When I was little, around four or five, playing at my grandparents’ house, throwing a blanket over a chair or the couch or boxes to make a tent, a private sanctuary of my own in a larger house, a house within a house, I’d tell my friends as we played that my name was John Hawkes and that I had worked for the railroad and was now maimed as I had to walk with a cane. I limped around but don’t remember which hand I used to demonstrate the cane. My mother heard this and sent my friends away. “Why are you telling your friends that?” she asked.
“Because it’s my name. I’m John Hawkes,” I replied.
“No. Rob Lowery is your name,” she said.
“That’s also my name,” I replied. I gave her a street name where I had once lived. It was in our town. “Can we go there?”
Mom stared at me while chewing on her bottom lip. “Go to your room,” she said.
She drove me to the address I gave her. It was an empty lot with a chain-link fence around it, save for a cherry tree in the center.
“It was here,” I said. I recognized the tree. I told her that on days when it was too hot to sit in the red-brick house that used to be here, I’d sit under the cherry tree and eat the cherries as they fell on me. I got out of the car.
Mom said, “Robbie, don’t,” but I was already out and in the yard, underneath the cherry tree, a place that felt like a far-away home that I can still see in my head. I heard the car door close, and my mother walked up behind me. I stretched my short arms toward the branches but couldn’t reach. “Now we wait for them to fall,” I said.
She nodded and set her hands on my shoulders as we stared up into the sky, waiting for our reward to rain down upon us.
Ron Burch‘s fiction has been published in numerous literary journals including South Dakota Review, Fiction International, Mississippi Review, and been nominated for the Pushcart Prize. His novel, Bliss Inc., was published by BlazeVOX Books. He lives in Los Angeles.
A Song for Ron