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Friendship Kids Drama

Moby is dead.

Jacob stared at his goldfish floating in its bowl. Tears streamed down his face.

He was six. He’d heard the word ‘death’ mentioned on TV, but this was real. Searing pain cut through his world.

‘How can this be?

His mother, Joanna, came to his bedroom door. She understood his sorrow and tried to console her young son.

“But why, Mom? Why?”

“I’m sorry Jake. Some things can’t be explained.” She thought, ‘Especially when you don’t understand.

Joanna stroked Jacob’s hair, cooed loving phrases and offered to help lay Moby to rest. But Jacob needed more time. She gave him space.

The family bulldog, Pugsy, entered as Joanna left. Panting, he sat and stared at Jacob. When the boy’s sobs subsided Pugsy climbed up and licked Jacob’s face.

Jacob felt like a limp rag. Pugsy’s affection cheered him.

Pugsy’s voice grabbed his attention. “You don’t need that fish, kid. You got me.”

Jacob had never heard Pugsy talk.

He sat up and said, “No offence, Pugs, but I miss Moby. A lot.”

“I get it, kid. I could help with that. But it won’t come free. Whatcha got? You know, of value?”

“What do you mean?”

“The way I see it, you got a little, dead fish. I wouldn’t even need to pick my teeth if I ate it. Bringing things back to life ain’t no piece of cake. You want your fish? That’ll cost you.”

Jacob looked at his stuffed animal friends watching him. His best friend, Boo-Boo, was threadbare and missing an eye. Originally his father’s, Boo-Boo had seen a lot. The puppy fit into Jacob’s palm. When wiggled back and forth, Boo-Boo’s floppy ears helped him fly to great adventures. His fellow toys deferred to Boo-Boo’s wisdom.

Boo-Boo’s little arms reached for Jacob.

Pugsy snapped, “Forget it, kid. Got no use for a load of stuffing. Talk to me when you ain’t gonna waste my time.” He hopped off the bed and sniffed the air. “What’s that smell? Somethin’ fishy…?”

Jacob slumped onto his bed. He looked at Moby’s fishbowl and sobbed. Pugsy lingered by the door.

“Wait! There’s got to be... I’ll do anything…”

“You tell me. No free lunches, kid.”

“Heard about it in church.”

“Oh, boy…”

“Something… called my soul? Could trade that for Moby.”

“Don’t think so. Not worth doodly on the street.”

“Didn’t even know I had one. So, doubt I’d miss it.”

“I get that. People think they’re trouble. No point to ‘em.”

“That’s all I have. Whatcha think? Can you bring Moby back?”

“I don’t know…” Pugsy made a show of thinking. “Alright, just for you, kid. I’ll do it.”

“Yay!”

Pugsy growled. “But this is a one-time deal. Can’t tell anyone about this.”

“Right. Deal. Not a word...”

Pugsy barked at the goldfish bowl and a splash erupted from the water. Moments later, Jacob saw Moby dart here and there, swimming in happy circles.

Jacob teared up at seeing Moby alive. He offered his hand to Pugsy who placed his paw in it. They shook.

“Thanks Pugs…”

“Forget about it.”

Jacob ran into the kitchen. “Mom! Moby’s okay! He was sleeping.”

She followed Jacob to his room where he pointed to Moby, lively as ever.

This was very strange. Everything looked normal. She knelt to face Jacob.

“Be honest, Jake. Did someone bring you a new fish?”

He laughed. “No, Mom. That’s Moby. Can’t you tell?”

“But…” Joanna had no words. “Well… good.”

She felt dazed, withdrew and made an instant coffee. While trying to make sense of things, she noticed Jacob running from room to room. Investigating, she found him rummaging in her purse.

“Don’t go in there, Jacob. What are you doing?”

He looked startled. “Oh, hi, Mom. I was just looking.”

“Nothing in my purse concerns you. You want something? Ask me.”

