The boy asked his usual question: ‘You won’t give me up, will you?’ Sometimes he exchanged ‘up’ for ‘away’, but Elon knew it meant the same thing.
‘’Course not,’ replied Elon. ‘Not now, not ever.’
The boy reached out for Elon and they walked slowly onwards, hand in hand. Elon guessed the boy was of an age when most children no longer felt the need to do this sort of thing. But, given the boy’s circumstance, it was understandable.
For his part, Elon meant all that he’d promised. He’d rather die than fail the boy. But he did fret, all the same. How on Earth was he, Elon, capable of raising the child properly? He wasn’t what you’d call a clever man and he found it enough of a struggle to care for himself. Way back then, Father used to joke he was ‘a few colours short of a rainbow’, or that he’d ‘fallen out of the stupid tree and hit every branch going down’. Elon knew it himself. Knew it then and knew it now.
The boy wasn’t like that though, thought Elon. He seemed to have inherited his mother’s brains, God rest her soul. In the two months since his arrival, it was clear to Elon how bright the boy was. How quickly he picked things up. Hadn’t he somehow taught the boy to play draughts and was now always defeated by him? The boy also shone in the school chess club and had tried to teach Elon how to play. Not that it was of any use, of course. All those different pieces with their own particular ways of moving. Ha, impossible!
As they cut across the field the boy stopped, plucked a thick piece of grass, and asked Elon to make a whistle. Without thinking much about it, Elon pressed the bottom of the blade between his thumbs and used his fingertips to pull the grass tightly to form a reed. Then he blew through the hole at the base to make a whistling sound, altering the pitch by opening and closing the hole.
This delighted the boy and he demanded that Elon show him again how to do it. He’d failed at it yesterday, but was determined to succeed today.
It took some time but Elon didn’t rush him, only patiently encouraged him through his frustration.
At one point, the boy threw the reed down.
‘It’s no good, uncle,’ he sighed. ‘I’ll never do it.’
‘’Course you will,’ said Elon. ‘If anyone can, you can. I’m sure of it.’
Elon supplied another reed and eventually the boy managed a squeak or two.
‘There, you did it. Told you.’
‘Yes! And I’ll get even better, won’t I!’
‘For sure,’ said Elon. ‘By next week you’ll be better at it than I’ll ever be! C’mon, bring it with you.’
They headed homewards together; Elon worrying, doubting himself again, feeling a ‘useless article’. Meanwhile, the boy’s whistling grew stronger and stronger.