Dad and I were used to her ranting about the purity of our race.
I turned to face him. "I'm sorry Dad, but this time I can't let her talk like that. I love Laura, and I intend to marry her--with or without Mama's approval. I can't change the fact that Laura's white any more than I can change the way I feel about her."
The deep ebony of Dad's skin accentuated his tall, still muscular body as we stood almost inch for inch. He was just a little heaver and displayed a touch of silver around his temples--the only indication most people had that he was older than me. A frown creased his high forehead, and his penetrating eyes held mine. Mama always said I had the same strong cheekbones and aristocratic nose that symbolized our heritage.
I turned to Mama. My palms were damp, and my voice trembled as I spoke against her wishes for the first time in my life, "Mama, please try to understand."
Her rich, mahogany face turned a pasty gray, and her lips set into a firm line, "I'll never understand how you could betray your ancestors like this. Your grandmother is probably squirmin' in her grave right now. You are Black, Sam. You have the blood of African kings running through your veins. Mandingo blood! Why would you want to pollute it with that trash's white blood? I waited 'till I was 30 years old to marry your father because I wouldn't settle for anything less than the purest man I could find. Why can't you--?"
"Mama, Dad had a mulatto grandmother. That didn't stop you from marrying him."
"That's as good as I could find, what with all that race mixin' and unholy marriages to white trash that was goin' on, I was lucky to find a man as pure as he is. At least he ain't got more than a drop or two of white blood defilin' up his veins." The drawl returned even thicker than before.
"How can you be so sure, Mama? How can you know for sure that you don't have some Anglo blood floating around in those royal veins of yours?"
"I'm positive. I know I'm pure! If you ever dare to sass me like that again, I'll smack your mouth so hard, you'll bite that evil tongue of yours off!" Her hand raised into the air, balled into an angry fist, and descended within inches of my nose.
The draft of air from her fist's orbit around my face made me flinch. Embarrassed and angry, I turned to my father. "Dad, I'm sorry. I've got to go. Laura's waiting for me." I glanced at my mother's angry face once more and knew that if I didn't leave that second, I would say something I couldn't retrieve. As I marched out of that always immaculate house, the stern portraits of famous African Americans stared accusingly at me as I rushed past the rich Asian silks and elegant sculptures created by Black artists that adorned Mama's house.
Always Mama's house, I thought,Never my home--never Dad's--always Mama's.
"Don't bring that bitch here! And, don't you come back neither! I have NO son!"
Those were the last words I heard from my Mother's lips.
Two years later, my father came alone to the hospital to witness the birth of his first grandson.
"We named him Joshua." I handed the tiny bundle to the proud grandfather. Tears of joy were in the old man's eyes as he gently unwrapped the baby.
His startled gasp when he saw the child inside stung my heart.
"Yeah, Dad. It's a pigmentation phenomenon. The doctor thinks it's a DNA anomaly. Mama would say the sins of the fathers are visited upon the children, but he's ours, Dad, mine and Laura's, and we love him. No matter what. He can be yours too, if you let him."
Dad stood immobile and stared into the blanket, at his grandson, for a long time. He traced a thick finger around the tiny face, across the child's broad, yellow-gold forehead to the prominent little nose, and across the exquisitely shaped neck and right shoulder. When he reached the baby's shoulder, his hand hesitated for an instant, then gently circled the dime-sized, ebony star design on the child's skin. Slowly his fingers traveled down the length of the baby's arm, across the tiny stomach, and down his chubby right leg until his huge hand folded gently over the perfectly shaped foot.
"His eyes are golden," he said, then bent his head to gently kiss my son's forehead with all the love of any grandfather.
Six months later, Dad sat on our sofa with Joshua on his lap. The baby looked up at his grandfather, grinned and gurgled. Dad made cooing sounds and tickled the soft, glowing skin of Joshua's plump tummy. Over the months Joshua's skin had turned from a soft yellow to an almost luminescent, golden hue.
"Dad, why do you sneak over here all the time? Why don't you just tell Mama you're coming? Maybe she would give in and come see him herself."
