Clockwise, p.27
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       Clockwise, p.27

           Lee Strauss
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  “Mom, I told you I would make supper, so go relax.”

  The burritos were in the oven. I was shredding cheese for nachos. Mom opened the cutlery drawer and started digging. “I’ve already set the table,” I reminded her. The weather was warm enough to eat outside, so I’d cleaned off the picnic table and put out our bright colored plastic picnic ware. I even picked some of the flowers in bloom and set them in a large jar in the middle of the table, going for a semi romantic look, because Dad was coming for dinner. Maybe something would spark between my parents.

  I slid the nachos into the oven. Mom opened the fridge then closed it. She looked a little lost.

  “Mom? Is everything okay?”

  “Oh, yeah, I’m fine. I’ll just take the drinks outside.”

  She went back to the fridge and removed the soda and juice, disappearing out the back door to the patio. I think Mom was nervous. Not in an I’m-filing-for-divorce-after-dessert nervous, but a this-is-kind-of-a-date nervous.

  Yes! That explained the new spring dress she was wearing.

  Dad arrived early. And he came with flowers.

  “Hey, Dad.” I greeted him with a squeeze.

  “Hi, sugar. How are you?” He followed me into the kitchen.

  “I’m good.”

  I opened the oven and took out the nachos. Whoa, almost burnt them.

  “How’s school?” His hands were still holding the bouquet of roses, his eyes darting around the kitchen looking for Mom.

  “Fine and she’s out back.”

  He nodded, took a breath and opened the back door. He looked kind of handsome today. And also nervous, like a schoolboy. It was cute.

  When everything was ready I called for Tim to help me take it out. Of course, he had his selective hearing on, and didn’t come until everything was already done.

  We were both stopped short to see Mom and Dad kissing. Yup, the this-is-a-date kind of kissing. Neither of us said anything. Then Mom told my dad thank you and accepted the roses.

  “Here let me help,” I said, setting the plates down. I picked up my garden flowers and dumped them out.

  “Casey, I could’ve gotten another vase,” Mom’s face blushed as she dropped her bouquet into my offered empty jar. Dad asked Tim the obligatory questions, how he was and how was school, to which Tim grunted fine and fine.

  Just before we were about to dig into a primo Mexican feast, there was a knock on the fence gate. Dad got up and opened it and an older African American gentleman, maybe in his late sixties, stepped stiffly into view. He removed his hat revealing a head of gray curly hair. He scanned our faces and zeroed in on mine.

  His knees buckled and Dad grabbed his elbow. “Sir, are you all right?”

  The man shook his head, all the while staring at me. He looked familiar. I broke out in goose bumps. My father persisted. “Is there something we can do for you?”

  The man refocused on my dad. “So, sorry. Excuse my manners. I heard voices and took the liberty to come to your back yard.” He extended his arm and shook my father’s hand. “My name is Samuel Jones.”

  “S-Samuel?” I stood and sat down and then stood and sat again. “Do you know this man, Casey?” my mother said.

  “Uh, yes, we met, uh, when my eighth grade class did community service at an old folks home?”

  Samuel added quickly, “Yes, I was visiting my mother there.”

  “Come in, Mr. Jones,” my father offered. “We were just about to eat. You can join us.”

  “Oh, I didn’t mean to interrupt a family gathering.”

  “No!” I blurted. “I mean, yes, you must stay. Please come.”

  I quickly produced another garden chair and put it beside mine.

  Samuel smiled and took it. I was giddy. Samuel was here! But why?

  My mother passed the platter of burritos around and then the nachos and tossed salad. Samuel waited until she started eating before digging in. Tim seemed happy to have someone else take the spotlight, so he wouldn’t have to talk.

  “May I ask,” my father began, “what brings you here?”

  “Actually, you do.”

  I raised my eyebrows. Samuel’s here for Dad? Not me?

  “My sister gave up a baby for adoption when she was very young.” He glanced at me, then back to my dad. “It’s a complex story.”

  No. Way. Was he really going to say what I thought he was going to say? I rubbed the goose bumps on my arms.

  “Ten years ago, she registered with the adoption agency in an effort to find her son.”

  My dad blanched a bit. Was he catching on? He said, “I’m adopted, but I think you know that. I just registered to find my birth parents after Christmas.”

  Ah, ha. So I’d gotten through to him when I encouraged him to do that.

  “Yes, and that is why I’m here. To tell you that you found her.”

  “Rosa?” I whispered.

  “Yes.” He turned back to face my dad. “My sister Rosa is your mother. She is very ill and would like to see you before she passes from this earth. If you are willing?”

  Oh. My. God! I knew there was a cosmic reason why I looped to 1961 with Samuel!

  Tim held a nacho in the air, mid bite. This news was enough to stop even him from eating. My mother grabbed my father’s hand. “Richard?”

  “Yes, of course I’ll see her.”

  “Great,” Samuel said. “We can go tomorrow afternoon, if that works for you.” Then he looked at me. “I think it would be best if Richard and your mother came alone.”

  I understood. Rosa wouldn’t get why I hadn’t aged in almost fifty years.

  “She’s too frail for large groups,” he explained to everyone else. Dad asked Samuel a bunch of questions about Rosa and the whole Jones family. I loved hearing how all their lives had panned out. Samuel had never married, Rosa did but not until she was in her late thirties and had one child, a girl. That meant Dad had a half sister to meet. Jonah and the two girls had all gone on to be university graduates, making Mama proud. She'd passed on shortly after Yolanda had graduated from Harvard. He didn’t get into the details of dad’s birth, and why Rosa gave him up. Maybe he was saving that story for Rosa to tell.

  Weird. I was almost a witness to my own father’s birth. Hmm, not sure how I felt about that.

  After the meal, I helped Mom clear the table while Dad asked Samuel more questions about his family. I had to find a way to get Samuel alone—I had my own questions. Tim had gone inside with Mom. I just had to find a way to get rid of Dad.

  “Um, Dad?” I said, “Mom needs you in the kitchen.”

  She didn’t really say that, but I thought it would be good for them to have a chance to talk alone, too, and by the way Dad jumped up to help her, I think he agreed.

  Finally, I had Samuel to myself. “It’s so great to see you again. Here. Wow.”

  “It’s good to see you, too, Cassandra. You haven’t changed a bit.” His eyes crinkled as he laughed. “It must be strange for you to see me as such an old man.”

  “The life of a time traveler is nothing but strange,” I said. “Do you still…?”

  He shook his head. “Not for nearly fifteen years now. Nature must know I’m too old for that kind of life.”

  “It’s so great to hear about Rosa and the others. So cool that we’re family. Samuel, you’re my uncle!”

  He chuckled. “Strange but true.”

  “Uncle Sam,” I said, laughing with him. His eyes widened like he'd just remembered something.

  “I have something for you.” He dug into his coat pocket and pulled out a tarnished silver cross necklace.

  “My necklace! That’s where I lost it?”

  “Rosa found it in her bedroom. She wore it for years after you left. I think it reminded her of the baby she gave away. We both knew it was yours, but I never said anything.”

  He laid it carefully in my open hands. “I found it on her dresser the last time I visited her. For some reason, I slipped it
into my pocket...”

  “Thanks for bringing it back to me, Samuel.”

  My parents brought out a tray with coffee and dessert, and we visited with Samuel until dusk. It was hard to say goodbye to Samuel when the cab arrived and he had to leave. I hugged him and promised I’d bring Nate and visit him sometime soon.


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