Growing Up

It’s Wednesday, the 5th of October, 2016, 1:02pm. I stand in the verandah of Uncle Trevor’s house with my eyes absentmindedly resting on a sparrow pecking at the ground. The sunlight seems to avoid me as I’m shivering but it cuts down the shadows of trees to stumps. I am heartbroken and brooding. My body is here but my mind isn’t. Imagine my surprise when I suddenly find myself doubled over, struggling to catch my breath, with Uncle Trevor rubbing the knuckles of his right hand with his left.

“Get a hold of yourself, boy.” That is his advice to me whenever he thinks I look troubled. The punches are saved for those special occasions when I look absolutely forlorn. I look up at his face, so empty of all emotion. Ever the stoic, I get that from him. Only, I hesitate to express what I feel. I doubt he feels anything at all. “Quit being a pussy. Jesus! Look at yourself. You’re sobbing and slobbering like a little girl.” Uncle Trevor almost never swears at me. He doesn’t have a flair for dramatics though. I was not slobbering. The only reason I have tears in my eyes was because I had been punched in the gut only seconds ago.

I tune him out and get back to absentmindedly looking out. Uncle Trevor’s yelling scared the sparrow away. I catch phrases like “grow up” and “mature” every now and then, but I’m not really listening. He grabs my shoulder. I turn to face him, thinking he’s about to punch me again. He isn’t. He’s talking more animatedly than ever. “…feel unappreciated…need to appreciate yourself first…know your worth…”

Something behind him catches my eye and I start walking towards it. Uncle Trevor sighs and follows me. Some twenty feet from the house a dead squirrel no bigger than my fist lies limp, its tail curled. There is no blood, no visible wounds, no signs of struggle. I stand there silently with my hands in my pockets, looking down at it. Uncle Trevor kneels beside me and inspects it. “The stench is killing me. Wait here.” he says and he runs back inside. A moment or two later, he returns with an empty shoe box and a shovel. “You dig. I’ll speak?” I nod and reach out for the shovel.

“Do you want to name it, boy?”
“What’s the point?”
“Sentiment, I suppose.”
“No, I don’t want to.”

Uncle Trevor lowers the shoe box with the squirrel into the hole and I begin filling it with earth. “Don’t worry. It’s something that just happens.” he says. “I know, Uncle Trevor.” It seems as if he’s comforting himself more than me. I sit down facing the mound of dirt. “I think I’ll stay here for a while, Uncle Trevor.” I look up at him and for the briefest moment catch a frown play at the corners of his mouth. “Alright, but don’t stay out too long.”

I sit there, absolutely still, for hours. The shadows grow longer and eventually the light of the day turns redder and fades away. Uncle Trevor comes out to call me back in.
“Let’s go, buddy.”
Sunsets are always prettier than sunrises.

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