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To remember charlie by, p.4
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       To Remember Charlie By, p.4

           Roger D. Aycock
 
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concentration on his face that I'dseen when he was watching the stars.

  I didn't know what to say to him, thinking maybe I'd better notmention the stars. But Joey spoke first.

  "Roy," he said, without taking his eyes off his toes, "did you knowthat Doc is an awfully wise man?"

  I said I'd always thought so, but why?

  "Doc said this morning that I ought not to move any more stars," thekid said. "He says I ought to concentrate instead on learning how towalk again so I can go to Michigan and find Charlie."

  For a minute I was mad enough to brain Doc Shull if he'd been handy.Anybody that would pull a gag like that on a crippled, helplesskid....

  "Doc says that if I can do what I've been doing to the stars then itought to be easy to move my own feet," Joey said. "And he's right,Roy. So I'm not going to move any more stars. I'm going to move myfeet."

  He looked up at me with his small, solemn smile. "It took me a wholeday to learn how to move that first star, Roy, but I could do thisafter only a couple of hours. Look...."

  And he wiggled the toes on both feet.

  It's a pity things don't happen in life like they do in books, becausea first-class story could be made out of Joey Pond's knack for movingthings by looking at them. In a book Joey might have saved the worldor destroyed it, depending on which line would interest the mostreaders and bring the writer the fattest check, but of course itdidn't really turn out either way. It ended in what Doc Shull calledan anticlimax, leaving everybody happy enough except a few astronomerswho like mysteries anyway or they wouldn't be astronomers in the firstplace.

  The stars that had been moved stayed where they were, but the patternthey had started was never finished. That unfinished pattern won'tever go away, in case you've wondered about it--it's up there in thesky where you can see it any clear night--but it will never befinished because Joey Pond lost interest in it when he learned to walkagain.

  Walking was a slow business with Joey at first because his legs hadgot thin and weak--partially atrophied muscles, Doc said--and it tooktime to make them round and strong again. But in a couple of weeks hewas stumping around on crutches and after that he never went near hiswheelchair again.

  Ethel sent him to school at Sarasota by bus and before summer vacationtime came around he was playing softball and fishing in the Gulf witha gang of other kids on Sundays.

  School opened up a whole new world to Joey and he fitted himself intothe routine as neat as if he'd been doing it all his life. He learneda lot there and he forgot a lot that he'd learned for himself by beingalone. Before we realized what was happening he was just like anyother ten-year-old, full of curiosity and the devil, with no morepower to move things by staring at them than anybody else had.

  I think he actually forgot about those stars along with other thingsthat had meant so much to him when he was tied to his wheelchair andcouldn't do anything but wait and think.

  For instance, a scrubby little terrier followed him home from TwinPalms one day and Ethel let him keep it. He fed the pup and washed itand named it Dugan, and after that he never said anything more aboutgoing to Michigan to find Charlie. It was only natural, of course,because kids--normal kids--forget their pain quickly. It's a sort ofdefense mechanism, Doc says, against the disappointments of this life.

  When school opened again in the fall Ethel sold her trailer and got ajob in Tampa where Joey could walk to school instead of going by bus.When they were gone the Twin Palms trailer court was so lonesome anddead that Doc and I pulled out and went down to the Lake Okechobeecountry for the sugar cane season. We never heard from Ethel and Joeyagain.

  We've moved several times since; we're out in the San Joaquin Valleyjust now, with the celery croppers. But everywhere we go we'rereminded of them. Every time we look up at a clear night sky we seewhat Doc calls the Joey Pond Stellar Monument, which is nothing but afunny sort of pattern roughed in with a hundred or so stars of allsizes and colors.

  The body of it is so sketchy that you'd never make out what it'ssupposed to be unless you knew already what you were looking for. Tous the head of a dog is fairly plain. If you know enough to fill inthe gaps you can see it was meant to be a big shaggy dog with only oneeye.

  Doc says that footloose migratories like him and me forget oldassociations as quick as kids do--and for the same good reason--so I'mnot especially interested now in where Ethel and Joey Pond are or howthey're doing. But there's one thing I'll always wonder about, nowthat there's no way of ever knowing for sure.

  I wish I'd asked Joey or Ethel, before they moved away, how Charlielost that other eye.

  * * * * *

 
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