"No son, it won't happen. She won't even use his name. If she speaks of him at all, he is Sam's son, not Joshua. Hell, I call him that myself half the time. Kinda' fits though, you know? Sam's son--Samson--Lord knows he needs all the strength he can muster to get through this life."
"Why do you say that, Dad? He's not retarded, or deformed, or crippled. It's just his coloring, that's all. In fact, he's just the opposite. Dr. Rainey says he's months ahead of other babies his age. He wants to have his IQ tested as soon as he is two years old. The doctor says we may have a child genius here. What's wrong with that?"
"Nothin', son. Nothin'. Listen Sam, I'm not just here for a visit this time. I have some bad news."
"Bad news?" A feeling of dread shuddered across my stomach causing it to lurch sickeningly like a roller coaster.
"It's your Mama, son. She's sick. Real sick. Cancer."
"Cancer? But, can't they do something?"
"No. The doctor says it's in her pancreas. She doesn't have long, son." He sat Joshua on the floor and buried his face in his large, calloused hands. Sobs shook his broad shoulders, and I reached to touch him. My hand stopped in mid-air as Joshua crawled over and bobbed up at my father's knee.
"Papa hurt?" He patted his grandfather's leg with a chubby hand and repeated, "Papa hurt?"
Dad froze, then dropped his hands into his own lap like they were heavy stones. We both stared at the plump baby standing next to us.
"He--he talked. He's only six months old. He shouldn't be able to talk like that," Dad whispered.
"And, he knows something's wrong," I stammered.
Joshua crawled onto his grandfather's lap and wrapped his little arms around Dad's neck. "Joshua help," he said clearly. Then the boy kissed the palm of his tiny hand, and began to stroke my father's cheek. "Take love to her," the child whispered. "If she accepts love, she live." He sat back stiffly, closed his eyes and said, "Joshua tired." Slumping, he fell asleep instantly in Dad's lap.
"My God, he's passed out." I clutched my son and cradled him in my arms. He breathed with deep gentle breaths that only a sleeping innocent can attain. My heart pounded into my throat--my guts churned--then an overwhelming sense of peace fell over me as I stood there holding him. "No. He's just sleeping." Dad sighed with relief, and slumped onto the sofa. "What did we just witness?"
"I don't know, Dad."
"A gift from God," he answered with a reverence I had never heard in his voice. "That baby made me feel good. Even though I was shocked and scared, when he touched me with his palm, I felt better. Sam, I know it's impossible, but he took the pain away!"
"What was that he said about Mama?"
"He said, to take love to her and she would live."
"But, how could. . .?"
"I don't know, son, but you said he was special. Maybe we don't know just how special. Has he talked before?"
"No. Not like that. Maybe Mama or Dada, but nothing like what we just heard."
"Son, you know that I'm not an overly religious man, but I think this is a message. I'm gonna' go tell your Mama about Joshua. Maybe it's God's way of making her see things right." He kissed the sleeping boy I still held in my arms, gripped my shoulder in his strong hand and left. We didn't need more words.
I was still sitting on the sofa, holding my sleeping son when Laura came home. I hadn't realized the afternoon had faded into night until she turned on the light. Joshua stirred, opened his eyes and gurgled happily when he saw his mother--just like any other baby.
She took him from me and balanced him on her hip. "How did your visit with your father go? I'm sorry I missed him, but I had to be at that meeting. It looks like I might be offered a full partnership in the firm. Isn't that great? Sam, what's wrong? Why are you just sitting there so quiet. Did something happen?" She settled Joshua on the floor with his toys and sat down next to me, "What is it, honey?"
"What is it? I don't know." She took my hand in hers and held it to her soft lips. I clung to that delicate hand like a lifeboat. I told her everything. Mama's cancer. Dad's crying. Joshua's reaction. Everything.
