Philip Wade Montgomery by AndromedaMarine
Author's Note: This is a short story written as an assignment for creative writing.
Mom always said to shoot for the moon. It didn't matter if I missed – at least I'd be somewhere in space, which is enough to ask for. I think I've landed somewhere amazing, what with a bestselling children's book. I'm only twenty three, but I don't consider myself, Kennedy Ravelle, a celebrity. Where the Story Ends hit the top by accident – seriously, who expects a book about childhood leukemia to become famous? But that story only remains as a chapter of my life. I visit the hospital almost every week, spending time with the child cancer patients to share my story and try to give them hope. I didn't think I'd meet anyone with the power to change my life.
The first time I met Philip Wade Montgomery in the early summer of 1997, he stared intently at me, his jaw resting on the floor. One tiny hand clutched the IV rack with tubes running down into his arm. Wade's head shone under the glaring hospital lights, all traces of curly black hair gone like the essence of cheer in the cancer ward. He blinked a few times, took four tentative steps forward, and smiled as his eyes widened. He extended his hand, introducing himself as Wade. Though we'd never met before, he knew my name, and just at age six had read my book and seemed to understand every word of it.
Though diagnosed only two weeks before and immediately rushed into chemotherapy, young Wade Montgomery had a bright grin on his face and a strong will to live. Late stage leukemia had nothing against him, he insisted.
From down the corridor an uptight woman in three and a half inch heels scurried towards us, concern etched across a face resembling Wade's. She took his free hand in both of hers, glancing from him to me, apparently wondering why I'd stopped to talk with her son in the first place. At a second glance, I realized she had no idea I'd written her child's favorite book. I introduced myself. "I'm Kennedy, Mrs...?"
"Montgomery. Evelyn Montgomery. Kennedy who?" She began to fuss over Wade, kneeling down next to him and putting a hand on his bald head.
Wade answered for me, an exasperated expression crossing his features as he explained. He looked back up at me, giving a theatric sigh. I laughed slightly, amused by his dramatics. Mrs. Montgomery straightened, curled one hand around the IV rack right above her son's, and led him away. He peeked over his shoulder, the look in his eyes both saying goodbye and housing a hope to meet again.
Wade managed to stay at the forefront of my thoughts during most of my time away from the hospital. I saw more of myself in him than at first – his struggle practically mirrored mine from seventeen years ago. Fighting through the morning Los Angeles rush hour traffic, I realized I wanted to learn more about the smart kid who'd recognized me from the back flap of a book jacket. Soon the hospital became my favorite place to go. Ironic, right?
I discovered he had his own talent for storytelling, and began bringing my laptop with me to write his words and ideas down. His characters marched across or flew on the backs of giant eagles and griffins over lands like Middle Earth and Narnia. Not only had he read C.S. Lewis's only works for children, he'd managed to complete all four Lord of the Rings books.
His mom walked in just as Wade launched into a descriptive scene involving a disgruntled family of orcs, a talking stag, and a relatively annoyed mouse who reminded me of Reepicheep. Wade suddenly fell silent, glancing from his mother to me. The smell of macaroni – not the inedible hospital kind, but real, home cooked macaroni – reached my nose, and I saw the Tupperware box in her hands.
"What's going on?" she asked as she stood stiffly in the center of the room.
"Nothing," Wade said quickly, pushing the lid of my laptop down until it clicked shut. "Is that my favorite?" he reached out his hands and she pushed the container into his grasp. Mrs. Montgomery stayed for a few minutes, but conversation between mother and son sounded strained. When she left she shot me a look that I deciphered as one of jealousy.
Wade asked me, in between mouthfuls of cheesy goodness, why I'd written a book to begin with. Half my mind still wondered why Mrs. Montgomery would be jealous of me, but I looked back at him. I told him that after my father died, I didn't want to leave my mom to deal with two gaping voids, and I knew that I had my own story to tell. "This is part of your story," I said, tapping the lid of my laptop. "Why don't you let your mom read it?"
He shook his head so hard I thought he'd fall off the bed. "Mom wouldn't get it," he said cryptically, then pulled the computer towards him and opened the lid. He started typing fast, as if he needed to get the things out of his head and onto the screen.
"What about your dad? Would he get it?" I realized I hadn't once seen a Mr. Montgomery visit Wade or heard him even mentioned.
