Children have imaginary friends they think are real and sometimes they do become real.
|“Keven, time for your bath.”
The women tried to hold on to the small boy. He was clad in only droopy training pants, and he easily slipped from his mothers grasp. Giggling he ran out of the bathroom and down the hall.
“Kev, it’s time for a bath, come back here,” begged his mother. She had a frazzled look on her face, hands on her hips, as she stood in the hall by the bathroom door. Her blond hair hung in strands around her face. She puffed up her checks and pushed out her lower lip and blew trying to get the hair off her glasses and out of her eyes. Failing, she brushed at it with a hand, and talked to her self. “Where is that boy?”
She entered the bathroom, knelt by the tub, and pulled out a fleet of plastic boats, sponges, a ball, and a large yellow rubber duck. “Keven,” she called again, as she ran an inch of water into the tub, then wiped it down with a washrag that had been left lying on the rim of the tub, drained it and began to refill it, checking to see that the water wasn’t to hot or to cold for her small son. As Margie watched the water flow into the tub, it had a mesmerizing effect on her. She was tired and wished she was running the bath for herself instead of Kevin. The stream of splashing water reminded her of a picture she had seen once of some ducks playing under a small waterfall. For just an instance she let her imagination have full rein and pretended that the rubber duck was one of the real ducks playing in the water in the picture. She held the duck under the spout of pouring water and said “Quack, quack,” softly to herself. When the duck wiggled and fluttered its feathers, Margie shook her head and came back from her fantasy.
Shutting off the water, Margie reached for a towel that wasn’t on the towel rack. Neither was there one in the cabinet. She dried her hands on the apron that said Worlds Best Mom, and almost covered up her purple Save the Whales tee shirt and ragged yellow shorts.
“Keven,” she called again hurrying down the hall, she surveyed the living room for the missing child, stopping long enough to turn down the volume of a bugs Bunny cartoon. “Shelly, you’re supposed to be doing your homework.”
“Ah-h, Mom,” was the only response she received from the second grader stretched out on the sofa.
“Get it done, Shelly,” said Margie as she went on into the kitchen where Kevin stood in front of the open refrigerator pulling a hotdog out of an open package. He stuck one end of the hotdog in his mouth.
“Hungry,” he mumbled around the hotdog. Seeing the look on his mothers face, he swallowed, took another bit and said to her, “Want hotdog?” He held out the small amount remaining as an offering.
“No, thank you,” she said. “You have it, and no, you’re not hungry. You just ate your supper.” She wondered how such a small boy could eat so much food. She compared his huge appetite to her daughter, who was such a picky eater. They were so different.
Margie shut the refrigerator door, and then darted into the washroom where she grabbed a couple of clean towels out of a cloths basket. She returned in time to see the last of another hotdog disappear into Kevin’s mouth.
“Okay, Kevin, its long past time for a bath. Look how dirty you are.” She tickled his ribs as she picked him up and hugged him to her. No matter how much trouble the kids were, she did love them dearly. She so wished she and Josh could give them more, and afford a big house instead of this crummy little apartment.
Kevin surrendered but reached for a ragged, stuffed animal sitting in his highchair. “Want Ducky,” he said.
“Okay,” Margie let him lean over to snag a floppy, yellow duck and pull the toy to him. Then they headed for the bathroom. “Homework, Shelly,” she reminded the girl as she passed through the living room. Shelly didn’t budge.
“Ducky take bath. Ducks like water,” said Kevin as Margie set him in the tub.
“No, not this duck. He can’t get wet. If he does he can’t sleep with you.” She set the stuffed toy duck on the closed lid of the commode. “Here, you can play with your rubber duck, and your boats.” She put the boats in the water with Kevin.
“Want a real duck,” said Kevin. “Mammy, I want a real duck. Want duck can run and say Quack, quack.”
Margie sighed. The little boy had been asking for a duck ever since he had learned to say ‘duck.’ Again Margie wished they lived where they could have a pet. Shelly wanted a kitten, but Keven was only interested in a duck. Didn’t most children want a cat or a dog? She sighed again. Leave it to her and Josh to have a son who wanted a duck.
“I want Duck.” Kevin yelled and splashed water all over himself and his mom. “Want Ducky.”
At the same time there was a wail from Margie’s bedroom, signaling that six-month old Brian was awake, and next came the slamming of the front door. Margie heard Shelly yell “Daddy,” and knew Josh was finally home. He had had to work late as was usual.
“Kevin, you sit there and wash your face,” Margie told her son. “I have to check on the baby,” she tossed him a washrag.
“Want Duck!” he yelled again.
“Sail you boats,” commanded Margie as she left the bathroom. “And wash.” She stepped into the bedroom. Picked up the crying baby and cooed to him as she hurried to the living room to greet Josh.
“Want Duck. Want Duck. Want Duck,” repeated Kevin over and over, like a chant. “Want Duck. Duck. Duck. Duck. Quack. Quack. Want Duck.”
