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The Playmate

2006-07-24 21:17

  “But Mom, I don't have anybody to play with. I really need a pet! I promise I'll take care of it.”

  “Jamie, we've been through this before! Our apartment is too small. And we'd have to pay a pet deposit.”

  Jamie's mother picked up some socks from the floor. “Jamie, how many times do I have to tell you? Stop throwing your dirty socks on the floor!” She looked up at her son. “And what have you got in that paper bag?”

  “Oh, nothing.” Jamie backed out of the doorway. “Sorry about the socks. I'll try to remember. I've got to go now, Mom. Bye!”

  Jamie ran out of the building and down the street. The abandoned buildings there were his playground. His mother had warned him many times that the old buildings were dangerous. But Jamie saw adventure where other people saw danger.

  Jamie moved a wooden board from the door to one of the buildings. He crawled inside. There was broken glass on the floor. It crunched under his feet. Jamie went down the stairs to the basement. It was even darker down there, and damp. The buildings were near the river. Sometimes water flooded in. Once he'd found a fish there, but it was dead. He'd never found anything alive - until he found Sharon.

  “Sharon, I'm here!” Jamie called. He held up the paper bag. “I brought a candle, too. I'm going to light it so I can see you better.”

  Jamie took out a match and lit the candle. A soft circle of light lit up the darkness.

  “Come over here where I can see you,” Jamie said. “Please don't be afraid. I'm not afraid. I told you that.”

  The creature slithered into the light. It was about Jamie size. Its head and body were covered with dark green scales. In the light of the candle, the scales shone like emeralds. The candle started to go out. Jamie made a move to cup it with his hands. The creature's eyes glowed red, suddenly, like hot coals. Its nostrils flared, giving off heat. Jamie stared. He thought he had never seen anything so beautiful. That's why he'd decided to call the creature Sharon. He wanted to give a beautiful name to his new pet.

  “It's okay, I'm not afraid,” He said. He took hold of the creature's fin-like arm. It felt like his father's raincoat when it got wet. He held the fin for a moment, then let it drop. A thick green slime covered his hand. He wiped it on his pants.

  “I'm trying to get Mom to let me bring you home,” Jamie told the creature. “I know you're not really a pet. You're a friend …… sort of. But I can't let you stay out here in the cold. Winter's coming soon. It gets really cold here then. And sometimes Mom doesn't let me go outside when it snows.”

  Jamie watched the creature's face. “Gee, Sharon,” he said, “I wish you could talk. I don't know if you understand me or not. And I'd really like you to tell me how you got here. Did you float in on the water?”

  The creature didn't answer. It just looked at Jamie. Its mouth opened slightly and something white gleamed. Jamie thought it was smiling.

  “Well,” said Jamie, “I hope you're hungry, anyway. I brought you a chicken sandwich.”

  The creature looked down at the sandwich. It made no move to eat it.

  “I'll just leave the food here for you,” Jamie said. He sighed. “I wish I could stay. But I have to go. Mom is on my case right now. I left my socks on the floor again this morning. I thought she was going to blow a fuse! I'd better go home and help her. I'll come back tomorrow after school.”

  Jamie turned to go. He made his way carefully across the slippery basement floor. The creature watched him. When Jamie had disappeared up the stairs, the creature opened its mouth. A human bone, clean of all flesh, dropped to the floor. The creature slithered back into its corner. Jamie hurried along the street toward his building. When he got home, his mother looked angry.

  “Where have you been, young man? Every time there's work to do, you vanish into thin air! Now, get into that room of yours and clean it up. And another thing. I don't want you disappearing like that anymore. If you want to go someplace, tell me. I'll take you. There are too many dangers in the street. Why, just last week a little boy disappeared on his way home from school. It wasn't very far from here, either.”

  But Jamie wasn't really listening. He seemed to be thinking about something else.

  “Mom, I think I have the answer to our problem.”

  His mother looked surprised. “What problem?”“Well, there are no kids my age in this building. That's why I go out so much. If I had a pet to play with, I'd take care of it, too. I promise. I even have one all picked out, Mom. We wouldn't have to shop for one! Oh, please, Mom. Can I have a pet, please.”

  Jamie's mother laughed in spite of herself.

  “Okay, okay,” she said smiling. “I guess you do need a playmate. And I can't refuse an argument like that. You've probably got some poor animal out there in a box somewhere. I just hope it isn't too dirty.”

  Jamie hugged his mother around the waist. “Oh, thanks, Mom. I'll go get Sharon right now. I know you'll like her!” Jamie ran out the door.

  “Jamie!” his mother cried. “Where do you think you're going! Come back here!” The front door slammed, and she sighed. “That kid,” she said to herself, shaking her head. She picked up another of Jamie's socks and smiled. “Sharon,” she repeated. “What a name for a dog!”





























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