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African American Creative Nonfiction Bedtime

Hundreds, thousands, millions more. Billions upon billions of lights line the shore. All so far, but to reach out and touch just one, maybe two? Impossible! Inconceivable! That’s what they say. But I know I will reach the moon and count them all someday. Someday.

“Will you come in here already? It’s freezing out, and you’re not wearing a jacket.” A father’s voice rang heavy and low to his sweet little daughter. She put her pencil down and looked back up at the sky, counting. Counting? She, so young yet so intelligent, she knows she couldn’t reach a finite number. But how could she count them all? She sat under the lighthouse’s watchful eye, gleaming as its light filled the seaside.

The phone rang far off inside the house. Her father, Argus, lifted the noisy little box to his ear.

           “Hello?”

           “Argus, it’s me again,” a hoarse voice whispered. “When are you going to send me my little girl? I miss my baby girl, Argus.” Desperation lined every word she spoke.

           “You will never see her again unless it’s in court, Mary.” Anger seethed through his teeth.

           “You can’t keep a girl away from her mother,” Mary said. “It’s not right. She needs me.”

           “Is watching her mother shoot up for the seventeenth time in a day what she needs? Is watching her mother get beat by a man who she doesn’t know what she needs? You haven’t gotten the slightest idea what she needs. She needs someone sober and kind, someone who will stay by her side for recitals and children’s plays. Not somebody that abandons her at the playground for three hours, sad and alone. Goodbye, Mary. Do not call here again.” He slammed the phone on the receiver, as he had done hundreds of times before. 

His heart ached for his daughter. How could he ever tell her that her own mother would rather drown herself in heroin than take her home from school? He walked over to the window and watched her write while occasionally looking back up to the sky and the lighthouse. Rusted metal and creeping vines lined the walls of the tall structure. A cliff was twenty-two feet away, leading to a short but steep drop to the Pacific Ocean. His face read like the happiest father alive. The pain in his heart stated otherwise. Another ache rose in his arm. That’s odd, he thought to himself. He walked towards the medicine cabinet in the bathroom, sneaking glances back at the small figure under the lighthouse. He opened the mirror and grabbed a small bottle with his name on the prescription label. Opening it, he realized only one pill was left. Damn, he thought, I’ll have to go to the pharmacy tomorrow while she’s at school. He took the pill in his hand and quickly headed to the kitchen for water. Swallowed, the pill worked its magic in ten minutes. Thank you, Universe, for modern medicine. The father walked back to the window, watching his daughter once more. He went to the entryway and picked out a little green jacket and matching scarf. He opened the door and stepped into the light breeze. Walking towards the little figure, he passed under the same trees as always. Two Maple, one Laurel, one Myrtle, three Pine, and a weeping Willow. However, none held a candle compared to the lighthouse, though. Every panel of wood, pane of metal, block of cement was attached to create a masterpiece he had adored for so long. Argus wrapped the green jacket around his daughter, and carefully laced the scarf around her neck.

           “Here,” he said, “so you don’t get cold.”

           “Thank you, daddy.” He looked at her dark skin’s glow in the starlight.

           “What are you writing there?” The little girl snatched her paper close to her chest.

           “You can’t read it yet! I’m not done!” She yelled with an innocent look of panic on her face.

           “Okay, okay,” Argus said, holding his hands up. “I’m sorry, sweetheart. Do I get to read it later?”

           “Hmm,” she pondered, “maybe. If you’re good. But Mrs. Pickles has to read it first.”

           “Who is Mrs. Pickles,” he asked.

           “Mrs. Pickles,” she said as she pointed up to the lighthouse.

           “Ah, I see.” Argus looked up at the night sky with his daughter. “Maybe you and Mrs. Pickles would like to hear a song, hm?”

           “Are you gonna play us a song on the piano, daddy?”

           “What would you like to hear?”

           “‘For River’ please!”

           “As you wish, baby girl.” Argus walked towards the lighthouse door. It opened with a loud creak from the metal hinges. He flipped the switch next to the opening and looked at the old piano. You wouldn’t think to look at something so old and believe that it played as beautifully as it did when it was just built. Argus re-tuned it every year.

He sat on the small bench in front of the instrument. Placing his hands carefully, he began to play. The sound lifted and echoed through the entire lighthouse, a complete mess of sounds perfectly amplified to create the masterpiece. Argus finished and heard the echoes of little hands banging together for him.

           “That was so good, daddy! I finished my story for you and Mrs. Pickles. You can read it now.” The little girl hopped over and proudly presented her piece of paper to Argus. He began to read out loud, loud enough for Mrs. Pickles to hear:

 

“Hundreds, thousands, millions more. Billions upon billions of lights line the shore. All so far, but to reach out and touch just one, maybe two? Impossible! Inconceivable! That’s what they say. But I know I will reach the moon and count them all someday. Someday. I will make my bed in the early hours, when the stars say, “good morning” and show me shapes of flowers. I will run down to breakfast every day and watch my dad make pancakes and waffles, all gourmet. My goal is to touch every star as I work hard in my life; I will become my own lighthouse and shine my own light. I will reach the moon soon. Not today? Not tomorrow? Don’t tell me no. I will reach the moon and count all the stars in the sky. And I will do it for my father, because he is a great guy. Goodbye, lighthouse. I’ll see you from the moon. And I will shine my own light back at you.”

           “That was beautiful, sweetheart,” he said when he finished. “Are you going to become an astronaut when you grow up?”

           “Yup. I’ll be the best astronaut, and I’ll write a book about all the stars I talk to when I’m on the moon. You can come visit me, too.”

           “I sure will, baby girl.” The two walked out of the lighthouse, hand in hand.

           “Good night, Mrs. Pickles,” she shouted as they walked away. 

Argus tucked her in bed and read her a few chapters of a Hemingway book. Time for bed, he left and went to his own room. His daughter looked at the night sky.

           “Good night, Emagine,” the stars said to her.

           “Good night. See you soon.”

April 24, 2020 18:51

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2 comments

Ethernia Thiadi
16:05 May 09, 2020

That was a very wholesome story, I enjoyed reading through that. The interactions between the father and daughter were heartwarming, though the underlying problem with her irresponsible mother did create a sense of salt in this otherwise sweet story. A hint of salt enhances the sweetness, they say, and I'm glad that they seemed happy, with the girl Emagine-ing the lighthouse as a mother figure... An intelligent, innocent way to cope with her condition for sure. Well done for the characterizations and setting, Author.

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Allie Mae Sakry
15:43 May 02, 2021

Thank you very much! I wasn't sure how the underlying problems with her mother would be taken, but I'm glad it made the story better. Thank you for the praise, it means a lot!

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