Wade froze, and then lifted his eyes to meet my gaze. He shook his head again, slowly this time, and wrung his hands together. "Mom said he went to heaven in November last year," he whispered, and on instinct I reached out and put a comforting hand on his shoulder. "So I guess our dads know each other, right?" A hint of a smile crossed his face. The next thing I knew he had his small arms around my waist, his cheek pressed against my stomach. "I think he'd get it," Wade said. "But you get it too."
So, just for the rest of the day, we went back to the disgruntled family of orcs, the talking stag, and the relatively annoyed mouse that reminded me of Reepicheep.
Wade held up his hand, indicating I should stop trying to peek at the screen. "You gotta wait 'till I'm done, Kennedy," he insisted, then returned his hand to the keyboard and moved his fingers expertly across the keys. A few seconds later he pushed my computer back to me, an enormous grin across his face. "King Philip's Adventures."
A week passed and I set the laptop in front of Wade, grinning as he lifted the lid. His eyes widened in excitement as they swept over the screen. "Seriously?" he asked, still glued to the computer.
Sitting down next to his bed I tugged my bag onto my lap. "Here," I said, pulling the published, bound, and jacketed book from my messenger bag. Almost fifty pages with a cover illustrating the orcs, stag, and mouse now lay in his hands. It took a week for my publisher and cover artist to put together his book – his accomplishment. His face showed unbelief. His story had texture – it was more than an idea floating around in his head.
"This is the coolest thing ever," he announced, awe written across his face. "Thanks, Kennedy! You're the best." He leaned forward as much as the tubing would allow and hugged me. When he leaned back onto the pillows, seemingly exhausted from moving, I turned my attention to my bag.
A moment later I heard the sound of eerie silence, and I looked up at Wade. He'd gone rigid, his eyes rolled up in a seizure. Without thinking I hit the nurse call button, shoved my laptop and the book to the end of the bed, and realized I wasn't breathing when the nurse and a doctor pushed me aside.
Mrs. Montgomery rushed past me from the hall and froze when she saw her son. "Oh my..." she breathed tremulously, collapsing into a nearby chair. I began to hyperventilate and shake, glancing between Wade and his mother. After almost six weeks of sitting with and helping Philip Wade Montgomery write his story, the revelation dawned on me: I needed him, his smile, his friendship, and his imagination. I needed the laughter.
The medical staff left the room, and Mrs. Montgomery pursed her lips and blinked several times in succession, probably to keep the tears off her face. She cleared her throat. "I'd like some time with my son," she half-whispered to me.
I placed the laptop and book back in my bag, and lingered by Wade's bed a bit longer than Mrs. Montgomery would have liked. Respecting her wishes, I steered clear of room 1604, and a few minutes later found myself numbly walking past the rest of the cancer ward to the communal visiting area.
My hands itched to pull out the book and leaf through his creations, and when a small bald girl I'd seen a few times on rounds before I met Wade approached me, I reached in and tugged it out. I smoothed the cover, smiling at the art. And I read to her. Wade's talent made her smile and laugh just like I did when he wrote it.
When I finished reading the first story in the book, one Wade had lovingly titled The Stag Who Talked Too Much, I looked up to see a whole audience of cancer-stricken kids with their parents or nurses.
The head nurse asked, "Is this your next book?"
I shook my head. "No... This was written by six-year-old Wade Montgomery."
My eyes swept the room, and I saw Mrs. Montgomery at the very back, cheeks streaked from crying. And I knew why. I wiped away my own tears, got to my feet, and made my way to Wade's distraught mother. I placed her son's book into her hands, and as I did, it felt like a part of me healed. "Wade would have wanted you to have this."
Through the tears she traced the bold letters spelling out King Philip's Adventures by Philip Wade Montgomery, and I thought I saw a trace of a smile appear. Mrs. Montgomery held the book close to her chest, and mouthed, "Thank you." She composed herself after a few moments, and cleared her throat. "I'm sorry."
Surprised, I said, "For what?"
She sniffed, smoothing the book with her hand. "He really liked you. I'm sorry for being rude. If you hadn't visited him like you did, this wouldn't exist." She lifted the book. "I didn't know he had such an imagination." I heard her breath catch, and her eyes glistened. She struggled to keep her voice even. "You were the best thing that ever happened to him."
Philip Wade Montgomery didn't just shoot for the moon. He went for the sun, and got there. I could picture his smile, the one that made me laugh and forget his cancer. The memory of Wade permanently occupied a special corner of my heart.
I knew as I numbly walked away that Wade now lived with the Head Honcho in the sky, probably sitting on a heavenly couch discussing Middle Earth and Narnia with his father and mine. I knew that someday I'd see him again, with a golden crown on a head full of black curls.