Monday, April 21, 2008
A short story by Michael R. Lockridge
Billy Maddison was not happy about the trip to Carmel. He had never been there before, but he already knew he didn’t like it. Art galleries and restaurants! He would have to tag along, looking at pictures and sculptures that weren’t very interesting, and eating food with strange names that tried to look like paintings on his plate.
He pouted all of the way there. He dragged his feet as they wandered into shops and galleries. He looked at boring paintings. He didn’t even want to touch the sculptures his mother constantly told him not to touch. The day dragged on to lunch time.
Lunch was not so bad. He managed to get a sandwich he rather liked. Mom and Dad still ate weird stuff, though.
The best thing about Carmel was the dogs, in Billy’s opinion. Lots of dogs on leashes. Some dogs were wearing clothes! The stores had bowls of water out front, and often bowls of doggie treats. Billy had never seen that in any other town. If it wasn’t so boring, he might have come to like Carmel just for the dogs.
Afternoon was becoming just as boring. They came to another art gallery.
“Rip Squeak and Friends.” Billy read from the sign. At nine and a half years old, Billy was just young enough to find the name exciting. They went in.
On all of the walls were pictures. The mouse in the pictures was probably Rip Squeak. The other animals were the friends.
There were books, too. Books about Rip Squeak and his friends, and their adventures together. Billy wandered and tried to see everything at once.
Then Billy saw the painting. Rip and friends were sitting on books, and were listening to a frog in a suit and top hat who was reading from one of the books. The colors were bright, and the picture told a story in Billy’s head. The room around him faded from his awareness as he was drawn into the image before him.
Doctor Bill Maddison shook his head, and looked down at the patient before him. The image cleared from his mind, and he returned to the surgery.
“Sponge, please.” he said. Strange, remembering the picture he had seen in his childhood. So vivid. “Number six scalpel.”
“Can I get a little suction here, please?”
The image began to superimpose itself on the patient again. “That’s got it. Ed, can you close for me?”
Doctor Bill Maddison exited the operating room, stripped off his gloves and gown, and made his way to the restroom. He could hear one of his other patients barking in the background. He rinsed his face with cold water, and looked at himself in the mirror. The face looking back seemed too young. What was going on?
The frame of the mirror became the frame of a painting. A mouse and several friends sitting on books, listening to a frog wearing a suit and top hat. The frog was reading from one of the books. Bill could almost hear the frog reading.
Billy Maddison turned slowly from the painting that had captivated him. His mother’s face swam in front of him.
“Billy, are you all right?” his mom asked.
“Uh, yeah, mom. I’m fine.”
She smiled at him. “I bought you this.” she said. She handed him a book. One of the books from the store. A book about Rip Squeak and his friends.
“Thanks, mom.” he said, looking at the front and back of the book. “Wow!”
“You seemed to like the paintings, so I thought you would like reading this.”
“I will, mom. I like it a lot.”
They exited the gallery. Over the course of the afternoon they visited a few more stores, several more galleries, and then got into the car to go home.
“How did you like Carmel?” Billy’s father asked, as he guided the car back toward the highway.
Billy thought for a minute. “I think I liked it, dad.”
“Good. Maybe we can do it again, sometime.”
Billy didn’t hear. He was reading about Rip Squeak and his friends.