Clouds in My Sky

“Mom! Where are you?”

“Look, Papa, through the window. Grandma is outside sitting on that bench.”

“Oh, thanks, Nat. Hey, guys. Let’s go around to the backyard to see Granny. No running, please!”

“Hi, Grandma.”

“Hi, Grandma.”

“Hello, Grandma. Can I get a kiss, please?”

“I’m sorry. Who might you be?”

“Hi, Mom.”

“Oh, I know you. Hi, Will.”

“How come Grandma doesn’t remember Eli’s name?”

“We already talked about it, Billy.”

“Oh, right! DiMaggio.”

“No! Dementia.”

“Right! Grandma is like a hundred and twenty.”

“No, Billy. Mom is seventy-two. Why don’t you guys go and play over there? You can run all you want. This is a lovely backyard.”

“Sure. Come on, guys!”

“This place is nicer than I thought, Mom.”

“Will, are you getting any sleep? You’ve got baggy eyes.”

“Well, you know… Alice is going through with the divorce after all, and I’ve been having some crazy problems at work with my boss. I’m probably getting fired this week. I’ve seen better days, to be honest. But enough of that. Tell me about this new place, Mom. How is assisted living?”

“I like the backyard. And I love the view of my sky.”

“Well, this place costs a fortune. It’s nice to see they keep up the grass.”

“Grandma, look up there. Can you spot my white floating house?”

“Ah!?”

“It’s a new game they’ve been playing, Mom. They see the most curious shapes in the clouds, and you are supposed to tell which cloud they are talking about.”

“Sorry. What is your name again?”

“I’m Elizabeth.”

“Tell me, Elizabeth—”

“—but people call me Eli.”

“All right. Tell me, Eli, how do you like the clouds in my sky?”

“How come it is your sky?”

“I live here.”

“Well, I’m here now, so it is my sky, too.”

“Eli, why don’t you go and play with your brothers? I want to talk to Mom. I haven’t seen her in two weeks what with the move and all.”

“Okay, Papa.”

“You okay, Will?”

“Well, at least I don’t need to worry about you as much, Mom. This place is actually nice. And those nurses I saw at the front, they seem pretty nice, too.”

“Grandma! Look! Can you see my big white rabbit? Hurry—he is moving fast, running like a champion! You won’t be able to see him soon!”

“Oh! He didn’t wait for an answer! Which kid is this one? Alex?”

“No, Mom. That’s Nathaniel. We call him Nat. Don’t worry about remembering his name.”

“Will, you don’t look right! Are you still upset about Tommy? Sorry, son. I know Tommy was your favorite doll, but we cannot get rid of Benji. He is part of this family.”

“Mom, what are you talking about? Benji? You mean the family dog we had decades ago?”

“Yes! Benji. He is part of the family. You’ve been demanding that we get rid of him. Sorry, we just can’t do that.”

“You mean when Benji ripped off Tommy’s head?”

“I know it is a catastrophe for you. And I know you can’t sleep without Tommy, but sending Benji away is out of the question.”

“Mom, that was when I was seven. It wasn’t a big deal. I’m thirty-eight now.”

“Oh. Well, it was a big deal for you then. You made a big fuss. I remember.”

“Mom, I was just a child. Things are different now.”

“Grandma, can you spot my tiny white airplane? It’s moving slowly. Here’s a hint for you: there’s a big elephant next to it.”

“You are Billy, right?”

“Right!”

“Billy, go back to play with your brother and sister. Let the grownups talk.”

“Will, were you crying last night?”

“Why do you ask?”

“I know you, son. Those baggy eyes come from somewhere.”

“I’m having a hard time right now, to be honest with you. I don’t want you to worry about me, but between Alice and my boss, I honestly don’t know what else to do.”

“Son, you just need to find another date to the prom. You are a handsome young man— I’m sure many girls at the school would be happy to go with you! You need to stop the whining over this girl Alice. Seriously, Will. It’s been three days already, and you are still locked up in your room. That’s more than enough for a funk. You need to get up and find yourself another date.”

“Mom, you’re talking about prom night! I was seventeen! That girl who broke up with me at the last minute was Claudia, not Alice. That was a long time ago.”

“Well, it seemed like the end of the world at the time.”

“Of course, Mom! What did you expect? I know I overreacted, but I was a teenager back then.”

“Grandma! Do you see my army of white ants? There are like hundreds of them! Do you see them? They are marching after that muffin.”

“I see them, Eli. I see them all. Do you want to know a little secret about my sky?”

“Sure! I love secrets.”

“My sky is very special, Eli. All those clouds up there—it doesn’t matter if they look big or small, they all pass the same—my sky remains unchanged.”

“Of course, Grandma. I know the sky doesn’t move. I’m nine years old. Remember?”

“William, look!”

“What is it, Mom?”

“Those humongous gray clouds over there, to the left. They look like your boss, don’t they?”

“Mom, are you trying to tell me something?”

“Tommy and Claudia. They were pretty big clouds at the time, weren’t they? And now you don’t remember them much, do you?”

“I see, Mom. I get it.”

“What is it that you get?”

“That it will pass, Mom. Bad situations in my life will pass…”

“Ah, kiddo! Both heartache and joy—they are all passing clouds in my sky.”