Good-Bye Jack

 /   /  By Emma Birches
Stone Soup Magazine
January/February 2001

By Peter Swegart, Illustrated by Lucy Strother

I am writing this story to tell you about a little orphan boy. His name was Jack and he was my foster brother for two years.

When Jack first came to live at our house, he was small. He carried his belongings in a laundry basket and wore jeans with holes in them. He had a scraggly mushroom haircut. When Jack was nervous and scared, he stuttered. He also was confused. One time, we went to my violin lesson at a church; he asked, “Is this my new home?” He would get mad a lot. He’d have temper tantrums and yell. I think he was mad because he felt that nobody wanted him.

When Jack first came, I was worried that Jack might have to go live somewhere else, because he had lots of problems. I was afraid that he might hurt somebody. He broke many of my toys. I didn’t know what was going to happen to Jack. I didn’t think he would be adopted. I reassured myself, “Miracles can happen.”

One Mother’s Day we were eating a big dinner. I looked over and Jack was hunched in his chair. My mom asked what he was doing. He looked up with tears in his eyes and said “I . . . I lost my mudder . . . I lost my mudder . . . I’ll never see her again.” His face was pale and he was crying softly. After that, none of us felt like eating.

I never had a foster brother before. All I could do was be a big brother to him by teaching him and helping him, by playing with him, and by reading books to him.

Good-Bye Jack boys playing

I showed him the real way to play. I made real truck noises—I pretended to make roads

At first when we played trucks he would pull his truck off the ground and make a whooshing sound. He didn’t know how to play with trucks. I just played the way I knew how to play and he copied me. I showed him the real way to play. I made real truck noises—I pretended to make roads. With the bulldozer we made ditches near the road and put sticks in for pipes. Jack and I pretended to go on trips and go to houses. We dug holes with trucks. One time we wanted to dig to water so we could have our own swimming pool. We dug and we dug until it was up to Jack’s waist and then we gave up. We were pretty mad.

In the summer, we’d go swimming at a little pond about two miles down the road. We liked to play an imaginary game called Dragon. Jack and I would get in the shallow water and we’d splash water on each other. If somebody got splashed more than five times he would die. I often let Jack win.

Over the months, Jack started to get better. His speech got better, his imagination improved, he learned to draw, and he didn’t have as many temper tantrums.

One day an adoption worker came and talked to Jack about adoption. They looked all over Maine and found some nice people who liked kids. When Jack met his new parents, it was a happy day. They introduced themselves and gave big hugs. His new parents were cheerful and bouncy. His dad had a big laugh, curly hair, and small glasses that sat on the end of his nose. His new mother had big brown gentle eyes, laughed softly, and had a flashing white smile. They talked, gave presents, and looked at Jack’s photo album. Jack played Legos on the rug with his new dad. That night when we were going to bed, Jack walked over to my bed and said, “Peter, I’m going to miss you and I don’t want to leave. I’m scared of moving.” Then he started to cry. He gave me a hug.

I said, “They’re really nice people and they’ll be your real parents.” I think that made him feel better. He cried a little and went to sleep.

We went on a visit to Jack’s new house. It was a big farmhouse with lots of windows which made a bright feeling. They kept a little turtle in a tank and pottery on tables around the house. I went up to Jack’s room and saw his comfy-looking bed with lots of covers. The house was near the ocean.

The day Jack left, his parents arrived in a pickup truck. We had juice and doughnuts. Jack gave me a hug. I looked down and saw my trucks where we used to play. I walked up to Jack and put all my trucks into his bag. Jack jumped into the truck and drove down the driveway. I had my eyes fixed on the truck as it disappeared behind the trees. I kept looking where it had disappeared. There was a long silence.

That night in bed I thought about all the good things we did together. I thought of trucks. I thought of swimming. When Jack first came he was just a kid to play with, but after two years living with him, he was my real little brother.

Good-Bye Jack Peter Swegart

Peter Swegart, 10
Rome, Maine

Good-Bye Jack Lucy Strother

Lucy Strother, 11
Milwaukee,Wisconsin

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