When I finished, she stared at me for a moment, then at Joshua who was playing busily with a red ball almost as big as he was, and she laughed. Immediately, she sobered and took my hand in hers. "Oh honey, I'm sorry. I wasn't laughing about your mother. That must be terrible for you. I was just surprised by what you said about Joshua. Honey, he's just a little ahead of his age. That's all. I'm sure that in the pain of the moment, his hugging his grandfather and talking baby jabbers just sounded like words because both you and your father needed comfort right then." She put her arms around me and hugged me.
"It didn't just sound like words, Laura. He said 'Take love to her. If she accepts love, she live.' I heard it. I did not imagine it."
Her blue eyes sought mine. A frown fixed itself on her ivory forehead, and she raised perfect eyebrows in surprise. "Sam, he's six months old. He couldn't possibly have said that."
"Dr. Rainey says he's very advanced."
She stood up, and her knuckles turned white as she balled stiff fists at her side. She hissed through tight lips, "Advanced doesn't mean psychic. It doesn't mean that my baby is some kind of freak. Okay, his skin is different--he's smart--it doesn't mean any more than that! I'm going to make dinner, and I refuse to listen to any more of this nonsense."
As she retreated to the kitchen, she scooped Joshua into her arms and hugged him tightly, then depositing him into his high chair, she handed him a cookie and began slamming pans onto the counter.
The next morning, our dog, Zinger, ran into the street and was hit by a passing car. One of his back legs hung at an odd angle as I carried him into the house. I laid him, whining and licking at his injured leg, on the kitchen floor and called to Laura to watch him while I called the vet. When I returned to the kitchen, to retrieve the dog, I froze in the doorway. My stomach launched into my throat.
Laura was backed against the wall. Wide eyed shock covered her pale face as she stared at the floor where Joshua sat. Zinger romped around the boy, licking his laughing face. He cooed and giggled as he caressed--not petted--caressed the dog's leg.
My wife turned to face me, her back still hugging the wall. She whispered in a choked voice, "He--he said, 'Dogie hurt,' and--and then he touched the dog's leg, and--and the leg bent back the way it should be! I saw it bend like a licorice stick--waving around until it set itself back. I saw it! I saw it!" She collapsed in slow motion. Sliding down the wall until she was sitting on the blue tile floor, then she started to cry.
Joshua turned from Zinger and crawled toward his mother. Laura pulled her body into a ball against the wall and cringed as he reached for her knee. "Don't," she croaked.
"Mama?" He reached for her with both chubby arms stretching--his face screwing up for baby tears. "Mama? Joshua tired."
Her frightened eyes looked up at me, standing frozen in the doorway, then back at her son's face. Slowly she opened her arms. He crawled onto her lap and fell asleep almost instantly. She gazed down at him in her arms, looked back at me and said, "Sam, I just watched my baby heal a dog's broken leg. Am I going crazy?"
Thawing, I knelt on the cool tile floor beside her. Zinger came over and nuzzled my hand with his nose. Absent mindedly, I began stroking his furry head. "Maybe it wasn't really broken," I said. "Maybe it just looked like it."
"Sam, it was broken!"
"I'll call Dr. Rainey. He said Joshua was advanced. Maybe he can help us figure out what's going on." I didn't believe that this was in a pediatrician's or any other doctor's realm, but I hoped it would put Laura's mind at ease.
She nodded helplessly, "Yes. That's a good idea." She looked back down at Joshua, sleeping in her lap. "Could you take him, please? Put him to bed?"
The next morning, Dr. Rainey finished examining Joshua, gave him a sugar free sucker, and smiled when the boy gurgled happily as he slurped the confection.
"Physically, he's perfectly normal. Mentally, he is progressing fast. His hand-eye coordination is about on a three year old level, and his motor functions are excellent. From what you told me, his verbal skills are accelerated too. As for the other...the grandfather...the dog...I just don't know."
"Could we have imagined it?" Laura asked, her expression begged him to say yes.
"It's possible. The news about your mother, Sam, was very stressful, and the dog--well, maybe his leg wasn't really broken, maybe it just looked like it. I'd like to run a few tests on Joshua though. Nothing painful, just mental and physical evaluations. I'd like to call in a colleague, a child psychologist, to help."
