For as long as I can remember I’ve been looking for my family. All of us had been looking; That was what we did. Mom and Dad and the twins, Molly and Rosie and me, we were wanderers and seekers. And then one day, it was just me looking.
It was a fateful day in 2045 when earthquakes and firestorms rocked planet earth, and the home I had been born into was destroyed forever. I was just five years old and playing in the water channel behind our boat. The boat had been grounded when the tide went out so far that day, and was sitting crookedly on the sand. My mother was struggling to cook supper for us- the five kids and dad, walking sideways on the deck, not to slip, cursing and complaining that her stove would not light.
First, the ground shivered, like a big earthmover was rolling nearby, and then, from nowhere a huge wave, coming towards us all in a minute. Just as dad taught me, I dived into the very bottom of the wave, as hard as I could, and got pushed and tumbled like a piece of seaweed, with a thousand tons of water on top of me, and throwing me about. I passed out, I guess, because I don’t remember how I got to the hospital. All I could think of was Mom and my sisters: where were they? And where was dad?
When the burial happened, I don’t know. But all of them had died they told me, except me. We had been on our way home, and I was to enter school. Dad had been preparing me with all the things I would need to know to be a success in boy’s school. How to stand up to a bully, How to share your lunch without going hungry, how to jump into ball rooms and weightless rings…. Mom was the one who had taught me about letters and numbers, and I was pretty good at sounds too.
When I first met Jack, he was just a Marine who’d found me, clinging to a treetop, he’d said. I clung for three days before his helicopter spotted my watch lens glinting in the sun. Grandpa Sean had given me that for my fifth birthday just a few weeks ago. I didn’t know how to tell time anyway, so it didn’t matter that it didn’t work anymore. Bet Grandpa would be happy if he knew he’d saved my life with that watch.
Grandpa is dead too, they told me. Everyone on Elias Island perished in the Tsunami, so our little family is all gone. All except me. I’ll need to find my big family, return to the Rafael where we all began, and remember the quest my father’s great great grandfather entrusted him with.
Jack says he’ll always be my family, no matter where I go, and I’m glad about that. He kept coming back to the hospital after he dropped me off there, and he’d read me stories, and tell me about his girl back in the states. He had a little girl, he said. Pretty as a picture, and damn headstrong. That’s what he said about her. He is a good guy even though he cusses a lot.
Now, I’m living in Santa Ana National Rescue Orphanage, back on the mainland. I’m far from the ocean that I grew up on, deep into the desert, and Jack has to travel two days from his post in Japan to come see me.
Soon I’ll be twelve and I know it’s not going to be cool to have an old guy visiting me all the time, but I can’t lose Jack. He’s like a bad smell; you get used to it after a while.
Jack says when I’m eighteen, I can leave this place. I’m not sure I can wait. I need to find my family, and my family needs me, I know. The rest of our family out there who lost touch, who forgot how to share, how to love, and how to take care of our home, the earth. Jack says, that’s all well and good, but right now, they’re not gonna listen to a pipsqueak kid who can’t even do algebra. Ok. So I study my algebra and physics, and someday…
“True,” he says, “You’re a card and a half. I’m sure your middle name is B!” That’s funny because then my name would be True B. Lievre. Anyway, he thinks it’s funny. Nobody believes anything nowadays, but I remember the stories my daddy told me, and I know: he was True too.
Truth: my inner heart guides me and draws me on, like a homing pigeon, always to the source. I cannot be but to be who I am, and who I am is Truth, for all to see. My inner heart replicates the cellular memory handed on to me by my dearly beloved ancestors who passed on before me. I will always hunger for that space, that place, that fullness, that overflows into brotherhood, cooperation, and consensus seeking, to a world with wisdom and delight, deep caring, and commitment.
Truth be Told?u>?
Being thirteen sucks like a straw. You can’t get enough of anything to be satisfied, just enough to make you want to keep being a sucker! “Truman”, Artie Miller says to me, “Why are you so quiet all the time? It’s time to spill the beans about your family- we’ve all told the truth about how they weren’t perfect, how they betrayed us. You’re the only one who won’t talk about your parents. What’s up with that? Give it up and move on.” He says.
“Don’t remember my parents,” I lie. “They didn’t give up on me. They’re dead”
I do remember though. I remember it all. I just ain’t tellin. Not yet.
