All Nonfiction Bullying Books Academic Author Interviews Celebrity interviews College Articles College Essays Educator of the Year Heroes Interviews Memoir Personal Experience Sports Travel & CultureAll Opinions Bullying Current Events / Politics Discrimination Drugs / Alcohol / Smoking Entertainment / Celebrities Environment Love / Relationships Movies / Music / TV Pop Culture / Trends School / College Social Issues / Civics Spirituality / Religion Sports / Hobbies
- Summer Guide
- College Guide
- Author Interviews
- Celebrity interviews
- College Articles
- College Essays
- Educator of the Year
- Personal Experience
- Travel & Culture
- Current Events / Politics
- Drugs / Alcohol / Smoking
- Entertainment / Celebrities
- Love / Relationships
- Movies / Music / TV
- Pop Culture / Trends
- School / College
- Social Issues / Civics
- Spirituality / Religion
- Sports / Hobbies
- Community Service
- Letters to the Editor
- Pride & Prejudice
- What Matters
The Boy With the Candy Cane Mouth
I left Mommy and Daddy. I didn't mean to. But I did. Mommy and Daddy were looking at the pretty, shining necklaces in the shop windows on the street. I tried to look too, but I was too short. I tried to get Daddy to pick me up so I could see, but he only told me, "Be patient, sweetheart."
I tried to listen to Daddy. I really tried. I sat on a big chair and played with my Teddy and watched Mommy try on the pretty things Daddy had for her. But the boy told me to follow him.
He was a funny looking boy. He had on a vest, and old brown shoes that didn't fit right, and a white shirt that was all billowy and fluffy. His face was smooth and grinning, like my brother’s, and he seemed eight or so, just like my brother. A candy cane was in his thin hand, and he was happily biting off chunks and swallowing it like a bird swallows its meal. He was short, and I think that’s why he walked all jerky, up and down like the carousel that Auntie takes me to on Saturdays- he was playing pretend that he was tall.
He was walking down the road near the shop with the glittering things in the windows. He was walking into people, but they didn't notice. I thought it must have hurt him. But he didn't mind. He came close to the window of the shop, then he stopped. He stopped and looked right at me. His eyes were colorless, like the shining rock in the ring Mommy wears on her finger. I was afraid, so I moved behind Mommy's skirt and watched him.
He didn't say anything, but he lifted his finger and curled it. It reminded me of my brother, Joey. He always does that with his fingers when he has a gift or a secret for me, like at Christmas when he sits under the tree with me to open presents or tells me where Mommy hid the cookies. But I still was afraid of the boy and his empty diamond eyes. So I hung on to Mommy's skirt and watched.
He watched me too. Even though his eyes were funny, he seemed nice. He grinned, and his teeth were all shiny and white against red gums, like the candy cane he was eating.
I slowly let go of Mommy's skirt and grinned at him, remembering how Daddy said it was good manners to smile back at people. Everyone walking outside was still running into him, but he didn't seem to mind. He beckoned me again, and I stepped over to the big door Daddy helped me through and peered at the boy through the glass. He got to his knees and put his hands up, starting to move them across the glass and reminding me of a mime I saw at the circus. The mime was nice to me. I liked the mime. I giggled and put my hands up to his, trying to remember what the mime taught me to do.
"Play pretend," the mime had said.
But I didn't have to play pretend. The glass was cool and smooth and the boy's hands were soft and fluffy feeling, not dry and rough like I thought they’d be.
Daddy talked to me then, saying, "Kate, hon, no touching."
The funny boy on the other side of the glass pulled his hands away and stood. I got up too, and watched as he pushed open the door. His thin finger curled again, and his other hand held the big door open. He smiled, and I glanced back at Mommy and Daddy. They were both talking to the lady behind the counter I was too short to see over. I didn't want to wait anymore. They were taking too long, and I wanted to go with the boy, the funny looking boy that reminded me of my brother. So I picked up Teddy and walked out of the shop with the shining necklaces.
He was nice, the boy. He took my hand in his long, one, and he smiled at me. He even took Teddy and put my bear on his shoulders. The street was full of people, and they all walked into him. They didn't even say sorry. But he still didn't mind. The ground was hot and the sky was warm, but the boy didn't take off his vest.
It was a soft vest, and I liked petting it. It was a little like my Mommy’s velvety dress, the one that hides in her closet and I'm not supposed to touch. I walked and held his hand and pet his vest and watched the people walk into him and back out of him. And then we stopped. We weren't on the road where Mommy and Daddy were anymore. This road was quieter. There weren't so many people now. The only building was tall and had a crumbly old board on top with a sign that had a big word on it. A few of the letters had fallen off and they looked lonely and sad, laying on the ground all by themselves.
The boy smiled at me, again showing his candy cane mouth and his twinkly diamond eyes. I grinned back and tightened my grip on his hand. I didn't like this building as much as the one with the necklaces and pretty things, but I wanted to see what secret the boy was going to tell me. The secrets my brother told me were nice, but this was a secret adventure. My brother never took me on a secret adventure before.
