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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!”

  “可是,妈妈,我没有人一起玩啊。我真的需要一个宠物!我保证会好好照顾它的。”

  “杰米,我们以前也尝试过!我们的房子太小了,而且养宠物还得花钱。”

  妈妈从地板上拣起袜子。“杰米,我跟你说过多少次了?别把脏袜子扔在地板上!”她抬头望着儿子问,“你那个纸袋里装的什么?”

  “哦,没什么。”杰米倒着从门口出去了。“抱歉,袜子的事我会尽量记住的。我得走了妈妈,再见!”

  杰米从楼里跑出来,到了大街上。那些废弃的大楼就是他的游乐场,妈妈多次警告他,说这些大楼很危险。然而别人认为危险的地方,杰米偏偏喜欢去冒险。

  杰米把从门上拆下来的一块木板搬到楼里,然后曲着身子爬进去。地板上有些碎玻璃,踩在脚下,嘎吱嘎吱地响。杰米从楼梯走到地下室里,地下室又暗又潮。这座大楼靠近一条河流,有时候水会涌进来。有一次,他在这里发现了一条鱼,不过是条死鱼。此外他再没发现有活的东西――直到发现了雪伦。

  “雪伦,我在这里!”杰米喊道。他举起一个纸袋子。“我还带了蜡烛呢,我这就点上,这样就能看清楚你了。”

  杰米拿出来一盒火柴,把蜡烛点着,蜡烛柔和的光亮驱除了黑暗。

  “到这边来,好让我看到你,”杰米说。“别害怕,我都不怕,我跟你说过的。”

  这个小家伙慢慢向光亮处移动,它差不多有杰米那么大,头和身体上覆盖着一层深绿色的皮毛,在烛光下,皮毛就像绿宝石那样绿。蜡烛开始慢慢变短,杰米过去把蜡烛弄成杯形,小家伙的眼睛闪着红光,突然,好像燃烧的煤似的。它的鼻孔张开,呼出热气。杰米注视着它,他想他从没见过这么漂亮的东西。这就是他为什么决定叫它雪伦的原因了,他想给他的新宠物起一个漂亮的名字。

  “好了,我不害怕,”他说。他抓住那个小家伙鳍状的前肢,就像他爸爸的雨衣淋湿后的那种感觉。他握了一会儿,就放下了,手上留下一层浓绿色的黏液,他就在自己的裤子上擦掉了。

  “我得想办法让妈妈同意把你带回家,”杰米对这个小家伙说。“我知道其实你不是一只宠物,你是我的朋友……可以这么说吧。但我不能让你待在外面受冻。冬天快要来了,那时天气会更冷,而且下雪时妈妈就不让我出去玩了。”

  杰米望着这个小家伙的脸。“呀,雪伦,”他说。“你要是能说话就好了,我不知道你懂不懂我的意思,我很想知道你是怎么来到这里的,你是从水上漂过来的吗?”

  小家伙没有出声,它只是看看杰米。它的嘴巴轻微地张开着,白色的牙齿闪烁着。杰米认为那是它在微笑。

  “噢,”杰米说,“无论如何。我希望你饿了,因为我带鸡肉三明治给你吃。”

  小家伙低头看着三明治,却一动不动,也没有吃。

  “我把食物给你留在这里,”杰米说。他叹了口气:“我真希望能待在这里,可我必须回去。妈妈正在收拾我的房间,今天早上我又把袜子扔在地板上了。我认为妈妈会勃然大怒!我最好回家帮帮她,明天放学后我回来看你。”

  杰米转身准备离开。地下室的地板有点滑,他就小心翼翼地穿过地板,那个家伙在后面望着他。当杰米消失在楼梯末端的时候,那个小家伙张开了它的嘴,一根人的骨头,不带一点肉,掉在了地板上,这个小家伙慢慢向后挪动,挪到了墙角里。

  杰米顺着大街急匆匆地向他的楼里跑去,他到家里看见妈妈很生气。

  “你去哪了,年轻人?每次一有活要干,你就跑得没影了!现在,去你的房间打扫干净。还有一件事,我不想你再消失得无影无踪了,如果你想出去的话,先告诉我,我会带你去的。街上有太多危险的事情了。为什么啊,上个星期就有一个小男孩在他放学回家的路上失踪了,离这儿也不远。”

  然而,杰米没有怎么认真听,他看起来在想其他的事。

  “妈妈,我想我们的问题有解决方法了。”

  妈妈吃惊地看着他。“什么问题?”

  “在这个楼里没有我这个年龄的小孩,所以我才经常出去玩。如果我有一个宠物一起玩的话,我保证会好好照顾它的,我甚至已经拣了一只。妈妈,我们没有必要去商店买!求求你了,妈妈,就让我养只宠物吧。”

  杰米的妈妈禁不住笑了起来。

  “好了,好了,”妈妈微笑着说。“我猜你确实需要一个小伙伴了,我不能拒绝你的意见了,或许,你已经从外面找到一只可怜的小动物了,或许它正在一个盒子里呢,我只希望它不要太脏。”

  杰米搂住妈妈的腰,“喔,谢谢妈妈。我马上去把雪伦带来,我想你会喜欢她的!”说着杰米就跑出去了。

  “杰米!”妈妈喊道。“你去哪里?快回来!”前门砰地一声关上了。妈妈叹息道:“这孩子,”她自言自语地摇着头。拣起杰米的另一只袜子,她不禁笑了,“雪伦,”她重复念着,“多好听的小狗名啊!”

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