Fifteen year old Jim Ellison was bored. Bored! Bored! Bored! Bored with a capital ĎB,í bored. The kind of bored that if James Joseph Ellison, first in line to the Ellison fortune, wasnít born with an innate sense of right and wrong, he could find himself in trouble. However, Jimís high moral code wouldnít permit it.
It was summer. Too early for high school football to begin training and too late into the season to find a summer job. Not that his father, the great William Ellison would allow any son of his to work anywhere else but at his own Fortune 500 company. Steven, Jimís younger brother and the next in line to inherit, was already working at Ellison Enterprises as a summer intern learning the ropes of big business. Jim had begged his father to allow him to go to Ďboot camp.í Not because Jim was in any trouble, on the contrary, Jim was a straight ĎAí student and earning some notoriety at high school sports. Jim wanted to go so he could be a counselor and work out at the campís well equipped gym. His father all but turned Jim down until the football coach had a word with William Ellison. Begrudgingly, his father let Jim go. Now Jim was back, a few inches closer to his eventual six foot frame and several pounds of muscle heavier. And he was bored.
"Where are we, Mommy?" Seven year old little Blair Jacob Sandburg asked his mother, the free spirited flower child Naomi Sandburg. Naomi was barely a child herself, having her baby in her teens, deciding to keep her child with big deep blue eyes and a mop of wild black curls. She took her baby then took to the road, joining commune after commune, living off the land. They never spent more than two years in one place.
"Weíre in Cascade, Washington, sweetie," Naomi cheerfully replied as she drove their beat up old Volkswagen beetle around to their motel room. "My friend Sunlight and her group Moonshadow have a lovely commune in the mountains. Weíre going to spend a few days here in the city while I buy the supplies we need then weíll head up to her compound," Naomi explained to her son.
"Okay, Mommy. Can we find a bookstore? I need more books. Iíve read all the ones we have three times already!"
"Sure, sweetie. I think I saw a sign for a flea market going on in the park we passed. Maybe we can trade your old books for some newer ones." Naomi was always living Ďgreení even before it became the popular thing to do.
"Yay!" the diminutive but exuberant boy exclaimed. Blair helped his mother bring their meager belongings into their motel room, bouncing cheerfully and babbling on about possible new books. With his tiny backpack slung onto his shoulders, Blair looked around the musty room that would be their home for the next few days.
"Iím going to the park, Sally!" Jim called out to the housekeeper and his nanny of sorts. Sally helped to raise Jim and his brother when their mother, Grace, had walked out years before. Jim still missed his mother but he knew she had to leave before his dadís strict and stifling way of life could defeat his motherís spark. But Grace Ellison had paid the ultimate price for freedom, her children. Jim knew that one day when he was old enough and strong enough to stand up to his father, heíd be reunited with his mother. Until then, Jim vowed to stay fit in body and mind.
"All right, Jimmy. Behave yourself and be home for dinner," Sally instructed the young man.
"I will," Jim replied. He did love Sally; she was his friend and confidant, not just the housekeeper.
"Mommy, look at all the books!" Blairís big blue eyes were gleaming in anticipation of finding something new to read and study. Blair was a child of nature, his passion was learning all that he could about everything. Light-years beyond any seven year old, Blair was already reading at the college level. Naomi knew her son was smart but had no clue to how smart he really was. The long row of tables brimming with volume after volume were Blairís toy store.
"Have fun, sweetie, Iíll be over at the booth with the camping equipment," Naomi said as she left her child with the books.
"Okay, mommy," Blair mumbled, his thoughts were already focused on the books.
A couple of hours and some shrewd bartering later, Blair had ten Ďnewí books crammed into his backpack. Fortunately the books were small enough for the little guy to hold, most of them antiques that would become very valuable someday. To Blair, their value lay in the fact that they were just books. Blair bought a hot dog and a bottle of water with the money his mother had given him, found a sunny patch near a big tree then sat down to read one of his new books.
The sun and the noise of the park were beginning to give Jim a headache so he scanned the area for some place where he could sit and be quiet for a while. Momentarily blinded by the sun reflecting off a leaf, Jim nearly tripped over the little boy who was sitting on the ground surrounded by books.
"Sorry," Jim said as he caught himself before he fell and squished the little boy with the wild shoulder length hair.
"No problem, man," the little boy answered. "Are you okay?" Blair asked the older boy who looked a little distressed. "Can I help?" Blair patted the ground next to him indicating Jim should sit.
"Iím okay," Jim said with a sigh as he sat next to the little boy. Blair had instinctively put Jim in the shade with his back to the tree for added support. "Itís just a little noisy out here today," Jim mumbled. "And the sunís a little too bright."
"Oh. Do you want some water?" Blair offered, his deep blue eyes shining brightly. "I donít have cooties, I swear!" Blair was holding up his bottle of water. Under normal circumstances, Jim would have never accepted such an offer. His icy blue eyes gazed at the little fellow sitting like an elf on a patch of grass. But something about this boy made Jim trust him.
