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Title: To Remember Charlie By
Author: Aycock, Roger D., 1914-2004
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "To Remember Charlie By" ***

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                         Transcriber's Note:

    This etext was produced from Fantastic Universe March 1954. Extensive
    research did not uncover any evidence that the U.S. copyright on this
    publication was renewed.


[The history of this materialistic world is highlighted with
strange events that scientists and historians, unable to explain
logically, have dismissed with such labels as "supernatural,"
"miracle," etc. But there are those among us whose simple faith
can--and often does--alter the scheme of the universe. Even a little
child can do it....]


                        to remember charlie by


                           by ... Roger Dee


     Just a one-eyed dog named Charlie and a crippled boy named
     Joey--but between them they changed the face of the universe ...
     perhaps.

       *       *       *       *       *



I nearly stumbled over the kid in the dark before I saw him.

His wheelchair was parked as usual on the tired strip of carpet grass
that separated his mother's trailer from the one Doc Shull and I lived
in, but it wasn't exactly where I'd learned to expect it when I rolled
in at night from the fishing boats. Usually it was nearer the west end
of the strip where Joey could look across the crushed-shell square of
the Twin Palms trailer court and the palmetto flats to the Tampa
highway beyond. But this time it was pushed back into the shadows away
from the court lights.

The boy wasn't watching the flats tonight, as he usually did. Instead
he was lying back in his chair with his face turned to the sky,
staring upward with such absorbed intensity that he didn't even know I
was there until I spoke.

"Anything wrong, Joey?" I asked.

He said, "No, Roy," without taking his eyes off the sky.

For a minute I had the prickly feeling you get when you are watching a
movie and find that you know just what is going to happen next.
You're puzzled and a little spooked until you realize that the reason
you can predict the action so exactly is because you've seen the same
thing happen somewhere else a long time ago. I forgot the feeling when
I remembered why the kid wasn't watching the palmetto flats. But I
couldn't help wondering why he'd turned to watching the sky instead.

"What're you looking for up there, Joey?" I asked.

He didn't move and from the tone of his voice I got the impression
that he only half heard me.

"I'm moving some stars," he said softly.

I gave it up and went on to my own trailer without asking any more
fool questions. How can you talk to a kid like that?

Doc Shull wasn't in, but for once I didn't worry about him. I was
trying to remember just what it was about my stumbling over Joey's
wheelchair that had given me that screwy double-exposure feeling of
familiarity. I got a can of beer out of the ice-box because I think
better with something cold in my hand, and by the time I had finished
the beer I had my answer.

The business I'd gone through with Joey outside was familiar because
it _had_ happened before, about six weeks back when Doc and I first
parked our trailer at the Twin Palms court. I'd nearly stumbled over
Joey that time too, but he wasn't moving stars then. He was just
staring ahead of him, waiting.

He'd been sitting in his wheelchair at the west end of the
carpet-grass strip, staring out over the palmetto flats toward the
highway. He was practically holding his breath, as if he was waiting
for somebody special to show up, so absorbed in his watching that he
didn't know I was there until I spoke. He reminded me a little of a
ventriloquist's dummy with his skinny, knob-kneed body, thin face and
round, still eyes. Only there wasn't anything comical about him the
way there is about a dummy. Maybe that's why I spoke, because he
looked so deadly serious.

"Anything wrong, kid?" I asked.

He didn't jump or look up. His voice placed him as a cracker, either
south Georgian or native Floridian.

"I'm waiting for Charlie to come home," he said, keeping his eyes on
the highway.

Probably I'd have asked who Charlie was but just then the trailer door
opened behind him and his mother took over.

I couldn't see her too well because the lights were off inside the
trailer. But I could tell from the way she filled up the doorway that
she was big. I could make out the white blur of a cigarette in her
mouth, and when she struck a match to light it--on her thumb-nail,
like a man--I saw that she was fairly young and not bad-looking in a
tough, sullen sort of way. The wind was blowing in my direction and it
told me she'd had a drink recently, gin, by the smell of it.

