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Rated: E · Short Story · Family · #2161671
Without a little magic mixed into reality life would be less grand.
"The Writer's Cramp prompt: The one that got away

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Old Jethro was old enough to have seen everything even with one eye closed and the other one winking at fate. Was there really something new under the sun his great-grandson had discovered? “What a Silly idea.”

Lately, the boy had been his shadow, sticking to him like glue. That nickname of his was always getting him the kind of attention no-one liked. Could he help it if everything he said sounded like a joke? "Stop it, Great gramps. I was that close to the real thing."

The boy wasn't much taller than the man's leg, looked like a partially put together lump of clay but had a sparkle for seeing things like nobody else Great Gramps knew.

The oldster's rocker was older than he was, handed down one generation to another. The old man had some rhythm going, his bones creaking right along with the aged wood. “You don’t say. That big? Was it?”

The chuckle started out like a rumbling earthquake in his chest. It shivered its way up into Old Jethro’s smile and escaped into laughter. “The one that got away, huh? Reminds me of a fish story.”

“No, really, great gramps. I saw it with my own blue eyes.” Silly Thomas didn’t wink, blush, or look away. The ten-year-old had picked up that nickname for all the silly things he was always doing and saying. Silly wasn't just the family clown. He had his whole school in stitches trying to wrap their heads around his antics.

Old Jethro scratched his beard and pondered what the lad had told him. “Hmm.”

Silly danced on one foot then the other. He was already late. If he stayed much longer there would be nothing left but grease on a plate for dinner. “You believe me?”

For the first time in a long time, it was Old Jethro who dropped his eyes first. “I know’d you since you were a tadpole. You never lied to me yet.”

How was he going to tell the lad this latest antic had been mistaken. What the lad had seen wasn’t real. It couldn’t and never would be. Destroying the fragile confidence in the boy wouldn’t be pretty.

Silly’s head danced on his shoulders faster then his hopping feet could follow. “I fished enough in that bayou to know what is and isn’t, sir.”

“No old crocodile eating at your imagination, perhaps?” Old Jethro was tugging hard at reality and refusing to let it go.

“I swear on a stack of bibles.”

There it was. The one that got away had returned to bite them both. All ties to reality frayed between the two staring at each other from the opposite poles of life. There was nothing to latch onto but the love in each other’s eyes. “I believe you think you saw what you say. Is that enough?”

Jethro instantly knew his mistake. He had to shake reality back into shape or the kid might never believe there was room for magic in it, again.

“Heck. I was joshing. All righty then, I believe you.”

Silly took the deepest breath his lungs had ever held, letting it out with a happy yell. “Yes, sir. I wish you could have been there. It was pure magic.”

Silly and old Jethro looked every which way they could before their satisfied eyes returned to gaze at each other. The town gossips were hiding elsewhere.

“Best keep this to ourselves, youngun. You were wise to share it only with me.” The heavy hand on Silly’s shoulder was like the King’s sword proclaiming Silly a knight. “Word gets out and this Silly sighting of the one that got away will be found and put in some zoo or worse.”

The young boy’s eyes widened in alarm. “They would, wouldn’t they?” He was thinking of Jeremy Storm’s two-headed lamb put in a cage with five-cent tickets sold for a looky-look.

“I really did see a mermaid in the lake, great gramps. She had a tail and everything. I tried catching her attention but she slid off her rock into the water and got away before she knew I was even there.”

Sometimes the one that got away is more than just a big fishy story with bragging rights. Who knew? Maybe Silly’s mermaid would inspire him into becoming a marine biologist. The magic seed had been planted and magic does what magic will where reality is concerned.

Silly’s mermaid story might be just so powerful with magical allure it could be carried as a shield into battle against life’s sharp hooks and jabs. Silly might not be so silly at all for turning reality into what he wanted it to be. With an imagination like that, the boy had a chance of turning himself into anything he wanted to be. With a little time and education, anything was possible.

“Gotta’ go, great gramps. Thanks for believing in me.”

Their goodbye hug would be one to warm old Jethro’s heart for many a cold night spent rocking time away on his porch. “Imagine that. Got my own batteryless heart-warmer.” The old man waved Silly off back home.
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