He nodded and left. She looked in her purse. The cash she’d gotten at the ATM was missing. She went to Jacob’s room. Seeing her approach, he withdrew his hand from under the pillow.

She sat on his bed. “What’s going on Jacob?”

“Nothing. I’m happy Moby is back to his old self.”

“Yes, he’s full of surprises. Oh, look…” She pointed at the fishbowl.

With Jacob distracted, Joanna lifted his pillow. Four twenty-dollar bills lay on the bedspread. She slipped them into her pocket before Jacob noticed.

“What did Moby do, Mom?”

“Oh, I don’t know. The funny way he moves his tail, I guess.”

Joanna stood and heard something hit the floor. A box of matches lay at her feet. She held them up.

“Jacob, why do you have these?”

He looked defensive. “They’re matches, Mom.”

“I know what they are. Why do you have them?”

“Experiments. I’ll be careful.”

“I’m keeping these. Don’t play with matches, or fire or anything else that might be dangerous.” He stared. “You understand?”

“Sure, Mom. I wasn’t planning to burn the house down.”

“Good to hear, Jacob. No unplanned burnings either. No matches. No fires. Got it?”

He shrugged and nodded with a little smirk.

Joanna returned to the kitchen and called Jacob’s doctor. The sudden changes in Jacob’s behavior frightened her. She secured a referral appointment for the next day, to see Dr. Jarvis, a psychiatrist.

No one mentioned Moby’s reincarnation to Jacob’s father, Bernard. And Joanna did not bring up the boy’s filching money from her purse. She wanted to hear what the doctor thought before involving Bernard. The day’s events were so bizarre she needed to process them.

Bernard worked downtown as a defense lawyer on important cases. Joanna didn’t want what she hoped were little boy antics to distract him.

She took Jacob to his doctor’s appointment early. She spoke with Dr. Jarvis about the previous day’s exhausting events. He noted her concerns. Dr. Jarvis interviewed Jacob who responded like any normal six year old. His ability to navigate the meeting with such eerie calm made Joanna fight the urge to shake him.

Afterwards, the doctor prescribed the lowest dose of the anti-psychotic, Seraquel. He said they would try it and monitor the results closely. He hoped he was wrong, but suspected an early onset of schizophrenia.

“Think of it as low dose aspirin. Call me weekly with any changes, good or bad. He might be acting out over the death of his pet.”

Joanna thanked Dr. Jarvis and filled the prescription. Now she had something to tell Bernard.

After arriving home, Joanna gave Jacob one of the pills Dr. Jarvis prescribed and a glass of orange juice. She watched him drink it down.

She told him, “Now go play and tell me if you are feeling any different.”

Jacob went to his room. He took the pill from inside his cheek and examined it. The round yellow tablet reminded him of a rising full moon. Wondering where to get rid of it, he turned to his stuffed animals.

The puppy, Boo-Boo, caught his eye. His little arms reached out to Jacob.

Boo-Boo asked him, “Have you outgrown me? Your Dad outgrew me, and he became a lawyer.”

Jacob picked up his friend. “I’m sorry, Boo-Boo. We’re still friends. I just got scared about Moby.”

Boo-Boo said, “I’m always here if you need me.”

“I know that Boo.”

Jacob hugged his old friend. He noticed the pill on his lap. Taking Boo-Boo along, he flushed the pill down the toilet. Then he and Boo-Boo watched TV.

Their show broke for a commercial and Jacob missed his mother. He and Boo-Boo found her on her bed, napping. Pugsy sat on the floor watching her with bright eyes, anticipating.

Jacob followed Pugsy’s stare and saw a large spider making its way steadily up his mother’s sleeve. Unhurried, it crawled toward her neck. Jacob also watched, fascinated by the creature’s methodical movement.

Boo-Boo fell to the floor with a thump and drew Jacob’s attention. His little arms reached to Jacob.

“Help, Jacob. Do something!”