"This is none of your business, mister," she said. Her voice was
Southern like the boy's but with all the softness ground out of it
from living on the Florida coast where you hear a hundred different
accents every day. "Let the boy alone."

She was right about it being none of my business. I went on into the
trailer I shared with Doc Shull and left the two of them waiting for
Charlie together.

Our trailer was dark inside, which meant first that Doc had probably
gone out looking for a drink as soon as I left that morning to pick up
a job, and second that he'd probably got too tight to find his way
back. But I was wrong on at least one count, because when I switched
on the light and dumped the packages I'd brought on the sink cabinet I
saw Doc asleep in his bunk.

He'd had a drink, though. I could smell it on him when I shook him
awake, and it smelled like gin.

Doc sat up and blinked against the light, a thin, elderly little man
with bright blue eyes, a clipped brown mustache and scanty brown hair
tousled and wild from sleep. He was stripped to his shorts against the
heat, but at some time during the day he had bathed and shaved. He had
even washed and ironed a shirt; it hung on a nail over his bunk with a
crumpled pack of cigarettes in the pocket.

"Crawl out and cook supper, Rip," I said, holding him to his end of
our working agreement. "I've made a day and I'm hungry."

Doc got up and stepped into his pants. He padded barefoot across the
linoleum and poked at the packages on the sink cabinet.

"Snapper steak again," he complained. "Roy, I'm sick of fish!"

"You don't catch sirloins with a hand-line," I told him. And because
I'd never been able to stay sore at him for long I added, "But we got
beer. Where's the opener?"

"I'm sick of beer, too," Doc said. "I need a real drink."

I sniffed the air, making a business of it. "You've had one already.
Where?"

He grinned at me then with the wise-to-himself-and-the-world grin that
lit up his face like turning on a light inside and made him different
from anybody else on earth.

"The largess of Providence," he said, "is bestowed impartially upon
sot and Samaritan. I helped the little fellow next door to the
bathroom this afternoon while his mother was away at work, and my
selflessness had its just reward."

Sometimes it's hard to tell when Doc is kidding. He's an educated
man--used to teach at some Northern college, he said once, and I never
doubted it--and talks like one when he wants to. But Doc's no bum,
though he's a semi-alcoholic and lets me support him like an invalid
uncle, and he's keen enough to read my mind like a racing form.

"No, I didn't batter down the cupboard and help myself," he said. "The
lady--her name is Mrs. Ethel Pond--gave me the drink. Why else do you
suppose I'd launder a shirt?"

That was like Doc. He hadn't touched her bottle though his insides
were probably snarled up like barbed wire for the want of it. He'd
shaved and pressed a shirt instead so he'd look decent enough to rate
a shot of gin she'd offer him as a reward. It wasn't such a doubtful
gamble at that, because Doc has a way with him when he bothers to use
it; maybe that's why he bums around with me after the commercial
fishing and migratory crop work, because he's used that charm too
often in the wrong places.

"Good enough," I said and punctured a can of beer apiece for us while
Doc put the snapper steaks to cook.

He told me more about our neighbors while we killed the beer. The
Ponds were permanent residents. The kid--his name was Joey and he was
ten--was a polio case who hadn't walked for over a year, and his
mother was a waitress at a roadside joint named the Sea Shell Diner.
There wasn't any Mr. Pond. I guessed there never had been, which would
explain why Ethel acted so tough and sullen.

We were halfway through supper when I remembered something the kid had
said.

"Who's Charlie?" I asked.

Doc frowned at his plate. "The kid had a dog named Charlie, a big
shaggy mutt with only one eye and no love for anybody but the boy. The
dog isn't coming home. He was run down by a car on the highway while
Joey was hospitalized with polio."

"Tough," I said, thinking of the kid sitting out there all day in his
wheelchair, straining his eyes across the palmetto flats. "You mean
he's been waiting a _year_?"

