Ancient History - Part 2

[London - Outside Buckingham Palace - 2017]

"Two hours twenty-three minutes. Not bad." Jonathan Thomas handed his grandson a towel to wipe the sweat from his face.

"Why can't I run it next week with everyone else?"

"Not yet. You can't bring attention to yourself."

Jack panted as he hung the towel around his neck." I wouldn't even win with that time."

"No, but a twelve-year-old running a marathon, let alone under two-and-a-half hours would bring too much attention."

"What's wrong with attention?" Jack fell in step with his grandfather, walking around the Victoria and Albert Monument toward the pond in St. James Gate Park.

"Look at the world, Jack. Things are becoming more dangerous every day. You do not want to bring attention to yourself until you are able to defend yourself."

"Who's going to attack me?"

"That's not the point. The point is that you are able to protect yourself if something happens." Jonathan stopped at the vendor, ordered meal for the duck and geese, and monkey nuts for the squirrels.

"Then teach me." Squirrels came over to sit by Jonathan's feet as he took a seat by a bench overlooking the pond. Jack walked closer to the pond and started tossing feed to the geese and ducks. Two white swans swam near the opposite shore.

"Yoga, Tai Chi." Two squirrels climbed up into Jonathan's lap and took nuts from his hand. Three more waited at his feet to be given their goodies only to run off and store them in the grass before returning for more.

"How will they help protect me?"

"Keeping your mind and emotions centered and your energy focused are the first steps." The old man gave a nut to a squirrel who had taken roost on his shoulder. The squirrel, recognizing a good perch remained and ate his treat, spilling shell onto Jonathan's jacket.

"I am centered. And focused." Jack knelt by the shore, cupping his hands open as bills pecked into his palms for the seed he held.

"And impatient."

"Well I can't do anything else. I can't go to school like everyone else. I can't compete like everyone else. Sometimes, I wish I was normal, just like everyone else. I never asked for all this. Why do I have to be so special?" Exasperated, Jack stood up and flung the rest of the meal into St. James Pond and watched the fowl scurry across the top of the water in a race to get the first gulp.

Jonathan paused before speaking as he continued giving away free food. The boy's back was to him. He looked eighteen already, not twelve. Physically, he was a man. Mentally, he knew what he had been taught and could figure his way through more than Jonathan every learned. Emotionally was another question. Jack's social maturity was a problem. His gifts separated him from others. He was popular with girls. He had grown up handsome and well built without effort. Jonathan suspected he would. But he didn't have the emotional maturity or stability to deal with a relationship or even just the carnal. It was a problem Jonathan hadn't foreseen, hormones raging in a body that was not emotionally ready for the opposite sex. Jonathan did what he had to do--channel the tension and aggression into physical activities, like marathons and the English Channel.

"Jack . . . "

The man-child turned, his frustration creased his brow. "Is that even my name?"

This brought Jonathan's face up from the squirrels as his hand froze. He had been expecting this question for some time. It might not have been that exact question, but one of identity must have been coming. The boy was analytical, deductive, and intelligent.

A squirrel taking the nut from his hand woke his from his pause. "Yes, that is your name. Jack William Thomas."

"The name I was born with?"

Jonathan paused again, ever so slightly, but it was enough. Jack saw the truth in the old man's hesitation and in his eyes.

"That's what I thought. Are you even my grandfather?"

"Technically, no. I am your father. At least that's what the adoption papers say. But I didn't think it would make much sense considering our age differences. But it isn't unheard of. Charlie Chaplin for one." Jonathan tried to defuse the tension. He let a smile cut across his face as he handed off a couple more nuts.

"Jack, come over here. Sit. I should have told you some things already. But I wasn't sure how, or when you would be ready." The old man slid over to make room. The squirrels moved about, jumping to the ground and scurrying a couple of meters away. The one on his shoulder relocated to the back of the bench. He wasn't about to leave his meal ticket.

"Jack, your mother was in prison when you were born. I adopted you when you were a few days old. It had all been arranged beforehand. Your mother was going to be locked away for several years. It didn't make sense for you to go into foster care when I had the ability and facility to take care of you. It was a much better outcome."

Jack's voice softened. He walked across the path between them to take the seat proffered. "Did you even know her?"

"Yes, I knew her. We lived in the same apartment building for a while. We became friends and that lasted until she passed away."

"She's dead?" Panic crept into his voice despite his never having known his mother.

"Yes, she died in prison. But it was a good passing. She died trying to help people, trying to save people. Because of your mother, some people had the chance to live."

They sat in silence for a couple of minutes as the squirrels returned. Finally Jack asked the question Jonathan knew was next. "Why was she in prison?"

Jonathan pursed his lips and swallowed before answering. "She killed a man, a criminal, who was hurting a lot of people and causing a lot of deaths on the streets. Your mother wasn't a bad person. She did what she had to do. She made a decision in a bad situation. If she hadn't, more people would have died."

Jack's panic seemed to subside to acceptance. Again they sat in quiet contemplation until the next natural question. "What about my father?"

"I don't know. She never said who he was. I asked several times, thought that maybe you'd be better off with him, but she would never tell me. She just said he was the type of person she wanted to be your father."

Another interlude.

Jack straightened up and turn to look at his grandfather who seemed to be waiting. The old man looked older than he had before--as if he had aged ten years while sitting on that bench. Years of secrets, and Jack guessed sorrow. He had spoken not in judgment or contempt, but rather in the memory of a friend. The toll of which was etched on his saddened face. "What was my mother's name?"

"That's enough for now, Jack. I'm tired. Let's go home. Next week, you start aikido and jiu-jitsu."

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