By Beth J. Whiting
“I have to be partners with Ewan?” the pretty blonde said.
Her teacher Mrs. Brown said yes.
Ewan Dools was a strange boy. He wore glasses and had bad posture. It was sixth grade. He always sat alone on recess crocheting. The blonde whose name was Natalie knew her grandmother did it. But how many boys crocheted?
“I want to be with my friend Eva. We already have ideas for what to do with the book.”
“Someone has to be with Ewan.”
Natalie was about to say that Ewan could just be by himself. He always was. But that would sound kind of mean.
Natalie sat by Ewan.
“What are you making anyway?”
“I never heard of it.”
“It's a Japanese crochet toy. I have several of them at home.”
She laughed, “Do you have many dolls at home?”
“Actually I do.”
She meant it as a joke. The fact that he said it so simply was weird.
She changed the subject.
“We have to do a book report on Summer of my German Soldier. We will make the project at my house.”
“I'd rather do it at my house.”
It was bad enough being with this boy but to go to his house.
“Fine,” she relented again.
Natalie told herself it was a one time thing. She could handle it.
She had seen the Dools house her whole life. It had a ripped screen door. Anyone could walk in. But nobody did it. It was an ugly dirty looking house. It was faded yellow. The mother was a waif who worked at a bread store downtown. The father left a few years again.
Natalie was afraid to knock on the screen door, afraid that she would break it.
So she yelled, “Ewan.”
He came to the door.
The mother had a huge smile on her face, like this was a groundbreaking ceremony.
“I have carrot cake and punch on the table just in case you want some.”
“Thanks,” Natalie said.
The place was surrounded by pictures of Ewan and his mother.
Natalie got a slice out of courtesy.
Then Ewan said, “Let's go to my room.”
She didn't know what to except. It wasn't what she pictured though.
Natalie saw toys made out of felt. There were the crocheted toys. There were miniature sets along with the toys. There was a beach, beach sand and a mini umbrella. There was a park. There were toys gathered around both places.
“You made this?” said Natalie.
“Yes. All the sets and all the toys are made by me.”
“My own little land.”
She laughed, “You mean you still play with toys?”
“Every creature is made by me. When I make a new toy it's a new friend.”
She should have laughed. Instead she was silent.
He quickly said, “So we should get to the report about Summer of my German Soldier.”
He said that he didn't care for the book that it was girly. Natalie said it was romantic.
When Natalie suggested he make toys for the characters he looked at her aghast.
“I make toys for myself. I'm not making them for a school project.”
“But you do them so well.”
In the end they went with a poster which Natalie thought was boring. It was what she always did. But he could have used his talents otherwise.
Ewan said that he would need another day to work on the poster. She agreed to it.
When Natalie went to school, her friends asked her how it was like to go to Ewan's house.
She felt like making fun of him. They knew he made toys. But did they know he played with them?
Instead she said, “It was fine.”
They did the presentation on Summer of my German Soldier.
Natalie and he took turns, “Summer of my German Soldier is about a Jewish girl who hides a German POW.”
Natalie was glad that the project was done. The next assignment came up with The Fantastic Mr. Fox. The teacher put them together again.
Natalie was furious.
The teacher took her aside and told her, “You were nice enough to do it once. Ewan was less nervous than usual when he presented. You make a good partner for him.”
Natalie didn't like that it sounded permanent.
The mother was thrilled to have her again. This time she didn't have cake though.
This time Ewan budged and he made an amigurumi of a fox. They decorated a shoebox.
Only when it was done, Ewan asked, “Would you like to stay and play with me?”
Natalie stood there silent. Her friends would never find out. It wouldn't hurt.
“Why do you make your toys?” Natalie asked.
“I'm too poor to get my own. Besides there's more love put into it.”
He went to two characters a crocheted beaver with big black eyes and a redheaded boy with a buck tooth. He was made out of felt.
Who are they?”
“They're Beav and Chuck. They sell masking tape on the beach.”
She burst out laughing.
“That's an awful idea. Why don't they sell something that people would eat like popcorn?”
“Actually they both came up with the idea. They were competition to each other before they became friends. They don't actually make that much money.”
“So how do they survive?”
“They live on the beach.”
He took her to two huge pigs, that looked at least two foot tall. One of their ears was flappy. These weren't homemade. So they were obviously bought as a gift.
“These are my favorite Blobsie and Flipsie. They are in love.”
“But they look exactly the same.”
They had big beady eyes.
“They met on the kindergarten playground. Their parents had them tested to see if they were related. They weren't. Their parents banned them from seeing each other. When that happened they ran away together and worked at a freak show.”
“What was their act?”
“Just being themselves.”
Natalie was amused walking away although she still thought of him as weird.
The teacher ended up giving them a B on that assignment.
By the third presentation, Natalie considered him a friend, although she wouldn't have advertised that to the whole school.
Then Ewan asked something daring.
“Would you like to stay at my house for a Friday night?”
Natalie's friends didn't have anything prepared. So she had no plans. She reluctantly said yes.
He had all the stuffed animals ready.
He introduced her to a number of characters that night. One of them was a pig with a voice that squealed. The girl was named Heavenly. She had a nose that looked like a bottle cap. Other than that she was a beautiful pig. Her husband was a black panther who was miserable all the time.
She bugged him constantly.
“Why are you so miserable?”
Heavenly also loved bunnies and unicorns. She kept bugging her husband for one. Her husband stayed quiet while she rambled on and on.
Natalie asked, “How do these characters come to you?”
“I don't know. I see a character. Already I can guess their personality. Usually it comes from the expression on their face.”
“Can I play with the toys too?”
Natalie never thought that she would play with toys again. But his were fun.
She met a pleasant looking pig named Oinker who had an unusual voice. It sounded German, kind of Scottish. This looked like he bought it for a buck at a dollar store. It was a plastic green pig.
