Evan Quinlan

Friends

In Fiction, Short Stories on August 2, 2012 at 2:37 pm

Kenneth didn’t believe in Christmas miracles before, but now he does.  How could he not?  When he’d woken up this morning he’d been lonely.  He was too boring, and everybody knew it.  He was boring and his house was boring.  Nobody wanted to be his friend or come over and play, not even adults, who usually told him to go read or play with the other kids.  Nobody cared about him—not really, not in the way a real friend cared about another real friend, the way it is in books.  But now, this morning, the dawn of a new life for him (he is certain!), he sits surrounded by people who must be his friends, because they are all smiling, all glad to see him, in a way that makes him feel, for the first time, like he’s supposed to be alive after all.  Some of his friends are waving to him; some offer him a handshake.  One man with a hot dog stand smiles, holding out his wares, seeming to say, “This one’s on me, Ken.”  And all along the street—Kenneth’s new street—sit beautiful houses, all different shapes and colors, with rooster weather-vanes and moo-cow mailboxes, and certainly filled with all kinds of wonderful people and pets that Kenneth could meet and spend his days with.  He knows that in any one of those houses he is welcome to visit anytime, day or night.  For the first time in his life, he feels like he’s a part of something, and most overwhelmingly of all, he feels happy.  His eyes become blurry and a tear drips onto one of his new friends, a smiling girl with a teddy bear and a blue dress.  But before Kenneth can clear his eyes, the girl becomes weak from the moisture and she begins to bend awkwardly out of shape.  Kenneth cries out and stretches his shirt to try and soak up the moisture before it can hurt the little girl anymore, and as he does so he knocks one of the houses with his elbow and its roof tears a little bit and lifts away from its foundation, the rooster weather-vane on top coming loose.  He’s hurting them!  And he just met them all…  What would they think?  His breath short, more tears welling up in his eyes against his will, Kenneth looks up at his mother, who sits cradling her cup of tea, watching his distress and wearing a look of confusion on her face.

“Mom…!” he pleads desperately.

“Kenneth,” she replies, brow furrowing.  “Kenneth… they’re just paper.”

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  1. “Mom…
    She heard the distress in his voice and taking in the torn house and smudged (but still smiling) girl she slid from her chair and joined Kenneth on the floor.
    “People and places go through changes all the time – some good – some bad. But you and I, we have all the tools we need to help this neighborhood out!” she said waving her arm to encompass the stacks of construction paper, drawing paper, glues, paints, crayons and all. “You repair the house,” she smiled at him as she handed him the tape dispenser ” and what do you say I give this young lady a new outfit?”
    She’d been feeling sorry for herself sitting at the table hugging the warmth from a cup of tea. The only grown-up in what had become a child-oriented world. Lost to the world of adults and forbidden from giving over to the world of children. Torn, like that house. Ruined from taking a place in any group that feels comfortable in their own skins – like they belong. But in the instant he’d called to her in his distress – his voice, like the tape, put her back together. Once again useful. Once again knowing that there was a place she needed and wanted to be.
    Belonging comes in fits and starts.
    It begins with your own perceptions and ends with your own perceptions.
    Like most emotions it just takes a micro-second to flip the switch – which is always within reach and always visible if you want to find it, no matter how dark it is…

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