“Theodore, don’t sit there like a bump on a log!”
Theodore knew at once that he had bungled the job his mother had asked him to do, again. He sat wondering why he was so stupid and unable to do the simple things, while his mother, the mother of his 11 years, could do nothing wrong. He would often stare at her while she worked and was awestruck by her aptness and efficiency.
“Well, if you can’t be helpful here, just run along and day dream elsewhere, young man. I have many things to do and you will just be in the way,” said his mother. She had no time for loafers this time of day.
At the best of times, Theodore was positive that he was in the way. He managed to find his way toward the back door thinking, ‘Maybe sunshine will help.’ He had his doubts even on the promise of a bright summer day.
Theodore Perkins was just an average boy and the things he learned were just necessary for growing up and he longed for and day dreamed that someday his life would be more exciting. It didn’t look like this summer though, he thought sadly, his best friend had been invited to spend the summer back east with his grandparents, and maybe he would be home for only one week next month. Theodore and Richie had laid the best of plans….but now?
“Now Theodore, if you would listen to me and make other friends, then when Richie leaves you won’t be all by yourself this summer,” said his mother.
He remembered his mother telling him this, and as usual she was right. Now a whole summer ahead of him and nobody to play with was right in front of him.
‘Well,’ he decided, ‘if I’m a bump on a log, I may as well go sit on one.’ So off he went to the back edge of his parent’s property where there was a ravine with a tangle of trees and shrubs. The wood was not particularly wide, but it did run a full one and one half miles through the city and the city planners had agreed to leave it intact, natural and wild. Most of these influential people had their homes adjoining the ravine and wanted to enjoy the coolness that the wood provided in the heat of the summer.
So a bump on a log Theodore became. At last he found something he could do perfectly.
“Hee, hee, hee, hee, hee,” came a voice in the woods.
“Ho, ho, ho, ho, ho,” it came again.
Was Theodore hearing right?
The laughter seems to come from over there----no, he turned his head, over there. Having got his attention, this voice, he listened with his ears wide open wishing he had made another friend to be here with him. He and Richie, now they had great times together, and did many things, but to enjoy life with that kind of merriment, that they had never done and Theodore was very curious and interested.
Richie and his games were always on the serious side, for Theodore was used to being serious. His mother and father always watched the educational shows on TV and felt that TV was supposed to teach you something about the facts of the world, and that watching TV just for fun and enjoyment was a waste of time. Theodore’s 11 years slipped by learning the ‘facts’.
“Ho, ho, ho, ho, ho,” went the voice again, snapping Theodore out of his reverie.
Then suddenly a loud crash from where the voice was and a muffled “Oh dear,” followed. Theodore jumped up, wondering what could have happened and to whom? As curious as he was about the sound, Theodore was a little more than afraid to go into the woods alone, it was always so dark and tangled. Another crash-boom-bang convinced him he should at least find out if this person was alright.
As he entered the wood and walked toward where he thought he had heard the sound, the trees and shrubs seemed to have swallowed up the broken sticks and leaves and the person who had been involved.
“Oh shucks,” thought Theodore, just when he was hoping to find the person who had the inviting laughter.
“Oof!” A struggling sound quite near, had alerted Theodore that indeed he had been going in the right direction and the person involved did need help. Several more crashes of branches and the rustling of leaves and up popped a little old man, the likes Theodore had never seen before.
As Theodore stared, not knowing how to stop from laughing, but managing, because his mother had taught him to be polite and not laugh at people in distress, he knew he had found a new friend. What kind of a friend he did not know and he wanted to find out more than anything.
As the little man crept out of the tangle of sticks and leaves, he brushed himself off, danced a jig, twirled around three times, and since he did not see Theodore standing there watching, the little man went about cleaning up the mess unawares.
“Hi,” said Theodore.
“Oh fuddle dee do,” the little man sputtered. He hadn’t heard Theodore walk up behind him as he was too busy moving the pile that he just merged from to suit him.
Theodore had then done something quite out of character; he went over to the pile and helped the little man lift it up. The little man stood just shorter than Theodore and had brown pants and shirt that blended into the surrounding area of trees and shrubs. With a friendly smile underneath a big floppy hat Theodore felt as if he somehow knew this little strange man, somewhere, sometime, somehow, before.
The little man silently directed Theodore where to place the branches, even though Theodore could have sworn he heard him talk out loud. There was more to this little man than met the eye, thought Theodore.
“There, that will do for now,” said the little man shaking the dust off his hands. “All I have to do is remember not to climb up there again until I have made it stronger.”
“How did it fall?” asked Theodore.
“Why I climbed on it silly, before I made it stronger from the last time it fell,” said the little man chuckling.
Theodore did not think this could possibly be real, a living person who kept forgetting. In Theodore’s life this just did not happen, at least with the big people whom he knew.
“Why didn’t you fix it last time?” asked Theodore.
“Why, that’s an excellent question, my good man,” the little man said as he bent in thought. “Guess I just hadn’t gotten around to it yet.”
The little man did not seem overly concerned, but he was all of the sudden excited. He just realized that another person had spoken to him and he could not remember that happening for a long time. He took up laughing and singing and being joyful and danced the jig he so often danced when he was happy.
“Who are you? Where’d you come from? Why’d you come? Oh, never mind,” laughed the little man. “You have come and it is a grand day indeed.”
Theodore could not remember many times when someone was happy to see him. Oh once in a while he and his parents went to visit his grandparents, they would be happy, or so it seemed, to see Theodore, but it never lasted very long, only 15 minutes or so before they went back into their adult world and forgot about him. This little man did not even know Theodore and he kept muttering to himself and throwing questions all in quite a tizzy. This little man acted like Theodore was the first person he had spoken to in nearly100 years.
“We must have a party, we must celebrate, oh, oh, oh,” said the little man. He was beside himself with happiness and joy.
Theodore was about to suggest that they could go over to the fort he and Richie had built to see if the mice had eaten the cookies they had taken from Theodore’s moms cookie jar, Theodore’s mother could not quite figure out where all the cookies went. But instead the little man stopped quite suddenly, hummed a little tune, stood as tall and straight as his years could handle and introduced himself with a smile.
“Pleased to meet you, my man,” replied the grand little man with a twinkle in his bright blue eyes, “my name is Horacio Thymus Albus, at your service!”
Theodore’s mouth fell open but quickly he regained his 11 years worth of composure and said happily “And my name is Theodore James Perkins, and I am at your service!”
The two new friends stood and beamed at each other, and the silence between them was great. Not sorrowful silence, such as Theodore had experienced at the funeral of his grandfather, but a joyful, uplifting silence that rang through the both of them and the woods around them. They exchanged years of knowingness between them and now they knew they were indeed old friends.
Suddenly, as these things sometimes happen, a summer storm had let rain come down in buckets where Theodore James Perkins and Horacio Thymus Albus stood. This delighted Horacio and he began to dance around and sing, and when Theodore could contain himself no longer, he joined in merrily and soon they were soaked to the skin. They quite forgot themselves and before long they slipped on the wet leaves and crash-boom-bang the two new friends found themselves under the pile of branches and leaves, laughing with delight.
Out of the corner of his ear Theodore could hear his mother’s worried cry, “Theodore, Theodore, where are you? Come in the house out of the rain.”
How was he going to explain to his mother the joy and happiness that he felt by being able to sing and dance out in the summer rain, as it wet his hair, drizzled down and tickled his nose?
“Just tell her with a smile,” Theodore heard. “Just be happy and joyful as you move around and she will remember her own childhood and be happy too.”