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Andrew Lafleche: Kenmore Square

Andrew Lafleche, Local Author, Short-story, the OPP Gallery -

Andrew Lafleche: Kenmore Square

The breeze was colder than expected for the beginning of May. Tulips had been in full bloom for nearly a month. The rains had come and gone. The breeze this morning belonged to one of late fall. Still, the newspaper pressed against the glass of the rack reported the month of May. Luke zipped his sweater tighter and checked his watch. Seven-thirty. The bus would be there soon. A man approached, accompanied by a small child. When they neared Luke, they stopped and leaned against the red brick bus station wall.

            “Do you really think we’ll make it before dinner?” the boy asked, his eyes full of hope.

            “You bet,” the man said. “We might even get there in time to walk down to Kenmore Square.”

            “What’s Kenmore Square?”

            “A place where a whole bunch of streets meet.”

            “The streets meet in a square?”

            “Right underneath the giant Citgo sign.”

            “What’s a Citgo sign?” the boy asked.

            “The landmark of Kenmore Square.”

            The boy pondered this. He tilted his head and rested his fist on his chin. “A sign is the landmark of Kenmore Square?”

            “Not just a sign, the sign,” the man said. “And you’ve already seen it.”

            “I have?”

            “Every time they hit a homerun over left field, the cameras pick it up.”

            “I don’t think I’ve seen it before.”

            “The white sign with the glowing heart.”

            “Oh,” the boy said. “I’ve seen that sign.”

            “I know you have.”

            “Not in real life, though. Do you think we’ll make it in time to go down to Kenmore Square and see the sign?”

            “The Citgo sign,” the man said. “And I think we might.”

            “Where is it?”

            “The sign?”

            “Yeah.”

            “It’s on top of Barnes & Noble.”

            “Why is the Citgo sign on top of the Barnes & Noble bookstore?”

            “It was a Citgo office before it was the bookstore.”

            “Hmm,” the boy said. He pressed a finger to his temple and rested his thumb on his chin. “I hope we get there in time to see the sign.”

            The breeze kicked up leaves from the gutter. They appeared suspended before returning to the pavement. The young boy tightened his scarf and pulled his hat lower.

           

#

 

The bus arrived ten minutes late. The man, the boy, and Luke were the only passengers to board at this stop.

            “Heading to Boston?” the driver asked.

            “Sure are,” the boy said. “We’re going to see the Red Sox, and if we’re there early enough we might even go down to the square and see the Citgo.”

            “We’re going to pass straight through Kenmore Square,” the driver said. “You’ll be able to see the sign right from your seat.”

            “Really?” the boy asked.

            The driver nodded.

            “Still,” the boy said. “I think I’d like to see it in real life, from the street.”

            The driver grinned. The man and the boy chose seats together.

            “Boston?” the driver asked Luke.

            Luke nodded and took a window seat near the man and young boy.

            The bus station disappeared into the city. Luke relaxed into the worn upholstery. He unzipped his jacket and exhaled deeply. It had been a long winter. “At the end of a long year,” he said. He scanned the seats nearby. Nobody looked as if they had heard him. Luke was relieved.

            Boston will be different, he assured himself, eyes closed.    

 

#

 

            “What if we don’t make it in time?” the boy asked.

            “We’ll make it in time,” the man said.

            “For Kenmore Square?”

            “For the ballgame.”

            “I meant for Kenmore Square,” the boy said.

            “We’ll definitely make the ballgame. That’s what we’re going for, remember?”

            “But now that I know about the square and the sign, I really want to go there too,” the boy said.

            “We’ll try our best.”

            “I think we’ll make it for both.”

            The man nodded. “I hope so.”

           

#

 

Luke wondered when the last time he spoke to his father was. He remembered when he was a boy how his dad would take him to ball games whenever he had a Saturday off work. How they would ride the bus together to the stadium and get hotdogs with mustard from the stand outside before going in. During the seventh-inning stretch, his dad would take him for a bag of peanuts and a Coca-Cola and buy himself a single can of Samuel Adams. Mom never allowed soda or beer in the house. The Saturday ball game was a father and son pact, protected by the secret they shared.

            Luke looked over to the man and young boy. The boy had stopped talking and was resting against the arm of the man. He looked asleep, but Luke couldn’t be sure.

            The man caught Luke’s gaze and pursed his eye’s quizzically.

            “Sorry,” Luke said. “I was just remembering how me and my dad would take the bus to the game when I was the boy’s age.”

            “It’s important,” the man said. He lifted his arm gently, so not to disturb the young boy, and rested it over the boy’s shoulder. “Me and my dad went once a month till the year he died.”

            Luke nodded. “Enjoy your day.”

            “We will,” the man said.

 

#

 

“Kenmore Square,” the driver hollered.

            The boy jumped up in his seat. “We’re here?”

            “We made it,” the man said. “Look. You can see the sign right up there.”

            The boy leaned over the man and looked up out the window.

            Luke leaned over and looked out as well.     

            “Wow,” the boy said. “It’s bigger than it looks on T.V.”

            “It’s even bigger when you’re standing under it,” the man said.

            “Are we going to get to stand under it?”

            “I think we have just enough time.”

            The boy beamed and then stopped. He looked as if he were about to cry.

            “What’s the matter?” the man asked.

            “Do you think Mom would have liked the Citgo sign?”

            The man bowed his head. “It’s where we first met.”

            The boy hung his head. “I really miss her.”

            “Me too,” the man said. He kissed the top of the boy’s head. “Every day.”