For visually challenged writers, the image shows a feather, an autumn leaf and two bright red berries or beads, left amongst the stones and plants by a stone that looks like a head with jewelled eyes…
“Tokens of Innocence”
“Man, I’m terrified.”
Twelve-year-old Jacky Moore turned to his friend, Matty Eastman, also twelve, and both boys erupted into laughter.
Jacky swept his dark brown curls away from his eyes. “We sound like babies.”
“Dude, think about it. Two months ago, we were the big kids at Meadowbrook Elementary, and in two days we’ll be seventh-graders at Southwestern Junior High… and the babies in the building.”
“You’re not helping.”
Matty leaned back against the birch tree and looked out over the small pond.
“I know, man, but it’s all scary. Six years ago, we were in kindergarten and six years from now, we’ll be high school graduates.”
“I’m gonna throw up.”
Matty chuckled and pulled a long tapered feather from his rucksack. “Remember when we found this and had everyone convinced it was an eagle feather?”
“You still have that? I thought you tossed it after Bartholomew Baden busted us.”
“He only knew it was a wild turkey feather because his uncle poaches them.”
Jacky sat down next to his friend. “Big-mouth Bart. Didn’t his family move?”
“Yeah. To someplace like Montana or Wyoming, I think.”
“Where there are lots of wild turkeys.”
The boys high-fived each other, then Jacky nodded toward the bag. “What else you carrying around?”
With a mischievous glint in his eye, Matty reached into the rucksack and took out a large white rock.
“Meldrick!” Jacky grabbed the smooth rock with bejeweled eyes and clutched it to his chest, belly-laughing.
Matty tried to reprimand his friend. “Don’t Laugh at Lord Meldrick, he’s sensitive,” but fell over in his own fit of laughter.
Sucking in large gulps of air, Jacky held Meldrick in the palm of his outstretched hand. “Dude, this thing got you into so much trouble… but it was funny too.”
“Whew! Don’t I know it.” Matty grinned. “But it was fun.”
“I thought you were going to be the first fourth-grader at Meadowbrook to get medicated and put away!”
Matty howled. “I still say I didn’t do anything wrong. My dad went on and on about all the money people spent on pet rocks in the eighties, so what was wrong with me having a pet rock?”
“Dude, you didn’t go out and buy a pet rock… you made your own!” Falling to his side with laughter again, Lord Meldrick rolled from his hand. Matty leaned over and picked him up. He fingered the red stone eyes he’d taken from his mother’s craft box and applied with a glue gun.
“I thought I was being creative. You know, using my imagination.”
“I could be wrong, Eastman, but talking to Lord Meldrick could have been the problem.”
“Why? We talk to Ranger and your family talks to Deacon. No one expects dogs to respond, but we still talk to them.”
Jacky rolled on to his stomach, leaning on his elbows.
“I believe your dad said, “Dogs can interact with us. Rocks can’t.”
Matty snickered. “Only my dad.” He leaned over and sat Meldrick at the base of the tree.
“You leaving it here?”
“Meldrick is a he, not it, and yeah. My mom’s eyebrows disappear into her hairline every time she walks into my room and sees him.” Matty stuck the turkey feather into the ground next to his pet rock. “He can watch over our spot and be Ruler of the Woods.”
Matty stood, brushing off his jeans. “We’d better go. You know my dad. His idea of well-done burgers is burned burgers.”
Jacky stood to follow his best friend but stopped. “Wait.”
Slipping his hand into his pocket, Jacky removed to smooth red beads and placed them on a rock next to Meldrick.
Matty gripped his friend’s shoulder. “You sure, man?”
They both looked down at the beads given to Matty by a crisis counselor after his neighbors and classmates, Tommy and Ricky Reynolds, were killed in a car accident with their father two years ago. Jacky and the twin brothers started kindergarten together. The beads were one of the coping mechanisms students were offered to deal with grief and anxiety. Jacky Moore carried his beads every day for almost two years.
Jacky smiled, swiping away a lone tear. “Yeah, man. It’s time to let them go.” He considered his friend. “Life sucks.”
Waggling his eyebrows to lighten the moment, Matty pulled a face. “And we’re only seventh graders.”
Jacky grinned and pushed his friend toward the well-worn path. Matty rambled on.
“We have to get used to six classes a day, final exams, MORE homework—I think the universe hates us—sports practices… dude, you playing basketball or football? We’re tall enough to play b-ball, but girls love football players. Girls! Dude, we’re going to meet new girls and maybe even date. Uh oh. Dates cost money. Man, we’ll have to get jobs! Does this never end?”
Jacky laughed, shaking his head as Matty babbled. He glanced back once at the small tokens from moments in their childhood and knew things would never be the same.
©2020 Felicia Denise, All Rights Reserved