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Weasel Boy

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Weasel Boy smiled. He had never realised how much the monkeys laughed like him. They dashed along the branches beside the playground, little hands and feet swinging to and fro. They’re copying me, he thought, delighted. How lovely of them. He stood captivated by their waving tails and happy faces and had to resist the urge to wave back. The other Boys would think he was talking to someone else again and Weasel Boy didn’t want anyone thinking he was mad.

Then Weasel Boy heard more laughter in the playground - laughter that was neither his nor the monkeys and turned to see Friend; kind, happy Friend playing cricket with the other Boys. They were using the end of a broomstick since their own bat had become too splintered to play with. Teacher said they must wait for the money to get another one. Weasel Boy didn’t mind because Teacher knew best and also he never got to play anyway. He skipped up to them and sat down. Sometimes, if Friend was in a good mood, he would tell Weasel Boy to go and fetch the ball when it went over the fence and into the Girl’s Compound. Weasel Boy didn’t like doing this because the Girls always hid the ball from him and chanted his name while he searched for it. When they got bored, they threw the ball back over the fence so that Weasel Boy never got to touch it. Then he would return to sit in the dust.

Before long, Teacher rang the bell for afternoon lessons, and the Boys shuffled into the cool, echoing classroom. One of them stumbled into Weasel Boy with so much force that he fell. Weasel Boy felt no pain but his nose began to tingle and he sneezed. And again. He gazed up blushing as the other Boys laughed. Friend told him he was getting blood on his shirt. Weasel Boy looked down - so he was. Then Friend kindly informed him that wash day wasn’t for another ten days so he had better get a move on and clean it. Weasel Boy agreed quietly. He was happy he was making the Boys laugh, but his nose was starting to hurt now. Hopelessly, and to the amusement of the Boys, tears began to drip from Weasel Boys eyes.

Teacher appeared now and wordlessly took Weasel Boy’s wrist and led him out of the room. Using Weasel Boy’s bloody shirt, Teacher mopped up Weasel Boy’s bloody nose.

‘Why did you let the boy push you again?’ snapped Teacher. Weasel Boy gasped and shook his head. Why would Teacher think they pushed me? Before he could respond though, Teacher spoke again. ‘Weasel Boy,’ he said, ‘you are small, you are slow, you are stupid. So learn to fight for yourself.’ Blood was crusting on Weasel Boy’s shirt. ‘Now go to Matron and get tidied up.’ Weasel Boy began walking obediently, and little puffs of dust billowed up around his feet at every slow step over the sparse, flat grass. It looked like someone – God, Weasel Boy supposed, had sprinkled dead leaves on top of the dust.

Weasel Boy rounded the corner of the building to be faced with the most startling, eerie sight he had ever seen. Three Spirits stood towering and dazzling in the middle of the playground, surrounded by children like goats flocking round a Sheppard.

Without realising it, Weasel Boy began walking towards them, drawn to their skin of milk. However, Matron saw him then and pulled him into her room, clucking and sighing and tutting and grumbling. Weasel Boy liked Matron, her fussing reminded him of his mother. So did her smell.

‘Hands up,’ she ordered and Weasel Boy glanced round furtively, praying no one would see. He wasn’t strong like the other Boys and they tended to laugh at his little frame. Then, to Weasel Boy’s joy, she produced a thick pink and blue jumper to wear and he smiled widely at her in thanks. She took care to wipe the blood from Weasel Boy’s face, then led him out of the room, turning exactly the wrong way.

‘No, Matron,’ Weasel Boy corrected, ‘my classroom is this way,’ but she just shook her head and led him on. Weasel Boy gasped. The three Spirits were still there, talking to Headteacher.

‘Go on Weasel Boy,’ she pushed him forwards, ‘you might get lucky,’ and Weasel Boy stumbled forwards and sat at the edge of the group of children, unable to take his eyes off the Spirits. Closer now, he realised that their silky skin was not the colour of milk, but of rice and he resisted the urge to reach up and stroke it. A beautiful girl with one leg scowled at him and Weasel Boy decided she must be jealous of his two legs. The Spirits were being talked to by Headteacher whose bristly moustache twitched about his mouth like the wings of a butterfly.

