If God Were Watching

(What follows is an excerpt from my novel The Summer or ‘62.)

I was alone. I didn’t know for how long, but I think it was for some time. 

I went back to my room and leafed through volume 'S' of the World Book Encyclopedia. I was nearing the end of my quest to read the entire set of encyclopedias. I read about Spain. There was an aerial picture of a bull fighting arena in Cadiz. I imagined walking the streets of Cadiz. I heard music and polite people greeting me. That is where my royal Spanish parents lived who lost me at birth and I was taken to the United States by anti-Franco sympathizers for safety sake. 

I was not Rich Larson, but Juan Gomez. My room began to warm from the sun and no breeze was coming through the window. I decided to go to a place that was always cool and refreshing, a place to relax and dream - the meadow.

The meadow was a mile from our farm. About a hundred sheep grazed there in serenity. It was bordered on the west by interstate seventy-five, on the south by old state route twenty-five, to the north by State Road, and to the south by a farm. The meadow was sixty acres of low laying pasture good only for grazing. A stream split the meadow in half. Two creeks converged just before old state route twenty-five to form one and then passed under a bridge and into the meadow. The water moves fast until mid summer, then it slows to a trickle. The stream pours over rocks and lazily winds through the meadow. Two willows about a third of the way into the meadow forms an arch over the steam. It was cool there. It was a place where troubles are discharged and diluted into the waters and carried into a river and far away. Beneath the willows was shade. I once stayed there to shelter myself from the rain. One time I lay there and went to sleep. The willow branches hung so low they were like a drape that hid you from the rest of the world. On the hottest day it was cool beneath its shade. 

The sheep kept the grass trim like a manicured lawn of a royal estate. I thought of it as a kingdom and I the sovereign. I was a good king and it was a model land. There was not one inch of that meadow that needed change or improvement. It was perfect. Sheep have a way of gracing the landscape, they give it balance, completeness, and an acuity of security. Sheep can’t dwell in danger.

Beneath the willow I lay with my head resting against the trunk musing the activities of the previous evening. A cool breeze excited the small willow leaves and they shimmered and tinkled like tiny wind chimes. Flowing water from the stream splattered and trickled over smooth speckled rocks near my feet. A twig navigated the small rapids and floated hurriedly away until it lodged against a small patch of grass that stood alone like an island in the middle stream. In the distance was the occasional soothing bleat of gentle restful sheep. 

How will my Dad redeem himself? Will it be kind words? Will it be a gift? Never with an apology - never. Suddenly it came to me, two men in my life, one with the inability to say “Thank you” and the other with the inability to say “I’m sorry.” If I come to be known for any extraordinary measure in my life it will be for nothing if I am not known for saying “Thank you” and “I’m sorry.” But what about now? 

A cord has been severed - a sacred trust broken. How can I make sense of the dichotomy of thought in my mind. I know the man really loves me, but how can he act in such a shameful and repulsive manner? 

Is it evil? Even evil men have a huge capacity for compassion and love. 

Is it insanity? If so it can’t be helped, it is a disease of the mind. 

One thing is for certain, it is not normal. It is destructive. 

Why can’t he see what he is doing to Mom and me and change or just go away? 

I looked up through the maze of branches and caught an occasional peek of the sky as the breezes parted the tiny slivers of willow leaves. Clouds hypnotically floated by to places beyond the horizon. Can God see me? Is he looking down as I am looking up? Does he see my pain and sorrow.

“Dear God please help me,” I muttered and fell asleep.