Peter’s Saturday Morning

by Eva White

Peter sat up in bed. The sun was shining into the bedroom he shared with his sister. But Essie wasn’t there. It must be late, Essie didn’t get up early on Saturday morning. He probably slept in because of last night. Dad was playing drums with his friends in the park and he’d picked Essie and him up really late from the neighbours who were minding them.

Peter didn’t mind that at all. Sometimes Dad would carry him home, even though he was a big boy, almost seven. He loved Dad carrying him. His dad had the strongest arms, probably in the whole of Brooklyn. When he lifted Peter up his muscles turned into beautiful shapes, round, like little balls. And if Dad had been drumming Peter could smell the sweat. He loved the smell of Dad’s sweat. And the look of it too, when Dad took him and Essie along to the park. The way it made the skin all shiny and wet.

They were the only children who ever came with their dads and they felt special. Sometimes Dad told them to move further away from the men because of the smoking. He’d try to sneak back but Essie stopped him. She was almost twelve and a bit bossy. He usually did what she told him. Mostly she was nice to him but lately, when she was with her friends, he could tell she didn’t want him there. He didn’t pester her, but still . . .

He didn’t have trouble finding things to do. In the school holidays, it was holidays now, they stayed in the library most days. It was only a few minutes away from where they lived in the projects, and no big roads to cross. If he got a turn on the computer that was the best. He wasn’t old enough to have a library card with a password, but sometimes people who came in let him use their cards to play games. He knew plenty of people who came in and most of them were friendly. Dad said it was because of his big smile. Essie didn’t smile so much and she wore braids and glasses, which made her look a bit strict.

There were other things to do in the library too. Films down in the basement were fun, there were toys, and a special place for little kids with carpet and trains and trucks to push around. He liked playing with them too.

He liked school as well. He was one of the best writers in the class. Essie taught him to read and write even before he started school. Playing school used to be her favourite game, but now she was so big she didn’t do that anymore.

Where was Essie? He couldn’t hear anything going on in the kitchen or the living room. And where was Dad? Maybe he was still in bed. Maybe it wasn’t so late.

Peter jumped out of bed and ran to the bathroom, he was in a hurry. Then he called out to Essie and Dad. Why couldn’t he hear or see them? He started to feel weird. He ran into Dad’s bedroom, back into the kitchen, up and down the hall—calling, shouting. He was home alone.

At first he didn’t believe it. How could it be? Where were Essie and Dad? He tried to open the front door but couldn’t. There were three locks and one of them, on the outside, locked the door so you couldn’t get out. He ran to the window. From the twelfth floor where they lived there was nothing to see but the other buildings and the grass. No one was walking on the paths, it looked like another hot day.

Peter felt the tears come to his eyes. He wasn’t going to cry, he was a big boy, almost seven, and big boys don’t cry. But where was Dad, where was Essie? Dad wouldn’t leave him alone, he was such a good dad. Sometimes he said, “I’m your dad and your mom.”

Peter couldn’t remember having a mom. No one talked about her. Once Essie said, ‘She probably went back to Haiti. She didn’t like New York.’ He was a baby then. Sometimes Dad said, ‘We’re on our own, the three of us. We look after each other.’ That was fine with Peter. You couldn’t, not in all the world, get a better dad than his dad. And Essie did a lot of things he saw mothers do with their kids.

But where were they now? Why were they gone? Peter sat down at the kitchen table and held his head in his hands. He would have to wait, there was nothing else he could do.  They would come back. They wouldn’t leave him forever. But he was scared. Maybe something had happened to them and they couldn’t get back. What if he never saw them again? What if someone had taken them away and left him behind? But who locked that special lock? Only Dad had the key. He got it when he was worried Essie and him would leave the apartment when he had to go out and leave them at home. But that was when they were little, when Essie wasn’t almost grown up like now. Dad hadn’t used that lock for a long time.

Now Peter was crying. He didn’t try to stop himself. He wanted Dad, he wanted Essie. He didn’t want to be alone. He didn’t want to be left behind. His eyes got sore with crying. He was making a lot of noise but there was no one to hear him.  Something terrible must have happened. Dad was always saying, “Be careful.” Essie said that too.

There were so many things you had to watch out for. Big boys and rough boys, boys, and girls too, on drugs or drunk, strange men who offered you candy and wanted to take you away, people who wanted to rob you, white people who didn’t like you because you were black. Then there were cars and buses which could run you down, subways that got stuck in tunnels underground, helicopters watching you, planes that crashed into houses. And men shooting guns. Even the police who were supposed to look after you might put you in handcuffs or beat you up or maybe kill you. But if he was locked in the house what would happen to him then? He wanted Dad, he wanted Essie. He could hardly cry anymore. He was worn out.

All of a sudden—was that a key in the lock? Did he hear someone at the door? He leapt up. Who was coming in?

It was Dad and Essie with the shopping. He jumped up and down. He jumped onto Dad as high as he could reach. Dad put down the plastic bags and picked him up. Was Essie laughing at him? Didn’t they understand what had happened?

“You were fast asleep, Petey. We didn’t want to wake you up. We weren’t going to be gone long.”

Peter held on tightly to Dad, arms clasped around his neck. He couldn’t tell him about the terrible time he’d had.

“You left me alone,” he cried, gulping down his tears. “You left me all alone.”

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