The Words of the Ladolcetta Family

Little Paulís Light, a Short Story

Catherine Ladolcetta
Irvington, AL
December, 1999

"Itís rainy again," thought Little Paul to himself. He didnít mind the rain. He crouched in the window looking out, his chin in his little hands and his elbows on his knees. He looked down, down, down at the busy New York City streets where cars were already creeping up and down, darting suddenly at one another at every corner. He thought that they looked like those funny bugs in the park which rolled up when he poked his finger at them.

Little Paul was a little sleepy because it was so early still. He was the only one awake so far. Ana and Cristal, his two older sisters, were still snugly tucked in across the quiet room. He wanted to jump on them and shout, "Letís get going!" -- but it was too early.

Today was Sunday and they were all going to the Museum of Natural History. He couldnít wait to see the huge, white, bony creatures which stayed there. They never moved, but they had been walking about in his imagination since he first saw them one cold, windy day when all the red, yellow and brown leaves whirled around him in the park. It seemed like such a long time ago.

Little Paul looked out the steamy window. He rubbed away the mist and looked again. He leaned his forehead right up against the glass and strained to look straight down. What was he seeing? He was puzzled. He pushed harder trying to see better.... A light. It was a big, round light -- white and strong. He rubbed his eyes and bumped his head against the window pane. The light rolled on down the sidewalk. It was so bright -- it spread all around, covering everything with a glow much brighter than moonlight. He saw other, pale lights following and those were somehow swallowed up by the radiance and warmth of the very biggest light.

Little Paul was confused. "What is it?" he asked himself. He looked out through the rain, which was falling faster.

"Where is it, where is it?" he cried out as he searched frantically up and down the street. Just turning onto Fifth Avenue, he caught a glimpse of the light -- then around the corner it sped and was gone.

"Little Paul, whatís the matter with you, anyway?" Chrissy punched him in the back. She was seven and a little rough sometimes. "Címon, breakfastís ready. Weíre going to see the dinosaurs today, remember?"

Little Paul stared up at her. He felt like laughing, but he felt like crying, too. He followed Chrissy to the table where Ana was already drinking her juice. Mama was there, smiling at him. He ran to her and holding her skirt tightly with both hands, he began to cry. His tears were big and very wet. They poured out of his round, brown eyes. Mama held him on her knees and cuddled him in her arms.

"Baby boy, baby boy, whatís wrong?" Her voice was soft and patient. He seldom cried, even when the bigger boys downstairs teased him too much or his sisters wouldnít let him play with them.

Ana climbed down from her chair and wonderingly touched his wet cheeks. She bent over and kissed him. At five, she was closer to him than anyone else and she seemed to know what he thought and felt.

Little Paul was only four, but quick and curious. He was always looking around himself and he was always serious about what he saw.

"Little Paul?" Ana patted his shoulder, "You never cry; what did you see?"

But he couldnít say what heíd seen. He just shook his head and let go of Mamaís hand. He was suddenly hungry for pancakes and ready to go downstairs. He didnít think about the giant skeletons anymore. He was thinking about the way his white light had looked as he watched it disappearing around the corner.

Every morning Little Paul woke up early and hurried to his window. He watched expectantly, waiting moment by moment, morning after morning, to see his white light again. And though he did not see it, he never gave up hope. His light became his closest friend. In his heart, love for his white light grew and grew. Sometimes, when he thought of his white light, huge alligator tears, hot and wet, dropped from his eyes. He didnít know why because he didnít feel sad. He missed hi light and he waited for it to be on the sidewalk again.

Christmas time came. His family was happy and excited. Ana and Chrissy whispered and giggled together and the rain turned to snow! The snowflakes were so big and fancy that Little Paul was distracted by them as they floated one by one past his grave little face peering out the window.

Suddenly, he looked down and cried out, "Oh! My Light! There you are!" As he pressed his face against the window, Ana crawled up beside him and looked down, too.

"What do you see, Little Paul?" He was still, holding his breath almost, watching something so intently that he didnít even notice that she was beside him. Ana saw nothing -- just the little cars and a group of people walking on the street below.

"The people got into a big, black car, Mama," Ana told her mother, "and they drove away and turned onto Fifth Avenue. But a lot of people were still there -- I think they were waving at the car."

