Ruth Ann Hixson | Terri Kelleher
Clarence didn’t remember when he first began hearing the voices. He’d been quite small because he’d been hearing them as far back as he could remember. Male and female voices that told him, “Do this; don’t do that.” When he first mentioned it to his mother, he’d been five years old. She told him it was his imagination.
He accepted that because Mom said it was so. But as he got older, the voices continued. He went to his father who frowned over it. “Stop making up stories,” his father told him sternly. Two days later Clarence’s father was killed in an automobile accident. Clarence thought his father’s death was his fault for listening to the voices. He stuck his fingers in his ears and shouted, “Leave me alone!”
“We only want to help you,” said a female voice tenderly.
Clarence went to his mother again. “They won’t go away,” he cried.
His mother sat down and took him on her lap. “Perhaps it is your guardian angel,” she whispered. “It is not your fault that your father died. It was the fault of that drunk driver.”
Clarence began to talk back to the voices when he was alone. They consoled him over his father’s death and gently guided him to do what was right. When he was ten, a gentle female voice told him, “It would be nice if you’d help your mother with her housework. She works all day and is tired when she comes home.”
Clarence began vacuuming the living room and picking up after himself. He took turns with his mother doing the dishes. As he got older, the voices only came when he needed to make a decision. “Don’t get in a fight with Gary. He’s bigger than you.”
“He called me a coward.”
“But we know you aren’t. We know that. Why should you care what Gary thinks? He tries to make himself seem tough by picking on smaller kids. Believe me, he will get what is coming to him some day.”
Clarence walked on like he didn’t hear Gary’s taunts. Two days later when he was walking home, Helen Watts walked beside him.
“It was really brave of you to resist Gary’s bullying. He’s such a jerk.”
Clarence stopped and looked at her. He wanted to tell her about the voices but they warned him not to. “She’ll think you’re crazy.”
Instead Clarence asked, “Would you like to stop at Henrietta’s for a sundae or a milkshake?”
She smiled broadly. “I’d love to.”
Helen was a cheerleader and a very popular girl in school. Clarence had never shared a milkshake with a girl before. He blushed at every compliment Helen gave him. But he was happy.
“Clarence, I’ve been thinking. You are the brightest boy in the tenth grade. Will you help me with my calculus? I just don’t get it the way Mr. Geiswite explains it.”
“I’d be glad to. My house or yours?”
“Your house. Dad works nights and sleeps until just before he leaves for work.”
“Mom works days but I’m sure she won’t mind you coming over. Maybe seven o’clock. I help her with her housework until after the dishes are done.”
“Why Clarence! You are simply amazing! I’ll bet she really appreciates it, too.”
“Of course. Mom’s a good person.” He almost told her about the voices but again they warned him not to.
The more he thought about the voices the more he realized that they had never steered him wrong. He decided to do whatever they told him. Then he hadn’t heard them for several weeks. He turned round and round in the yards with his arms spread. “Where are you?” he cried.
“We didn’t go away,” said the gentle female voice. “You are doing so well you don’t need us anymore.”
“What if I do need you?”
“Someone will help you but I don’t think you’ll need our help and there are so many others that do need our help. Just remember to follow the guidelines we taught you and you will do fine.”
“Goodbye,” Clarence said softly. “I’ll miss you.”