Saturday, 25 June 2016

The Show-off by Seana Graham


Horrid Jack watches us through a knothole in the fence for awhile before
he climbs up to peer over it.
“What’re you doing?” he asks, as if that isn’t obvious.
“Go away,” I say.
“Can I play?”
“No.” That’s Sally, his sister.
“Why not?”
“Because you wouldn’t like it.” I say. Horrid Jack is only interested in
sports or games where you pretend to shoot people or blow things up. This
isn’t one of those kinds of games. “Go find someone else to play with.”
“There isn’t anybody else for miles!”
This isn’t true, but may as well be. If he can’t get in with us, he’ll
have to play alone. And Horrid Jack isn’t really the solitary type.
“We’re having a tea party. You could be the prince,” says Charlotte, my
sister, who loves him.
“Real tea? With cake?”
“No. Pretend.”
“What’s the point of that?” He’s on top of the fence now, balancing his
way along it. “Hey, look! I can reach that tree from here!” He hurls
himself at the limb of the giant oak in his yard and hoists himself up.
We watch for a moment and then go back to our game. After awhile we forget
all about him.
***
“Look at me!” Horrid Jack sings out from high, high above.
We look up just in time to see him leaping for the next branch.
In time, too, to see him miss it.
He plunges down to earth and disappears behind the fence between us. We
listen for it, dreading it, but the impact makes no sound in the soft
grass. Instead, it’s the silence that’s terrifying.
***
My mother takes Charlotte and me to the hospital to see him that night.
As we sit with Sally and his mom, Jack’s father comes rushing in, hurrying
over from work. I’m standing near enough to hear when the doctor tells him
Jack will mend.
 “I wouldn’t think there’s much likelihood of an athletic career, though.
I’m sorry. Your wife tells me that he was very keen.”
Normally, Jack’s dad hardly has two words to say about him. I didn’t know
he even noticed that Jack loves sports. It shocks me when he bursts into
tears.
***
When they do let us in to see Jack, I’m awed by the fact that on one side
of his body, his cast goes clear up to his waist. Charlotte and Sally and
I cover it with hearts and rainbows and elaborate calligraphy with the
markers we’ve brought. Even though he’s a small boy, it’s still a pretty
big surface to work on. Our artistic efforts are sure to be covered over
later by whatever images the boys at school favor—tanks, maybe, or
monsters. But tonight Jack’s not complaining. As he sits here a little
wanly in our midst, he just seems happy to have finally gotten our
attention.

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