Pugsy growled. Jacob snapped into action. He took a tissue from the bedside table and gingerly plucked the spider from his mother’s sleeve.

Joanna startled awake. “Wha…? What? Jacob? What are you doing?” Her anxiety was not unreasonable.

He held up the wad of tissue paper.

“Hi… Sorry, Mom. A spider was crawling on you. Didn’t mean to wake you. Let me get rid of this.”

He ran into the bathroom and flushed the spider.

Pugsy waited for him in the hallway. “Watch it, kid, we have a deal. Remember? You have a nice fish there. Don’t want something to happen to it.”

Jacob rejoined his mother. She held Boo-Boo out to him.

“You dropped your toy.”

He took Boo-Boo. “I’ll let you alone. Sorry to wake you.”

She cupped his cheek in her hand and smiled. “Thanks for rescuing me.”

Jacob ran out.

Joanna murmured, “Why am I so exhausted? Need to get dinner ready.”

Jacob ran to his room to check on Moby who blissfully swam unaware of the drama around him. Jacob held Boo-Boo up to see the fish. They waved at Moby who flicked his tail at them. Jacob put Boo-Boo back with his friends.

Jacob whispered, “Thanks for backing me up Boo. We need to get out of this.”

Bernard came home in a good mood. He took Pugsy out for a quick walk. Joanna served dinner. Bernard returned, sat and told a story from his workday.

“So, Pierce came up to me outside the courtroom. You remember Pierce?” Joanna nodded. “He starts telling me about W. C. Fields. I guess he knows I’m a fan. He said, ‘a friend of Fields went to visit him in the hospital. He sees him reading the Bible and says, ‘I never expected to see you reading that, Bill. What’s up?’ Fields looked up and says…’” He leaned in. “And Pierce does a perfect Fields voice. Have you heard him?”

Joanna said, “I can imagine.” She served Jacob some mashed potatoes.

Bernard nodded. “So Pierce, doing the best imitation ever says, ‘Fields put the Bible down and said, ‘I’m looking for loopholes.’”

Laughing so hard, he almost broke the chair back, Bernard pounded the table. Jacob almost covered his ears.

“Is that rich? Imagine. ‘Looking for loopholes… in the Bible!’”

Bernard doubled over laughing again. Joanna and Jacob looked at each other and also laughed.

Jacob asked, “What’s a loophole, Dad?”

Bernard composed himself and dabbed his eyes with his napkin.

“It’s something people apply to slip out of a contract. Like an escape clause.”

Jacob shrugged. He didn’t get it.

“Look, a contract is a legal agreement. As a lawyer, I provide legal services… a client pays a retainer for my services. A loophole would enable me to stop providing representation without my being penalized.”

Jacob struggled. “You mean like a legal way to break a promise?”

Bernard caught Joanna’s look.

“Sure. Well, sort of. You could put it that way. But it’s not a lie. You don’t go around doing that for just anything. You need a good reason.”

“What if… uhm, what if I promised Boo-Boo to trade something with him, but then changed my mind?”

“Boo-Boo? My God! You still have that ratty old thing? It was old when I was a kid. Have your mom toss it. We’ll get you a nice big teddy bear.”

Joanna said, “He loves Boo-Boo. Let him keep it.”

“We can afford new toys for our kid, Jo. He doesn’t need worn out hand-me-downs. Thing must be crawling with germs.”

Jacob began to fidget. “Wait, guys. What about my question?”

Now Bernard was lost.

“Loopholes? Boo-Boo’s contract!”

“Oh, that.” Bernard rolled his eyes. “Well, first, I hardly think that decrepit, stuffed toy would have standing in any civil court. Certainly none I would appear in.”

Jacob sighed in frustration.

“Dad!”

