It was 6:30 pm and Carlton had nothing to do. This was rare but was due, in part, to his video games being packed away in large cardboard boxes, to which he had no access. He was sure he could find at least one of them by looking at the lists his mother had scribbled unto the boxes, but without the key to the backroom, he would never get the opportunity to exercise his ten-year-old ingenuity. Instead he laid there on his single foam mattress, covered in plain brown sheets, and gazed at the bare zinc roof above him waiting to be rescued by sleep. Tomorrow was the day he dreaded, the day he would move to a new house.
He tried to imagine what it would be like meeting new people, attending a new school and sleeping in a new room. He tried to imagine the softer, spring mattress his parents promised him, and the greater freedom to play games, but his imagination did nothing to stop the sadness he felt. The only thoughts that brought a smile to his face were of his present community; thoughts of bicycle riding, and playing marble games with the friends he now had. Those thoughts made him smile so he held on to them as he drifted into sleep.
His long night’s rest was interrupted by his mother’s call the next morning.
“Kaalus,” she called.
“Kaalus,” from the depths of his sleep her calls seemed like a mile away.
“Kaalus,” he heard it again, the faint sound of his name being called, in that abbreviated version commonly used by his friends, Carlos; heavy with the Jamaican accent.
“Kaalus… wake up baby,” said his mother.
She shook him gently, knowing he would be sleepy for several more minutes, even after waking. She would use that time to get the kettle on for some chocolate tea, but he needed to wake up first. She loved her son so much; she wanted to spoil him by giving him everything he wanted. As she stooped beside the single bed, she watched his chest heaving as his chubby frame went through the human action of breathing. His hair was knotty and unkempt and he made slight snores as he slept; her little bundle of joy.
She knew he had his reservations about leaving his friends and school, but she also knew he would benefit from the move. There were benefits that he would not yet appreciate but she hoped in time he would. She worried that he would neither make friends easily nor adjust quickly to the new community. However her husband had been at the new house overseeing grille installations during the previous week and had met a few of the neighbours. He assured her that there would be children in Carlton’s age group to play with, many of them also transferring to the new school. That had eased her fretting.
She squeezed her rotund body unto the small bed and Carlton woke with a start. He recognized her familiar warmth before the haziness cleared from his eyes.
“Wah a gwaan?” she asked with a bright smile on her face only a few inches from his.
“Nuhŉ,” he replied, as his eyes adjusted to the lighting, “Were you here all night?” he asked with a bit of surprise.
“No little one. I was with your father,” she nuzzled her nose to his and quickly kissed his cheek. “Speaking of whom, he will need your help today to move those boxes.”
“Do we really have to move?” he asked in a whining voice.
“Yes, we have to,” she said hugging him tighter, “what kind of tea do you want?” she asked, signalling the end of that discussion.
His reply was almost inaudible, as his attempt to discuss moving was shut down.
She sat up turning her back to him and said, “Yu know, there is a playground with swings and slides in the new community… but maybe you are too old for that now.” She let her words hang for a few seconds and without turning around she walked from the room. Once outside, she hid beside the door-jamb and listened to his muffled outburst of joy, which was undoubtedly inspired by the prospect of playing in the aforementioned playground. Carlton Campbell, her little bundle of joy.
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