Doc nodded, seemed to lose interest in the Ponds, so I let the subject
drop. We sat around after supper and polished off the rest of the
beer. When we turned in around midnight I figured we wouldn't be
staying long at the Twin Palms trailer court. It wasn't a very
comfortable place.

I was wrong there. It wasn't comfortable, but we stayed.

I couldn't have said at first why we stuck, and if Doc could he didn't
volunteer. Neither of us talked about it. We just went on living the
way we were used to living, a few weeks here and a few there, all
over the States.

We'd hit the Florida west coast too late for the citrus season, so I
went in for the fishing instead. I worked the fishing boats all the
way from Tampa down to Fort Myers, not signing on with any of the
commercial companies because I like to move quick when I get restless.
I picked the independent deep-water snapper runs mostly, because the
percentage is good there if you've got a strong back and tough hands.

Snapper fishing isn't the sport it seems to the one-day tourists who
flock along because the fee is cheap. You fish from a wide-beamed old
scow, usually, with hand-lines instead of regular tackle, and you use
multiple hooks that go down to the bottom where the big red ones are.
There's no real thrill to it, as the one-day anglers find out quickly.
A snapper puts up no more fight than a catfish and the biggest job is
to haul out his dead weight once you've got him surfaced.

Usually a pro like me sells his catch to the boat's owner or to some
clumsy sport who wants his picture shot with a big one, and there's
nearly always a jackpot--from a pool made up at the beginning of every
run--for the man landing the biggest fish of the day. There's a knack
to hooking the big ones, and when the jackpots were running good I
only worked a day or so a week and spent the rest of the time lying
around the trailer playing cribbage and drinking beer with Doc Shull.

Usually it was the life of Riley, but somehow it wasn't enough in this
place. We'd get about half-oiled and work up a promising argument
about what was wrong with the world. Then, just when we'd got life
looking its screwball funniest with our arguments one or the other of
us would look out the window and see Joey Pond in his wheelchair,
waiting for a one-eyed dog named Charlie to come trotting home across
the palmetto flats. He was always there, day or night, until his
mother came home from work and rolled him inside.

It wasn't right or natural for a kid to wait like that for anything
and it worried me. I even offered once to buy the kid another mutt but
Ethel Pond told me quick to mind my own business. Doc explained that
the kid didn't want another mutt because he had what Doc called a
psychological block.

"Charlie was more than just a dog to him," Doc said. "He was a sort of
symbol because he offered the kid two things that no one else in the
world could--security and independence. With Charlie keeping him
company he felt secure, and he was independent of the kids who could
run and play because he had Charlie to play with. If he took another
dog now he'd be giving up more than Charlie. He'd be giving up
everything that Charlie had meant to him, then there wouldn't be any
point in living."

I could see it when Doc put it that way. The dog had spent more time
with Joey than Ethel had, and the kid felt as safe with him as he'd
have been with a platoon of Marines. And Charlie, being a one-man dog,
had depended on Joey for the affection he wouldn't take from anybody
else. The dog needed Joey and Joey needed him. Together, they'd been a
natural.

At first I thought it was funny that Joey never complained or cried
when Charlie didn't come home, but Doc explained that it was all a
part of this psychological block business. If Joey cried he'd be
admitting that Charlie was lost. So he waited and watched, secure in
his belief that Charlie would return.

The Ponds got used to Doc and me being around, but they never got what
you'd call intimate. Joey would laugh at some of the droll things Doc
said, but his eyes always went back to the palmetto flats and the
highway, looking for Charlie. And he never let anything interfere with
his routine.

That routine started every morning when old man Cloehessey, the
postman, pedaled his bicycle out from Twin Palms to leave a handful of
mail for the trailer-court tenants. Cloehessey would always make it a
point to ride back by way of the Pond trailer and Joey would stop him
and ask if he's seen anything of a one-eyed dog on his route that day.

