Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Fountain of Youths

The boy reached for the toy car that had rolled under the table. His mother figured it would keep him busy during dinner, but it was mostly keeping her busy. He kicked at the car and sent it flying across the room, under an empty table near the far wall.

Jack grabbed the plastic orange cup of Cheerios his mother packed for him and ran to the car. He bent to pick it up and the Cheerios spilled from his bowl.

"Of course," his mother said.

She walked over to her son, ready to scold him. A waitress nearby said, "Don't worry ma'am, we'll get that cleaned up."

She contemplated making a scene for the child's sake (he had to learn responsibility somehow) but she held her tongue, nodded, then went to collect her child off the floor where he was now spread out on his belly, reaching for the car.

He couldn't reach it with his short fingers, so he crawled back out towards his mother. When he stood up, eating the last of the Cheerios from his bowl, his mother saw a white marble fountain she had failed to notice before. It depicted a child dumping a pot of water into a small pool the shape of a sea shell. She looked closer at the statue, then back to her son. After repeating the motion a few times, she shook her head in disbelief and called to her husband:

"Hey Will, you gotta come see this."

Her husband looked up from his conversation with his mother and grandmother. It was his grandmother's 90th birthday party and the family was celebrating at her favorite German restaurant.

"Will, check this out."

He walked to his wife, putting his arm around her waist.

"What's up, hon?"

"Look at that statue. Look familiar to you?"

"Yeah. It kinda looks like every little kid statue ever."

"You don't think he looks like Jack?"

"Sure, I guess. It looks like a little white kid with long hair, so yeah."

"Whatever. It looks exactly like him and you know it."

He squeezed her tight, kissed her on the cheek, whispered, "Whatever you say dahhling," then went back to talk to the matriarch of the family.

She laughed and took her son's hand, leading him back to their table.

"The car!" he shouted.

"We'll get it later. We're gonna eat now."

As his face began to scrunch up and his vocal chords prepared to unleash a furious screech, he saw a waitress in full German attire (green dirndl dress and pigtails) carrying four gigantic beer steins and screaming at the top of her lungs:

"We got 4 more here so let's hear it loud and clear...Ziggy zoggy ziggy zoggy!"

And all the people in the room schouted back:

"Oy oy oy!"

By the time the cycle repeated three more times, Jack had forgotten all about his car. He sat down at his table in between his mother and father. Two more waitresses came out carrying several large, colorful hats; a collection of various animals, food items, and other random silly objects. Jack's mom got a tiara and veil. His dad got a viking helmet. He was given a hat with an elelphant trunk and ears. Soon, every one of the family members was wearing some ridiculous hat on their heads.

The little boy sat in wonder at all the adults with the silly headgear. Even his Uncle Randy, whom Jack never saw even crack a smile, was wearing a giant hamburger on his head. If someone asked, this was the best day of little Jack's life.

He didn't complain when his mother cut up the wiener schnitzel and put it on the small plate in front of him. He didn't try to stop her from giving him sauerkraut and cottage cheese. And he didn't even flinch when she scooped some of her red cabbage onto his plate. 

His mother and father shared a surprised yet ecstatic look over his blonde head.

Jack continued to watch the adults with the ridiculous hats eat and drink and laugh while he shoveled food into his mouth. The taste barely registered. What was this magical place that made all the boring adults in his life fun?

"Do you want some more, honey?" his mother asked.

"No thanks."

Again, the parents shared a look of amusement at their son's newfound politeness.

As the adults continued to eat, waitresses continued to bring out beer steins and lead the crowd in cheers. Maybe they held the secret of this magical place.

When one waitress, a particularly rotund and loud woman, got close to him, he turned to get a good look at her. He looked her up and down, studying every inch of the majestic creature, trying to find any clue as to her power over his normally boring family.

The woman noticed the boy's quizzical expression.

"Hey there little man! You like what you see?" She let out a hearty laugh, holding her belly with her free hand.

The normally reserved young boy remained steady, refusing to take his eyes off her commanding presence. 

"What a cute little boy!" She tussled his hair and walked towards the kitchen. 

