. Barnabas. Such a tragedy all the way around. I’m sorry for you having to tell Sam all of this when he wakes up– I do not envy you this task. But Otis, you gotta remember, Sam will make a full recovery and you’ve still got your boy, and he still has Ashley.

Her mom called her and told her what happened– we are picking her up tonight since he can’t do it. Our families have been connected since those kids started licking each other–and we are here for you and Doris as you help Sam cope with the events of today. Just know– you are the lucky ones– you’ve still got Sam. It’s Donnie and his kids that really lost a lot today.”

Otis Johnson stood in the ER waiting room while Dr. Turner placed his arm around Otis.

Otis had to shake off the sense of loss– his son had killed someone–inadvertently, sure…

But Clara Brazwell was dead nonetheless.

And now– he had to find the words to tell his 18 year old son that all of this had happened.

All because– he had fallen asleep at the wheel.

On the same day that his Ashley was coming home from college.

On the same day that Sam woke up so excited to see her.

On the same day that their Summer was set to begin together.

What a difference a day makes.