Old Cloehessey would lean on his bike and take off his sun helmet and
mop his bald scalp, scowling while he pretended to think.

Then he'd say, "Not today, Joey," or, "Thought so yesterday, but this
fellow had two eyes on him. 'Twasn't Charlie."

Then he'd pedal away, shaking his head. Later on the handyman would
come around to swap sanitary tanks under the trailers and Joey would
ask him the same question. Once a month the power company sent out a
man to read the electric meters and he was part of Joey's routine too.

It was hard on Ethel. Sometimes the kid would dream at night that
Charlie had come home and was scratching at the trailer ramp to be let
in, and he'd wake Ethel and beg her to go out and see. When that
happened Doc and I could hear Ethel talking to him, low and steady,
until all hours of the morning, and when he finally went back to sleep
we'd hear her open the cupboard and take out the gin bottle.

But there came a night that was more than Ethel could take, a night
that changed Joey's routine and a lot more with it. It left a mark
you've seen yourself--everybody has that's got eyes to see--though
you never knew what made it. Nobody ever knew that but Joey and Ethel
Pond and Doc and me.

Doc and I were turning in around midnight that night when the kid sang
out next door. We heard Ethel get up and go to him, and we got up too
and opened a beer because we knew neither of us would sleep any more
till she got Joey quiet again. But this night was different. Ethel
hadn't talked to the kid long when he yelled, "Charlie! _Charlie!_"
and after that we heard both of them bawling.

A little later Ethel came out into the moonlight and shut the trailer
door behind her. She looked rumpled and beaten, her hair straggling
damply on her shoulders and her eyes puffed and red from crying. The
gin she'd had hadn't helped any either.

She stood for a while without moving, then she looked up at the sky
and said something I'm not likely to forget.

"Why couldn't You give the kid a break?" she said, not railing or
anything but loud enough for us to hear. "You, up there--what's
another lousy one-eyed mutt to You?"

Doc and I looked at each other in the half-dark of our own trailer.
"She's done it, Roy," Doc said.

I knew what he meant and wished I didn't. Ethel had finally told the
kid that Charlie wasn't coming back, not ever.

That's why I was worried about Joey when I came home the next evening
and found him watching the sky instead of the palmetto flats. It meant
he'd given up waiting for Charlie. And the quiet way the kid spoke of
moving the stars around worried me more, because it sounded outright
crazy.

Not that you could blame him for going off his head. It was tough
enough to be pinned to a wheelchair without being able to wiggle so
much as a toe. But to lose his dog in the bargain....

I was on my third beer when Doc Shull rolled in with a big package
under his arm. Doc was stone sober, which surprised me, and he was hot
and tired from a shopping trip to Tampa, which surprised me more. It
was when he ripped the paper off his package, though, that I thought
he'd lost his mind.

"Books for Joey," Doc said. "Ethel and I agreed this morning that the
boy needs another interest to occupy his time now, and since he can't
go to school I'm going to teach him here."

He went on to explain that Ethel hadn't had the heart the night
before, desperate as she was, to tell the kid the whole truth. She'd
told him instead, quoting an imaginary customer at the Sea Shell
Diner, that a tourist car with Michigan license plates had picked
Charlie up on the highway and taken him away. It was a good enough
story. Joey still didn't know that Charlie was dead, but his waiting
was over because no dog could be expected to find his way home from
Michigan.

"We've got to give the boy another interest," Doc said, putting away
the books and puncturing another beer can. "Joey has a remarkable
talent for concentration--most handicapped children have--that could
be the end of him if it isn't diverted into safe channels."

I thought the kid had cracked up already and said so.

"Moving _stars_?" Doc said when I told him. "Good Lord, Roy--"

       *       *       *       *       *

Ethel Pond knocked just then, interrupting him. She came in and had a
beer with us and talked to Doc about his plan for educating Joey at
home. But she couldn't tell us anything more about the kid's new
fixation than we already knew. When she asked him why he stared up at
the sky like that he'd say only that he wants something to remember
Charlie by.