Weasel Boy realised what they were. They were White people. There was one Man, and his hair was the colour of the dust he stood on and whose matching jacket and trousers hung off his body like the skin of an elephant. There were two ladies, one young and one old. The younger had golden hair that made a beautiful fan around her head, but her nose was like that of a birds. And as for her clothes! They hugged her figure like a skin and Weasel Boy blushed for staring.

‘Madam, these are our best students…’ Headteacher was saying. The third and final Ghost had hair the colour of a clouded sky and cheeks like a blooming flower. Weasel Boy smiled his best smile at them but the other children clambered forwards pushing him enthusiastically out of the way. Headteacher told them to shut up and they did.

‘Mother! Come look at this one,’ Madam exclaimed, kneeling on a little patch of cloth in front of a girl. ‘She’s beautiful.’

‘You can’t get a child because it’s pretty,’ snapped the one called Mother, ‘it’s inhumane.’ Madam gasped.

‘Don’t say that Mother!’ but Headteacher was at their side to reassure them that this one was clever too.

‘You could get this one, there’s nothing wrong with him,’ said Mother loudly. Weasel Boy started – she was talking about him. He widened his smile until his cheeks hurt and a boy next to him told him to stop smiling, Weasel Boy, you look stupid, so he did.

A long puff of air escaped Mother’s lips and she sat opposite Weasel Boy, on the ground. An adult. Sitting on the ground. Immediately, children reached out to her, with their hands and with their voices, stroking her clothes and repeating their names, but she shooed them away, dabbing at her face with a cloth. Weasel Boy felt a treacherous smile creep back to his mouth.

‘Look at this one,’ cooed Madam somewhere behind Weasel Boy and Mother rolled her eyes.

‘You wouldn’t like them anyway,’ she told him, sighing, and Weasel Boy couldn’t help laughing – the Spirit was speaking to him! To his further delight, Mother smiled back at him, her silky face folding.

‘What’s your name?’ She asked.

‘Weasel Boy,’ Weasel Boy replied.

‘Pardon?’

‘Weasel Boy,’ he repeated, shuffling closer.

‘Sorry?’

‘Weasel Boy!’ he laughed. It wasn’t a hard name! But Mother still looked confused. The other children were being so helpful, repeating his name to her, giggling. Weasel Boy reminded himself to thank them later. Finally, Mother turned to Headteacher and called out ‘Excuse me!’ Headteacher turned to her. ‘What is this boy’s name?’ For some reason, Headteacher looked at Weasel Boy with anger in his eyes, before speaking two words clearly. Weasel. Boy. Mother was still, then she asked ‘As in the animal?’ Teacher nodded enthusiastically. Mother muttered Weasel Boy’s name slowly, looking at him with large, pale eyes.

‘Why do they call you Weasel Boy?’ She asked quietly.

‘Because it’s my name!’ chuckled Weasel Boy. White people were strange.

‘No,’ said Mother forcefully. The other children fell silent. ‘What is your real name?’ Weasel Boy didn’t know what she wanted him to say. ‘What did your family call you?’ Weasel Boy gaped. His family?

‘Weasel Boy, I suppose.’ Mother shook her head and looked sad. Weasel Boy was starting to feel awkward – he hadn’t meant to make anyone sad. Then the girl with one leg spoke up.

‘It’s because he looks like a Weasel,’ she told Mother kindly and Weasel Boy nodded in agreement. Mother stared at Weasel Boy and to his absolute horror her eyes were full to the brim with tears.

‘Don’t be sad,’ he cried, ‘I’m sorry.’ But she just looked at him and Weasel Boy felt tears of his own rolling down his cheeks. He felt ashamed of himself. The other children were looking at him with a mixture of anger and disbelief and he knew what they were thinking – how could Weasel Boy make the White Lady cry?

‘I’m sorry,’ she said. ‘I’m sorry.’ Weasel Boy was confused. Why was she saying sorry? Somewhere, far away, Weasel Boy could hear the gibbering monkeys and he wondered what to say to her. Eventually he said -‘I like my name. It is a good, strong name.’

Mother stood up then, and, taking his hand in hers, she walked steadily towards the White couple.

‘Have you found one?’ She snapped at Madam, who smiled and gestured to three children, one boy and two girls who stood neatly, also smiling. Mother was angry; Weasel Boy could see it in her face.

‘How about this boy? He’s lovely,’ Mother told them.

‘What’s his name?’ asked the man. His voice sounded like he had something up his nose.