Our lives here at Santa Ana National Rescue Orphanage are ruled by screen time. We watch the TV screens the computer screens, the monitors, the daily schedule screens, the learning objectives screen, the medical screen, the social networking screen, the game screen. When we comply we earn screen time, and screen time is what everyone here wants.
I wish I could say I’m the only one who could do without the screens, but I can’t, any more than the rest of them. We’re brought up on screens, and we’re mightily short tempered if our screen time is overruled.
How does it get overruled? Artie is a case in point:
Artie Miller has reddish hair, a string of freckles dancing all over his face, and a temper like a tempest, the slightest sideways look, the smallest cuff on the head, shove off the bench, trip during a soccer ball game, fall from his skateboard, or even just a broken pencil; Artie explodes.
“That’s it Artie, you’re off for the day.” says the Matron, Ms. Keel. So Artie goes to the garden plot and to the cook house, sometimes he helps with the cooking, sometimes he just shovels dirt, sometimes he’s so mad he runs out to the edge and just sits. He can’t get back to screen time without doing some kind of work, so he’s back to the garden or the cook house soon enough, I guess.
When I lose screen time, I like doing the extra cleaning duty, myself. Something about the scrub brush and the soap bubbles, it calms me down. I breathe in the odours of the soap, and it makes me kind of queasy and a little dizzy, and I like that.
My great great grandmother was a soapmaker, and I like to think of her when I clean, even though I never knew her at all. I know she had scars up and down her arms from the lye, and my dad always told me she was brave, very brave. The soap here is strong, like her, and washing walls and around toilets the brown scum disappears from the place.
I like to imagine it the way it was before the carbon fired power, when things stayed clean. I like to think about stuff like that.
One day, Artie says to me, “I’m ready to leave this place, how bout you?”
“Well,” I say, “No way to do it till we’re eighteen, Artie. That’s what Jack says.”
“Well,” says Artie, “I ain’t waitin. You wanna come along for the ride?”
I can’t tell if he’s kidding me, or not, so I play along. “Okay Artie, and how are we gonna eat out there? We’ll starve to death.”
“I’ve got a stash. I’m not stupid am I? So do ya wanna come or what?”
I tell him I need to see his stash, and we arrange to meet out by the fence at midnight. He says, “Okay, but bring your headlamp, a sealed bottle of bleach and some soap.”
So, I bring the soap and my headlamp, a few photos and my stell phone. I’m not taking a chance that Artie might be gapping me, and I want to call in the violation, if it happens.
Wow am I surprised. He’s a whiz. He’s got alfalfa seeds and sprouters, twenty two vacuum packed nut and raison packs, and a hundred and fifty packs of microwave popcorn and poprice. And it all fits in his backpack like a glove. He says I need to get the bleach so we can have safe water, and we’re set for the trek to Vegas. Along with the soap. He hates to be grimy, and he says: “Grimy kids get arrested.”
My grandmother whispers to me, “Teach him the pulse.”
My grandfather whispers to me “Help him to stay awake.”
My great grandmother whispers to me “Wash your food.”
My great Grandfather reminds me how to stay warm, and to share my knowledge with Artie.
My great great Grandmother reminds me to bring string and fuller’s earth.
My great great Grandfather reminds me to bring a knife.
My great great great Grandmother says, “Sing him the lullaby, and gather your energy in darkness.”
We leave at midnight, shortly after the lights on the compound switch to nitrogen, and our black clothes will hide us.
The elation of adventure is shortened with the sadness at leaving my comfortable screens, and the matrons and kids I’ve grown fond of. I know I won’t ever see them again, or not for many years, as our leaving is forbidden. I know that I can’t even go see Jack; he’s going to return me to the Orphanage- he brought me here in the first place, after all.
So, it’s off to Vegas and the desert, a long trek, but thank heaven for Roller blades.
Artie had dug a trench under the fence, which we scuttled through on our backs, pushing our packs in front of us. When we got to the road, it was joy, and we strapped on our skates for the ride till morning.
When the sun began to rise, my legs were grateful for a pause, and we watched the majesty of fire in the sky as if for the first time, and it was the first time without frames on the picture!
The sun is immediately warm, and we hide under the blanket to dig our trench by the roadside for sleeping all day. I sing the lullaby of my grandmothers: Na Na, Na Na Na Na, Na Na Na, Na Na. On and on until the words drop off my lips and eyes fall closed to dream.
I dream of my grandmothers and grandfathers..
We are on the way.