The Light Behind the World
Chapter 9: Panorama

Copyright© 2010 by Sea-Life

The shell of calm I'd learned to wrap myself in while on the ledge served me well when I got back home the following afternoon. Or perhaps it was the shell of exhaustion my parents had managed to build for themselves with almost two days at home without concern for 'my young and tender ears' as Dad referred to them. That was usually said in context of a bit of blue language following a stubbed toe or banged knee, but I understood the upside of my absence for my parents, and I was happy to be of an age where I could facilitate a little romantic interlude for them now and then. I only hoped they'd be as understanding in the years ahead.

Despite the shells we were all wrapped in it only took a half a day before Dad sat down next to me on the porch steps, wrapped an arm around me, tilted his head to look me in the eyes and ask straight out.

"Something happen during your trip, Davey? Something you don't want to share with your parents?"

I sighed then, with a deep, slow release. Had I been holding that in the entire time?

"Yes and no, Dad. Yes and no," I said, shaking my head. "Something I don't know how to share. Don't even know if its possible to share. I don't think I can explain it, all I can do is ask you to go there with me the next time and watch what happens. Then you can tell me about it!"

The blessed normalcy of High School stepped in the next day and realigned my life into something resembling its usual order once again. A very nice 'Hello, I missed you!' kiss in front of the school from Ginny certainly got my mind focused on the rest of my reality.

To be honest, I was not finding the challenge of my Freshman year much of an actual challenge. I had never had to work hard to 'get' the Science or Math, and memorizing dates and facts for History or verses and passages for English were really no problem. I certainly already had good study habits. Dad had drilled into me the importance of developing good study discipline and techniques, and his whiz-kid college years had left him with plenty to share in that regard. The standard freshman courses were so far just presenting knowledge I had already absorbed on my own, most of it from just reading books I found in Dad's library, and the rest from the weekly trips I took to the library, but that had been the case for several years now.

I had already read all my assigned textbooks cover to cover. The social side of high school aside, boredom and distraction loomed heavily in my immediate future, and I was not sure what to do to solve that problem. I wasn't too worried though, as my Mom was already on the case. She had promised to 'think on it'. Dad may have been the compass that guided the ship that was Davey McKesson, but Mom was the sea which supported that ship. I knew she would find an answer to the problem eventually.

Thursday in my history class, we were discussing mining in the nineteenth century, and the differences in the lives of miners then and today. A section in our text included a picture of a miner with a canary in a cage. The canary would succumb much sooner to bad air, usually excessive carbon monoxide gas, than the men would, and so the birds were an early warning system for miners. This struck a chord, and when dad got home from work that evening I asked if we could get a mouse or hamster or some other small creature from the pet store. When he asked why I wanted it, I told him it was to take with us on Saturday when we went to the ledge. The curious look he gave me then only increased when I pointed to the picture in my textbook and said it was sort of a precaution I wanted to take. To his credit, he just nodded and said we'd stop by Friday after he got home. He was going to be home early for the weekend anyway, so he'd pick me up at school and we'd go there directly.

I told Ginny I wouldn't be walking her home after school on Friday because my Dad was picking me up so we could get some stuff for the sailboat. I had already told her, Arden, and Mike that I was probably going to be gone through most of the weekend sailing with Dad. Chet and Freddie were both trying out for football and had practice after school every day. Yes Freddie 'The Flea' Sabarte was trying out for football. Chet was an obvious candidate for the football team. He was an unmovable object and irresistible force all rolled into one. Freddie on the other hand was a big surprise until we heard from Arden's older sister Gloria that one or the other of the Sabarte brothers had been the Bret Harte High School's kicker for 8 years running, and Freddie had been a good student, looking forward to his time as the Sabarte athlete. Even he laughed when he said it, but we all understood he took it as seriously as everything else in his life, and since his success was a reflection of family tradition, he would excel, of that we had no doubt.

Dad pulled up to the school that afternoon and I hopped in. Sitting on the seat between us was a cage, and in the cage was a ferret!

"Sorry if this looks like I'm altering the plans at the last minute," Dad said. "But when I mentioned that I was taking you to the pet store after work today to find some small furry creature for you to conduct your illegal and cruel scientific experiments on, Nick the security guard asked if I thought you'd like a ferret. It seems his daughter had asked for this fellow as a birthday present, but that she has not been taking care of it properly. His name is..."

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