The Boy Next Door
by Ron Van Sweringen
Things are not always black and white. Sometimes they are the color of love.
The day of waiting seemed endless to Uncle Mabus and now as night fell a bonfire was built at the edge of the swamp, in the hope that those lost might see it. Uncle Mabus watched from his chair on the back porch of the cabin. He felt helpless as the orange flames lit the darkening jungle. “Oh, Lord,” the old man prayed silently, “don’t desert your children now.”
Cordella cooked him a full meal, but Uncle Mabus refused to eat any of it, accepting only a cup of tea. “It don’t look good,” he said, exhaustion and sadness reflecting in his black eyes. “It should have been my time, not theirs,” he sighed.
“The good Lord hasn’t said it’s anybody’s time yet,” Cordella replied from the kitchen door. “I’m not giving up on them, not by a long shot. Now you come on in here and lay down.”
* * *
Otilla Harrison sat in her darkened bedroom, not wanting to put the lights on. She caressed a small gold picture frame pressed to her chest and spoke softly to it, as though it were a person. “I’ve done a terrible thing,” she said, “that may cost the lives of two people. God forgive me.”
* * *
Daylight the next morning brought pouring rain. Uncle Mabus watched the storm from his bedroom window, the gray rain sending a chill through him. He understood only too well what Sheriff Rogers had said earlier that morning.
“You should prepare yourself, Mabus. I doubt we’ll ever find them. It’s been too long now and this storm flooding the swamp pretty much says it all.”
Uncle Mabus watched the black water creeping out of the jungle, claiming higher ground close to the cabin. Cordella put her hands on his shoulders as he sat on the bed. “All we can do now is pray for them, Mabus,” she said softly, fighting back the tears.
* * *
Sheriff Rogers was having a cup of coffee, poured by Otilla Harrison’s housekeeper, when Otilla came into the kitchen.
“Good morning, ma’am,” the Sheriff addressed her, standing up. It was obvious to him that Otilla Harrison had not rested well the night before. She looked tired and she was still in her housecoat.
“Have you any news, Sheriff?” she asked immediately, avoiding any pleasantries.
“No, ma’am,” was the reply. “We had to call off the search. It’s too dangerous in this storm.”
Otilla Harrison put her hand to her forehead and for a moment Sheriff Rogers thought she might cry.
“How is Mr. Mabus holding up?” she asked at length.
“Not well,” the Sheriff replied. “I’m afraid he may not be able to see this thing through.”
Otilla Harrison sat down at the kitchen table. “I am responsible,” she answered with a sigh. “The least I can do is send my doctor out to visit Mr. Mabus.”
Cordella watched the headlights through the rain as a sedan pulled into the driveway. When the driver stepped out of the automobile, she recognized him immediately. He was Doctor Harold Goodman, the rich white man’s doctor. She often saw pictures of him in the newspaper. What was he doing here? Had they found something?”
Cordella’s heart raced when he knocked at the door.
Copyright © 2012 by Ron Van Sweringen