‘Weasel Boy,’ replied Mother. Her voice seemed to break half way through. Weasel Boy wiped his nose and smiled up at them as they gazed down at him, as confused as Mother had been.

‘Sir,’ Headteacher said, ‘Sir, this boy is…below average. These others,’ he waved at the children, ‘these are our select students. But this boy… he isn’t even meant to be here.’ Headteacher frowned. ‘He is very small for his age.’

‘That doesn’t matter, does it?’ Mother said smiling surprisingly sweetly at the couple. ‘Size doesn’t matter.’ Out of the corner of his eye, Weasel Boy saw Friend and the other Boys at the fence, watching him with their fingers curled tightly around the wire

‘Hello,’ said Madam cheerily.

‘Hello,’ replied Weasel Boy.

‘So how old are you then?’ Weasel Boy frowned. He hoped he wouldn’t be asked this.

‘Four,’ he told her.

‘No, he’s not. Weasel Boy, you are six,’ said Headteacher loudly. Weasel Boy didn’t like it when Headteacher spoke to him like this because it made him feel stupid. Plus, Weasel Boy was sure that Headteacher didn’t know how old he was.

Madam stood up again until she towered over him like a tree. She spoke to Mother now.

‘I’ve had enough here, let’s go back to the hotel and think about it there. We’ve seen so many lovely children, it’ll take some time,’ but Mother pulled Weasel Boy closer to her. Then Madam was walking away, with Sir and Headteacher behind her, and the children behind them.

Mother knelt down stiffly and held both of Weasel Boy’s hands.

‘I will be in the city, Weasel Boy,’ she told him. ‘We are staying in a Hotel there for a long time but I will visit here in a few days. Ok? I’ll be back to see you.’ She smiled at him and Weasel Boy felt warmth spread through his body that was nothing like the heat of the sun. Mother had tears in her eyes again. Even he didn’t cry this much.

‘Goodbye Mother,’ said Weasel Boy, and held himself from wrapping his arms round her neck. She didn’t speak and she didn’t look at him but Weasel Boy kept waving at her back until she was gone.
***

Many days passed since Mother left. Weasel Boy counted eight, and with each fresh sun he found himself becoming sadder and sadder. At first, he had been so happy. I have a new friend, he thought smugly, and she will be back to see me. He told Friend this but Friend ignored him. Weasel Boy realised that Friend must feel left out and decided to introduce the two when Mother came back.

On the eighth day, Weasel Boy went to see Headteacher.

‘Where is mother?’ he asked, but Headteacher looked at him with blank eyes and didn’t reply. ‘And Sir and Madam?’ Weasel Boy prompted.

‘Oh them!’ exclaimed Headteacher. ‘Well, I don’t suppose they wanted to come back.’ Weasel Boy didn’t understand. Why would they not want to come back?

‘Mother said she would come back to see me,’ Weasel Boy told Headteacher and heard the thick sound of tears in his voice.

‘They must’ve found another child in a different orphanage,’ sighed Headteacher, rubbing his eyes. Another child? Thought Weasel Boy. What?

‘She said she would come back to see me,’ Weasel Boy spoke slowly so that Headteacher would understand. ‘She said-‘ Weasel Boy broke off. Headteacher was laughing at him. Weasel Boy felt himself shaking with a new feeling. Anger.

‘Stop laughing at me.’ He spoke with a force that he never thought possible. The smile on Headteacher’s face fell off it like a raindrop from a leaf and Weasel turned sharply and walked out the room. His feet slapped against the smooth ground and the warm wind dried the tears before they had even fallen.

Back at his dormitory, Weasel Boy rolled up his sleeping mat. Then he put his pencils in his pocket. He only had three since he kept putting them in places and forgetting where those places were. When he stood up, Friend was blocking his way.

‘Where are you going Weasel Boy?’ Friend said impatiently.

‘I’m going to see Mother,’ Weasel Boy told him, putting all his new found resolution into his voice.

‘No you’re not,’ Friend replied simply.

‘I am! I know where she is,’ Weasel Boy said. ‘Excuse me,’ he walked around Friend with his head low, trying to hide the sadness he felt at leaving. But Friend’s hand was on his shoulder and it pulled him back.

‘I said you’re not going,’ Friend snapped. There was no longer annoyance in his eyes. It was replaced with anger that twisted his face. He must be sad I’m leaving, thought Weasel Boy suddenly.

