With all good intentions, I was going to ring Jack today to see what, if anything, he could accomplish with regards to David. First, I would have a job on my hands convincing him that I hadn't gone crazy. I was finding it hard enough convincing myself of that fact.
David came downstairs a forlorn figure. He looked around to see who was present, then came and sat at the table staring at me so passively. "You sleep well, son?" No answer. Okay I'll try another question. "You hungry?" Still no reply. "David, I know I didn't tell you what you wanted to hear, but if I lied to you that would only be worse."
"I know, I'm sorry, Sir."
"Son, believe me, this one is going to be a tough one to unravel. When we've had breakfast I'm going to ring Jack, my lawyer, and see what he can come up with, okay?"
"David, Jack's a good man. If there's a way he'll find it. Now come on, let's eat. My belly thinks my throat's been cut." That earned me at least a smile. Mary was about to dish up breakfast as we walked into the kitchen.
"Milk or juice?"
After I put on ten pounds, I left the kitchen to phone Jack. "Jack, I'm in need of your divine intervention."
"Have you no soul? Can you come to my house today?... No, not the Hartman place.... Good, because I have two problems and that I need your help to sort out.... If I told you, you wouldn't believe me.... An hour? That would be great, bye." I had the eyes of a certain boy going straight into my head. "One hour," he said." The looks he was giving me were heartbreaking.
"Okay, what was so important that you couldn't tell me on the phone?"
"It's nice to see you too. Mary, bring Jack a beer, please." I have to admit those looks I keep getting were beginning to annoy me. "Okay, here's the first problem. We had a bad storm on the island a few days ago."
"You couldn't tell me that on the phone?"
"Just wait, okay? No one else had the storm, just the Hartman island."
"Mary has he been drinking the Scotch?"
"Jack, shut up. The storm hit so fast there was no time to think. There were trees uprooted, debris floating everywhere you looked. A battleground is the only way to describe it. The house is destroyed. Tony saw what was left of the house, but the island was left perfect. It was as if someone had come and cleaned up the damage that had been done." Jack was looking at me funny, but so would I if he was telling me the story. "After that storm I'm not going back there, I want you to root out some buyers. I'm not sure if I would feel safe there after what happened."
"You lost me with what you said about the storm. Finding buyers will be easy after that."
"I'll take you to see the damage yourself, we can go this afternoon if you like. Okay. Fine. If you don't understand the first thing, then I'm lost as to how to convince you of the second one."
"Forget the beer - I think I need the scotch! And you say there's worse to come? God, I'm going to need a shrink."
"Here goes, I've now got.... David, come in here, please." Jack looked at the boy as he walked out onto the porch. I couldn't gauge his reaction. "Jack, meet David Hartman." Jack went white; I thought he was going to have a heart attack.
"David Hartman?" Silence. "The Son of Edward Hartman?" Just then the phone rang. A couple of seconds Mary came outside.
"Tony Rourke's on the phone."
What in blue blazes does he want? "Hi, Tony, what can I do for you?... Yes.... Yes.... Okay. An hour, bye."
"That was Tony, you know the builder. Anyway, he says he has something to show me."
"Look I need a strong drink. A scotch, Mary, please." David walked over and sat on the chair beside me.
"I'm sorry, Sir, I didn't mean to cause you any trouble." A tear ran down his cheek and onto his lap.
"David, apologise only for what you've done, not what other people have created. You've done nothing to apologise for. Jack's just his grumpy old self, me I'm normal." Then I laughed. I held David for a little, while he was upset.
When Tony walked onto the porch, I repeated what Jack had said earlier, asking what was so important that he couldn't tell me over the phone.
"Since I saw David on the island something kept gnawing away at me, wouldn't let me settle, then last night it came to me." He handed me a picture. I didn't need a second look.
"David?" The boy looked up at me in confusion, then looking at the picture yelled.
"That's MOTHER! My mother. AND THAT EVIL MAN IS MY FATHER.... WAS MY FATHER...." David was angry - I mean really angry.
"David, David!" He looked up, then in what seemed the same second put his head down. "Jack, this will explain the second thing I wanted you to sort," I said, handing Jack the picture. He sat there looking at it, at David, then at the picture again.
"I don't need to be a genius to know who's in this picture. Let me get this right? We have an island that was destroyed by a storm, or at least your house was, a storm that was isolated to just your island? Am I right so far?" I looked at him, giving a quick glance towards David. "Okay," he nodded. "Now, what appears to be the son of the said Edward Hartman has been reincarnated a century later? You need God himself for this one my friend."
