By Joe Shumock

October 3, 2013

 

On an errand for the U. S. Marshals Service, Webster was returning from London with a detainee. Thirty minutes into the flight, he had put his book down and was gazing at the view outside the window. Distant clouds reflected the sunshine giving more color than usual to an already beautiful afternoon. The flight was proceeding, smooth and steady, toward home.

Webster’s thoughts had continued to slip back to hopes for a normal life—one consisting of family, children, a reasonable career and not getting shot. Winston Churchill’s comment on the subject came to mind. Remembering the British statesman’s words, Webster smiled. Churchill had been quoted as saying, “There is nothing so exhilarating as being shot at without result.” Webster had failed to have that feeling—twice!

Intentionally, Webster attempted to turn his thoughts to other subjects. As he was about to pick up the book again, his boyhood came to mind. The uncle who had raised him touched Webster’s thoughts.

Once more, the book settled to his lap.

Uncle Sid had never understood why he would leave after graduation without looking back. To Webster, it was obvious. He had prepared for that night, having thrown the few belongings he owned into his old car prior to the ceremony. In the last several days, he had said goodbye to the few individuals who mattered.

A girl he had been friends with since grade school had volunteered to return Webster’s robe and mortarboard, leaving him free to simply drive away into the night. Looking deep into his eyes, Webster’s friend had given him a parting gift, too—his very first kiss on the lips. Then, stepping back, she had surprised him a second time. Reaching down for Webster’s hand, she placed it gently on her breast. “Remember me,” was all she said before turning and walking away. The sensation was permanently imprinted on his memory.

As he left Semmes, Alabama, that night, Webster had thought of his mother. He remembered wondering if she had felt the way he did, like she was shaking off something that no longer fit her.

As a young teenager, his mother’s brother had grudgingly taken him in after she caught a bus one night and was never seen again. The uncle had shown Webster to a sparsely furnished bedroom and given him a list of chores that would be his responsibility. Meals were eaten without conversation. Feelings such as hugs, friendly hands on shoulders, or tousled hair, were not a part of living in his uncle’s house. That being said, there was no reason for him to stay after he finished high-school.

His grades had not been so good, either, and except for one teacher, no one had seemed to care. Part time jobs, sometimes two or three at a time, had taken priority. The money he earned had allowed Webster to buy clothes he needed and finally, the old Ford automobile. There had been little time for anything else.

Then it was all over . . . except for the leaving.

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