[Continued from My New World – A Short Story – Part Two]
“What are you laughing at, boy ? ” His voice startled me. I ’d expected a squeaky, tired voice, but instead it was rather deep and I remember there was a youthfulness about it.
“At you,” I answered him in my newly acquired, “ don’t care” attitude. Soon as I said it, I’d have given anything to take it back. For some reason, I didn’t want to hurt this old man.
“Glad to see ya don’t scare too easy,” he drawled back in a deadpan look I couldn’t have ever managed.
My true laugh poured out after that answer. I surprised myself. It was the first good laugh I had had in three days. His “don’t care” attitude was twice that of mine. He wasn’t aware I was Mc Rastogi; nor did he care. His eyes were so bright and alive, I felt he saw right through me.
“Where’s your home, boy? I figure you don’t like it here huh?” He peered at me through the smoke.
He continued puffing, totally unconcerned. When I stopped talking, I felt uneasy and a little foolish. His look assured me not to be. He got up and in his lazy way, sauntered about three feet from me.
Turning, he said, “Meet me at the gate, half-past six in the morning.”
I wasn’t sure if his eyes twinkled or not. He was gone. It was a sort of command; it was more like a challenge.
I stood there shivering in the early morning dampness. It hadn’t been hard to get awake. My curiosity was whelming up inside of me till it almost hurt.
I had crept out o f the cabin quicker than a mouse. Was mighty sly of me, I thought, to leave my trousers and socks on the night before.
Rustam wasn’t anywhere in sight. The counselor’s clock said six-fifteen when I tiptoed past his bunk. So I climbed up on the top of the gate post and perched waiting.
The smoky white mist was beginning to rise and fade. The recently risen sun was throwing rays of pink and blue across the sky. A sleeping world was waking. Birds of all sizes were happily welcoming the sun light. Rabbits and tiny squirrels darted here and there, investigating the breakfast possibilities.
I felt like an invisible intruder, sitting in on the animal world, unobserved.
I watched a beauty of a bright red and black bird glide over to a nearby tree. Two things happened right then. I saw a nest tucked snugly among a leafy branch of that tree with a sign beneath it, “NURSERY, BABIES SLEEPING.” I laughed to myself. One of the boys at the camp must have tied it there.
The other thing, I realized what I was doing. The very thing I’d been fighting, I was enjoying. A day ago, I would have mocked at the ridiculous sign on the nest of baby birds, and jeered at anyone sitting there as I was.
Busily watching one thing after another, trying not to miss anything around me, I hadn’t noticed Rustam standing a short distance away. I believe it was a forced cough that warned me of his presence. I must have been alone at least an hour.
The look between us was one of understanding. Somehow I knew he hadn’t planned to get there at “ half past six,” and he knew from watching me, his scheme had worked.
[Continued - My New World-A Short Story - Part Four]