I awoke the next morning to some noise outside my window. Out my window I could see down a few houses the kids from yesterday. The blond girl was talking to them. One of the boys, the tallest of the group, was especially interested in what she was saying. They seemed to be laughing and kidding around. They were on their bikes. I wish I had a bike. I guess they were wondering what they were going to do or where they were going to ride? It had to be more exciting than here. I was thinking since I was stuck here for the next couple months that I had better start making some friends or the whole Summer would be wasted. I looked down at myself and found that I was still wearing my clothes from last night. I don’t even remember how I got up here to my room? I know one thing for sure, I had to pee really bad! So I ran through the door and went down the hallway for the bathroom. From downstairs I heard Aunt Ida calling me. “I can tell you are up John.” “I was beginning to worry that you would sleep the day away.” Said Aunt Ida; She then said; “John, change your clothes and wash up for breakfast.”I will whip you up some bacon and eggs.” “Okay!” I shouted through the door. One thing I dearly loved was breakfast. I loved the smell of bacon in the morning and the sound of the snap and crackle of the oil and fat as the bacon cooked in the pan. I washed up and went downstairs.
Uncle George was reading his paper and smoking his pipe at the breakfast table. Aunt Ida eyed him with disdain as she did not like him to smoke his pipe at the table. Uncle George happened to glance over at his wife’s steely glance and made a smirk on his face and whispered to me in a low tone. “Busted.” He doused the flame and set his pipe aside. After breakfast. I was helping do the dishes in the kitchen. Aunt Ida let me help dry the smaller dishes. She let me stand on an old milk crate so I could reach. As we did the dishes we talked… “Aunt Ida.” I said; “ “Do you think my mom and dad don’t want me anymore?” I said. Aunt Ida stopped doing the dishes and looked at me. “John William, don’t you ever think that they don’t want you ever!” “You must remember that they are doing this because they love you. Especially your mother.” “Why she always wants what is best for you.” She exclaimed. I looked down at my hands and the dish that I held in my hand. I put it in the drain rack and asked. “If I have to stay here this Summer.” “Do you think I could get a bike and learn how to ride it?” Aunt Ida said; “Well of course you can.” “You are a big strapping boy and what boy doesn’t want to learn how to ride a bike!” “How about we go shopping for one this week?” “Great!” I said. We continued to chatter about a new bike and about all kinds of things and before we knew it the dishes were done.
Just as we were laughing at talking up a storm the phone rang. Uncle George answered it. He was talking a few minutes and his tone of voice got real serious. He looked up at Aunt Ida and at me. Aunt Ida froze in place like she knew it was bad news.
Uncle George handed the phone to Aunt Ida and she took the receiver in her hand. You could see that her hand was shaking. It was my babysitter Julie at the apartment building where I lived. She was crying. I could barely hear her voice through the receiver. She said there was a fire in the apartment building where I had been living. She said she barely got out before the smoke overcame her. She said she didn’t see everyone make it out or not. Aunt Ida was questioning here rapid fire. Did she see if everyone got out. How about her sister Susan? Did Robert get out. I was looking up panicked and grabbing at Aunt Ida’s skirt. Screaming “What is going on!” Where is my mom and my dad!” I screamed. Uncle George grabbed be and held me tight and said it would be okay. Aunt Ida was crying.
