As a young boy, Danny did not have many wishes. Yes, he would occasionally cause up a riot for a bar of chocolate or throw around a tantrum or two for dinner, but he did not want a lot many things.
His father was in the Army and was never around much. Hence, little Danny did not know a lot from the eyes of a man. Without the father’s hand guiding him then, he only knew what a young boy should know and nothing much out of the ordinary.
The war was coming close to an end, or so it said in all the papers and all the frequencies. Mary-Beth was anxious of her husband’s arrival from the front- Col. Henry James Lockhart- a caring husband and absent father. Danny was now a splendid gentleman of nine, swishing about his plastic gun and calling out the troops. He accompanied his mother to the station– decorated with banners and teary wives. “Welcome Home!” said all the faces.
Life was fitting into normality– quiet days and quiet nights. Danny had come across a new fascination of flying a kite. He had never known what it was like; his father was never there to teach him.
The Colonel was relaxing on the porch with the Sunday newspaper.
“Daddy, daddy?” said Danny.
“Yes, son, what is it?” he said, reading.
“Will you teach me how to fly a kite?”
Though at the moment, a promise was made, it was empty. The Colonel did not take any of the seriousness in the young boy’s words and eventually forgot about it, till his wife reminded him and another promise was made.
“We’ll fly a kite, Danny. Next Sunday, I promise,” said the Colonel.
Little boys know nothing and so the restlessness could not find a way to contain itself. He was getting excited as the days counted down from Monday to Thursday and Friday morning was quiet. But the chaos started that afternoon.
Radios and papers were ablaze with news about the enemy at the gates. Panic began to spread faster than the news of the arrival and men were being called up.
Danny just stood there, watching as his father ran amok in the house, trying to find where he left his cap. He just watched his father leave the house in a hurry as the day started to darken into dusk and then to a silent night.
Years passed, the Colonel returned, celebrated and decorated manifold. A true hero to his nation.
An aloof father to his son.
“Danny boy!” said the Colonel, choking on his own voice.
The two men were together now- Danny was Daniel now, and the great Colonel senile on his deathbed.
“Danny boy,” he said, “you’ve grown so much older.”
“I know, Father.”
The silence fell like a blanket upon the two. They stopped mapping the distance that had grown between the two and only created some more. An empty promise filled with years of absence and dying wishes, was brought back to life in a final moment between the two men- as a thought not in Daniel’s mind.
“Oh Danny,” the old man breathed; his final breaths in order. His voice became diminished by magnitudes– no longer the stern command hailing the troops. The son leaned in closer.
“Just tug the string. Hold on loosely, but don’t let go,” said Colonel Henry James Lockhart and retired to eternal slumber. Daniel was suddenly Danny again, the boy of nine, finally understanding his old man.
He held on loosely.
On to him.