I am still bathing in the glow of posting Part One of Uncle Theo last week. That act has already changed my life. My short stories and poems from the 1960s through the 1980s have sat in file boxes for decades. I knew if I didn’t make the effort to expose them to daylight they would spend another couple of decades sitting in the dark. Just posting Part One of this little story has now allowed me to make decisions and move on with other projects. It is freeing!
(If you haven’t read Part One, please read it here before reading Part Two.)
And so, here we go with Part Two:
Although many of my stories are written in the first person, all characters and events are entirely fictional.
Uncle Theo – Part Two – © copyright Roslyn M Wilkins
Morning came eventually. I was late downstairs for breakfast. Dad had already left for work. Uncle Theo was apparently still in his room. “Must be exhausted after his long trip,” suggested my mother. Hah, if she only knew!
“Of course, he’s not really your uncle,” she told me in answer to my question about his place on the family tree. “He’s a second cousin, I believe, several times removed, but I’m not sure what part of the family he actually belongs to.”
I chuckled to myself as I built a peanut butter mountain on my toast. Of course she wouldn’t know anything about the Drataur side of the family. I wondered what all the other second cousins several times removed were doing at that very moment and if they had ever made the trip from Drataur to Earth.
Were my distant cousins munching on peanut butter sandwiches and chugging down glasses of orange juice? Could they smell bacon and eggs frying on the stove? Or were they picnicking under silver trees on a pink hillside with turquoise clouds floating by in a lilac sky?
“I don’t suppose it’s possible for you to leave some peanut butter for someone else, huh?” My mother interrupted my reverie. “Linda! Do we have the honor of your company or are you off on some other planet?” She yanked the peanut butter jar out of my hand. For a moment I was shocked at her reference to another planet. But, of course, she couldn’t possibly know. “Look, you’re dropping it all over the table cloth.”
“Sorry! I wasn’t concentrating.” I had made up my mind to ask Uncle Theo about my distant relatives. If he really was an alien being then I wanted to know the whole story. And if he wasn’t—well, I didn’t want to face that possibility at this moment in time. I was willing to fully embrace his version of life. I no longer had any doubts.
Uncle Theo eventually made his grand entrance into the kitchen, hugging my mother, which made her squirm, and then me. After seconds of the cereal, toast, eggs, and bacon and having carefully wiped the remains of said breakfast from his moustache, Uncle Theo announced he was going for a walk around the neighborhood. Would I like to join him? He didn’t have to ask twice.
“What are the children like on Drataur?” I asked as soon as we were out the front door. “Do they have to go to school?”
“Yes, I’m afraid so. Children Everywhere have to go to School.”
“Oh.” I was disappointed.
“But School is a little Different on Drataur because the Children Learn to Fly on the Wings of Imagination and they are Taught the Songs of the Universe, and they Discover the Meaning of Happiness.”
“But do they have to sit in a classroom?”
“Only the Classroom of Life.”
I tried again: “Do children have to tidy up their rooms and help with the dishes and do homework?”
“Well, yes. Children have to do all those things, no matter what planet they live on. But only if they have rooms and dishes and homework…”
“Some people don’t?”
“The Universe is full of all Kinds of People in all Kinds of Situations.”
“Hmmm. I guess so.” I was growing impatient. I wanted answers even though I wasn’t really sure of the questions.
“But Look, Let me Show you Something Special.” Uncle Theo held out his hands, palms turned up. “You see my Hands are Empty?”
He made fists and passed his right hand over his left. “Now, open my left hand.”
I bent the middle finger back. There was something metallic between his index finger and third finger. A silver coin.
“Where did that come from?”
“Oh, we do that all the time on Drataur. That way we don’t have to be bothered with carrying pockets full of jingly coins. We just pull them out of nowhere.”
I wished Uncle Theo had been with me the week before when I had wanted to buy that jigsaw puzzle and didn’t have enough money because I had already spent too much on lemon sherbets.
“Now look in your pocket,” he said.
I put my left hand in my jacket pocket and when I pulled it out, I was holding a string of pink pearls. “They’re beautiful.”
