Nurturers & Destructors is a serialized novel, created during the 2021 A2Z Challenge, hosted by Blogchatter
With the softness of a blooming flower, the passion of a raging fire and the life of flowing air, Zacharia Smith had come into this world 10 years ago, to the date. For his 10th birthday, his mom, Deborah, was busy decorating the home with fresh flowers, while the aroma of cookies being freshly baked in the oven added to the sugary sweet air lent by the red velvet cake proudly sitting atop the kitchen slab. As she worked, she hummed a little tune and the fringe of hair that fell over her forehead, just missing the top of her tortoiseshell glasses, kept bouncing around as she hurriedly prepared the house, for the inevitable onslaught of the family gathering.
Once in a while, she sneaked a peek through the ivy framed windows to the backyard, where the burly figure of Zacharia’s dad, Jeremiah, stood out in the glow & smoke from the charcoals he was stoking in the family grill that had been handed down, generation to generation, on Deborah’s side. Legend has it that the founding fathers themselves savoured a lunch prepared on that very grill, before they signed the constitution. The grill was indeed steeped in history and soot, and was also party to a whole array of secret barbecue recipes which were zealously guarded, for it was Texas and barbecue recipes were your trump cards to enhance your social appeal. Know how to baste and marinate a mean rack of ribs and you were guaranteed to be invited to the best gatherings in town.
Stoking the charcoals was one of Jeremiah’s favorite pastimes, since the longer he waited at the coals, the longer he could gaze at the house and reminisce about the family that he had built. Having lost his parents at a young age and being shunted between orphanages, he had finally found a home & his family, with a long lost uncle, who lived alone and could do with some company. He had put Jeremiah through school and then discovering that Jeremiah loved working with and had a unique knack for machines & engines, connected him with one of the uncle’s old acquaintances, with whom Jeremiah still worked. In the rural background of good ol’ Texas, he helped rebuild old tractors, fix up rusty generators and water pumps and above all, worked on automobile engines. The grease, the tools, the smell of oil, the clearing of rust, the cranking of an engine and the subsequent thump of power from the pumping pistons just made him feel alive.
He had met Deborah when she brought one of her dad’s trucks to be repaired. At first, it was trucks, then tractors, then a generator and finally he gave her the bill of his pending love, which she duly paid. From there to this cozy little house that they had made a home, truly felt like a dream. All he hoped was that he would never have to wake up from this dream… and that it wouldn’t turn into a nightmare.
Oblivious to his dad’s nostalgic charcoal stoking and tired from the previous night’s long gaming session, Zacharia continued to doze, while downstairs in the living room, the news anchor on the television was gleefully going on and on about mild earthquakes, possible hurricanes, incoming storms and of course, the omnipresent squabbling politicians. With all due luck, in a few hours, his grandparents, uncle, aunt & cousins would be here and they could all have some live squabbling of their own.
Dinner was a lively affair enjoyed by one and all, while sitting around the once-sturdy dining table, in a room with flowery wallpaper that was just about to peel itself off the walls. Along with the appetizers, some wild stories of Jeremiah’s cousins’ shenanigans were dished out and gossiped about. With the barbecue and mashed potatoes, it was the chance of the wilder exploits of the other ladies living down the street. And post that, as dinner moved to sticky treacle pudding & ice cream and bellies became increasingly content, conversation around the dining table lulled. Taking the dying conversation as a hint, Zacharia and his cousins made a beeline for the gaming consoles upstairs while the adults started filling the awkward silences with “And then”s and “What else”s.
Sensing that the time had come, Grandpa Mike brought up the topic that he had long wanted to broach with Jeremiah. In fact, he felt that there could be no better time than Zacharia’s 10th birthday to talk about, lest it became too late to address. “Have you had a chance to talk to him about… “, ventured Mike, testing the waters before diving in. Jeremiah, who had so far been quite jovial, stiffened up noticeably. Knowing what was about to happen, on the other side of the table, Deborah looked apprehensively at Jeremiah & her dad.
Finally Jeremiah broke the thick tension and said, “Well, not yet. And it’s not like he has felt like anything’s different. We just felt that it was best to keep it that way for as long…” “I am sorry! You still really think that if you don’t talk about it, the kid would not realize it?”, erupted Mike. Letting out a deep sigh, Deborah buried her face in her hands and waited. Her sister just put her arms around here and whispered in her ear, “I was just wondering why it hadn’t happened yet. Anyway, I think you should speak to him, we have already talked to Jill about it… I believe she is taking it fine or probably she still hasn’t grasped the whole gravity of the situation. But even then, the sooner that they know about it, the better it will be when it happens.” Deborah just nodded.
“Mike, you have got to understand. Our family is different compared to you guys. It’s just, we aren’t even sure if he will be…”, Jeremiah tried to reason.
Mike guffawed and said, “YOU have to understand, Jeremiah. I have tried so much to make you understand. Since he has passed his 10th year, it’s only a matter of time. It will happen. Zacharia’s eyes will open to the Elementals.”
And as if to underline that statement, “Aaaaarrrrhhhhhh”, came Jill’s shriek from above. Sharing a panicked, incredulous look, they all scrambled for the staircase.