MELODY: Pop Tarts By Terry Rainey

Word: Melody
Word Count 500

Pop Tarts
By Terry Rainey

Monday, January 20, was football in the Kepler yard, as OLPS was closed for the
inauguration. In a chilly drizzle, we just threw the ball around, fine with me because I disliked
tackling and blocking and loved to catch a spiral. Also fine because the Kepler house was like
going to the movies, with passionate eruptions and unpredictable donnybrooks. I might get
punched myself, so it was pretty stimulating.
Kevin and I scooted past the eerie black and white glow of the TV in the living room,
where Mr. Kepler had the shades down and was watching President Nixon taking the oath. Mr.
Kepler liked conservatives and hated bleeding heart liberals. We made it unscathed to the attic.
All the boys – Walter, Harry, John, Roger, Max, Sean, Kevin – slept there. The girls — Fiona,
Dorothy, Marie, Catherine, and 4-year-old Melody — shared another bedroom. Melody had
Down Syndrome.
The boys’ bedroom was like a museum, walls covered with sports photos and Kepler
philosophies. My favorite was the Kepler fart proclamation, originally drafted by Harry, then
edited by Roger and Max. Harry’d had to memorize the 12 apostles. He’d used mnemonics,
starting at Bartholomew, Bart the Fart. I’d read the apostle/fart list frequently, even the editorial
notes. St. Peter: A quaking, obvious, public fart, but like Peter, leading to three denials. Each
apostle was there, even Judas, which was so stinky that it even turned on its own supplier.
Mrs. Kepler then called us to the kitchen, where Melody was making lunch, in honor of
her six-month birthday. I was afraid of Melody. Her upward, trusting gaze went through me, so
I avoided closeness. I feared her hugs, her open affection. I pulled back from her touch,
although curiosity kept my eyes on her.
The crayoned menu listed pop tarts, Frosted Strawberry or Cinnamon Apple. Standing
on a chair, easy bake oven on the counter, she took orders on a legal pad, saying “Thank You,
You’re Welcome” repeatedly. It was nice, but within minutes, Roger was fighting Harry about
cleanup duty. Walter usually mediated such confrontations, but he was an usher at the
inauguration. Mr. Kepler eventually stepped between the two brothers. In all the commotion, no
one noticed that Melody was upset. She lost her balance and her chair was tipping over. I saw
her alarmed expression and caught her just before she hit the floor. As we straightened up,
Melody threw her arms around me and squeezed tightly.
Surprised, I squeezed her back. Then she let loose a massive Saint Peter. Everyone
halted. The tension in the room transformed into laughter. I shook, almost nervous that, as an
outsider, I didn’t deserve to be the center of the happy Kepler moment. Up close and personal to
Melody’s sweet nature, I thought God had put a smile on her face, and mine too. I felt my life
stretched in a new direction by her affection. I saw that love was learned, that I could make my
life shine.

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