‘I’m sorry,’ Weasel Boy began, but Friend pushed him until his head hit the wall. Weasel Boy didn’t like it when Friend did this.

‘Let me go and find her,’ Weasel Boy pleaded, his voice high. Friend laughed but it wasn’t a happy laugh.

‘Are you stupid? You will never find her.’ Weasel Boy knew he wasn’t clever but he didn’t want Friend to tell all the other Boys.

‘Please Friend,’ Weasel Boy stammered. ‘Just let me go?’ Friend stopped advanced.

‘Why do you call me that?’ He shouted, spitting on Weasel Boy a little bit and Weasel Boy felt regretful. Friend was definitely upset. Pity washed over Weasel Boy like a warm breeze and he was suddenly calmed.

‘I call you Friend,’ Weasel Boy told Friend softly, ‘for the same reason you call me Weasel Boy.’

Friend gazed at him with his mouth open. Weasel Boy walked past him and the rows and rows of staring Boys and into the evening sun. No one followed him.
***

The heat prickled up from grey ground and into the soles of Weasel Boy’s bare feet. He felt a tiny trickle of sweat run down the centre of his back and soak into the top of his shorts. But it wasn’t just the heat that was making Weasel Boy sweat. It was the sharp tang of petrol and the people rushing past above him, so busy, never looking down. It was the dirty dogs growling at him in the gutters and the racing machines that swerved round the creatures and people with their bright bug eyes and whirring wheels. It was the lights, white and glaring and everywhere. When Weasel Boy paused, like he was doing now, he felt panic threaten to overwhelm him, so he carried on.

It had only taken five days to reach the city, but Weasel Boy was tired and hungry and very thirsty. He had hoped, as he walked along the road that someone would give him a ride in one of their machines. But they hadn’t. At first, this made Weasel Boy sad and he couldn’t understand why not. There was definitely room for him – he was only small, but then he looked down at his dirty clothes and decided that even he wouldn’t give himself a lift.

Weasel Boy couldn’t decide what was more important – finding Mother or finding some water. At the orphanage they had taught Weasel Boy that without food and water he would get ill and then die, and he really didn’t want that. He had found water some hours ago but couldn’t bring himself to drink it when he saw the dead rats. Now, though, he couldn’t put it off any longer, so he turned back down the busy street. Then something caught Weasel Boy’s eye.

He couldn’t believe what he saw. There, stretched on the side of building was the word Hotel, in great, glowing letters. Weasel Boy had found Mother. Silently, he thanked Teacher for teaching him such long words. Weasel Boy tried to wipe the grime off his face before he trotted across the road. For some reason he only had nine toenails, but there was no time to worry about that now because, sure enough, there were White people. He approached the nearest one, whose clothes looked so clean and crisp that they could’ve been made from paper.

‘Excuse me,’ Weasel Boy asked politely, ‘have you seen Mother?’ But the man did not stop or look down. He must be really busy, thought Weasel Boy. So he approached another one and plucked at her skirt for attention, then asked her the same question, but she too looked past Weasel Boy. Maybe they can’t hear me.

The evening grew darker and the lights of street grew brighter. And Weasel Boy grew tired. He kept asking the White people of the Hotel where Mother was. One of them must know, he told himself. To his surprise, one of them gave him some money. Instead of answering Weasel Boy, he just dropped two coins on the floor. Weasel Boy picked them up and tried to give them back to the man but he was gone. Weasel Boy kept these coins in his pocket for many hours until he could stand his thirst no longer. Then he scurried to a store and bought some milk and a doughball, feeling the corner of satisfaction for the first time in days.

Soon though, not even the White people came in and out of the Hotel. Weasel Boy was scared he might fall asleep where he stood and then he would miss Mother, so he found a clean bit of ground opposite the Hotel and curled up on it. From here he could watch over the Hotel and wait for her. There was a piece of cardboard and Weasel Boy pulled it over himself, thrilled by the warmth it offered. He looked around properly for the first time. There were other children here, some of them were even dirtier than Weasel Boy, and they hid in the dark corners of the buildings. Weasel Boy felt happy to know that he wasn’t alone. Maybe they would help him look for Mother. He fell asleep smiling with the knowledge that tomorrow would soon come.



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JackHickman said...
Apr. 9, 2010 at 4:40 am:
Very moving story Berry. Family read it as well and thought the same :)
 
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