The boy walked inside the big old building, and I followed him, excitement starting to bubble in my chest like the water Mommy boils in the kitchen. Where were we going?
I hurried after him, tripping on wood and ceiling pieces and big metal rods. He picked me up every time, catching me with his grip, like how a pool catches you when you fall in. We walked for a while, the boy leading the way in the messy hall and making sure I didn’t fall into holes. After a minute, we went into another big room, with a big stage. It was broken, with a bent in hole in the middle that seemed to go down forever. The chairs were red velvet, with white snow stuffing coming out and pouring to the floor, and there was metal dangling from the ceiling and lights on the stage. The boy picked me up and placed me in a tiny chair in the front, one that still had the stuffing inside it and was all soft and nice, like his vest. His eyes smiled and he pointed with his thin, pale hand. I sat and grinned at him, then looked up, following his finger. This time, there was something different, though. The stage, the broken, pretty stage wasn't empty anymore.
A lady. A pretty lady with long blonde hair like mine and a pretty necklace like the ones Mommy tried on and a fluffy blue dress that reminded me of clouds. She was on the stage, and she smiled at me. She had a nice smile, just like the boy. She was holding a violin, like the one Auntie tried to teach me how to play, and the pretty lady and the boy with the candy cane mouth were both on the stage the next time I blinked. And then there were more. Men, all shapes and sizes, tall ones, short ones, ones with big ears like Teddy. They all sat in chairs, chairs that weren't there before. And the lady with the blue cloud dress started to play.
It was pretty, just like her. Auntie never told me how to play violin like that. It was rolling, like a hill, then high like a mountain, and soft like the boy's vest and rough like the people on the street. Then the men, with all their lumpy shapes and sizes, started to move their thin hands and big hands and rough hands, and the music became an ocean wave, washing over me again and again and giving me goosebumps just like I get when the snow falls outside and it made me laugh.
And while they played, all the ruined chairs and musty walls and dirty floors and broken things put themselves back together. Their clothes became bright and pretty and shining and new, and their eyes started to gain swirling, bright colors that erupted like small fireworks in their gazes. Green, blue, grey, brown, all colors. They seemed happy.
The gold paint on the walls became brighter and the chairs were softer than before and the smell of cool wood and velvety things that reminded me of Teddy filled the air. The snow stuffing put itself back in, and the splintery chairs made themselves better and then-
It shattered. Like I dropped a mirror on the floor, all the little pieces snapped again. The chairs splintered, my candy cane boy and the lady in the cloud dress and all the pretty songs vanished and the stage fell in and I screamed.
Daddy picked me and Teddy up off the chair and hugged and kissed and asked if I was ok but I hit him and screamed for them to come back. Daddy was confused at that. He looked at me and asked, "Who do you want to come back, darling?"
And I told him about my boy with the soft vest and the lady with the pretty necklace and the songs they played for me.
He looked at me and he said, "Sweetie, what on earth are you talking about? There was never anyone there."
I told him no, he was wrong, the boy and the lady and the men with all their songs were there.
He gave a nervous little laugh and told me, "You've got quiet an imagination on you. Come on, your mother must be worried sick."
He held me in his arms, and I gave up being mad and wrapped my hands together around his neck, wondering why Daddy didn't see them. Why didn't Daddy see them? I quickly looked up at the broken old stage one more time, hoping to catch a glimpse of my new friends again. Hoping I didn't make them up like I sometimes do when I play pretend.
But no, the boy with the candy cane mouth emerged from hiding as I was being carried away, flickering wildly like a staticky radio station. His strange colorful clothes were now dark and faded, tattered and dropping like a flag in the middle of summer, and his entire body was the same color as his eyes now, drained and white and hard, like an ice cube. He watched me leave, his face so sad it made me think of the time Mommy told me that Papa died. And as he stood there, watching Daddy carry me away, I heard it. The thinest, barest hint of the song that the pretty lady played for me was singing in the air, thrumming low in my ears as I breathed in the smell of Daddy's cologne and the musty theater.
The boy still had the same smile pulling at his lips, even though his diamond eyes looked sad. Behind him, the pretty lady with the violin and the men with their different shapes appeared, flickering just like he was, with sad faces just like he had. They all gave me a tiny wave and a smile as their pretty instruments crumpled to dust and their stage faded into darkness around them. Then, boy took a low bow, and whispered in a crumbly, sad voice only I could hear, "Thank you for watching our show."
Then, with one last grin of that candy cane mouth of his, they all faded out of view, and the stage room darkened, and the empty old theater melted back into a place that was ruined a long time ago. The last strings of the violin faded away in the air, and I put my head on my Daddy's shoulder and I cried. I cried because the music was gone. Because there was nothing left. There were no more soft notes of a violin or throbbing of drums or whispers of a cello. Without the songs, no one would ever have any reason to come here again. And my poor invisible boy with his soft vest and the sad pretty lady in the cloud dress and all the sweet lumpy men in all their shapes and sizes will be all alone in the broken theater, all alone with the barely audible whispers of dying music, waiting, always waiting for the next person to come and listen to them play.