Josh kissed Margie and then baby Brian. He was tired from a long day at work and didn’t look forward to crying, screaming kids. He tried to block out the sound of cartoons, and Kevin’s loud song of ‘Want Duck.’ But then after obnoxious customers all day maybe the kids would be a good diversion, and there was a basketball game on TV this evening. “What’s Kevin’s yelling about?” he asked Margie.
“He’s supposed to be taking a bath, but he’s yelling about wanting a duck.”
Josh took Brian from Margie. “Oh-o.” He wondered how old the boy would be before he gave up asking for a duck. It didn’t look like they would be able to afford a house where they could have a pet for a long time. And why did he have to have a son who wanted a duck? Shouldn’t he be asking for a dog?
“Quack, quack. Quack, quack.” Duck like quacking noises came from the bathroom.
“Well, he certainly has learned to imitate a duck,” said Josh. “I’ll say hello to him.”
Margie took Brian back from his father. “I’ll reheat your supper after I feed Brian.”
Josh hesitated at the closed bathroom door. He could hear Kevin laughing and splashing water, and he could hear the boy mimicking a duck. “Quack, quack. Quack, quack.”
He knocked on the door. “Kev, Daddy’s home.” There was instant quiet. No laughing or splashing, or duck quacks. Josh opened the door. “Hi, son.”
“Daddy!” cried Kevin. He held a soaping wet stuffed Ducky by its brown foot and threw it at his father. The toy hit Josh in the chest and soaked his shirt and pants as it fell to the floor.
“Kevin. No!” Josh tried to duck as Kevin threw a boat full of water. “That is enough.”
“Want Duck. Want Duck.” The boy picked up the rubber duck that floated in the water. A white feather stuck to its back and several more floated in the water.
Josh knelt by the tub, picked up the washrag and a bar of soap and proceeded to scrub his small son. “Where did the feathers come from?” he asked.
“Don’t know,” answered the boy.
“Where did what come from?” asked Margie. She stood in the bathroom door holding Brian and a bottle of milk.
“These feathers,” said Josh. He picked up one out of the water and held it up where Margie could see it.
“Hum-m-m, I’ve no idea,” she said.
“Mom, I need help with my spelling,” called Shelly from the living room.
Margie spoke down the hall to Shelly, “Turn down the TV and I’ll be right there.” She turned back to Josh. “Honey, can you put Kevin to bed while I help Shelly.”
“I guess so,” said Josh, while his stomach rumbled. He pulled the plug on the drain and picked up Kevin, wrapped a towel around him and hoped the boy didn’t take long to go to sleep so he could eat his long overdue supper.
An hour later Kevin and Shelly were asleep in their bedroom while Josh watched a basketball game on TV with Brian. Margie picked up his empty plate off the floor, taking it to the kitchen to add to the other dirty dishes in the sink. She decided to wash them in the morning. She was just too tired tonight. Right now she wanted nothing more than a long, hot, soak in the tub.
“Josh, I’m going to take a bath. Will you watch Brian?”
“Sure, honey. Did you see that Brain? He fumbled the ball. He fouled.”
Margie wasn’t sure he had heard her but she went down the hall and into the bathroom. She picked up toys and piled them in a basket, and put dirty clothes in the hamper. She bent over the tub and picked up the feathers, dropping them in the trash. “Where did these come from?” she asked herself, only she didn’t have an answer. She didn’t even have a feather pillow.
Margie finished cleaning the feathers and dirt out of the bathtub and ran it full of hot water, adding some of Shelly’s bubblegum scented bubble bath. Pink bubbles quickly filled the tub, floating on top of the water.
Margie shed her grimy apron and clothes, stepped slowly into the tub, and groaned at the luxury of sliding into the foamy, slippery, bubbles and hot water. There was a soft knock on the door. Margie let her head fall back on the edge of the tub with a bump and her eyes rolled up. What now, she thought.
“What?” she called out loud.
The door opened. Josh entered, and laid a small battery operated tape player on the counter. He didn’t say anything, just pushed play and the Moody Blues began to sing. He walked out but was back in a moment with a glass of cheap red wine that he handed to Margie, leaned over, gave her a quick kiss, tossed the rubber duck in with her and left, closing the door behind him.
Smiling, Margie sipped the wine, closed her eyes and laid her head back, resting it on the tile wall. After a few minutes she dozed.
Something caused the water to splash. With her eyes still closed, Margie giggled. “What are you doing now, Josh?”
“Quit kidding around, Josh.”
Margie opened her eyes and stared into the face of white duck, floating in the water, surrounded by pink bubbles. She sat up abruptly, her mouth fell open and she squeaked. “Oh-o”
“Quack, quack,” said the duck.
Margie closed her eyes, and let her head fall back against the tile again. Maybe she was dreaming. Using her right hand she pinched her left arm. “Wake up now, Margie. Wake up,” she told herself. She opened her eyes. The duck made soft quacking noses, and pushed its bill at the bubbles, and then at Margie’s hand when she held it out to touch the bird.
“You’re still here. You really are real, aren’t you?” she asked the duck. “Josh!” she called. How was she going to explain where the duck had come from. She giggled and gently petted the bird on its white feathers.
Now Kevin had his pet duck.