The Ink Well Prompt #50: Don't Skip Any Adventures

Source, colorized by Deeann D. Mathews
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Thomas Stepforth Sr. was Lofton County's only Black billionaire, and a man in retirement age with business enough to keep him busy. However, he was wise enough to know the importance of personally nourishing his family, and one member in particular was at a stage of needing a lot of nourishing.

Vertran Stepforth was the prodigy middle child of Major Thomas Stepforth Jr., Mr. Stepforth's son. Vertran's challenges were similar to those his grandfather began to experience at his age; his mind and ability were vastly outrunning the rest of his development. However, Mr. Stepforth's old father had time to nourish him as the surprise baby son, and Mr. Stepforth, as grandfather, often stepped in to fill that gap for Vertran.

Sometimes, Mr. Stepforth just came and scooped his grandson up, and September 27, 2020 was such a day because Vertran was clearly in the worrying mood that was settling more and more often on him. It was time to break all that up for good.

“What's happening, Vertran?” the grandfather said as he picked up the still-little nine year old.

“Oh, I'm so glad you're around, Pop-Pop, because I really need to talk to you,” Vertran said as he threw his arms around his grandfather's neck. “I just realized that things are really messed up in the world. The pandemic is ripping the covers off like Dad does when we don't want to get out of bed on Sundays.”

“Let's sit down and talk about it all, Vertran.”

“I mean, people have been saying Christmas is in December for 1,700 years, and the right date was like September 15, and nobody was even questioning it while church was open!”

“Nope, nobody was.”

“And then Louisa [Vertran's best friend] found out that people have been telling us New Year is just January 1, but there are really New Years for different people all over the place! I mean, people could be making and keeping resolutions all over the place, all year, and they are missing all this opportunity and it shows!”

“Well ... you've got a point there, Vertran.”

“And then school has decided it's summer all year – not coming back in, no plans to come back in – what are little people who don't know you supposed to learn around here! It's like Lofton County doesn't even care! I've lived here all my life, and I didn't know it was this way!”

“That's a lot, Vertran, to be thinking about. What else?”

Vertran sighed.

“It's September 27, Pop-Pop, and there is one thing that is going right, and I really wish I could take Louisa out to see it. She just moved here from Louisiana, and this is her first Virginia autumn. She's never taken a walk through autumn showers of maple leaves, or heard the way fallen leaves crunch under new school shoes in October. I feel like she needs that. I feel like she needs to have her first real autumn adventure, and, I kinda feel responsible.”

“Really, Vertran?”

“I've heard you say that it is no small thing when the woman of your dreams accepts your offer to marry you, and you need to honor that every day and provide her the best life possible. But I can't even get school back in so she can get new school shoes to crunch leaves under!”

“Vertran, I was saying that to your cousin Terrance. He's 25, a grown man. You're nine, Vertran, just a wee bit early to be proposing marriage like you did in the spring to Louisa, and just a wee bit early to have to take on Lofton County in the fall to make sure she has proper autumn adventures.

“Louisa has two grandparents who are always out and about with her, and two uncles. Her Uncle Jules sits at the desk more and works on finances, but Major Dubois gets his legal work done in the early morning so he has time for daily adventures on his bicycle, and he takes Louisa everywhere with him on his bicycle built for two.”

“Oh, yeah, I forgot about that!”

“Louisa is not missing anything that you need to worry about providing yet, Vertran, but tell me this: why are you often so worried about things?”

Vertran had to think about that for a long time.

“I see all that you and Dad are doing, and I don't feel like I'm keeping up with being the great men that you are, especially for Mom and Grandma, especially in the county to make things better.”

He started crying, and his grandfather let him cry it out ... and even mingled a tear with those of Vertran. The boy's heart was in the right place, but, like his mind, just too far ahead of the rest of him.

“Okay, so, Vertran, let me tell you a secret,” the grandfather said to his little grandson once he had calmed down. “Don't skip any adventures of your own, grandson.”

“What do you mean?”

“Your father and I have grown man and old man covered, but we both had to cover little boy first. You've got to be the best nine-year-old you can be, and then the best ten-year-old, and so forth, so you can grow into a man who is all the way ready. Don't skip your own adventures, grandson, worrying about keeping up with 40 and 66. All you have to do right now is just cover being nine, and that will help you with all the rest when you get there.”

“Is it really that easy, Pop-Pop?”

“I didn't say it was easy, Vertran, in a world like this. But still, grandson: it's September 27, 2020. Has anybody given you permission to start your adventures on September 28th yet?”

“No, because we aren't there yet.”

“So, Vertran, can you be 66 years old yet? Do you have permission, and if you don't, do you need to worry about it?”

“Oh … I get it! I get it now!”

“Can you be 18 yet, and be married?”

“No, not yet … oh, wow, I am so relieved, because I really have no idea what size Louisa's hand is going to be in nine years for her engagement ring, and the price of gold is acting crazy! We can just measure it then, though!”

Vertran rubbed his hand across his head like he had been working in the sun all day.

“Do you ever have those days when you don't know how much trouble you are in until somebody gets you out?”

“Yep. It's part of the adventure of life, Vertran.”

“Thanks, Pop-Pop, for getting me out of trouble I've been in for a while.”

“Any time, Vertran. Get out of here and be nine. Don't skip any adventures.”

“Thank you!”

And Vertran kissed his grandfather on the cheek and went running off to play, a worry-free little boy again. A little later, his grandfather, once a D1 college basketball star, came out to jump rope with him and show him a few tricks.

"I am an old man, but you see I don't skip any adventures either, Vertran."


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