Caleb

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I was ten the year Caleb disappeared.

We were sitting on his porch, sipping lemonade beneath a pallid morning sun. He was showing me his rock collection, teaching me about all the different kinds of minerals, how and when and why they were formed.

“The Earth has so many stories to tell,” he said with the wisdom of someone much older, and he gazed into a piece of smoky quartz as if it were the solution to some profound primordial puzzle.

He had a way of making the ordinary extraordinary. I didn’t know half as much as he did, but it was enough just to listen to him talk, to absorb even a fraction of his knowledge.

Then he got quiet, and when I asked what he was thinking he told me he had a secret.

“You have to promise not to tell anyone.”

“Okay,” I said. “I promise.”

He paused. “Dad and I are going away.”

“On a trip?”

Caleb shook his head.

“Where? For how long?”

“I don’t know. Forever, I guess.”

The words formed a fist that punched me in the stomach. I almost doubled over. My best friend was leaving. Tears welled at the corners of my eyes.

“Why do you have to go?”

“I don’t know. Dad just said the world’s changing, that it’s time to move on. He said we’re leaving today.”

I was shocked. I stared at the street, silent and still, until Caleb spoke again.

“Dad says you can come inside to say goodbye. But you have to promise not to tell anyone.”

Caleb opened the door.

I followed.

The inside of his house had always been off limits. In spite of my pain, I felt a distant thrill. I was doing something that until that day had been forbidden. I expected the interior to be different somehow, like the threshold between Earth and some alien world. But it was only an ordinary living room, with a TV, a lamp and a couch. Just like my own house.

“Hello, Daniel,” said Caleb’s dad, emerging from the hallway with a leather suitcase. He was wearing a black suit and tie, with a matching fedora on his head. “We didn’t want to leave without saying goodbye.”

“Will you visit?” I asked in desperation.

Caleb glanced up at his dad, who smiled and said, “Maybe. If we can.” Then he looked down at my best friend and asked, “Are you ready?”

Eyes downcast, Caleb said he guessed he was.

“Where are you going?” I asked. “Maybe I can write.”

But Caleb only shrugged and took his dad’s hand. “Bye, Daniel. I’ll miss you.”

They began to fade.

At first, I didn’t understand what I was seeing. I blinked, closed my eyes, expected it to be some trick of the light. But when I looked at Caleb again he was transparent, only a ghostly apparition in place of the boy he’d once been.

“What’s happening?” I thought maybe I was dreaming, that I’d wake up to the familiar relief of my blankets and pillows, secure in the knowledge that Caleb wasn’t leaving after all.

“Remember,” said Caleb’s dad, hardly more than a glimmer, “You have to keep this a secret. We’ll visit if we can.”

Then they were gone.

In the months that followed, they were the talk of the neighborhood. What had happened to them? Were they okay?

“Caleb was your best friend,” Mom asked me once. “Did he tell you anything?”

I shook my head. Caleb was my best friend and I promised to keep his secret.

The house is abandoned now. The paint has begun to peel and the yard is a jungle of overgrown weeds. I wander by from time to time, childhood memories passing through my head like phantoms, wondering if someday he’ll return. But deep down, I suspect he’s moved on, and I wonder if he would even recognize me if our paths ever crossed again.

Wherever he is, I’m sure he’s having an adventure. I only wish I could have joined him.

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“His name is Gol. He is not an ogre or a troll, a gnome, a fairy or a centaur. There are no stories written of his kind. He was once human like the boy, but he is human no longer.”

Gol, a creature of the Earth yet apart from it, a creature of arcane powers with an ancient mission not even he fully understands. He cannot propagate, yet he must sire offspring to continue his life’s work.

James, a boy who lives in dreams and the imagination, a boy inebriated with the wonders and mysteries of life. He will learn too soon that the world harbors darker secrets.

A bittersweet tale of loss and regret, death and rebirth, growth and transformation, Rite of Passage will remind you why you were once afraid of the dark, and will call to mind the mystical innocence of childhood that was forever stolen from each of us.

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Time

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It’s amazing how slowly time seems to go as you experience childhood. You have those landmark days like Christmas and your birthday to mark the year, and it seems almost a lifetime in-between.

You grow up a bit.  Time starts to pick up its pace, but not by much.  You spend six years in Elementary School, convinced you have life all figured out.  Then you reach the end of your sixth grade year, and the pressures of the unknown begin to gnaw at the back of your mind as you contemplate the notion of — GASP! — Junior High.

By this point, time’s speed has increased markedly.  However, you soon discover that Junior High is no big deal, and you once more begin to believe that you have life all figured out, that things will always be as they are in that moment.  You have some notion of existing in a transient state, but as you deal with new friends, new enemies and the stresses that come with peer pressure, it’s really the last thing that enters your mind.

You reach the end of your eighth grade year, another milestone, and uncertainty creeps into your mind once again.  This time, it’s the frightening prospect of High School.  You’re not quite as worried about High School as you were about Junior High, but fear gets the better of you just the same.  You endure sleepless nights over summer vacation dreaming about forgotten classes, getting lost in an endless maze of foreign buildings and embarrassing moments with your peers.  Finally, you attend your first day of school, realize it’s nothing new and settle into your home away from home for the next four years.

This is the moment that time really decides to kick itself into gear.  People always used to tell you this would happen, but you never really believed them. You lose old friends, make new ones, lose yourself, find yourself.  When it’s all said and done, you’re standing there amidst your family and peers getting ready to receive your diploma.  You sing your school’s Alma mater one last time, and you find yourself trying to hide unexpected tears as you realize that, despite what you thought at the time, those really were the best years of your life.

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