Maybe. A word that suggests uncertainty, possibility and most importantly, hope. ‘Maybe, I can climb Mount Everest and bring pride to my town one fine day!’ I thought. I’m a boy of 12 with glorious aspirations but a lazed out soul.
“Jacob! Hurry up! You’re no king! The bus ain’t gonna wait for you! Move!” called out Cecelia, my elder sister. After mom’s death, it was Cecelia who dropped out of school only so that she could look after the family and it’s needs. I’ve been a bad brother, I realize that, but I don’t ‘do’ anything about it.
School was a mess. Literally and figuratively. The building looked like it was a thousand years old and almost looked like a haunted house with scary teachers. Every teacher was an oldie, mainly because our school had had a collaboration with the old age home which stood right beside it. It was named ‘old friends’. They were sweet, but scary at times. I have just one friend, my best friend, in an enormous class of 60, named Jeff Parker. I couldn’t imagine going to school without him.
He’s been with me ever since I was born, literally. We were born in the same hospital, on the same day and were placed side-by-side. Jeff is one gem of a friend. Not when it comes to food though, because he finishes his own plate and then stares at yours. No, he isn’t plump, he’s fit and fine, and I have no idea how he managed to do that. Never have I seen him exercise, nor have I ever heard him talk about it. He’s a living miracle.
His mother is the sweetest lady in town. She has these peculiar looking eyes, shaped like a diamond and hair that almost touches the ground. I doubt whether she really is Jeff’s mother at times, considering that Jeff is a boy with almost square-shaped eyes that look like they’d pop out any minute. He has olive-brown hair, while his mother’s hair is gold. She’s famous for her extraordinarily fabulous plum cakes. Every Christmas, while the rest of the town ‘buys’ plum cakes from her, I, being Jeff’s dearest and only best friend, get them for free. Unlimited supply, unlimited satisfaction, unlimited happiness. Might as well be the reason why I await Christmas, though it’s not that happening otherwise.
If you ever come to our town searching for Jeff and I, you might as well just head straightaway to my house on St. Paul’s Street in Dothan. Jeff’s spends his entire day here under Cecelia’s care and affection. Cecelia has always regarded Jeff as her own dear brother, at times dearer than me, and I always end up being compared to him. That’s because she thinks he’s well-mannered and full of life, unlike me – I’m this pathetic couch potato who can do nothing at all. I often wonder how we ended up being best friends when had absolutely nothing in common. Maybe we humans often end up searching for that quality which we, ourselves, don’t possess. Messed up, but makes sense.
Cecelia’s special treatment isn’t the only reason that brings him here though. It’s his father. His father is an ordinary man otherwise, except for his weird fascination about a teddy bear. Yes, a teddy bear. He never revealed to his own wife and son as to why he couldn’t live without his teddy bear. Very recently, his wife, Jeff’s mother, tiptoed to his cupboard and pulled out the teddy bear. She scanned it thoroughly to find something that’d make sense of why her husband wouldn’t let go the teddy, but in vain. The news had spread around town, and she was often questioned. She herself had no answer. Utter exasperation hit her like a bus and she couldn’t help but get rid of the golden furred, black-eyed teddy bear with just one brown button placed on its belly. I never saw the teddy, but that was how Jeff described it as. Ever since that incident, that happened a month ago, Jeff’s father hasn’t cast a smile. “He hardly eats anything at all. I hear him cry every night. I feel sorry for him Jakey. He’s my Papa after all,” Jeff choked.
Like any other human being, I was curious as to why Mr. Parker acted so strangely. He is normal otherwise. Like any father, he loves his wife and his only child. He works in the post office and gets gifts for Jeff and me every now and then. My father always talks good of him. They aren’t as close as me and Jeff are, but he admires Mr. Parker. I remember Jeff telling me that his dear father had been found abandoned on the streets of Dothan and was taken to an orphanage. He worked hard to reach where he was today.
“Maybe, we should ask him,” I suggested with enthusiasm.
“As if I’ve never tried that. Great idea Jacob, you’re a true genius!” Jeff rolled his eyes, making me want to stretch out and cup my hands under his sockets, lest they’d pop out and bounce off.
“Maybe this time I’ll come with you. He won’t deny. Uncle never refused to tell me anything.”
“I bet he won’t!” Jeff got on his feet and dusted his greyish-blue pyjamas.
“Well, I don’t care what you say. I’m talking to Uncle Parker,” I shot up and dashed out of the door.
“WAIT UP!” Jeff indirectly agreed.
The Parker’s house, which I’ve hardly ever been at, looked kind of gloomy. I understood then as to why Jeff liked being at our place. His mother went to church, and Mr. Parker had locked himself inside his room. On knocking at the door, we pressed our ears against the door, hoping for a response.
“Who’s it?” came a deep voice from the inside.
“It’s me!” Jeff replied.
“Your son, Jeff. Can we come inside, Pop?”