Laura looked at me, then back at the doctor, "Psychologist? Do you think he's--he's--that Joshua is--is crazy?"
"Oh no," Dr. Rainey said quickly. "Dr. Langly is a specialist in treating gifted children. No, Laura, if any thing, Joshua is blessed with above average intelligence, not the reverse."
Two weeks later, Joshua was speaking in sentences and walking.
Laura refused to attend any of the sessions with Dr. Langly and began to spend more time at the office. She came home late, after the baby's bedtime, and left early, before he woke up.
The baby-sitter quit when she cut her finger peeling potatoes, and it healed instantly because Joshua kissed it. That night, she met me at the door and said, "The child is of God, or of the devil. I do not know which, but I am afraid. I will not be back." She made the sign of the cross on her ample bosom and rushed out the door.
I moved my office into the den so I could work at home and care for my son. Dad came to help me move.
"Son, I told your Mama about Joshua."
"How is she, Dad?"
"Worse. She can't last much longer." Tears filled his eyes, and I noticed how much older he seemed now. His usually straight back had developed a beaten slump, dark shadows under his eyes testified to a lack of sleep, his deep mahogany color had become ashen, and the gray on his temples had spread over his head lending him a halo of silver hair.
"Will Mama see us?"
He contemplated the floor. "No, son, she says that Joshua is--is--"
"From the devil?"
He raised his head and studied my face. Slowly, he nodded. "I tried to tell her, but she won't listen. She says he is your punishment."
Mama died three months later. I went to the hospital to see her, but she had left orders that I not be admitted to her room.
Laura refused to go to her funeral. I took Joshua. He stood between Dad and I, gripping our hands tightly. Joshua cried deep sobbing tears. I was sad, but felt a strange feeling of peace.
Dad said later that Joshua must have absorbed our pain because he felt the same. After the funeral, Joshua slept for twenty four straight hours.
Laura left us a month after Mama's funeral. I don't blame her.
When Joshua healed the tumor in Dad's throat, that he hadn't told us about, and began to read medical books, it was the final straw for her. She couldn't understand, and she was afraid of what she couldn't explain. Joshua stopped asking for her after about a month.
Dad sold his house and moved in with Joshua and me.
When Joshua was a year old, Dr. Rainey called and asked for a meeting with him and Dr. Langly.
As we entered the office, Dr. Rainey shook our hands. "Hi, Sam. Hi, Joshua, how are you my boy?" He held out his hand for Joshua, and my son shook it and smiled.
His wispy, flaxen hair waved in the breeze from the air conditioner. "I good, Dr. Rainey. I learn about computers today. Daddy says he get me one for my next birthday." His baby voice gave the adult words a sing-song lilt like a child reciting a nursery rhyme, as he spoke.
Dr. Langly stood in the corner with his arms crossed, supporting his chin in his right hand, with a thoughtful look on his face.
I thought of how incredible the scene must look. A chubby, golden skinned baby, just over one year old, standing straight, in his suspendered short pants, white shirt, and tiny bow tie, shaking hands with a grown man and talking about computers.
Dr. Rainey smiled and said, "That's great, Joshua. And, Dr. Langly has some more good news for you. How would you like to meet a little girl, just a bit older than you?"
The smile faded from my son's round face. He looked at me, then back at the doctor, "No."
"Other children make him nervous." I explained to the two medical men. "He can't play their games, and older kids tease him."
Dr. Langly left his observation corner and sat in the one remaining chair in the small office. "Joshua. Come here. I want to tell you something about this little girl." He held out his arms to the baby.
Joshua's smile returned, and he ran to sit on his lap. Since Langly began testing him, my son and he had become friends. Joshua sensed that Langly was truly fond of him, and I could see in the man's face that although Joshua's abilities puzzled him, his affection was genuine.
Langly supported Joshua on a knee with one hand and dug into his coat pocket with the other. He pulled out a small, square puzzle. "Joshua, can you make all the colors the same on each side of this?"
