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Justin Campbell Justin Campbell
Recommendations: 6

Daniel Morgan [2]


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Under the Double Star - Chapter One

July 6th, 1965


       Marie stood outside the building holding her daughter’s hand. Beatrice was just over two years old and could stand pretty well on her own. If they held hands, she could even walk a short distance. She’d been born in late March of 1963.


       Mother and daughter were standing outside Fisher Heights Elementary School, waiting, moments before the school bell rang to let all the kids out for the summer. A few minutes later, Daniel came trotting out the front doors in the midst of students, saw his mother and sister, and broke into a run, carrying his lunch box.


       She leaned down to accept a kiss on the cheek from him. “Hi mom!”


       “Hey mister. How was school? Beatty wants to say hi.”


       Daniel looked down at Beatrice. “Hi Beatty! What did you do today?”


       Beatrice looked up at her brother and stuck her thumb in her mouth. She could only say one word – ‘hi’ – but she decided she was too shy on this occasion to say it, especially with all the children milling around.


       The three of them walked home together, Daniel still energetic as he skipped along with his mom, who sometimes carried Beatrice and sometimes coaxed her to walk with them. The neighborhood streets were quiet and mostly vacant, the day bright and hazy. They meandered down Barlyn and Hilliard Streets, connected with Higwood, and finally rounded the corner from that street to their house on Deerpark. It was a nice, short walk, though the summer heat could make it feel quite long, especially if Beatrice got distracted and stopped walking. It had been a long school year for Daniel, and he was happy to finish – even happier when he opened his report card at the kitchen table and saw he’d passed all his classes.


       “Look at this mom, look at what Mrs. Hatfield wrote about me.” He gestured excitedly to the comments section of the report. Marie took it.


       “Impressive,” she said as she scanned Mrs. Hatfield’s comments. “Sounds like you’re turning out to be a great reader, mister. You got a couple of A’s in Language Arts. Your father will be proud when he comes home from work.”


       “Yeah. I’m really happy. Can I go see if Nick is home?”


       “Yes you can, but be careful around the road, okay?”


       “You got it mom, and besides, he only lives two houses away.”


       “That’s right, but still. Watch out for yourself.”


       “Okay.”


       In the space of three years, the street had filled in ridiculously fast. The family had much less to worry about nowadays with the absence of machinery and construction debris or litter; the hole across Meadowlands was now a townhouse; the apartment building had long been finished, with three others springing up along the street. The family, with their neighbors, had briefly worried during their backyard get-togethers about the presence of such tall buildings overshadowing their backyards and properties, but they quickly got used to it; buying in a half-finished area, you had to realize the potential of development changing course or being more built-up than you expected. So everyone quickly got used to being shadowed in the mornings by the tall, rectangular dwellings and continued on with their lives. Anything was better than the noise generated by caterpillars, or rejected wires with sharp ends strewn along curbsides.


       Daniel ran over to a house on Meadowlands two properties down and rang the doorbell. It was the Masterson household, where his friend Nick from school lived with his parents and older sister. Their house was one of those flat-roofed sub-divided things where the building was divided into two dwellings down the middle. A wide carport took up the middle, with a thin privacy wall in between the two sides – one for each car and household.


       Nick’s older sister, Andrea, answered the door. She was four years older than Nick, who was Daniel’s age, and took very little interest in him. Seeing who was on the doorstep, she immediately turned and screamed Nick’s name at the back of the house.
--
       “I got a couple of A’s on my report card,” Daniel said brightly as they walked over to Long Park, which was essentially green space bordered on the north by bungalows and on the south by those three-story apartment complexes. “Now I’m gonna coast this summer.”


       “I got B’s all the way,” Nick said less excitedly. “But I don’t care, it’s summer now. I hope they have the Ex this year.”


       “Oh boy, I remember last year when your sis got sick on the Ferris wheel. That was icky.”


       “I hope she doesn’t come with us this time. All she does is complain about boys and their cooties! You’re lucky yours is young.”


       “Yeah, but she drools all the time. Hey, wanna go see Steve?”


       “Maybe. But I wanna to sit down first.” They walked over to a low hill and lay down for a moment, staring up at the clear blue sky, dotted with small cumulus clouds here and there. Daniel was happy – he was free for two whole months – and he wouldn’t have to worry about how hard third grade might be the coming September. He’d always been a quick starter since first grade, especially on reading and writing, and he was happy with himself that he was able to put his mind to stuff and figure it out. Yet he always worried how much harder the next year would be.


       Eventually they ran to the playground where they had a long game of tag; forgetting about Steve, they ran about until it was almost dusk, when both Nick and Daniel’s mothers came into view, walking through the park together, calling both their names. It was suppertime now.
--
       After saying grace, Evan started the dinnertime conversation that evening. “So, Daniel, your mother told me you got a couple of A’s on your report card.”


       “Yeah, I did,” Daniel responded cheerfully. “I’m happy.”


       “I’m happy too, son. If you keep studying hard like this you’ll be able to do whatever you want with your life when you grow up. Be anything you want.”


       “That’s right,” Marie added. “You could be a doctor, or a scientist.”


       “What’s a scientist?” he asked.


       Marie and Evan took turns looking at each other before Evan decided to explain. “A scientist is someone who does experiments and discovers how things work.”


       “Experiments? What are those?”


       “An experiment is a study or a test of a theory,” Marie said. “And a theory is an idea. So a scientist thinks of ideas about the world around him, and if he wants to find out more, he’ll test that idea or study it by experimenting, and that leads him into finding out how it works or why.”


       “It may sound complicated,” Evan said, “but it’s rewarding and very cool. But it’s up to you to decide what you want to do. As long as you study hard.”


       “What ideas do scientists have?”


       “All sorts,” Evan explained encouragingly. “Like, how gravity works, or why the sky is blue. If you ever became a scientist, Daniel, I’m sure you’d find out all about the world and stuff. Maybe answer some questions we as a species has about our world, our life, or the meaning of it even.”


       “The meaning of it? You mean of life?”


       “Possibly,” his father said. “Anyway, let’s eat before the food your mother cooked for us gets cold. I’m hungry.” Next to him, in her high chair, Beatrice had already eaten the majority of her mashed-up food and used the rest to smear across her chair and face.
--
       That night, as Daniel cuddled in his blankets in bed, his thoughts went back to what his dad had talked about at the dinner table that night. Now that he knew what a scientist was and what one did, he was intrigued; the idea of looking at how the world worked and then figuring it out was appealing to him. Could he be able to answer questions? He didn’t know, but the idea of people looking up to him like that was cool.


       As he drifted off to sleep, his memory meandered its way back to when they’d first moved in when he was four, and his grandpa had taken him up the big hill in Mooney’s Bay; if he thought about it, he remembered his grandpa said something about life being about playing and having fun. He did have a lot of fun, playing with Nick and his friends. But was that really the right answer?


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