It had worried him all his life and now Eli saw that it had serious consequences. Thinking back, it just kinda happened. One week his mom was ill and then she got ill again and so he stayed home from school, and the schooling got less and less and his mom needed more help - so days became weeks and weeks became years and no one came looking after a time.
He wasn’t blaming her - no way - it was the way the cards were dealt sometimes in life. Then when his mom was finally laid in the ground he’d left home and worked in the next country over and no one knew him there. So it didn’t really matter. He always found a way to hide it.
But today he realized he’d been a fool. He could have killed Jodie, his grandson, that boy who was his life-blood itself. The boy and him had gone fishing just liked they did every Saturday in the good warm months. They’d sit there and chew things over. Jodie was going to be a great man Eli could see that for sure.
The sign must have been a warning of sorts that the bridge was unsafe but Jodie being Jodie ran over the bridge and the next thing Eli sees is the bridge crumble and the love of his life fall into the water. The boy went under real fast and it was Eli’s quick thinking that saved the boy. Eli had swum down to where the boy was being held by a current and pulled him to the shore.
The cop had asked, as had the emergency guy, as had Jodie’s mom. Didn’t you read the sign? But he hadn’t because the truth of it was that Eli couldn’t read – not a word.
His daughter went on and on at her father that night, telling him he couldn’t be trusted with her son and that that was the end of the fishing. No more trips with Jodie, anywhere.
That’s when he told her – right out:
“I can’t read. Never have.”
It took the legs away from his daughter, she sat, then she looked at her paw and she cried for all the lonely years he must have kept the secret.
“Tomorrow, we’re gonna fix things. It’s never too late.” She told him and she meant it.
It was hard work and at first Eli kept wanting to give up but there was one thing that he wanted to do before he died and that was read a letter. One he’d never told anyone about. One his maw had left him when she finally passed.
“One day, you’ll read this Elijah. When I’m long gone.”
So the days and months passed and Eli could read little things, like the books the kids used to read. Man was he proud.
No one had ever known in his town or in his own family that he’d spent years hiding and finding cunning ways to lie.
Every night when he had come home from work to the family, he had pretended to read the newspaper - he was just too ashamed to tell anyone and it seemed too late to ask for help.
Then one night not long before Eli died, he took his maw’s letter from under the drawer where he had hidden it and he opened it – and he read it:
“I knew you would, my darling son.
I knew you could do anything.Love, Mom x”.
bobby stevenson 2013