"Um, okay, thanks," Jim said as he took the bottle, his fingers grazing the tiny ones holding up the bottle. Jim thought he felt a little spark jump from one little finger to his own. Dismissing the sensation, Jim drank from the bottle greedily.
"Feeling better?" Blair asked.
"Uh huh," Jim said. "Thatís a pretty complicated book for a kid to read," Jim commented once he could focus his eyes. Blair was reading Of Mice and Men.
"Is it?" Blair asked as he looked at the cover. He didnít seem to think so.
"Yeah, I had to read that in English Lit last year."
"Did you like it? I find Steinbeckís use of the mob mentality interesting. Donít you?"
"Mob mentality, you see...," and Blair was off, the gifted seven year old lecturing to the fifteen year old giant leaning against the tree.
Jim felt a sense of well being he had never experienced before wash over him, as the little boy with the wild curly hair and tiny arms swinging madly in the air as he spoke, broke down the book into its integral parts then reassembled it. It wasnít so much what Blair was saying as it was the tone and cadence of his voice as he was saying it. Jim closed his eyes and allowed Blairís soothing voice to work its magic. Jimís whole body relaxed as Blair babbled on.
"My nameís Blair, whatís yours?" Blair asked with a bright smile and sticking out his hand. His lecture was apparently over.
"Jim," he answered as his shook the tiny hand. "Do you live around here?"
"Unh unh, Naomi and I are just passing through. Weíre going to the mountains."
"You call your mother by her first name?"
"Sure, donít you?"
"Um, I donít have a mother."
"Iím sorry, I donít have a father."
"Itís okay. I never had one and we travel a lot."
"You do? Where have you been?"
"All over, man! Naomi and me went to Mexico to see the pyramids and, and..." The little boy was off again, telling Jim about the differences between the pyramids of Central and South America and the Egyptian pyramids. Jim smiled as he sopped up Blairís enthusiasm like a sponge.
"Do you want to see my new books?" Blair asked when he finally took a breath.
"Okay," Jim said. He really didnít care about dusty old books that made him sneeze, but for some reason he cared that this strange, smart little boy cared about his books.
"This one looks like a diary. I had to trade my favorite book of all time to get it, but I had to have it."
Jimís big fingers that were used to pumping iron, throwing footballs and tackling linebackers, gently opened the weathered old book. "Who wrote this?"
"Sir Richard Burton, the scientist not the actor. I want to be just like him when I grow up," Blair said cheerfully as large curls swept in front of his eyes and nose. Jim chuckled as he tucked a lock of curls behind the boyís ear.
"Iím sure youíll be whatever you want to be, Chief." Jim was positive that Blair was headed for great things. Jim was rewarded by a beautiful smile. "What does Sir Richard Burton write about?"
"Blair, honey? Time to go," the boys heard, before Blair could answer Jimís question.
"Sorry, Jim, I have to go," Blair said sadly.
"That your mother?" Jim asked. Several yards away a pretty red haired lady stood. She had several bags at her feet.
"Let me help you, Chief," Jim said as he packed up Blairís books in an orderly fashion so they fit into his backpack better.
"Thanks! Now I have room for my notepad and pencils," Blair said happily.
"Will you be here tomorrow?" Jim asked, handing Blair his bottle of water.
"Not sure. We donít like to stay in big cities too long."
"Oh well, it was nice talking to you, Blair," Jim said as he helped the little boy whose backpack nearly weighed as much as he did get up off the ground. Blair giggled making Jim laugh too. Jim hadnít laughed like that in a long time.
"It was nice talking to you."
"Yeah? Why?" Jim really hadnít said much.
"Because you listened to me."
"I have a feeling that lots of people will be listening to you in the future," Jim said with confidence as he ruffled the mop of unruly curls. The little boy with the beautiful deep blue eyes and curly hair gave the older boy a fierce hug, before he scampered off to his mother.
"See ya, Jim!" Blair said as he turned back to see Jim wave.
"See ya, Chief. Remember how to pack up your books!" One day that kid will abide by the rules, Jim thought to himself with a smile as he shook his head with amusement. Blair nodded as he waved back then took his motherís hand as they walked away. Jim turned to check out the fair and the book table.
"Who was that, sweetie?" Naomi asked.
"Thatís Jim, my new friend."
"Oh honey, do you think itís wise to make friends so quickly when you know we wonít be around for very long?"
"Itís okay, mommy, Iíll see Jim again. Youíll see."
"Whatever, you say, sweetie. Now help me with these bags. I think I got all weíll need for our new adventure," Naomi said as she gave her son one of the lighter bags to carry to their car.
Blair half listened to his mother as she regaled him about the new adventures they would soon have in the mountains of Cascade, as she drove them back to the motel.
In their room Blair made himself comfortable on
the bed. He gingerly removed one of the books that Jim had carefully packed for
him; it was the diary. Carefully turning the yellowed pages, Blair murmured the
title as he read it,
The Sentinels of
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