“I’m busy son! Maybe later?”
“But it’s urgent Pop! We need to see you!”
“Oh! I’ve come along with Jacob, he really wants to ask you something regarding….”
“Regarding the postman, Mr. Denver, like does he always roam around the town, does he have wife and children, is he immortal, and things like that,” Jeff was bad at coming up with excuses since forever. I giggled.
“Okay, I’ll let you in.”
I was astonished. How did he even fall for his son’s fake-sounding excuse? We straightened up and gave away a grave expression, suggesting serious doubts about Mr. Denver and his extraordinary life. I have a problem of laughing at the most serious moments, but fortunately, that day, having known that Mr. Parker was not as jolly as he is otherwise, I stood calm and composed. The door slowly swung open.
“Boys! It’s such a pleasure to see you! Jacob! How is school?” asked the man whose head almost touched the ceiling.
“It’s great sir!”
“So, Mr. Denver huh?”
“Yes sir,” I trembled.
“What about him?”
“Uh…Mr. Den-denver is a gem. I-I just wanted to know more about him. Maybe, he’s a close friend of yours. So…” I almost fainted out of cluelessness.
“But why the sudden interest?”
I stood with my head hanging low. I couldn’t think of anything.
“Because we were asked to interview a person who we find mysterious, and Jacob’s too scared to approach Mr. Denver. That’s what Mrs. Tetley has asked us to do. It’s our homework!” Jeff exclaimed. I was proud of him then. It was quite a sensible reason.
“I see. Maybe I can call him up now. It’s almost lunchtime.” Mr. Parker had already sensed something fishy and was playing along, I could tell from the way he fixed his gaze at us.
“No! Uh, we want those answers from you. Talking to Mr. Denver is a big no-no!” Jeff cried.
Mr. Parker burst out laughing at his son’s inability to act. “Oh well, maybe while Jacob interviews Mr. Denver, I suppose you will be interviewing me since you find my actions so mysterious. Am I right son?”
We stood still, shocked, even though I was well aware that Mr. Parker was well aware about the fact that we wanted to ask him about his attachment with his teddy bear.
“Pop, I’m sorry. I really miss those good old days when you played football with us. It’s been a month now. Why don’t you just narrate us the story of the teddy bear. I swear, we both swear that we’ll keep our mouth shut, what say Jakey?,” Jeff spoke as he poked me hard in the tummy with his elbow. I nodded hastily in approval as I groaned.
Mr. Parker nodded his head with uncertainty. “Maybe,” he uttered.
“Maybe, we could all get together and fix this up, what say pop?” Jeff chirped.
“So, where did it all begin?”
“It began on my seventh birthday, and it grew intense with the death of your grandma.”
The word ‘grandma’ rung in my head. Jeff had once told me that Mr. Parker had never seen his own mother.
“Grandma?” Jeff was more than just astonished. His eyes bulged out than ever before.
“Yes son, I’m sorry I lied to you all this while. I don’t really enjoy mentioning her,” with that, he hung his head low.
“But why? Was she cruel?”
“No! Not at all! She was just like your mother, sweeter than honey, inside-out. It was just that my father…”
“Huh? You mean Grandpa? I had a grandpa too?!” Jeff jumped and sat down, excited.
“Yes, son. I don’t enjoy mentioning him as well.”
“But why? Was he even sweeter than Grandma?”
“He was not. Not at all. He was a devil, a greedy devil. He was an alcoholic. You’d find him drinking day in and day out. And to satisfy his thirst for alcohol, he snatched away all my mother’s hard-earned money.”
“He did? And did he beat you then?”
“Of course. He whipped me like how you’d whip a horse. I had bruises all over me, I still have a few, they aren’t as distinct now.”
“What about the teddy bear? What happened on your seventh birthday?” I asked impatiently.
“My mother committed a crime.” Mr. Parker choked.
“A crime?” Jeff and I asked in a chorus.
“Yes. The crime of spending her money for me, rather than handing it over to your grandpa.” He trembled as he rubbed his eyes which has now grown moist.
“But that ain’t a crime!” Jeff argued.
“I agree son, but for your grandpa it was the most hideous crime!” I could sense the growing wrath in his voice. I shifted a little out of fear.
“And what about the teddy bear? What does it have to do with all this?”
“Turns out, son, my mother bought me that teddy bear which I had relentlessly cried for once. She bought it with all her hard-earned money that she had kept aside just so that she could gift me that teddy bear. She did manage to buy it and she gifted it to me on my seventh birthday. My father was drunk, lying on the streets as the two of us had a humble celebration indoors. I still remember the smile on my mother’s face when she handed over the teddy bear to me, it was sweeter than a lullaby and brighter than the sun. Oh! I wish I could turn back the clock and bring the wheels of time to a stop. “
“That’s why you loved that teddy so much, because grandma bought it with so much affection even when it wasn’t at all affordable!” Jeff suggested.