“Right. Well… So, Boo-Boo is holding you to an agreement under false pretenses. He misrepresented his interest in the matter.” He could see Jacob losing the thread. “How can I put this? Oh… you’d use a loophole to escape the contract if Boo-Boo lied or pressured you into it. Contracts have escape clauses to cover such contingencies.”

Pugsy rolled on his back and started whining.

Jacob tried again. “But how would that work? I don’t get it.”

“Well, in your case… that’s easy. You’re a minor. Below the age of majority. Unable to enter a legal agreement without your mother or me being party to it.”

“Wait, I’m a miner? Like for gold?”

“No, Jacob. You’re underage. Not an adult. You’re a kid. You must be eighteen to enter into a legal contract.” He smiled at Joanna. “Uhm, Boo-Boo should know this, Jake. Tell him he has no standing. He should take a hike.”

Jacob got it. He pointed at Pugsy and laughed. “Ha! You heard him, Pugsy. Go for a walk.”

Amazed, his parents looked at each other.

Jacob then took his father’s hands in his. “Wow, Dad. Thank you so much. You’re the best lawyer ever!”

“It’s not me, Jake. Or you. It’s the law.”

Laughing, Jacob ran to his room.

Pugsy whined and padded to the kitchen door.

Bernard called out, “Time for a walk, Pugsy? We just went out…”

Joanna said, “What could Boo-Boo possibly want from Jacob?”

Bernard grabbed his jacket and the leash. “I couldn’t imagine. Be right back.”

Jacob got to his room and ran to see his goldfish. Moby floated, motionless on the surface. Jacob burst into tears and fell onto his bed.

He sobbed, “I killed him. I killed him.”

Joanna entered and went to comfort him.

She wondered, ‘What did I do? Is this my fault?’ She stroked his hair.

“You didn’t kill Moby, Jake. Not now or before.” He didn’t look at her, but she could tell he heard. “We can’t blame ourselves for everything. Because we can’t control everything.”

Jacob looked at Joanna. “We can’t?”

“Moby had a good life, Jake.” She smiled through her tears. “We all have our time. You cared for him. Sometimes that’s all we can do… Sometimes, that’s enough.”

Jacob dried his eyes. “Thanks, Mom. What now? I mean, how does this work?”

Joanna kissed his forehead. “I could help you bury him in the garden. Or, we could take him to the stream and release him there.”

Jacob nodded. “Yeah, the stream. Moby’ll like that.”

“Okay… It’s late now. We’ll do it first thing tomorrow.”

The next morning, after breakfast, Joanna helped Jacob wrap Moby in a paper napkin. They walked to the nearby stream. Jacob brought Boo-Boo along with them. Joanna stood back and watched Jacob unwrap Moby’s remains, say good-bye and gently place him in the water.

They waved as he floated away on the gentle current.  

September 14, 2023 18:50

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6 comments

Delbert Griffith
11:07 Sep 15, 2023

Love it! Cute and deep and, ultimately, a treatise on what a soul is worth. I feel bad for Moby, but something always pays the price when the devil comes calling. Great little tale, John. Cheers!

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John K Adams
13:43 Sep 15, 2023

Thank you, Delbert. Your words carry much weight.

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Amanda Lieser
15:29 Sep 23, 2023

Hi John! As always, you have an interesting take on the prompt, and I appreciate that you chose a childhood point of you because it allowed a certain level of innocence, which I don’t think you could find with an adult. I thought the observations that each of the characters were making were incredibly interesting about our society and legal system as a whole. I really loved that line that you included where he observes that a loophole is like a legal way to break a promise. It was simply written, but also carried much more weight to the word...

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John K Adams
15:44 Sep 23, 2023

I always enjoy your comments, Amanda. And not only because you give me positive feedback. Your observations carry weight and often tell me things about the story I've not thought of myself. Thanks!

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Mary Bendickson
19:27 Sep 17, 2023

Cute kid story. Even if subject was ugly.

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John K Adams
23:09 Sep 17, 2023

Just following the prompt... Thanks!

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