When his hard-working father died, little Kyle walked into his dad’s boss’s office to ask him one question face-to-face. The boss was unprepared to hear those words coming out of an 11-year-old’s mouth. Jeff was gone; he wasn’t going to come back ever again. “Papa,” Kyle called out to the empty room. He stood motionless in the center of the floor, as if to take the silence in.
The 11-year-old boy was trying to make peace with the harsh truth that he would never hear a response to that call again. “Papa,” he cried again, letting that realization sink deeper into his heart. He could hear his mother’s faint crying from the other room and a sea of other consoling voices. Suddenly, the door opened, letting in a burst of chatter from the hall and Mr. Wilkins.
He quietly dragged his feet towards Kyle and said in his morose voice, “Kyle, I just came to say goodbye and to remind you of two things. Your father was immensely proud of you, and everybody at the workshop knew that. Heck, they knew all your grades and medals by rote. So just in case you were wondering if you ever made him proud, you did, son. You made him mighty proud.
Kyle hung his head, but there were no tears. Mr. Wilkins was taken aback by the boy’s apparent lack of emotion, but he continued, “And secondly, young man, remember with Jeff gone, you are the man of the house. You’re no longer the little boy who threw tantrums over silly stuff, broke things, or didn’t care about your mother and sister’s health. You will still want the bigger slice of pizza or not want to fold the laundry, but in those moments, remember who you are and who is that?
The man of the house.” Kyle replied something about Mr. Wilkins’ words shook Kyle. He smiled courteously, allowing the old man to pat his shoulders and leave. “I’m the man of the house,” it’s something his dad used to say about himself mainly as a funny comeback in arguments with his mom.
Kyle remembered, but today those words weighed heavy on the boy’s little heart. “I’m the man of the house. I have to do something.” Since Jeff’s death the previous morning, Kyle had heard different accounts of the cause and manner of his death. His mother had tried to protect him and his sister from the rumors, but Kyle was right behind the door while they discussed the theories.
He had heard a lot of voices speculating that it was the employer, Mr. McGill’s fault. He knew Jeff was overworked and hadn’t slept the previous night. That monster still forced him to come in for a full shift at the workshop. Jeff wasn’t in his full senses; there’s no other way Jeff would miss out on something as basic as the harness.
Maybe the harness itself was old and faulty. Oh no, it was definitely Mr. McGill’s fault. Kyle had never met the man; he had only heard the name McGill from his father and never in a bad way. Then again, Papa never spoke badly of anyone.
In fact, Jeff had even invited Mr. McGill and his family for one of Kyle’s birthdays. Mr. McGill didn’t show, but he had sent a gift for Kyle. It was a high-end toy car that Kyle loved.
He looked at the toy car that was still lying on the floor. He calmly picked it up, put it in the toy box, and left the house. His mother, Janine, and the guests were surprised to see him walking out and tried asking him where he was headed. Kyle stopped. Janine tried to grab him, but he ducked her grasps and walked on briskly.
“Where are you going?” Janine cried. Kyle was visibly disturbed and emotionless at the same time. Everyone, including Janine, was worried that the little boy hadn’t cried a single tear since he heard of Jeff’s death. Without turning back, Kyle said, “I’m going to meet Mr.
McGill face-to-face and ask him a question.” The command in Kyle’s voice was astonishing, even though he was just an 11-year-old. Nobody except up to stop him. Children deserve to have a childhood no matter how difficult the circumstances are. “Where is he?
Where’s Mr. McGill?” Kyle began asking everyone he saw at the workshop. They recognized Kyle and tried to console him. “Now, I don’t want your thoughts and prayers.
I just want to know where Mr. McGill is,” Kyle was adamant, and his demeanor was getting a bit aggressive. “Hello, Kyle. I’m Mr. McGill.
Please, let’s talk in my office,” Kyle gathered himself and followed the boss into the room. Mr. McGill was hoping that the boy wouldn’t see him sweating. There was so much he wished to explain to the kid, but it didn’t look like Kyle was ready to listen. Without any emotion in his voice, Kyle said, “I know you were my dad’s boss.
I know he got all his work assignments from you. I know that you decided what his salary should be, and I know that you were strict with him. I’m here to ask you one question. When can I start? I’m sorry,” Mr.
McGill said with a puzzled face. “With Papa gone, I’m the man of the house. I need to work and bring money home. I’m my father’s son. I’ll be hard-working and honest and give you the best results.
You can be strict with me. I don’t fear that. I just need a job as soon as possible. When can I start?” Mr.
McGill was speechless. He wasn’t expecting such sincerity and politeness from a little boy who had just lost his father. He shook the boy’s hand and said, “I need to talk to your mother first.” When Mr. McGill told Janine what her son had done, she cried.
The guests were quietly ashamed of their gossip too. “My sweet Kyle, you don’t need to do any of that. Mama is here, and she’s going to take care of everything. Did you know Mama was in the catering business before you were born?” Kyle looked confused at the new word.
“It means I used to cook and sell meals, and you know I make the best food in town, right?” Kyle wiped his tears and nodded. “So it’s easy. Mama will find people to sell her meals to again.” Mr.
McGill saw the opportunity and added, “My workshop needs about 50 lunches a day, and I’m looking for a caterer.” Janine smiled at Mr. McGill, acknowledging his thoughtfulness. “See, Mama already has her first customer. We’re going to be rich,” Janine spoke with an animated joy in her voice to console her brave little boy.
“But I promise you’ll still be the man of the house, and you will definitely get the bigger slice of pizza forever.”