“I Picked them off the Pearl Tree that grows Outside my Front Door. Here, let me Put Them on You.”
I could tell they weren’t ordinary Earth pearls because as soon as they were against my skin I could feel the warmth against my neck. I could feel their beauty rubbing off on me and years later whenever I wore them, I always looked prettier than I did without them.
As the hours and days and weeks passed that summer, there were other miracles and feats of magic and fantastical tales of the universe. But the greatest of Uncle Theo’s wonders was his ability to fly. When he told me about the children of Drataur flying on the wings of imagination I asked him to show me how. At first he told me I wasn’t ready. I thought that was an excuse because he was lying to me and he didn’t really know how to fly.
But three weeks later after many conversations and stories and questions and answers and revelations, he announced I was ready for my final lesson. And that was the day I got him in trouble with my mother.
“But mother, Uncle Theo flew down the stairs!” I tried to explain to that particularly exasperated adult when she caught me standing on the upstairs landing, flapping my arms in an attempted take-off. Of course, I had promised not to tell but it slipped out in self-defense.
“He flew down the stairs? Uncle Theo?”
“Yes, he says it’s easy if you concentrate…” How could adults be so dense?
“Oh really! Have you actually seen him fly down the stairs?”
“Yes,” I answered defiantly.
“This morning. He was standing right here,” I explained. “He told me to close my eyes, then there was this whooshing sound and when I opened my eyes he was standing next to me at the bottom of the stairs. He flew just like he said he would.”
“Oh, Lin!” I hated it when she shortened my name. It was her way of scolding me as she knew I didn’t like it. “How gullible can you be? He probably slid down the bannisters.”
“He flew! And my name isn’t Lin, or even Linda. It’s Bunny.”
“Oh, for heaven’s sake, fly down the stairs then. See if I care if you break your neck.” She left, muttering something not very nice about Uncle Theo. I heard the kitchen door slam.
I was angry too. She had as good as called Uncle Theo a liar. If he said he had flown down the stairs then that’s exactly what had happened. But I decided to postpone my maiden flight just in case.
That evening Uncle Theo and I walked over to the park. We sat on a bench and watched the old people play bowls. Clonk, clonk. The black balls hit the white balls.
Years later, in my new life far from the land of my birth, I would think back on this night as the beginning of the end, and a new beginning too. It was seven thirty on that August night in England and the sun was more than an hour away from setting.
“No, she’s right. She is your mother and she is the one to say what is to be and what is not to be as far as you are concerned. And you see,” he paused, placing his right hand on my left arm, “I also promised her I would confess that all these stories I’ve told about Drataur and magic and flying are all untrue…”
“No!” I stood up from the bench. And in that moment I realized his words were no longer emphasized with capital letters. His speech was—normal. I wanted to run. Somewhere where I couldn’t hear him.
“Wait a minute, I’m not finished.” He pulled me back down on the bench. “The problem is I can’t tell you it’s all untrue because that would be the biggest lie of all. I have never lied to you. Everything I have said, in its own way, in the way I meant it, is true.”
“Do you promise? Cross your heart and hope to die?”
“I promise. Here, give me a hug.”
We hugged. And the tears running down my cheeks mingled with his.
“Sometimes, Little Bunny, adults try so hard to get you to grow up right they forget the importance of letting you be a child.” He took a big white handkerchief out of his pocket and wiped my eyes, then his own. “Now on Drataur—that is, I mean, well, I never really grew up all the way. I got stuck somewhere in the middle. And it’s hard being a child and a grownup all at the same time. But I can’t change who I am—and I don’t want to.” He put the handkerchief back in his pocket. “Just promise me, Bunny, that you’ll never forget how to be a child and that you won’t forget the magic.”
“I promise,” I said.
After that night we never discussed Drataur again. As much as I begged and pleaded, Uncle Theo kept his promise to my mother. We still took our walks and I still crept into his room late at night to sit in the green light, but it wasn’t the same.
And as the summer came to an end, so did Uncle Theo’s visit. One morning I went downstairs to breakfast and he was gone.
“Did you see him fly away?” I asked.
My mother looked away and wouldn’t answer.
Stay tuned for part three next Wednesday.