Marta was touched. She blinked back the tears as the impact of his words slammed into her like a huge wave. She could only stop and hold him in gratitude.
They ascended the hill to the village. Several people waited at the entrance of the hamlet. Some were walking back from the nearby stream with fresh water for cleaning wounds. They greeted Tucker and Marta by name, but she never got used to their fingerless waves or toothless smiles. Marta wondered where they got their encouragement.
Maybe it was because they were not forgotten, she thought. Despite living in austere conditions, their home villages still visited and brought food, and professionals offered support and comfort. Faith seemed to thrive in a place of much decay.
The ground around the village was beaten down to hard earth. Constant use had worn away any grass. What survived grew in less frequented areas bordering huts. Small green patches symbolized the spirit still thriving in a place of eventual death.
At the entrance to Kilea’s hut, Tucker hesitated, afraid of what he would find. All of the changes were for the worse, as Tucker saw his mother wasting away physically. Yet, her mind remained alert.
Kilea noticed their shadows and sat up on her cot.
“Who is there?” she asked.
They had to go in now and Tucker did so after Marta gave his hand a reassuring squeeze.
“It is Marta and me. Just lie back. I am coming to you,” Tucker replied.
“It is wonderful for you to come and visit an old sick woman,” Kilea said.
Even with blotchy skin and her hair thin and gray, she looked beautiful. Though naturally tiny, she looked fail and small in her cot. Marta had heard the stories of when Kilea was younger, before the sickness. Of how she carried heavy loads and butchered the meat. Even through the decay Marta could still see her strength and determination.
“You know I wouldn’t miss a chance to visit. And I was honored when Tucker asked me to come with him,” Marta said, continuing in the local dialect.
“I asked my boy to bring you this time. I missed you, but I wanted to talk to you about something.”
Kilea took her son’s hand and asked him to leave her and Marta alone for a few minutes. He smiled, and reluctantly left the hut. Marta noticed it hurt Kilea to send her son off.
“I hear an airplane flying overhead; that should keep him busy for a while,” said Marta.
“He loves his giant birds, doesn’t he?” Kilea asked.
“He does. That’s all he ever talks about.” Marta agreed.
“It makes me sad that I can’t share exciting things with him. What kind of mother can’t share in her child’s life?” Kilea asked.
“But Tucker knows your enthusiasm and interest. He comes here willingly sharing of his adventures. He wouldn’t do that unless he knew you cared and were genuinely interested,” said Marta.
“You are so sweet, my girl. Listen, listen closely. I want you understand my wishes.” Kilea waited until she was sure she had Marta’s full attention. “I want you to take care of Tucker when I go, be his new mother.”
“I... I could never replace you,” Marta said.
“I’m not asking you to. I know he respects you and listens to you, and I know you respect me and will keep my spirit alive for him. I know that I will not be forgotten after I go,” Kilea tried to reassure Marta.
“What about his other relations in Tarampura?” Marta asked.
“They are well meaning, but can’t give my son the life he needs. He will always be the lesser of all children and family members. You know my boy, the center of attention, curious, and quick to learn.”
“Yes, he is everything you say.” Marta sniffled and wiped off tears.
“The old ways are not for him. He has learned your ways; he will not survive very well without you. I know this. I want you to care for him, take him to your world when you decide to leave.”
Marta was shocked. She had no idea Kilea was so observant. She had noticed all the changes. “Then you are not disappointed in what has happened to Tucker?”
“Tucker is special. He has an adventurer in him, and the invisible walls of the village would not hold him in. His future is in you, Marta. Please promise me you will respect my wishes,” said Kilea.
“Kilea, it is a strange request, one that will not please the elders of the village. But I love Tucker as my own. For years I have taught him to read and write in my language, and he has learned about experiences in my country, from books and my stories. I will do as you say. I will raise your son,” said Marta.
Kilea enjoyed another rare moment of happiness.
Remember, 100% of all royalties will be applied to Jeff's mission trip to Asia. Jeffrey W. Bennett, ISP is the owner of Red Bike Publishing. Jeff is an accomplished writer of non-fiction books, novels and periodicals. He also owns Red bike Publishing. Published books include: "Get Rich in a Niche-Insider's Guide to Self Publishing in a Specialized Industry" and "Commitment-A Novel". Jeff is an expert in security and has written many security books including: "Insider's Guide to Security Clearances" and "DoD Security Clearances and Contracts Guidebook". See Red Bike Publishing for print copies of: Army Leadership The Ranger Handbook The Army Physical Readiness Manual Drill and Ceremonies The ITAR The NISPOM