Thursday, October 8, 2009


The following is a short story I wrote a number of years ago. Probably about 2001.

I wrote it as a kind of challenge to myself. Could I write a story about a two-year-old protagonist? What kind of inner-conflict or dramatic tension does a toddler have?

The action in the story is partly based on my observations of my nephew, who was about that age at the time (and nearly eleven now).

The story is included in my new book, due out next month: The Lizard and Other Stories (Chaudiere Books).


The boy pointed at the boy on the bike and said, "Boy! Boy!" His mother smiled: "Yes, that’s a boy, isn’t it?" The boy didn’t think of himself as a boy. He was not yet two and all he knew of the world was love.

His left hand held a stick. He poked it into the ground and twisted until the earth turned over. He was in the park near his house with his mother, a park he visited at least once a day. He didn’t think any more of the snow that had covered the ground. It had come and gone before he had words. He thought only about the world and all of the things in it, each of them a wonder. He liked everything and was rarely tired.

The boy laughed and pulled the stick from the ground. A piece of dirt jumped out of the small hole and over the grass. The boy followed it with a quick twist of his head. He laughed again and stuck the stick back into the hole. The boy was always laughing, always learning new tricks. At daycare he’d learned to slide his little fingers into the corners of his mouth and pulling back against his cheeks. Over the past two days he’d performed this trick two or three dozen times, accompanying himself with a low growl.

Suddenly he pulled the stick from the ground and began to run. "Aiya-aiya-aiya-aiya!" he yelled. His mother chased him. It was 2:30 in the afternoon and the boy hadn’t had his nap. His mother wasn’t worried; she rested when he rested and soon he’d need a rest. "Aiya-aiya-aiya-aiya!" the boy yelled. He ran in a crooked line, stomping his feet as if he were a monster or a giant.

Besides pointing to boys on bikes, the boy liked to point at dogs. His mother worried about the dogs. Some barked; some ran at the boy as if they were about to attack; some licked his face. The boy grabbed the hair of the long-haired dogs. "Woof!" he said. "Woof! Woof!" One dog ran circles around him as the boy laughed, spinning to see the dog. Inevitably he fell down. He fell down often. Today the park had no dogs. The boy ran with his stick. "Aiya-aiya-aiya-aiya!" he yelled.

His mother chased after him.

The day before, the elderly woman who lived next door to the boy had told the boy’s mother that she had cancer. The doctors thought it was operable but they weren’t sure. The elderly woman had a daughter in Vancouver and a son in Indiana. The elderly woman’s husband had been dead five years. She often invited the boy and his mother into her house for afternoon tea. She didn’t have grandchildren and she told the boy’s mother what a pleasant young son she had. She bought the boy toys and knitted him sweaters.

The boy’s mother had told her husband about the elderly woman’s cancer when he got home from work. The boy sat on his lap. His father had just kissed him on the mouth. The boy’s mother said the elderly woman’s cancer might be operable.

The boy’s father asked, "What’s the prognosis if it isn’t?"

"I don’t know."

All of the boy’s grandparents were still alive. They all loved the boy tremendously and the boy’s father feared the day any of them might die.

The boy’s mother watched the boy run across the park. "Aiya-aiya-aiya-aiya!" He waved his stick, threw it, then fell forward onto his face. The boy’s mother waited for the wail. The boy was tired and she expected him to start crying soon. The boy lay on his stomach, silent. He rolled over and laughed as his mother approached.

"Had enough?" she asked, picking him up.

He laughed again and kissed her. Then he slapped her cheeks.


1 comment:

Sarah Kiriliuk said...

Michael, I really like this!
You've really taken hold of the idea that a child's mind is simple and joyous. I loved the ending!