Excerpt from The Distance
Today is my last day to go to the library well this library. There’s maybe a library in grandpa’s town. In Mineral. But today I have to find out some stuff here before mom takes me to grandpa’s because I know how to find stuff in this library and maybe not in other ones.
Mr Hammond my teacher drops me off at the library because it’s Tuesday. He does it on Thursday too it’s called T-L-T for Tuesday Library Time. I made that up. Or Thursday. He saw me walking there a bunch of days and he talked to my mom and she said okay but she asked me first and I said okay. He’s on his way to his other job those days so I just hang around after school shooting baskets in the gym or reading until he’s done and he drives me over there. Bring me a nugget he always says when I get out of the car. That’s because he said the cost for getting a ride is I have to tell him something interesting I learned when I get to school the next day. That’s the nugget.
I go in and Mrs Person that’s really her name is behind the help desk and she waves to me and I wave and I go to the big table that’s past the stacks and by the window and I take off my backpack and put it on a chair and I get Pinky and I go back up to the help desk and around the back where Mrs Person lets me sit when we look stuff up.
What’s on your mind today tiger she says just like every day. Grownups a lot of times say the same things over and over. But I like it.
I ask her can you help me see what kinds of ways people get sick.
She says you mean like diseases and she looks kind of funny at me and she kind of looks around the library. Then she says are you working on a project.
Yeah I tell her I have to find out about kinds of ways ladies get sick and what happens to them.
This is for school she asks me and I say yeah for science.
She looks at me for a long time and I bet she knows it’s not for school. She can tell even though I look up all kinds of things I’m interested in. I feel weird so then I say it’s kind of for school but mostly I just want to know some things.
She says huh and pinches her cheek and thinks for a minute. Then she says okay let me see what we can find I know some but I’m not going to chance telling you something wrong. She sits down on her stool and starts typing on her computer and I get up and stand by her and look at her screen so I can see how she does it.
She says well that’s a long list I’m sorry to say. She leans in closer to her screen and starts scrolling it and she says let’s see if there’s something for someone your age on here.
I see all of the things on the list and I say how do I figure out what’s wrong with someone I guess is what I want to look up.
Mrs Person thinks about it for a minute then she says well tiger the way you do that is you become a doctor.
I know she’s helping and she’s not trying to make fun of me but I’m getting mad because how can I find out what’s wrong.
Then she says Gordie forgive me for being a nosy old woman but is something wrong is your mom sick.
Then I feel like I’m going to cry and my throat burns and chokes me a little and I don’t want to cry but she sees and she gets out of her chair and kneels down next to me so her face is right there and she says come here and she hugs me for a long time. She can’t see me so I let the tears fall on her shirt but I’m shaking a little anyway so I know she knows but she doesn’t say.
Then she says let’s sit down over here and she gets up and I get Pinky and we go over to one of the tables and she sits down and I sit down across from her and she looks at me for a long time and she smiles. Then she says Gordie maybe you feel like you can’t talk to me but you can and I don’t say anything because first I want to stop crying and she says talking to people about what you’re thinking can be helpful and maybe if I know what’s going on I can help you better with your research.
I can see where a tear dripped on the table and splashed a ring of tinier tears all around it and I don’t want to look up at her because I’ll cry some more. I wish I had a tissue so I get up and go back to the desk and get a tissue and wipe my eyes and blow my nose and then I use the hand sanitizer from the squirter on the desk and then I come back.
She says you don’t have to tell me anything tiger let’s just hang out for a bit maybe you can tell me what Mr Hammond is teaching you. She knows Mr Hammond because he comes here too and she knows he’s my teacher.
My mom is sick I say then and I keep looking at the table.
Oh Gordie she says and kind of sucks in some air I’m sorry about that did she go to the doctor.
I say I think so.
She says you don’t have to tell me if you don’t feel like it but does she know what’s wrong.
I say I guess I mean I think she does but she didn’t tell me she just said she has to go to Rosado to get better and I have to go to my grandpa’s in Mineral.
She says you must be scared and I nod my head yes and she says that’s okay tiger you love your mom and you’re a sweet sweet boy of course you’re concerned for her.
I’m starting to cry again but nobody’s here and I don’t care.
She says doctors are very good at helping people get well if your mom is going to Rosado I’ll bet that’s because there’s a very smart doctor there.
I swallow so I can talk and I say I wish I could go.
She says sure I know you do then she got up and went to the desk and got the tissue box and brought it to me. I wiped my eyes and my nose and used another one then I went to the trash and the squirter and came back.
She kept on like I didn’t leave and says I know you wish you could go and I’ll bet your mom wishes you could be with her but for whatever reason she feels it’s best for you to go to your grandfather’s. She stops and kind of nods her head then she says so your job is to be brave for her. I nod.
She says you like it at your grandfather’s and I say yes he has a dog called Mike and she says Mike huh that’s cute. She looks at me for a while. Then she says well we don’t know why your mom needs a doctor and I can’t think how we’d work that out but I’ll bet we can find some books that will help you with your bravery.
I nod and I say okay and she gets up and goes to the computer and I get the tissues and follow her over there and we start looking up some books.