Tuesday, October 12, 2010

My Little Boy by Gwendolyn Joyce Mintz

A single child — a boy child— of a single parent — a woman, lonely and
yes, fearful — but he needed to find his own strength. She didn’t want
her son to cling to her, and believing it was in his best interests,
she did not want to hold on.

She wanted him to become a man unafraid to take risks; unlike his
father who had been unable and unwilling to do anything lest he fall
under his own mother’s judgment.

But — there on the news. Everyday. Another child. Amber Alerts.
Innocent grins haunting you from flyers on the convenience store
windows. She always bought milk in the paper cartons so he would know:
Have you seen me?

He was her joy. Silly, though. One morning they were walking to the
school and he began draping his hands over his body; the sides of his
head, his shoulders, his hips. A swivel of them.

“Stop it,” she’d told him, embarrassed that someone might see.

He had simply grinned and said, “What? I can’t do the Macarena on the
way to school?”

And he was growing up so fast! He was no longer content with her
company; he wanted to play with the neighborhood boys. Outside. Trees.
“Chicken” when a car approached. Jumping self-made, sky-high ramps
with their skateboards.

She didn’t want to nag. But she always said “Be careful. Mijo, be careful.”

She didn’t know if she was getting through.

“There are people in the world, “ she would say, and he’d mock her and
reply, “There’s lots of people in the world.”

“You know what I mean. The world —”

“ —isn’t a safe place anymore. Somebody might take me,” he’d mimic
her frequent warnings and she’d smile and jokingly say, “and I don’t
want them to, unless they promise they’ll keep you.”

And then they’d chuckle and he'd dash out the door to be with his
friends. To explore. To risk. To dare.

She would stand at the screen door, knowing there was only so much she
could do.

She remembered the day he got lost in Kmart. They were passing the
electronics department and she told him that he couldn’t stop to play
the display Nintendo. She’d continued walking, glancing at the items
on the ends of the aisles and then she’d turned, heading to the

She'd thought he was behind her. Immediately she panicked and strode
back to electronics. He wasn’t there.

“Danny!” she called, rushing to the toy department. “Daniel! Mijo!”

There were children in the aisles, stabbing the ‘try me now’ buttons
and crashing Tonka trucks across the floor, but there was no sign of
her son.

She’d rushed to the customer service counter, asked to have him paged.

“I’m going to see if he went to the car,” she’d said, as she shoved
aside the glass door and rushed outside.

He was not there.

Rushing back into the store, she was met by the concerned faces of the
manager and the customer service clerk. No one had answered the page.

Her heart beat wild enough to confuse her. Daniel!

And then, as if a miracle, hadn’t he appeared?

Her heart beat tears into her eyes and, though she wanted to choke
him, she threw her arms about his shoulders and said, “Where were

And he had laughed about her concern. He had been in the bathroom. He
hadn’t heard any page.
Be careful, Daniel, her heart whispered. Be careful.

< >

He had simply lost track of the time, she thought as she walked down
the block to Kenny’s house. Playing video games. Climbing trees.
Seeking a new adventure. Never thinking of a woman waiting back home.
It had to be, she thought, something in the male gene.

A group of boys played in the street and she searched for her son, but
he wasn’t one of them.

But he wasn’t at Kenny’s. “He left about an hour ago.”

Or Robbie’s. “I saw him with Kenny this morning.”

Yes, try Cesar’s. “He hasn’t been here.”

She walked home, each step an effort. Her cries throughout the
neighborhood unanswered. She had to call someone —

The police?

“Daniel!” she yelled into the night. “Daniel!”

< >

How she got from that moment to this one, she did not know. Who chose
his clothes? He looked handsome, she thought. But he didn’t look like
he was sleeping. No, he looked sweet when he slept and lying there
against the satin lining, he simply looked unreal.

“My little boy,” she whimpered as she stared at him.

“My little boy. My little boy. My little boy,” she cried as she
collapsed into her grief. But there was one moment, when a sliver of
her anger cut through, and she wanted to scream at him — Why didn’t
you listen to me? — momentarily feeling as though he’d gotten what he

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