Short Story: The Servant’s Son

He stood in front of the mirror and put his hand out by his shoulder. He was this tall the last time he saw him. This time he might be…he couldn’t see how tall his boy could be for the mirror was not long enough for him to see his own face if he stood up straight.

You’re so old now, he will say to his son. No longer a boy but a man, he will tell him when he sees him. He will praise his boy for graduation as he was the first one in his family to do so.

How many years has it been? No, he won’t bring that up. That isn’t something one should talk about. He went back to his bed where his boys’ letter lay. By now he had it memorized but he still liked to see his handwriting. It was so neat and professional. It resembled the writing of his sir. He picked up the letter and folded it neatly and placed it in the drawer beside his bed, on top of the other letters from his boy.

He will see his boy get his diploma. The first one in the family and it’s all thanks to sir.

The sun was rising, its morning touch fell upon the fresh-cut grass which still had the dew from the night showers. He went downstairs and proceeded to go outside to the front gate where the morning paper lay. Sir liked to read it with his cup of coffee. He dusted the paper off and brought it inside and laid it neatly at the breakfast table. He went to water the bed of flowers outside sirs room. The water sprinkled onto the flower heads, they bowed their heads each time the drop fell upon them.

He’ll get him a new shirt. For the longest time he had sent him my own size but by now he must have outgrown it. Maybe that’s why he asked him not to send him shirts anymore. He’s a good boy. He must think it a burden for him to do something like that. This time it’ll be new, the newest in style, what every young boy wears, no, what young men wear. A nice white shirt. Collared one too, look professional to match his handwriting.

He rolled up the garden hose and tucked it away in its proper place. Sir liked everything clean. He checked the watch sir had gifted him and it was time to make coffee. Sir never got angry or upset if it was late, he was understanding but when a man is that understanding you don’t want to take advantage of it especially when he has been so good to you and your family. That’s something his boy ought to know too. He needs to be understanding. He can tell this lesson in person. That is something one needs to hear not read.

He made the coffee as sir liked and also got a cup of almonds and other nuts and set them at the table beside the paper. He knocked on sirs door. He slowly opened the door and sir was at the study table, reading like he always did. The dim hum of the electric fan interrupted the rhythm of the pages or the ink on paper.

Coffee is ready, sir, he said.

Sir closed his book and placed his pen and paper in the drawer where it belonged. The wooden chair scratched the floor as he rose, book in hand. He pushed the book into the cabinet, in its proper place. He held the door open for sir as he walked to the breakfast table and sat down.

He went into the kitchen and waited for sir to call.

He knew the exact store where he would go to get that shirt. As sir slept in the afternoon, he would go make that quick trip and while he’s out, he’ll even check to the bus prices. He’ll ask the store owner for what is in style and get the nicest one for his boy. Maybe they can wrap it in a nice wrapping paper too. Giving a gift in person means more than giving one over mail. There is something about mail that just makes people acquaintances, just above strangers but in person, one can show love and feel love and his boy was so loving. Not a month goes by where his letter does not come. Even if he doesn’t write back straight away he never forgets.

Sir called from the breakfast table and asked for some oatmeal and toast both of which he had already prepared and he quickly brought it out for him. He stood by for a second waiting for the time to tell him about his boy but it was he who asked first.

How is your son doing?

He could not help but smile as he stared at the table.

Really good, sir, he said.

Sir nodded. He asked for some water and I went and got him some.

He is graduating, he said as he poured the water.

Who is?

My son, he’s graduating next week.

You must be proud.

Yes sir, very happy. It’s all thanks to you for getting him into the school.

That was simple. Learning is the hard part and he did that on his own.

He only smiled.

He felt it was not the right time to ask if he could go see him graduate next week so he took his place in the kitchen and waited for sir to finish. Once sir was done, he cleared the table and afterward, he ate his breakfast in the kitchen.

He made sure to remember to include in his letter sir’s praise of his boy too.

He went upstairs to his room and read the letter once again. His handwriting was so neat. After he went to the store on his bicycle, which was old and made a creaking sound each time he peddled but it did its job. At the store, he looked around at the collections of shirts they had and he asked the store clerk for the most popular one and if he could get it in white. The price was higher than he had expected but his boy was graduating so he bought it and thanked the clerk.

Before going back he stopped at the bus station and asked for the ticket prices next weekend and he got an estimate. It was also more than he had expected but he figured if he asked sir for an advanced he would get it. He was always understanding.

He got home just before lunch and sir was still sleeping. He made his favorite meal, beans, and rice along with a potato dish and he had it ready by the time sir woke up. Sir washed his face and hands and took his seat at the table. He served him the meal and as he ate he stood by, looking for the moment to ask for a leave.

Sir was the one to start the conversation.

Is there something the matter?

I shook my head realizing that he usually sat in the kitchen and waited and how odd it must look for him to break that routine.

Well, he said, there was something I like to ask.

Sir nodded as he ate a spoon full of beans.

My son’s graduation is next week,

Yes, you already told me this.

And he is the first one in our family to graduate and I was hoping if I could get some time off so I can see him in person.

Next weekend?

Yes, sir.

Sir thought for a moment and then shook his head.

Next weekend is the gathering, have you forgotten.

He had but he didn’t tell him that. He slowly nodded.

That is next weekend, he added uselessly.

I need you here for that.

That was that. He nodded once more and refilled his cup of water and went back to the kitchen. Once sir was done eating he had my own meal and he didn’t realize when he had finished eating it. His mind was set on finding the proper words that would allow him to see his son. They seemed so lifeless now. Nothing he came up with revealed anything of his boy. The words were just words and they couldn’t form his son’s shape. What did his eyes look like? How was his face shaped? What did his hair feel like? What did he smell like? How strong was the grip of his hand or his embrace? How tall was he? The words he tried to make up could never answer any of those. All they would do was comfort a formless thing. If he saw him he would be real. The pictures he had of his boy were lifeless too. He wanted to see life and words and still images couldn’t help him.

Sir called me into his room. He had a few shirts laid out on his bed along with two trousers and a pair of old boots.

You can have these, he said, or give them to your son. I figured these shirts should be his size and maybe the boots too.

He gathered the shirts in one arm and picked up the boots.

And take this, sir gave him some money, it will cover the cost of the shipping.

He thanked sir and took the boots, shirts and the trousers and brought them all to his room. The new shirt was there too. Still in its packaging. He folded the shirts and the trousers and laid the new shirt on top of them. The boots on the ground. He tried to imagine the figure that would fill them all out but it only seemed to be a shadow of a being. Something but not someone. He took a piece of paper and wrote, that he will see him soon. He hoped he didn’t remember the past times he wrote that.

He looked at the watch sir had given me and saw it was time to water the plants in the front yard.