Grinning, his cheeks dimpling, Joshua said, "Sure," and began turning the small blocks in the larger block.
"I understand why other kids make you nervous, son," Langly continued. "But, this little girl is different. She's like you. Her name is Alice, and she put that puzzle right in two minutes. Can you do it that fast?"
"Yep," Joshua smiled and handed the cube back to Langly.
"One minute, twelve seconds," Rainey gasped as he checked his watch.
Langly nodded and took the puzzle. "Yeah, you did it all right. Faster than Alice. If I promise she won't laugh, would you meet her?"
"Okay." Joshua didn't sound convinced, but Langly was his friend.
The next morning, Dad and I drove Joshua the 50 miles to Gainsbouro to meet Alice. I had trouble believing that other children like my son existed, but if it was true, it would be nice to have other parents to talk to about their uniqueness. Rainey and Langly met us at the girl's home.
We were all a bit nervous, but after the preliminary introductions, we adults settled into lawn chairs on the patio and watched the two golden children play in the sand box.
Alice's mother was a small oriental woman with bright brown eyes and a perpetual smile. Her father told us that he was half Apache and half Navaho Indian. His skin was almost as dark as mine, and his serious eyes flicked from the children back to us as if he was measuring our reactions.
"Dr. Langly?" he asked. "You said there are more of them--the kids, I mean--more like them?"
Langly's sharp eyes kept studying the children as they worked wordlessly in unison building a sand castle. "Yes. I have heard of at least 14. Three in Japan, two in Spain and the rest scattered over Europe. There are probably more. I've contacted a colleague in Paris. She's doing some checking for me."
"Why are they this way?" I asked.
"Well, Sam, I don't have the answer. As I told you, their DNA patterns are different. To put it simply--sort of an extra chain or two. Neither you nor your wife have that extra link, and neither do you, Mr. and Mrs. Blackwater," he nodded toward Alice's parents sitting with their fingers laced tightly together.
Laura's delicate face flashed in my mind for an instant, and I wished she was here to hold my hand like that.
Langly caught my glance at the couple's hands, smiled and continued, "But, I've analyzed both children, and their patterns are exactly alike. I would stake my reputation that the other children I just mentioned have the same patterns--and that their parents don't."
"What does that mean?" Mrs. Blackwater asked quietly.
"I don't know for sure yet. We'll have to wait for the results from the other children before we know more, but I do have a theory."
My father broke in, "Have you noticed that except for their skin, the kids look like two normal babies playing?"
Dr. Langly spoke quietly, "Not quite. See how they share the toys? No argument--no tug of war--and they both have advanced vocabularies, but neither has said a word since they met an hour ago. Yet, they are communicating."
Alice's mother gasped. "You mean they are reading each other's minds?"
On the ride home Dad glanced at Joshua, asleep in the back seat, and said, "Sam, you know I've never been real religious, but ever since your Mama died, I've been reading the Bible." The oncoming headlights illuminated his face for an instant, then left it in darkness until the next car passed lighting it up again.
"Well, you know how Langly says that Joshua and Alice, and the others might be the next step in evolution--I mean with their DNA patterns being different and all?"
"It's just a theory, Dad."
"I know, but what if it's the opposite?"
"Yeah. What if, instead of evolution, it's back to square one? What if God got fed up with us screwing up everything he made and decided to start over? Genesis says that Adam and Eve were created perfect. What if He decided to make new Adams and Eves so they could clean up the mess we got ourselves into?"
"That's interesting, Dad, but wouldn't God just wipe us all off the slate before He started over? Isn't that what the Bible says?"
"I don't know. I ain't God. Maybe He's trying to give us one more chance."
"Well, I suppose it's not any more far-fetched than Langly's theory."
"Maybe we should ask Joshua," Dad laughed.
"Maybe he could tell us," I answered.
Neither of us laughed.
Laura calls occasionally. She lives in New York now. She just divorced her second husband. He wanted children--she didn't.