“Oh no! That’s just a part of the reason.”
“What’s the other part of it then?” I asked.
“I kissed my mother a good night and slept right away. It was midnight when I woke up with a start. The terrible noise outside forced me to get off of bed and rush outside and…”
“And?” Jeff and I demanded in chorus again.
Mr. Parker hesitated to speak any further and asked us to leave.
“You can’t ask us to leave without a closure!” My best buddy protested. I was proud.
“You’re my son. You do as I say.”
Enough. I stood firm with my chest out. “Sir, we really want to help you out. Please sir, please don’t disappoint us at this point of the story. I’ll spend sleepless nights thinking about what would have happened next and that might as well affect my studies. Please sir, we’ve sworn to not let it out of the confines of these four walls,” I sounded like I almost delivered a full length speech. But nevertheless, it did seem to have worked its magic.
“Okay, son. Only because you insist…”
“You’re the best Pop!” Jeff shot up. I held his wrist and pulled him back down.
With his moist, blood-shot eyes, Mr. Parker continued with the second half of the story, “So, I ventured out and…and fo-found my mother in a pool of crimson.”
A chill went down my spine. I couldn’t believe what I just heard. “A pool of…?”
“Yes, a pool of blood. I ran to her and tried to shake her back to life, but in vain. My father sat right beside her. The drunkard spoke to her lifeless body. I remember him saying ‘You shouldn’t have spent the money on junk like that, you foolish woman!’ and I ran back inside my room and sobbed silently with my face pressed against the pillow.” Mr. Parker couldn’t hold back his tears. Tears streamed down his pale, pinkish cheeks. Jeff sat right beside him and gave him a tight hug. I couldn’t help but notice a blue bruise on Mr. Parker’s collar bone. I knew who had done that to him. I stood up and whispered a question, though I knew I shouldn’t have at such a moment, “Is he dead or alive? And did you approach a policeman?”
Mr. Parker shook his head. “He’s dead, alright. He died a year after my mom. Alcohol took a toll over his health. But-but I failed to approach the police. Just like you’re afraid to approach Mr. Denver, approaching a policeman was considered a task of valour back then. He was never punished for his crime. I thought he’d be a good father to wash off his sins, but that never happened. Instead, he hurled even more abuses at me after the episode. I hid my teddy bear behind a brick in my room and hugged it tight every night and whispered a prayed in its ear. In the teddy bear, I saw my mother. In it’s sparking eyes and gorgeous smile, hid my mother’s love and affection. I could feel it, I could…” with his head buried in his palm, he broke down again.
We sat and consoled him. I felt the pain he would’ve gone through. I, myself, lost my mother when I was eight. She died due to complications during the delivery of a baby boy, who also, failed to survive. I hadn’t attended school for a month and Cecelia dropped out of school in that span. Fortunately, my father took control of the entire situation even though he, himself, was grieving. My thoughts were interrupted by sudden knocks at the door.
“Must be Mom!” Jeff jumped out of Mr. Parker’s lap and attended the door. In front of him was the most amazing sight. He sprang up and hopped around like crazy. He hooted like a wolf who lost its mind.
“What happened Jeffy?” I was curious because Jeff didn’t usually jump around like that.
I got on my feet to greet Mrs. Parker. I was her favourite, and I did everything to keep myself on the top of her favourites list. When I walked towards the door to greet her, my eyes grew wide with nothing but pure bliss. I too held Jeff’s hand and hopped along. I joined him in his insane hooting session too.
Yes, Mrs. Parker had Mr. Parker’s teddy bear tightly wrapped around in her arms. Firmly held against her breast, she slowly walked inside. She appeared in front of her husband, whose tears had dried up by the time. On seeing his most dearest entity in the hands of the very woman who got rid off it out of sheer annoyance, he rode up and dashed towards her. He grabbed the teddy bear and gave it a tight hug.
“But, how…?” he was lost for words.
“I eavesdropped. I had handed it over to Mrs. Haley’s daughter. If you’d have told us about this before, I would’ve never committed such a crime. I love you, and I love your teddy bear as well,” she whispered in the most sweetest tone possible.
“I love you too,” he whispered back.
They looked at each other with nothing but pure love and devotion. Love was in the air as Mr. Parker pulled her even closer.
“Uh, Jeffy, I think we’re supposed to leave, what say?” I felt super awkward and funnily slid sideways towards the door.
“We should totally leave!” He distinctly felt even more awkward and dashed out of the door in the very next instant. I followed.
Maybe, life was all about these small, happy surprises for me. Maybe, I never really would climb the Mount Everest, and maybe I’d just end up finding joy in the smallest of things. On venturing back home with Jeff, I realised that the Parker’s were now back together, happy and beatific. About finding happiness in the joys of others, I had found my happiness in Mr. Parker’s and his family. I then realized that unknowingly, you might as well end up fixing up broken things, and that all you require for that is a perfect blend of nothing but love, trust and togetherness.