He stared after her until she disappeared around the corner. His parents were stuffing their faces with the German cuisine, his father chasing it down with a fine German stout. The rest of his family was doing the same. Even his grandmother was drinking from a giant stein, laughing between bites and sips.

He silently slid under the table, crawled out, and walked in the direction of the waitress without being noticed.

Then he remembered his car. He ran to the empty table and crawled underneath. He didn't see the car, but he noticed something strange. The wall behind the table, near the fountain with the young boy, had a small hole where it met the floor. There were green leaves draped over the entire wall, and it looked to Jack like an entrance to a jungle. He crawled towards it. He reached his finger into the hole, then pushed forward. The hole widened as he went, and he easily reached in to his elbow.

He pushed further and a force like a strong wind pulled him in.


Will laughed at the joke his grandmother told at every family function for the past 15 years and took a swig from his stein. He reached towards his steak and said, "How do you like your dinner, Jack-o?"

He looked towards his son's place at the table. Empty. He looked around at the rest of the long table where his family loudly ate, not seeing his son's bright yellow head.

He looked around the room. There were two other large groups taking up three long tables. A few small children Jack's age were huddled in the corner of the room playing with bright plastic toys, but none were Jack.

He leaned over to his wife and said, "Hon. Where's Jack?"


The large police officer was trying to calm the crying, screaming woman to no avail. His partner was talking to the woman's husband, the restaurant's manager, and a crowd of family members.

"We have looked everywhere and talked to everyone in the entire building, folks," the grey haired officer said, visibly disturbed by the situation that was thrust upon him. "We have officer outside searching everywhere in a 6 block radius. Are you sure there are no cubbyholes or boarded up rooms or something we didn't check, sir?" he asked the manager.

"We have turned the restaurant upside down and harassed every one of my customers for the last 3 hours. There is nowhere else to look, I'm sorry."

"Well my son is somewhere, dammit!" the child's father yelled. "He didn't just evaporate into thin air!"

The mother was pushing her way past the large officer towards the restaurant manager. He backed up and stood behind the other police officer.

"Keep her away from me!" the manager yelled.

The grey haired officer blocked her way and felt her wrath in the form of her fists pounding on his chest. The large officer grabbed her shoulders and pulled her back.

"Let go of me!" she screamed. The scene was surreal: a petite brunette woman with a tiara on her head pounding on the chest of one police officer and being dragged away by another.

"You can not assault a police officer ma'am," the large officer calmly responded.

"Don't you dare..." she began, then stopped, distracted by something behind the officer. "Wait! Do you hear that?" she yelled to nobody in particular.

"Hear what, honey?" her husband asked. He was almost as concerned about his wife's ability to handle this situation as he was about the situation itself.

"That yelling! How could you not hear that? Jack was yelling out for me!"

"I didn't hear anything," Will said, tears welling in his eyes. "Nobody heard any..."

"I think it's coming from the statue!" She rushed toward the fountain and put her ear next to the little boy's marble face.

Her family stared in disbelief and obvious pity. The last few hours had been emotionally devastating. Her husband walked to her and put his hand on her shoulder. 

"Honey? Honey, I think..." he took the tiara off her head and caressed her curly brunette hair. The gesture usually helped calm her down, but nothing was helping in this situation.

"Shhhhh!" She cupped her hands around her ears and pressed her face closer to the statue. "Be quiet! I think I can hear him!"

Her husband dropped his head to his chest and sobbed.


The blonde woman watched her son crawling on the ground, pushing his toy truck, and rolled her eyes. Maybe it wasn't such a good idea to bring toys to the restaurant. Then again, he wouldn't last through the party without something to keep his attention.

"Bobby, get off the floor sweetie. You'll get all dirty."

He started to crawl underneath an empty table at the far end of the room. 

"Bobby, get over here," she said as she stood and walked towards him. As she got closer, a marble fountain with the statue of a child caught her attention. She couldn't help but notice the resemblance to her son.

"Hey Stephen, come here for a second. Take a look at this."


I Love You All...Class Dismissed.

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