We still don't know what this is all about, but we know it's nothing to be afraid of. Sometimes it's hard, but Dad and I have each other, and we have Joshua. We both agree that, at times, we feel like we are the children and he is the adult. Dr. Rainey and Dr. Langly say they feel the same way sometimes.
We have found 54 more kids like Joshua. He found three of them the first week he hooked his computer into the Web. He was two years old then.
All of them have golden skin and eyes, flaxen hair and a black star on either their right or left shoulder. They all score off the charts in IQ tests, and they are all the products of interracial unions--all the different races in a dozen combinations. None are over nine years old--at least none that we've found. I keep remembering a popular phrase in the '90s--something about the browning of America. . . .
They all seem to have different gifts. Joshua is a healer. He asked me to stop taking him to crowded places. The last time we went to the mall, he tried to touch everyone that he sensed was ill. He says all that pain hurts him too bad--like he's drowning in a sea of suffering. He slept for 48 hours straight when we got home from that last shopping trip.
Langly set him up on closed circuit to the college to study medicine. He must have a lot of influence. He didn't tell them Joshua's age--just that he was one of his clients. When I asked him how he did it, he just smiled and said, "I called in a few favors."
I asked Joshua why he was doing medical research when he could just touch someone and heal them.
He looked up at me and shrugged, "Self defense. I can't touch everyone, and so many are afraid. It hurts too much not to help them that I guess I'll just have to make all the diseases go away so people can't hurt anymore. Then I won't hurt either." He smiled his dimpled smile, kissed my cheek and went back to his books.
Alice leans toward mental health, and some of the others are into nano-technology and robotics. A few are studying fields of science I can't even pronounce, and one is almost finished with what I call his hyper-drive which he says will take us to the stars and back.
They don't need computers and telephones to communicate with each other any more. They all seem to know what the others are doing. Joshua tells me that more are born everyday. He says he feels it, but he doesn't know exactly where they are. He says that they'll find him and the others when they are ready.
Some of the other parents and I have formed a sort of support group. We call it PGC, Parents of the Golden Children. It helps. We have to keep a low profile because most people fear our children. We don't know what would happen. Would they be hunted down like freaks? Experimented on? Dissected?
Dr. Rainey called a meeting today, in his office, with some of the parents.
Langly tried to explain what we are facing. "We must protect these children by whatever means possible until there are enough of them to be accepted by the world. When they are grown, it will be easier for them to assimilate. Right now, they look like odd-colored, luminescent children performing miracles, and that scares people."
Dad looked worried, "Are you saying that people might try to hurt these kids?"
"Yes," Langly answered, "Or control their powers. There are factions in the world that would stop at nothing to use these kid's gifts for their own greed. The children wouldn't hurt anyone, even if they were attacked--they couldn't. Their empathy levels are so great that just being in the same room with someone in pain is tortuous. To actually inflict pain would be like committing suicide."
Alice's father glanced at me with his penetrating eyes, then back to the doctor, "Should we gather them all together--like a colony or something? That way, we could protect them better."
Dr. Rainey said quickly, "No. Absolutely not. We would only draw attention to them and make them an easy target. These kids are our only hope for the future. They offer the potential to make war obsolete. How can you kill someone, in war or anywhere, if you feel their pain exactly as they do? Their population is increasing daily all over the world, and if we're lucky, they'll outnumber us within the next fifty years. We need for them to be scattered, not only for their safety, but for the accumulation of knowledge. They share. They help each other and us. They can teach us--the human race--about love."
I thought back to that first day when Joshua was only a baby, and how he told Dad to take love to my mother. Tears stung my eyes as Dad gripped my shoulder--he remembered too.
Rainey and Langly seem positive that their theory about these kids being the next evolutionary step is a logical conclusion.
Dad says he's sure his theory about God is right.
The only thing that I am sure of is that it is very difficult for an imperfect man to have a perfect child--I mean a really perfect child, but from the moment he was born, I have loved my son and that will not change. I wonder if Joseph, the carpenter, felt this way about his son?