It was about nine o'clock, when Ethel went home to cook supper. Doc
and I knocked off our cribbage game and went outside with our folding
chairs to get some air. It was then that the first star moved.

It moved all of a sudden, the way any shooting star does, and shot
across the sky in a curving, blue-white streak of fire. I didn't pay
much attention, but Doc nearly choked on his beer.

"Roy," he said, "that was Sirius! _It moved!_"

I didn't see anything serious about it and said so. You can see a
dozen or so stars zip across the sky on any clear night if you're in
the mood to look up.

"Not serious, you fool," Doc said. "The _star_ Sirius--the Dog Star,
it's called--it moved a good sixty degrees, _then stopped dead_!"

I sat up and took notice then, partly because the star really had
stopped instead of burning out the way a falling star seems to do,
partly because anything that excites Doc Shull that much is something
to think about.

We watched the star like two cats at a mouse-hole, but it didn't move
again. After a while a smaller one did, though, and later in the night
a whole procession of them streaked across the sky and fell into place
around the first one, forming a pattern that didn't make any sense to
us. They stopped moving around midnight and we went to bed, but
neither of us got to sleep right away.

"Maybe we ought to look for another interest in life ourselves instead
of drumming up one for Joey," Doc said. He meant it as a joke but it
had a shaky sound; "Something besides getting beered up every night,
for instance."

"You think we've got the d.t.'s from drinking _beer_?" I asked.

Doc laughed at that, sounding more like his old self. "No, Roy. No
two people ever had instantaneous and identical hallucinations."

"Look," I said. "I know this sounds crazy but maybe Joey--"

Doc wasn't amused any more. "Don't be a fool, Roy. If those stars
really moved you can be sure of two things--Joey had nothing to do
with it, and the papers will explain everything tomorrow."

He was wrong on one count at least.

The papers next day were packed with scareheads three inches high but
none of them explained anything. The radio commentators quoted every
authority they could reach, and astronomers were going crazy
everywhere. It just couldn't happen, they said.

Doc and I went over the news column by column that night and I learned
more about the stars than I'd learned in a lifetime. Doc, as I've said
before, is an educated man, and what he couldn't recall offhand about
astronomy the newspapers quoted by chapter and verse. They ran
interviews with astronomers at Harvard Observatory and Mount Wilson
and Lick and Flagstaff and God knows where else, but nobody could
explain why all of those stars would change position then stop.

It set me back on my heels to learn that Sirius was twice as big as
the Sun and more than twice as heavy, that it was three times as hot
and had a little dark companion that was more solid than lead but
didn't give off enough light to be seen with the naked eye. This
little companion--astronomers called it the "Pup" because Sirius was
the Dog Star--hadn't moved, which puzzled the astronomers no end. I
suggested to Doc, only half joking, that maybe the Pup had stayed put
because it wasn't bright enough to suit Joey's taste, but Doc called
me down sharp.

"Don't joke about Joey," he said sternly. "Getting back to
Sirius--it's so far away that its light needs eight and a half years
to reach us. That means it started moving when Joey was only eighteen
months old. The speed of light is a universal constant, Roy, and
astronomers say it can't be changed."

"They said the stars couldn't be tossed around like pool balls, too,"
I pointed out. "I'm not saying that Joey really moved those damn
stars, Doc, but if he did he could have moved the light along with
them, couldn't he?"

But Doc wouldn't argue the point. "I'm going out for air," he said.

I trailed along, but we didn't get farther than Joey's wheelchair.

There he sat, tense and absorbed, staring up at the night sky. Doc and
I followed his gaze, the way you do automatically when somebody on the
street ahead of you cranes his neck at something. We looked up just
in time to see the stars start moving again.

