** I wrote this for my comp class and would really like some constructive criticism on it**
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All was still and quiet. The only sounds heard were the ticking of a clock and the occasional yawn of the yellow dog lying by my feet. I was stretched out lazily on the couch, not sleeping or watching television, just staring at the ceiling, daydreaming. I do not remember what I was thinking about; most likely my thoughts flitted through my head without reason or particular order. Perhaps I would pause to contemplate a particular memory, but then let it loose back into my tumbling thought process.
I was doing nothing, pet sitting at my neighbor’s house. I was not bored, instead I was satisfied to just sit and be, content to exist. It was a lazy contentedness, untroubled by the worries of other human beings. I was startled when the telephone rang, a garish sound, unwelcome and intruding upon my quiet sanctuary.
Groaning, I reached across and picked up the phone. It was a cordless model, different from the one at home, and I fumbled to find the button that would answer it. On the other end was my mother, telling me to come across the street. She gave no explanation. I sighed and put on my shoes and tried to remember where I had put the key the night before. I found it, locked the door behind me and went home.
The door was open and a sense of apprehension came over me as I entered my house. My mother was standing in the dining room, and looked at me strangely as I came in.
“Sit down, honey. I need to tell you something.”
My sense of dread increased as I complied. Sitting in one of the old wooden chairs, I looked up at her, my face questioning, not saying anything. I was not aware of anything around me. I did not see or hear anything else going on around me, only saw and heard my mother.
“There’s been an accident,” she said quietly. “Jon McClerren was in a car accident last night.”
I remember my breath catching in my throat and I managed to choke out, “Is he ok?” I knew he was ok, that was the only thing that would make sense. He had to be ok, because anything else wouldn’t be real.
She looked away. In a voice that seemed unearthly, words came from her mouth that I will never forget.
I have known the McClerrens all my life. Jon and my brother Jonathan played baseball together since they were five years old. Jon had an older brother and a younger sister who was my age, named Holly. She was mentally disabled with Angelman’s Disorder, a condition that left her unable to speak or walk. She had the mentality of a one year old, and was only capable of crawling about, laughing at everything.
When I was about twelve, I started babysitting for Holly while her parents were at work. It was rather like taking care of an oversized baby. I fed her, changed her, and brushed her hair. Sometimes Jon would come home from football or baseball practice and I would be there, watching Holly. We could not leave her alone so he could take me home, so I would wait for one of his parents to come back home or for someone from my house to come get me.
During these waiting periods, we would talk. We covered the usual mundane topics: weather, sports, music, and politics. My favorite conversations were about religion. We were both Christians, strong in our faith. However, Jon was the strongest Christian I have ever known. He was so sure about life, so good to everyone around him. I do not think he could ever hurt anyone, because he did not seem to have the capacity to do so. If I was ever questioning or doubting anything, he had a way of talking to me that seemed to make everything clear. We discussed everything and I thought of him as my mentor.
Over the next few years, we became increasingly fonder of each other. Oftentimes, he would be the one to pick me up to go baby-sit. Eventually I realized that I was falling in love with him, and though I was never certain about this, I think he felt the same way about me.
The night he died, the night before my mother spoke those illicit words to me, I had been thinking about him. I was lying awake on my neighbor’s couch, staring at the ceiling. I remember telling myself that the next time I saw him I would tell him how I felt about him. I never got the chance.
The words pounded in my head and I felt myself fall to the ground. I heard a scream from my mouth, felt my body convulse with sobs. These sounds were sharp in contrast to the stillness I had experienced only a few moments before. The only person I had ever loved was gone. I saw my brother in the living room, crying. He had just lost his best friend.
When I composed myself, I tried to call my karate teacher, to let him know that I would not be able to attend the special training planned for that weekend. Again, I fumbled with the buttons, but this time it was on a telephone I knew well. I became so choked up over the phone that he could not understand me and I had to give the phone to my father, so he could explain for me.
Later that day we attended a prayer circle at the McClerren’s church. The faces of the kids in his youth group told me something I already knew, that everyone loved him. We found out that the accident was not exactly a car accident. Jon had been at a get-together, celebrating that they would be seniors next year. The house he was at sat next to a steep ravine. Jon was moving his truck so a parent could pick up his kid, and it slipped down the ravine. No one knows if he was trying to get in or out of the truck as it slid, but he was crushed between the door and a tree. It was a freak accident, if he had been only one inch to his left or right, he would have lived. Instead, he died instantly.
Afterwards we went to the McClerren’s house. I saw Jon’s mother, who had just arrived back home. She had been out of town when she heard the news. I hugged her and with my head buried in her shoulder I whispered, “I wish it had been me instead.”
“Don’t ever say that. Don’t you ever say that,” she said with a fierce shake of my shoulders. Then she broke down in tears while we embraced each other.
The visitation was unreal. Jon had had a positive effect on so many lives. They had to open another room at the funeral parlor, just so people could form a line in order to pay their respects. The line still went into the hallway and out the door. I left early so I could go and keep an eye on Holly. I do not know if she was even aware of what had just occurred, but she did seem more subdued than usual.
My sister volunteered to watch Holly the next day, so I could attend the funeral. The day was cold, with a steady drizzle of colder rain. The service was packed with people. Friends of Jon came up and related stories they remembered about him. Most were funny, because Jon was a funny person, full of life. Later, as we stood around the gravesite under our umbrellas, I looked up at my father. He was crying. In my entire life, I have never seen my father cry. Still, losing Jon must have been like losing a son. My father and Jon’s father had been the boy’s baseball coaches since they started playing all those years ago. The baseball team stood together, in a kind of huddle around the casket and briefly touched it, a last goodbye.
People say that time heals everything, but they are only partially true. More often than not, it does not hurt when I think of Jon, but there is a tiny scar on my heart that no amount of time will be able to smooth over. It hurts the most when I am at his house, watching Holly, and I have to walk past his empty room, or when I see his old baseball jersey hanging in his parent’s bedroom.
There are times too, when I think of him and smile. When I watch baseball and see someone make a great play, I think of him and how he would have loved to see it. Sometimes I dream about him, I see his smiling face, and I know that his memory keeps guiding me in the right direction. He is still my mentor.
I've been trying to change my avatar for four years...