12
Oct
08

Billy, Chad and Tikki Tikki Tembo

Billy, Chad and Tikki Tikki Tembo
By Darren King [copyright 2008]

When my son’s friend peddled his bicycle out of
our neighborhood for what would be his last time
and his life forever separated from our’s,
first by distance and eventually by time,
I thought of you, Billy, and your last day in our First Grade class.

Life provides a list of sorrows and sadnesses
seemingly connected and thirty-odd years later,
I remember now, your moving away.
You displayed and dispensed
justice and had a sense of yourself

you needn’t prove to the other children.
You were a leader worthy to follow and so
I gladly played my role as your right-hand man
on the playground and in the halls of school.
I shadowed you that day in class

and was certain someone would notice
and then point out to embarrass –
the lump I could only feel in my throat.
At recess, with you and another boy
as captains, we were divided into two teams

and played one last game of kickball,
everyone else acting as if nothing
would change later that day
when the dismissal bell rang. Your empty desk
the next morning came as a surprise to me.

I don’t know why. Perhaps it was your nametag
the three-by-five index card, still taped to your desk
which wasn’t your desk anymore. And Mrs. Clancy,
with whom I was hopelessly in love, reading to us and I,
cross-legged at her feet, sat mesmerized by her story

of the Chinese boy and his family who lived in the
wonderful ink-and-wash drawings with fanciful swirls
and the bricked well, the old man sleeping, always by a tree
and the boy, always the boy, in water up to his eyes,
waiting to be noticed, waiting to be rescued.

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