Little Paul leaned against his motherís neck and cried softly. This time there had been three white lights, brighter than the rest -- but the one in the middle was the brightest one of all. His light.

Mama was worried. She knew that Little Paul was a special sort of child -- given to serious thinking and deep feelings for one so young. She couldnít understand why very early every morning she found him perched on the radiator cover, looking expectantly down onto 38th Street. He ate, and slept, and played, but somehow he was different from before. He had discovered something important, but what it was, she couldnít imagine.

New Yearís Eve came. New York was wet with brown slush everywhere; then the snowflakes began falling, making everything white and pure again. Little Paul felt very excited, but it wasnít because of the party his parents were giving in the living room. He was excited because he was sure that he would see his white light again soon.

He watched; he waited. Midnight was coming. Ana and Chrissy came into their darkened bedroom with their mouths full of chocolates and their hands full of cookies. They stopped when they saw Little Paul kneeling on the radiator in the dark. He had on his coat and hat. They pulled candies and salted almonds from their pockets and laid them beside their brother. He didnít move -- he just watched. His heart was filled with joy and hope, and when his light came, he was going to go and meet it.

He was alone again and as he watched, he put on his shoes and pushed his small fingers into the new mittens Mama had made him for Christmas.

Little Paul saw a light shining through the falling snow! It was growing brighter, coming closer on the street. He didnít hesitate. As fast as he could, he ran through the kitchen and out into the foyer. He left the door into the hall wide open as he flew around the corner and dashed towards the elevator. Its doors opened and out stepped some people who were coming to his parentsí party. He jumped in as the doors were closing and reached way up to push the DOWN button. The elevator dropped silently to the lobby. When the big doors opened, he flew the cold outside air and darted past a group of surprised grownups just coming in. The door swung closed behind him, and Little Paul was out in the street, running through the fluffy, new snow toward his light.

The cold snow came into his small navy blue and white sneakers, but his yellow and black bumblebee mittens with red thumbs and his red stocking cap kept him warm. As he ran, Little Paul could see his light moving down the sidewalk. This time, only one other bright light was beside his friend, though many smaller lights were all around them.

"Light, Light, wait for me -- wait for me!" he called. Tears were pouring down his bright, smiling face and joyous laughter came tumbling out from deep inside him.

The smaller lights closed around his light and the other very bright one moved nearer. But the boy ran on with no thought except that his beloved light was there and in a moment he would put his arms around his friend and they would finally be together.

"Little Paul, Little Paul, where are you going?" He faintly heard his mother calling to him, but he ran on.

Little Paulís light was in front of all the others now and, kneeling down, opened his arms for the little boy. Little Paul threw himself into those arms, crying and laughing at once.

Suddenly, he saw that his light was really a man. The other light was a dark-haired lady who was kneeling in the snow beside his friend. She was laughing and it sounded like singing. Their eyes werenít round and wide like his, but had points on the sides and were only half-open. Their voices were different, too -- the manís was husky and deep and as the words came out, Little Paul could barely understand what he said. He didnít care. He felt the same love heíd felt when he watched his light from his window. He knew this man was his light -- his friend -- and he held him tightly around the neck as he was lifted up. The man laughed happily and hugged Little Paul tightly, too.

The gentle lady patted him and, as she buttoned up Little Paulís coat, she spoke softly to one of the young men beside them.

"Those are his parents. Please ask them to come over."

Little Paul looked up and called, "Mama, Mama, here is my friend, the one I always watch for from my window!"

Mama looked surprised. "Arenít you Rev. Moon?" she asked.

"Yes," he replied with a broad smile, "I am." Then, to her astonishment, he added, "Little Paul and I have been friends for a long time."

Ana called out from her fatherís arms as they came nearer, "Mama, thatís the big, black car I told you about, the one I saw at Christmas."

"Come on, Little Paul, letís go home now," Mama said, smiling at Rev. Moon, as she reached out her arms.

Little Paul looked at his precious friend. Rev. Moon kissed his cold cheek and said, "Go home, Little Paul; weíll be together again soon." Then he whispered into Little Paulís ear something no one else could hear except Mrs. Moon. The boy nodded and let Mama take him into her arms.

Laughing, Little Paul waved good-bye to his friends. Then he turned to look happily into his motherís loving face. He put his cold, pink hands on her cheeks and patting them softly said, "Mama, I love you. Happy Godís Day!"

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