We found out later that the fire department had put out the fire, but that most of the building was destroyed. The found that two people were trapped inside in one of the apartments. The bodies were burned beyond recognition. The babysitter confirmed they were in the apartment where John had been living with his parents. There was no way to identify them except that one of the bodies was male and the other female. No one was able to contact either one of John’s parents so the conclusion was that both had died in the fire. The fire was thought to be caused by a cigarette and the empty liquor bottles that were found told the tale that they fell asleep while intoxicated and the cigarette started the fire. Aunt Ida and Uncle George and I traveled to Seattle for the quick makeshift funeral. My aunt and uncle made it nice and bought flowers and had a preacher say a nice prayer at the service.Aunt Ida bought a nice suit for me to wear and uncle George was dressed in his finest dark suit. Aunt Ida wore black and she stood by the graveside quietly crying. I stood with her holding her hand tightly and cried. It was the first time I really cried. It was like it had been bottled up like a dam and suddenly burst! There were only a few people in attendance. They didn’t really have many friends. My babysitter was there. She came over and gave me a hug and told me how sorry she was. I was numb and wasn’t sure what to feel except great sadness. Mom had said she would come to get me later this Summer. In the pit of my stomach as soon as she dropped me off at my Aunt and Uncle’s house I knew somehow that she was not coming back.
After the funeral, Aunt Ida made arrangements for any things that the couple had in storage. Strange thing that my mother had a will just made up a month ago with specific instructions on what to do and she given that along with important papers for me like my birth certificate, shot records, health history already in Aunt Ida’s hands. The rest of the items at the storage facility she arranged for Uncle George to take back in his truck. There wasn’t much. Some old ratty furniture, old clothes, but tucked away hidden in a corner under some clothes was a box marked. John W.. In it was a photo album with pictures of me my mother and my father. But mostly pictures of me. Aunt Ida carefully packed the photo album up and carried it in her arms in the truck on the ride home.
Two weeks passed and I was starting to come to grips with the situation. I had not left the house since my parent’s death and Aunt Ida and Uncle George had not spoken much to me about what happened. Until today. I was up in my room reading one of the books from the library when Uncle George peered into the door of my room. “Johnny.” Said Uncle George. “Do you want to talk about your parents?” “You know you can talk to us if you are feeling up to it?” “No, not right now.” I said. “Alright Johnny, you just talk to us when you are ready.” “In the meantime, your Aunt has something for you so come on downstairs.” I set the book down and came down the stairs… As I got to the bottom of the stairs and found Aunt Ida and Uncle George waiting for me and standing between them was a bright red shiny new bike! I stopped at the last step of the staircase and stared first at them and then at the bike. I was dumbfounded and was not sure what to say? Aunt Ida spoke first. “John, now I know you are still upset about what happened and I don’t know if you are ready for a bike or not, so just so you know you don’t have to accept it but we can set it aside and if you feel you are ready to use it, you can try it out. No hurry at all.” I fumbled with my hand on the railing and bit my lower lip. On one hand I was angy that they could think a bike could replace my parents, but then on the other hand I had never been given such a nice present. I had very mixed emotions. My eyes began to well up a bit and I looked down at my feet. Uncle George could tell I was not quite ready so he put his hand on my shoulder and knelt before me. “Johnny.” He said: It’s okay. You just don’t worry about it. We will put it over in the garage for safe keeping and when you are ready you can take it out and give it a go.” “Okay?” I nodded my head slowly. “Well okay then.” Uncle George said. He wheeled the bike out of the foyer and out into the garage where he tucked it far in the back behind his old Chevy. Aunt Ida came over to me and kneeled down and gave me a big bear hug. “It will be okay John, we will get through this together.” She said. And I started to feel a little bit better.
Another week had passed and I started to move through the grieving process into the acceptance of the situation and I started to try to focus on other things. I asked my aunt if I could go outside a for a little bit and she said it was okay as long as I stayed within shouting distance. I am not sure exactly what that meant as she could shout pretty loud and I think everyone in the neighborhood could hear her. I found out that some of the neighborhood kids knew her from school and from my bedroom window I would watch them stop from time to time and say hi to her when they walked by. “Hi Mrs. Johnson (My aunt’s last name was Johnson) and she would wave to them as she worked in her garden and say “How nice to see you Eric or Tom or Jane, or whoever.” All the kids seemed to know her.
While I was outside sitting on the porch Aunt Ida was out in her garden weeding and pruning her roses when the blond girl with the pig tails and glasses walked by…