The CYC-Net Press CYC-Online

eJOURNAL OF THE INTERNATIONAL CHILD AND YOUTH CARE NETWORK (CYC-Net) – ISSN 1605-7406

ISSUE 49 FEBRUARY 2003 •  CONTENTS •  HOME PAGE

short story

Blowing Bubbles

Sharon Bacher

A little boy dawdled outside my door, neither entering nor leaving. I looked up. "Is that a little Terry Toon I see peeping at me?

He slipped out of sight.

"Hmm… well, I thought I saw a little person with green hair and a yellow nose and pink eyes hiding behind my door. What could he be doing there? Whatever could he want? Now, pooff, he's gone! There must be magic in this office."

I left my desk and pretended to hunt for him. At the doorway, a little shoe poked itself out at me. "What's that I see? A shoe without a foot . . . without a person? Oooh my, what'll happen if I just follow my nose…?" My fingers crawled up his foot " . . . I think I've found a leg . . . gotcha!"

I swept Terry up into my arms. "You know," I said, "I had the feeling I might have a visitor … and I was hoping it’d be Y O U!"

Although he was heavy, I lifted him and sat him on the desktop. "So, what's new, mister?"

"Nuffing," Terry replied, and stuck out his tongue.

"Hey," I said, "if you don't put your tongue away it might fall onto my carpet!"

He closed his mouth and glanced over my desk. A Perspex paperweight caught his eye. It had little tubes, filled with red and blue oil globules that floated when he tilted it this way and that. I watched him intently. "Are you a hungry visitor or a full visitor?"

"What you got?"

"How about a stick of bubble-gum?" I pulled a drawer open and took out a box of bazookas.

His eyes opened wide. "How many can I take?"

"How many do you need?"

"Can I have two pieces, Delia?"

"Are you sure that's how many you need?"

He nodded. "Yeah. Two."

"Okay, then. Take two. One… two. And here's another one for luck!"

His face brightened with a smile. I popped a stick of gum into my mouth too, and we sat together in chewing companionship.

Terry blew a bubble. I tried, but wasn't any good at it. It popped, smearing sticky goo over my lips and nose. Terry giggled.

"Do it again!" he shouted.

"Oh, ho, you liked that, did you?" I did it once more. Then I said: "Enough now. Come on, tell me some news."

He scrunched his head down into his shoulders. "Like what?"

"Like, 'how's school?’ A little birdie told me that you read beautifully. That right?"

He gleamed with pride. "Who said so?"

"Somebody. I can't tell you who," I teased.

"You must! P l e a s e!" He lifted a little hand. "Do you want to hear me read?"

"Mmm… yes," I said. "I know, why don't you get your school book and read me a story. I'm just in the mood to listen."

"Okay, but don't go away. And don't let anybody come into your office to talk to you. Promise?"

"I promise."

Zoooom ... he was an express train. Left, snatched his burlap satchel from his bed and zoomed back into my office at full speed.

"Can we put the ‘DON'T DISTURB’ sign on the door?"

"Sure, " I said. " This’ll be our own private time together. Now, what will you read?"

He undid his satchel. Out fell stale bits of sandwiches, an ice-cream wrapper, stones, crayons, workbooks and his reader. He climbed onto my lap and rested himself against my stomach. I shifted to make space. With intense concentration, he began to read.

I watched Terry's wrinkled little brow as he struggled to sound out the words. It was a major effort for him, but he read well and enjoyed showing off. I stroked his curly hair. "You like reading, don't you Terry!"

He nodded vigorously. "Shall I read some more?"

"Yes," I said. I paused for a moment and then added: "You’ll discover lots of wonderful things in books. Shall we ask Hannie to begin taking you to the library to listen to stories? Would you like that?"

"I sure would!"

"And, I’ve got another nice idea. How about if you come read to me every day for a while?"

He nodded gravely. "Mmm… can I get a bazooka every day?"

"Sure, as long as there are bazookas in the box, you can have one every time." I made a funny face. "Maybe when you visit your daddy next week, you’ll read to him too?"

Terry looked forlorn. "Nah, my daddy’s too busy to listen. He's very important, you know. He's got a big shop."

"Yes, I know," I said, "but I’m sure he'll be as pleased as punch to hear how well you've learned to read. You give it a try." But the words I spoke didn’t convince me, for I had little faith that Abe Zeidner would be interested or patient enough to listen to his son read.

*      *      *

After the breakdown of his parents’ marriage, six year-old Terry had been placed in Szold. Over the past few months, he’d been all but abandoned. Following the divorce, Abe married his secretary, Miriam, and she’d given birth to a baby girl. Preoccupied with his new life and new responsibilities, Abe behaved as though the children from his first marriage were a burden. He seldom seemed to find the time to visit them; and although Miriam didn’t expressly say Terry shouldn’t come to visit, she became strained and anxious whenever he was around. Appointments were made and broken, leaving Terry disappointed, all packed up with nowhere to go. And when he did visit his father, he was usually shipped off to play in the park. The way the Zeidner parents behaved towards their little boy made me furious.

Terry stared at me and said: "My daddy has a new baby. That's why I can't live with him all the time." He wrinkled up his nose again. "Soon as they get a bigger house with an extra room, I’ll go home."

"Oh," I said, "and do you look forward to that?"

Terry shrugged. "I dunno. I don’t think Miriam likes me to come. I always gotta stay downstairs or go to the park." He rubbed his back against me. "I think Daddy likes Gillian, his new baby, more than me."

I hugged Terry tightly. "It's hard for you to understand your daddy, isn't it? You're only a little boy and there are so many confusing things happening to you."

He sighed. "I wish we could be a family like we used to."

I held his face between my hands. "I know, Terry, and I wish you could still be a family. Your mommy and daddy are going through a mixed up time, but they’ll sort themselves out. Even if they don’t live together and can’t have you at home right now, I know they love and care about you. What’s not to love, anyway…? You’re our own special Terrykins - and if you leave us, we’ll be awfully sad!"

I kissed him and gave him an extra gum for his friend, David. Inside I boiled. Damn Abe Zeidner! He had all but thrown his gorgeous son away. As soon as Terry scampered out of my office, I dialed his father's shop.

"Hello," I said, "please get me Abe Zeidner."

As I waited for Zeidner to get on the line, I restrained myself. But when I heard his unperturbed voice say, "Zeidner Pharmacy," totally oblivious to his son’s distress, it was too much for me and I erupted.