The Fallback Plan

The Fallback Plan

Edited by Akemi Liyanage

Some of Thomas Edison’s final words hung above the window, through which I could see tears falling from mom’s eyes while she spoke to the doctor.

It’s very beautiful over there.

You know, that quote put me to sleep. Not because it was boring or anything, but because it let me dream. Ever since we climbed our first tree in the backyard, I always wanted to see what Mr. Edison saw. I wanted to be at the top.

Just like you did.

I know — what Doctor Bennett and mom were about to tell wasn’t good, but I was going to make it good.

I tried my best to make it not too expensive for her. All I needed were two tickets to Alaska, one for me, and one for her. I’m glad I got to do grade five so I could learn to multiply and figure everything out myself.

I think she was proud of my hard work. But before she could be proud, she came in and cried into my shoulder for a long time. Doctor Bennett stayed with us until early in the morning. The nurse came in every now and then, but most of the time, Doctor Bennett, me and mom talked while I held the picture of you and dad.

It was pretty cool staying up past twelve that night.

It’s a few weeks later and we’re on the laptop buying the plane tickets. Mom didn’t like the idea at first. She said it wasn’t safe, but when she saw that I would have a harness, and someone looking over me, she decided that it was OK.

“I want to be watching at all times,” she said. “I don’t want you out of my sight.”

Remember when she watched us climb those sand dunes and we’d scare her by pretending to lose our grip and roll down? Boy, was she mad!

I got a paper cut while printing the tickets out and it bled so much I had to go to the hospital. Doctor Bennett said it was normal with my condition.

I tried to put on a pink unicorn bandage on your knee when you scraped it on the tree that one day. It soaked right through while you cried. I felt so bad.

But I held my tears in so you wouldn’t be scared.

I’d been feeling very sick before the trip. Tired, too. But after two months of waiting, we were leaving the next day!

I was so excited.

I threw up the next morning before the taxi came. I really didn’t like being sick to my stomach. It was gross. I was hoping going on the plane wouldn’t upset it too much. I had never been on one before.

Everybody was looking at me inside the airport. I understood. They had hair and I didn’t.

When we got on the plane, I went to look for our seats while mom whispered to the lady who welcomed us aboard. I sat in the seat closest to the window, hoping to see what I’d always wanted to see. But mom came over and told me I had to sit in the seat next to the aisle.

“If you feel sick, we need to be able to get you to the washroom,” she said.

“Everything okay over here?” the lady mom was talking to asked.

Everybody who sat near us turned their heads to see my bald one.

They all looked away quickly.

“Do you want to wear your ball cap?” mom asked.

“I’m okay,” I told her.

Taking off made me sick and I needed to run to the bathroom. Mom followed.

The rest of the trip was good, though. It’s nice being high in the sky. It’s never cloudy and it never rains.

We landed in a place with the word ‘anchor’ in its name. But I knew there were more tall mountains than there was water, which is good because I never really liked swimming anyhow.

The hotel is pretty cool but I’m going climbing tomorrow and that’s all I can think about.

I’m standing at the base of the mountain and I wish you were here with me! It’s so tall.

“The climb is about 200 feet and you will be at the top waiting for him,” a man with a helmet says.

Another man hooks my belt up to the harness.

“Alright, buddy,” he says. “This will keep you strapped in and safe. Don’t press this little switch down, whatever you do.”

I nod. He pats me on the helmet and I’m ready to go up.

My mom finishes talking to the man wearing the helmet and comes over to me. She squeezes me like you squeezed your teddy during your treatment.

“I love you, Thomas!” she says. “I’ll see you at the top.”

“I love you too, mom!” I reply.

After a few more seconds of squeezing, she lets go and I walk toward the tall rock. I put my right foot on a small ledge and begin the climb. I take my time with each grip and pull.

I look over to the left and see my mom waving at me with a big smile as she goes up the metal stairs.

I am now almost at the top. I decide it’s time. My mom looks down at me and motions for me to keep going. I stop climbing and smile up at her. She smiles back. I’m going to miss her.

Without looking away, I grab my harness with one hand, feel for the switch and press it. After a few moments, I can finally see it.

You were right, sis. It is beautiful.

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