It had been hotter than heck and sticky-muggy all day long and the mosquitoes had declared all-out war on every exposed part of Josh’s body. Whack! he slapped his thigh and another bug met his maker, but the mosquitoes were winning, no contest. He was covered with bites and scratching like crazy.
He’d been sitting on the porch for most of the day, with his eyes glued to the spot where the road met the horizon, miles away, before it dipped down the other side of the hill out of sight. Any minute, his father’s old Ford truck was sure to appear like a brown speck at the top of the hill, carrying its precious cargo of his mother and brand-new baby brother.
It had been a week since his mother had felt the pains in her stomach and had to go to the hospital in Leroy. It was over fifty miles away, but it was the closest one to their farm. When his father had first come back from the hospital, he had been as proud as a peacock and crowing like a rooster at having a new son. His mother had had to stay in the hospital an extra day or two. Then came a phone call from the doctor that had changed everything. His father’s mood turned foul, and his drinking became so heavy some nights, he didn’t even come home. That part didn’t bother Josh because he was ten years old and could take care of himself. He always got most of the chores done before going to school in the morning, but he was still worried sick. There was something terribly wrong with his brother. He wasn’t sure what it was, but there was something. His mother’s phone calls were received by his father with indifferent grunts or all-out, red-faced anger.
When they had first heard about his mother’s pregnancy, Josh had been the only one in the family who had been happy at the prospect of a new brother or sister. His mother had tried not to seem depressed, but he could tell she was very unhappy, and his father had snarled every time the subject came up. When the baby was born, everything had miraculously changed, but only for a couple of days, until the telephone call came, and things were now worse than ever.
He wished he were grown up so he could take his mother and brother far away to live in a beautiful city where they would be safe forever from this crazy man who was his father.
Today, he had finished the chores bright and early and had begun his vigil. His father had left the night before and they all should have been home long ago. New apprehension hit Josh in the stomach. Would his whole life be like this—uncertainty and fear and nowhere to run? In his anxiety and restlessness, he picked up his basketball and shot baskets through the hoop over the garage.
He heard the truck before he saw it. He dropped his basketball and ran out to the road to wait, his heart beating like crazy. His father turned the truck up the gravel driveway and Josh ran alongside, grinning and waving to his beautiful, smiling mother. His hopes rose. If she was smiling, then everything must be alright, but he would feel better when he saw for himself. He helped his mother out of the truck and she gave him a hug while still holding the baby. He was wrapped in a fluffy white blanket and held close to her chest. She drew the blanket aside and held the baby down to let Josh take a peek.
“Meet your little brother, Scott, honey,” she said softly.
The tinge of sadness in her voice had to be in his imagination because when he looked into the smooth sweet face of Scott Sibley, all he saw was a perfect, healthy little boy. He breathed a sigh of relief and held out his arms so he could carry his brother inside.
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