Mary in the meantime came strolling in, tray in hand, offering tea and coffee. The silence was deafening until she said, "Things can't be that bad." At that, David got up and ran out toward the ocean. Mary looked at everyone on the porch, then went to follow David.
"No, Mary, leave him, he needs some space alone."
The conversation on the porch was at best strained. Both of my guests, as well as Mary, were all missing the point. The island whether kept or sold was insured, so that wasn't an issue. A life was at stake, the life of a very fragile, young boy. As for the island being insured, as circumstances were, maybe a claim would not be the best idea." As the conversation drifted between the three of them, I went to find a very lost and very confused young child.
After some ten minutes, I found him sitting down in an upright fetal position just above the shoreline. I did very little else but walk over to him. He jumped up and wrapped his arms around me - one frightened and confused little boy. I held him as tight as I dare, comforting him with every breath. A ten year old boy should not have to deal with something like this. I looked up to the heavens. God, Edward Hartman has a lot to answer for. Father would be the last word you would call him, politeness was getting the better of me.
"David, son, I know this is hard, but you have to have faith; the same faith that kept you going all those years waiting for your time; the exact same faith that brought you here. David, you are a strong boy. Even in life, times will be difficult and not go according to plan. Those times you need to face the problem head on. No one has given up on you, so don't give up on yourself."
There was no eye contact, but he seemed to take what I'd said at face value. I crouched down and held him. He wrapped his arms around me and mumbled some words, then laid his head on my shoulder. This was getting too much. Why would a so called God leave a child he cared about in this state?
Returning to the porch, all were drinking whatever they had in front of them. "I'm still not sure how this will work out, but I get the distinct feeling that we are not alone in this." I waited till all the muttering had stopped. "I don't pretend to have all the answers here, but something happened that was planned. An island not known for irregular storms ends up with a tsunami in its back yard. The only damage was to the house and surroundings. We were there.... that island was destroyed. Then a builder comes all the way to the island to tell me about a gardener. That I don't buy. Tony, why did you really come to the island?"
"A beacon, a distress signal. I didn't know from where, but I followed it to your island."
"Tony, I'm glad you did, but at the time it never even entered my mind." Now even Jack was sitting up and taking notice. "David told me who he was, at first I didn't believe it. It's still hard to believe." I looked at David to be sure he knew what I was saying - no reaction, so I continued, "Now with the picture, I know David is who he says he is." David made no effort to hide his smile and relief. "So, either I'm going insane, and if I am I hope you lot will come with me, or this is the work of a higher being. I'm not insane, but I'm not sure I won't end up there. So I hope the higher being can hear this and has a plan." Indeed he was listening. A plan conceived from deception was something a higher being should not be involved in. But as so many times it happens, things disappear and re-appear when you least expect them.
"Why don't you all stay for dinner. I have plenty of spare rooms. It's been a long time since this house saw a good time. And, Jack, you'll be okay, I'll supply the beers." Which got Jack pouting, then smiling. The evening was noisy with laughter and raised spirits - that being the kind you drink. Even David had, what for him would have been a long time, a good time with laughter and giggles, of which I am sure he'd never experienced before. Children are a reckoning to be experienced, not disposed of. I have no doubt that further to my previous and earlier thoughts, the man responsible for this cruelty will never see or hear laughter again.
The higher being had indeed already deposed of the man responsible. The man will never know peace again - his wealth frittered away by others. What should have been his prized possession would not stand as a remembrance to the man. Minds will over time heal from his destruction.
The following morning we saw nothing of David till near lunch. "Well, good morning, sleepy head. I know you didn't drink beer last night, so why the hangover?" He came over and sat on my lap with a smile that would brighten anyone's day.
"Sir, would it be wrong if I wished that you had been my father?"
"I'm not sure I deserve that honour, son. But no, it wouldn't be wrong. I don't know of any man that would be sorry to be a father to one so brave." Again his smile brightened the day. "You know we're going to have to get you into the twentieth century?" His look of confusion was priceless. "Now they don't say father, they say dad." The confusion eased, but you could still see a touch of doubt.
"Your dad was a stupid man. What he thought would bring him happiness didn't. What he didn't realise was he had it already and was just too blind to see it."
"Lunch will be ready in about half an hour. The others are drinking coffee inside, you want tea out here?" Mary asked.
"What do you think, sport?"
"Mary, if you please."
"Err, Mary," he said reluctantly.
"Tea for two, or was that tea for one and soda for my little friend." His smile said more than words.
Lunch was basically a snack; sandwiches and chips with salad. Conversation was more of what was spoken the previous evening. All went away promising to try and come up with some ideas.