The first one to go was a big white one that slanted across the sky
like a Roman candle fireball--_zip_, like that--and stopped dead
beside the group that had collected around Sirius.

Doc said, "There went Altair," and his voice sounded like he had just
run a mile.

That was only the beginning. During the next hour forty or fifty more
stars flashed across the sky and joined the group that had moved the
night before. The pattern they made still didn't look like anything in
particular.

I left Doc shaking his head at the sky and went over to give Joey, who
had called it a night and was hand-rolling his wheelchair toward the
Pond trailer, a boost up the entrance ramp. I pushed him inside where
Doc couldn't hear, then I asked him how things were going.

"Slow, Roy," he said. "I've got 'most a hundred to go, yet."

"Then you're really moving those stars up there?"

He looked surprised. "Sure, it's not so hard once you know how."

The odds were even that he was pulling my leg, but I went ahead anyway
and asked another question.

"I can't make head or tail of it, Joey," I said. "What're you making
up there?"

He gave me a very small smile.

"You'll know when I'm through," he said.

I told Doc about that after we'd bunked in, but he said I should not
encourage the kid in his crazy thinking. "Joey's heard everybody
talking about those stars moving, the radio newscasters blared about
it, so he's excited too. But he's got a lot more imagination than most
people, because he's a cripple, and he could go off on a crazy tangent
because he's upset about Charlie. The thing to do is give him a
logical explanation instead of letting him think his fantasy is a
fact."

Doc was taking all this so hard--because it was upsetting things he'd
taken for granted as being facts all his life, like those astronomers
who were going nuts in droves all over the world. I didn't realize how
upset Doc really was, though, till he woke me up at about 4:00 A.M.

"I can't sleep for thinking about those stars," he said, sitting on
the edge of my bunk. "Roy, I'm _scared_."

That from Doc was something I'd never expected to hear. It startled me
wide enough awake to sit up in the dark and listen while he unloaded
his worries.

"I'm afraid," Doc said, "because what is happening up there isn't
right or natural. It just can't be, yet it is."

It was so quiet when he paused that I could hear the blood swishing in
my ears. Finally Doc said, "Roy, the galaxy we live in is as
delicately balanced as a fine watch. If that balance is upset too far
our world will be affected drastically."

Ordinarily I wouldn't have argued with Doc on his own ground, but I
could see he was painting a mental picture of the whole universe
crashing together like a Fourth of July fireworks display and I was
afraid to let him go on.

"The trouble with you educated people," I said, "is that you think
your experts have got everything figured out, that there's nothing in
the world their slide-rules can't pin down. Well, I'm an illiterate
mugg, but I know that your astronomers can measure the stars till
they're blue in the face and they'll never learn who _put_ those stars
there. So how do they know that whoever put them there won't move them
again? I've always heard that if a man had faith enough he could move
mountains. Well, if a man has the faith in himself that Joey's got
maybe he could move stars, too."

Doc sat quiet for a minute.

"'_There are more things, Horatio...._'" he began, then laughed. "A
line worn threadbare by three hundred years of repetition but as apt
tonight as ever, Roy. Do you really believe Joey is moving those
stars?"

"Why not?" I came back. "It's as good an answer as any the experts
have come up with."

Doc got up and went back to his own bunk. "Maybe you're right. We'll
find out tomorrow."

And we did. Doc did, rather, while I was hard at work hauling red
snappers up from the bottom of the Gulf.

       *       *       *       *       *

I got home a little earlier than usual that night, just before it got
really dark. Joey was sitting as usual all alone in his wheelchair. In
the gloom I could see a stack of books on the grass beside him, books
Doc had given him to study. The thing that stopped me was that Joey
was staring at his feet as if they were the first ones he'd ever seen,
and he had the same look of intense concentration on his face that I'd
seen when he was watching the stars.

I didn't know what to say to him, thinking maybe I'd better not
mention the stars. But Joey spoke first.

"Roy," he said, without taking his eyes off his toes, "did you know
that Doc is an awfully wise man?"

