The prompt this week was to write a story about a character(s) life-changing event and include the following words: December, blizzard, secret, clown, and doughnut. The genre was open and the word limit was 1,500 words. Please enjoy.
“I’ve got a secret, Mr. Tommy.”
Mikey resumed sweeping the floor behind the bar. Tom Ellison had inherited the bar and restaurant five years ago when the previous owner was diagnosed with a terminal illness he’d never heard of. No telethon for some, he thought, and no celebrity donating millions to find a cure. Jack Gennaro had been a great boss and gave Tom his start. He had taught Tom everything he knew about running a business and how to make every drink known to man. When Jack died, the Mrs. told Tom the bar belonged to him, lock, stock and barrel, and she was off to Wisconsin to stay with her sister. Tom made up his mind to return the favor, in a cosmic kind of way, by offering the opportunity for a better life to someone in need. Mikey was his life’s good deed.
The kid showed up at the back door of Tom’s Place looking for a cheeseburger and a job. Mikey produced a photo ID which put his age at 22 and showed an address four hundred plus miles west. Mikey told him he was looking for somewhere to settle down. He told Tom he wanted to learn to drive and buy a car and live like a real person. Tom never pushed the kid for more information about his past; something told him to trust his gut and give this odd young man a chance. His birth may have been 22 years ago, but Tom estimated Mikey’s mental capabilities and functional level at closer to 12 years of age. But he was anxious to earn his own way and eager to learn, so Tom took him in.
Tom arranged for Mikey to rent a room at Mrs. Hastings’ Boarding House for $40.00 a week, for which he received a clean and safe place to sleep and two hot meals a day. Tom paid him enough to make his rent plus a bit more so the boy could save for whatever future awaited him. For the time being, his career was sweeping the inside of the bar and restaurant, making sure the parking lot was free of cigarette butts, and running whatever errands Tom felt he could handle. In what seemed like no time at all, Mikey saved enough to purchase a car, and to Tom’s pleasant surprise, he had signed up for a drivers’ education course and passed with flying colors. When Mikey took him for a drive through town as his first passenger, Tom felt like a proud father watching his son on his first bicycle ride without the training wheels. Mikey was on his way to being able to live like a ‘real’ person. That’s when things began to get peculiar.
Mikey began to disappear for two or three days at a time. His rent was always paid, but he would pack a light bag, fill his gas tank and take off. He always let Tom know when he would be back, but never provided any details about where he’d been. Tom knew Mikey may present the appearance of a mature adult; however, mentally and emotionally, he was still a child, so he was concerned Mikey might get himself into trouble. He tried to get Mikey to tell him where he went on his excursions and who he might be hooking up with, but Mikey would never tell him. Now this business about him having a secret? Something wasn’t right and Tom was determined to find out what was going on with this young man who had, over the years, become his only family.
“Mikey, you were gone longer this time than any other, and I’m worried. For one thing, you are a great driver, but it’s December, and one day we get a few flakes, and the next, we could have a blizzard. The roads are dangerous out there. The world is dangerous out there too, and you never tell me where you’re going or staying. Tell me this secret of yours. If all is well, I’ll be happy for you, but if not, I’ll do what I can to help. You know you can trust me.”
Mikey leaned his broom against the back door frame and went up front to sit at the bar. Tom hoped this was a sign he was ready to talk.
“I‘ll tell you my secret, Mr. Tommy. I wouldn‘t have a secret from you. My secret is about my mommy. I lost her long ago.”
Tom didn’t want to upset Mikey, but it was hard not to visibly react with sympathy, and he gave Mikey a quick hug. He wondered how old he had been when his mother passed away.
“It‘s okay, Mr. Tommy. One morning when I got up, mommy wasn‘t there. That‘s how I lost her.”
With that explanation, Tom wanted to put his fist through the wall. What kind of so-called mother abandons her child?
“We moved around a lot and she brought home lots of daddies for me. They all were gone by morning, and mommy said it was because I was bad, so I tried to be the goodest I could be. When I was eleven, a carnival came, and mommy said if I was the best I could be, maybe the clown man would come home with us and be my forever daddy. I didn’t like the clown man very much because he smelled funny and stuck a needle in between his toes sometimes, but mommy said some big people did that to feel better. Funny, huh? If I wanted to feel better, I ate a doughnut--cream-filled with sprinkles on top.”
Tom had never met Mikey’s mother, and she was fortunate for that. He couldn’t remember ever being that angry.
“Anyhow, the clown man stayed with us for some days, then one morning, they were both gone. She left a note wishing me luck. I never knew where she and the clown man went, but I made up my mind I was going to find her so I could ask her why they didn’t take me with them. I made her and the clown man eggs and toast every morning and rinsed out the needle he stuck between his toes. I don’t know how I could have been any gooder.
“See, now that I have a nice bed and I can drive my own car and live like a real person, I go out and drive around some days and look for her. Each time, I go farer and farer, but nobody knew who she was. But, three days ago, I did it, Mr. Tommy. I found her. It was by accident even. She was one of those ladies who gives you coffee at a diner a long way from here. She said the clown man ran away with some other mommy, but it was okay. She found a man who sells vacuum cleaners that made her laugh and so she was staying with him. I told her we needed to have a long talk. Some guy in a movie I saw had a long talk with his mother and then everything was okay.”
Tom wished he could jump up and down and cheer for Mikey, but he didn‘t want to look like he was ready to be fitted for a straight-jacket, so he simply nodded and smiled. All his other accomplishments were grand indeed, but this? Searching for, and finding, his mother who had abandoned him, and having the courage to seek answers to the traumatic events of his childhood with the hope of attaining some type of resolution were signs of a maturity in Mikey that Tom had never believed was there. He swelled with pride and served Mikey his first bottle of beer.
“Mikey,” he said, “I can’t begin to tell you how impressed I am with the man you are. Confronting your mother was probably the biggest thing you’ve ever done in your life, but it will help you move forward and be able to live your life free of that burden.”
He raised his bottle and tapped Mikey’s with it.
“Here’s to you, Mikey. Why don’t you take tomorrow off and have some fun.”
Mikey was happy he told Mr. Tommy about finding mommy. He had never had a beer before and he was really liking it. Maybe he’d go up to the Multiplex tomorrow afternoon and see one of the scary movies they had playing. He liked scary movies. First though, he’d have to head over to the landfill off I-95 to use their compactor. Then on to Mr. Phil’s Suds and Rinse to give his car a good scrubbing. He hoped those scented soaps would get rid of the smell in his trunk. By the fourth day, mommy‘s body will probably smell it up even worse.