He kept coming out with all of the toys. She didn't know how to keep track of them. But something told her that she would be coming again.
“You stayed the night over at Ewan's?”
Her friends were astonished that she spent a day with him.
“He's ok,” she muttered.
“That Mrs. Evans should have never paired you two together.”
“It's ok. I really don't mind.”
“We're worried about you.”
When Natalie came over to Ewan's the next time he had Blobsie and Flipsie hug her as she came near the door. She smiled.
“I want you to meet someone special.”
He brought over an ugly small looking pig.
“What is it named?”
She laughed. It did have large ears.
“Yoda is a girl. She's very lazy. She sleeps over 16 hours a day. She's friends with Oinker. Yoda is kind of sarcastic.”
“How often do you play with your stuffed animals?”
“All the time.”
“Does your mom know about the toys?”
“Yes she does. They talk to her too.”
“Your mother doesn't mind.”
“No she likes them. My mom doesn't like the fact that they call her Nancy though.”
“Why is that?”
“They're not her mother.”
“But it's your mom.”
“When I'm in character I don't feel like myself. I didn't do it intentionally. My mom called me out on it after I had been doing it a couple of months.”
“They'll call me Natalie right?”
The next time Natalie walked into the room he had Blobsie say, “Hi Natalie.”
When Ewan suggested they get to their new assignment, Natalie looked oddly at him.
“I thought that we were going to play with the toys.”
“You would rather play with the toys.”
Natalie didn't actually play. She just sat and listened to him talk about them.
“Yoda went to work once for a harsh woman named Lamarr. She had a class on being lazy. Only she slept during the class so often people wanted a refund. But Lamarr told them that you couldn't complain. The teacher instructed the subject quite well.”
“What else can you tell me about Yoda?”
“Her father Hector has supported her her whole life. Except for the three months that she worked for Lamarr, Yoda has been supported by her father her whole life. He wrote this pretentious book I the Harvard Busy Bee. It's bought by college students for class. They complain all right. It's made him a fortune though. He himself can't even get through the thing.”
A pig with a huge belly and tired eyes showed himself.
“Hector is married to a girl that is half his age Corday. I named her after the French hero. Corday is a war nut. They met in service while Hector was a cook in the military. He served the soldiers bad food. The cooks kept all the good food for themselves.”
A tiny little pig showed up.
“You're saying that this pig works in the military.”
“She's fiercer than she looks.”
Natalie helped make a set for Ewan. He made a house for Yoda out of popsicle sticks. Natalie seemed enthused about it.
Natalie met a purple hippo the next day called Chump. He had a flat body. He was Oinker's husband. He was a notorious food critic. He gave bad reviews to most restaurants. His wife however gave good reviews to all the restaurants.
People called her the nice one.
Natalie watched him play fascinated by the interaction he had with all of the characters.
Natalie was at home once and she heard a squeak that sounded kind of like Blobsie. She got afraid.
She came to Ewan about this, “I thought that she was alive yesterday. It's so silly.”
“No, it's not. After so much interaction they do come alive. I forgot to tell you that.”
He brought Blobsie towards her. Suddenly an arm came alive and the other one then the gigantic pig walked towards them and said, “Hi guys.”
Sure enough Blobsie was alive.
Ewan asked, “Will you tell me about your carnival past?”
Blobsie shook her head a huge no.
That made sense since their carnival life was very dramatic.
He asked them about Octopussy.
“Oh he was so mean.”
Octopussy was originally named Octopus and he was an octopus/half man. Only Blobsie and Flipsie named him after the James Bond movie and it stuck.
He super glued their toilet seats in response.
“It hurt so much,” Blobsie moaned.
Natalie and Ewan ended up playing for hours.
There was such delight in Natalie's face.
Natalie spent the next day at lunch with Ewan. When Natalie came back to class, she ran into her girlfriends. They seemed angry.
“It's one thing to go Ewan's home. It's another to sit by him at the lunch table. You have to choose.”
Natalie liked Ewan but she didn't want to spend the rest of school sitting only with him on recess. She had to choose.
Natalie ended up going to his house the next night. She knew what she was doing was wrong. At the end of their session, Ewan went to go to the bathroom. Natalie stole some of the toys in her backpack. They wouldn't shut up but she was able to get them out of the house.
When Natalie took them to her house, they wouldn't speak to her.
“You're not Ewan,” they said. They were quite stubborn.
Natalie thought that with time they would budge.
Natalie spent the next two days not speaking to Ewan, sitting with the girls for lunch.
Then on a Friday afternoon during school he had a fight with her right in the middle of class.
“I can't believe you stole them. And you thought I wouldn't notice. I made them. They're mine. I can't believe you ran off with them.”
The teacher seemed annoyed by the interruption.
The teacher went to Natalie, “If what he says is true, return the items to Ewan.”
“I can't here.”
Natalie ended it at that.
Ewan went to Natalie's home.
It was the first time he had ever been inside her house. Her house was nicer, better furniture, cleaner. Her room looked like a traditional girl's room at first with some boy singers on the wall. Then he noticed some art work of the toys around the room.
She cried, “I never really had an imagination before.”
He collected the toys.
They hugged Ewan at their return.
“You know what you did was wrong.”
“They're not really your imagination. They're mine.”
“Can't we share?”
“You can hang around your friends but you can't see me as second string. I don't deserve that.”
He had Yoda hug her.
- - -
Beth J. Whiting was born in 1983 to a large family of brainy eccentrics. At eight years old she developed a love of books through the works of Roald Dahl and C.S. Lewis. Beth has struggled with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder since her teenage years, and uses writing to express, imagine, and create. She currently lives with her artistic twin sister in a tiny apartment in Mesa, Arizona.
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