Dinner was going to be my favourite. Mary had been preparing it from early morning - Lobby - the meal takes time to cook, but it's a hearty meal.
That evening saw David, Mary, and more-so myself, demolish what was more-or-less just a stew to anyone else. However much Mary prepared would now have to be doubled in the future. It seemed we had a new lobby gobbler to add to the fold.
I gave instructions on how to prepare such a meal to Mary some years ago, which I have to admit got me banned from the kitchen on more than one occasion.
"Alright, young man, what do you say we all take a walk? How about we take a walk to the cove and get some fresh air?"
"Can we go swimming?"
"Well, you can. You'd better go get your trunks. And don't forget to get a towel from the airing cupboard."
"Yes, Sir," His excitement obvious.
After what seemed an eternity, "Are you making your will up there?" He came down the stairs, entering the dining room looking so sad it hurt. "Come here and tell me what's made you so sad."
"Sir, I would gladly give my life for you."
"David, please don't keep saying that. Even if you gave me your life I wouldn't take it.
"You wouldn't?" Upset was written all over his face.
"I wouldn't take it because I prefer you to live it. A live person is better, don't you think?"
"What did I do to get such happiness?"
"You didn't do anything except to be who you are - yourself!"
He looked up at Mary as if for confirmation, "Thank you, Sir."
"Now if you don't hurry up, I'm going to murder you," I said with my hands in front of me as if ready to chase him. He ran squealing towards the beach.
"You're good for that boy. My earlier thought of you finding a good woman was on the mark." A look of triumph crossed her face.
"Oh, please, let's not go back to that again." With a look of one part smile, three parts disgust. I quickly needed to change where this conversation was going... again.
"If you don't get out of there you're going to look like a prune." He had been in the water for close to two hours. David came up with a not so happy expression. "Mary, you know, thinking about it, we could get him marinated while he's like that, he could be in the oven by tomorrow and on the table in a couple of hours. I wonder what 'boy' tastes like?" Giving him an evil grin. "You know I wouldn't really eat you.... I mean after a hundred years, you'd be off." With that, he stuck his tongue out and went back to the water. Kids learn quick.
Looking back at Mary, I asked if she had come up with any solution to the not so small problem, expecting nothing more than a no, which is what I got. I hope to God 'Him' up there has some ideas.
Later, John tapped on the door to David's room. David looked at John, then returned his gaze to the ocean. "Sir, could my father come here and take me back?"
"That would be your real father? Son, if your God has already seen what your father was doing to you and your friends who worked on the island, then no, your father will be where he deserves to be." As I moved to the edge of the bed, David sat on the bed leaning up against the headboard.
"What has got you worked up enough to worry about your father?"
"Living on the island was the only thing I knew. The island was my home. I never saw what you see. The food houses, eating places that readied your food, moving on wheels with no horses, my father bound me to the island. I was told stories by those who lived there about what was beyond the sea. My father would refuse to even let me go to the water. My life became so unhappy I stayed in my room or went to the balcony to look out over the ocean." His face looked empty, his expression changed to anxiety, his eyes began to water. It was like silence echoed from within. I moved farther up the side of the bed all the time trying to soothe what was a near broken child. His emotions must have been tightening to knots inside as he thought of his demise in what should have been his sanctuary. Slowly he seemed to gain the confidence to continue.
"On the island it was my second Father and me. My earthly father was in my thoughts only to feel the shame of what he'd done to the people who lived there. Sir, while I was alone, sometimes I would feel good, sometimes even bad, sometimes feeling that whatever kept me there would finally end. I heard you say that maybe my father didn't want you on the island and did what he did to make you leave. Is he is going to want me back now? Sir, I'm scared."
"Son, your father can never hurt you again. I promise you that your God would never let that happen. Whatever else befalls you, your father will never have any say." I lifted him up and sat him on my lap; comfort was what was needed now. His heartbeat was light as he leaned in to take all the safety and comfort given. I felt his body tremble as I gently laid his head against me.
"I know that wherever your future lies it will be happy. I don't know what fate has planned, but it seems I have been given the task to make that happen." With that he gripped tighter, his tears giving dampness to my clothes. It's sometimes easy to forget that this is a child, a child who has had to be a grown up before and after his time.
Looking up to the heavens without a sound I spoke to the man who had given this boy a second life, only to walk away and leave him within the depths of despair.
The man listened to the words spoken. He indeed had given the boy what he so longingly wanted.... no, needed. David after all was a child of tender years, and he had failed to keep him under his wing. He would now have to right that wrong to give the boy some peace.