(Courtesy of Pixabay user MKDigitalArt)
Leo's short story is the second place winner in the Creative Classic contest hosted by PHC's student newspaper The Herald.
“I’m in love.”
Mr. Baker stopped stirring his coffee.
“In love, you say?” asked Mr. Baker.
He nudged his glasses back onto the bridge of his nose and peered inquiringly down at the bright-eyed child in front of him.
The little boy nodded fiercely, his bright orange hair bouncing up and down with conviction.
“My teacher says I’ve been smittered.”
“Yeah – that – smitted.”
Mr. Baker grunted as he put down his coffee. His gaze wandered about the shop momentarily before coming back to rest on the enthusiastic child.
“How old are you?”
The nodding stopped.
“I’m six… no… wait,” the little boy smiled. “I’ve just turned seven. My birthday was last week, see.”
Mr. Baker crossed his arms.
“Well, I’m terribly sorry to hear that, J.J.” he said.
“What’s wrong with turning seven?”
“No – ” said Mr. Baker, “I’m sorry to hear you’re in love.”
At this, J.J. gave Mr. Baker a scrunched up grin, his extraordinarily bright eyes twinkling from behind his ruddy hair and freckled cheeks.
“But… Mr. Baker, falling in love is a good thing.”
“Oh, it’s a brilliant thing,” replied the older man with a nod. “It’s just terribly inconvenient.”
The boy frowned.
Mr. Baker took a moment to think.
“Well, when it’s there – it’s all you want to think about. And when it’s not there, it’s the only thing you can think about.”
He ran his hand through his grey hair, observing the youngster mull the statement over.
“Well… That’s stupid,” said J.J. after a moment’s contemplation.
Mr. Baker blinked.
“Well, I suppose it is, isn’t it?”
He returned to his coffee. Stupid – that was one way to put it.
“J.J., you’ve hardly touched your sandwich.”
J.J.’s face contorted in a frown.
“I don’t like egg – it’s squishy, and it makes my loose tooth feel weird.”
“I don’t want to have to tell your mother that you didn’t finish lunch again – at least try to eat half of it.”
J.J unwrapped the tin foil wrap and took a tentative bite of the egg sandwich in front of him, but the bite had hardly been taken when the child succumbed to his inquisitive nature once more.
“Favs uou evar biin….” started J.J.
“Don’t talk with your mouth full; it makes you look uneducated.”
Mr. Baker watched on as J.J. went to town on his mouthful of egg, jaw working like some sort of steam engine.
“Have you ever,” J.J. paused to swallow. “Have you ever been in love, Mr. Baker?”
He took his time answering. He shifted in his chair, re-positioned his glasses again, and coughed before returning his attention to the boy.
“Like… in love with a girl?”
“Yes,” scowled Mr. Baker.
“So what happened?”
“I asked her to marry me.”
Mr. Baker tapped his finger audibly on the surface of the table.
“You either end up loving deeply or regretting deeply and…” he paused. “And… I don’t think she wanted either option.”
“Oh,” said J.J.
“That’s too bad.”
J.J. returned to his barely touched sandwich.
“I think I’m going to marry this girl,” he said confidently after a few more moments of chewing.
“Really?” said Mr. Baker.
“What’s her name?”
“Jenny… I think.”
“You think?” Mr. Baker’s eyebrows shot upward.
“Yes, I think so… either that or it’s Amanda – I can’t really remember right now.”
The two sat there for a few moments—one chewing his sandwich the other sipping on his coffee.
“It really feels good, don’t it?” said J.J. from behind a mouthful of egg. “Falling in love, that is.”
Mr. Baker really didn’t feel like challenging the statement.
“I think that’s why daddy ‘got with’ mommy.”
“What?” asked Mr. Baker sharply.
“I think he married her ’cause it felt good to be in love.”
“Or at least until he left.”
Mr. Baker drained the remainder of his drink and set it down with a decisive pat. He watched a stray drop of coffee make its way down the side of the cup. He re-adjusted his glasses once more.
Mr. Baker scratched his nose.
“J.J, love is like an unbreakable promise you can’t keep.”
J.J. stopped mid-sandwich bite, contemplating the statement.
“That’s sounds really weird,” said J.J. pensively. “I just feel good when I’m in love.”
The pair sat there as the clock on the wall ticked steadily onward.
“Your mom should be here any minute now. What time does she get off work?”
“Seven, I think.”
“And will she pick up your sister from daycare first or does she come straight to get you?”
“I think she comes straight here.”
“Yeah,” said J.J. “The second job is closer to here than the one she goes to in the morning.”
“Make sure you finish your sandwich, all right?”
(Courtesy of Leo Briceno)
Leo Briceno is a freshman at Patrick Henry college. He plans on majoring in journalism. Things that you should know about him include that he loves Jesus, writing, and singing, and he has an unhealthy obsession with Age of Empires II.
Courtesy of PHC's The Herald.