I said I'd always thought so, but why?

"Doc said this morning that I ought not to move any more stars," the
kid said. "He says I ought to concentrate instead on learning how to
walk again so I can go to Michigan and find Charlie."

For a minute I was mad enough to brain Doc Shull if he'd been handy.
Anybody that would pull a gag like that on a crippled, helpless
kid....

"Doc says that if I can do what I've been doing to the stars then it
ought to be easy to move my own feet," Joey said. "And he's right,
Roy. So I'm not going to move any more stars. I'm going to move my
feet."

He looked up at me with his small, solemn smile. "It took me a whole
day to learn how to move that first star, Roy, but I could do this
after only a couple of hours. Look...."

And he wiggled the toes on both feet.

It's a pity things don't happen in life like they do in books, because
a first-class story could be made out of Joey Pond's knack for moving
things by looking at them. In a book Joey might have saved the world
or destroyed it, depending on which line would interest the most
readers and bring the writer the fattest check, but of course it
didn't really turn out either way. It ended in what Doc Shull called
an anticlimax, leaving everybody happy enough except a few astronomers
who like mysteries anyway or they wouldn't be astronomers in the first
place.

The stars that had been moved stayed where they were, but the pattern
they had started was never finished. That unfinished pattern won't
ever go away, in case you've wondered about it--it's up there in the
sky where you can see it any clear night--but it will never be
finished because Joey Pond lost interest in it when he learned to walk
again.

Walking was a slow business with Joey at first because his legs had
got thin and weak--partially atrophied muscles, Doc said--and it took
time to make them round and strong again. But in a couple of weeks he
was stumping around on crutches and after that he never went near his
wheelchair again.

Ethel sent him to school at Sarasota by bus and before summer vacation
time came around he was playing softball and fishing in the Gulf with
a gang of other kids on Sundays.

School opened up a whole new world to Joey and he fitted himself into
the routine as neat as if he'd been doing it all his life. He learned
a lot there and he forgot a lot that he'd learned for himself by being
alone. Before we realized what was happening he was just like any
other ten-year-old, full of curiosity and the devil, with no more
power to move things by staring at them than anybody else had.

I think he actually forgot about those stars along with other things
that had meant so much to him when he was tied to his wheelchair and
couldn't do anything but wait and think.

For instance, a scrubby little terrier followed him home from Twin
Palms one day and Ethel let him keep it. He fed the pup and washed it
and named it Dugan, and after that he never said anything more about
going to Michigan to find Charlie. It was only natural, of course,
because kids--normal kids--forget their pain quickly. It's a sort of
defense mechanism, Doc says, against the disappointments of this life.

When school opened again in the fall Ethel sold her trailer and got a
job in Tampa where Joey could walk to school instead of going by bus.
When they were gone the Twin Palms trailer court was so lonesome and
dead that Doc and I pulled out and went down to the Lake Okechobee
country for the sugar cane season. We never heard from Ethel and Joey
again.

We've moved several times since; we're out in the San Joaquin Valley
just now, with the celery croppers. But everywhere we go we're
reminded of them. Every time we look up at a clear night sky we see
what Doc calls the Joey Pond Stellar Monument, which is nothing but a
funny sort of pattern roughed in with a hundred or so stars of all
sizes and colors.

The body of it is so sketchy that you'd never make out what it's
supposed to be unless you knew already what you were looking for. To
us the head of a dog is fairly plain. If you know enough to fill in
the gaps you can see it was meant to be a big shaggy dog with only one
eye.

Doc says that footloose migratories like him and me forget old
associations as quick as kids do--and for the same good reason--so I'm
not especially interested now in where Ethel and Joey Pond are or how
they're doing. But there's one thing I'll always wonder about, now
that there's no way of ever knowing for sure.

I wish I'd asked Joey or Ethel, before they moved away, how Charlie
lost that other eye.

       *       *       *       *       *





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