She had a secret and it was time to go into her secret world. Mom had turned the lights out. It was dark. Dad hadn’t come home yet. Snort was gone again.
Snort was only 2 years old and he was sent away to live with the doctors in a town far past the lake. Past her lake but on a lake that belonged to somebody else. Both lakes had the same name. Snort lived with lots of other kids when he went away, in a huge room with many beds and nurses and long halls and kids who played games in wheelchairs. When Snort came home he had casts on both legs up to his knees. He used mom’s knitting needle to scratch inside the cast when it itched One time he put a penny inside his cast and had to go back to the place on the same lake but far away and stayed for 3 weeks. When he came home he had a new cast on.
Another time he kicked off one of his casts because he was so mad. Then he had to go back to be with the other kids in the big long room with many many beds until mom could get him again. His bed was way at the far end of the big room, right by the window. At least he got to look out doors. But he couldn’t go out doors to play with the other kids. He had to stay in and learn how to do races down the hall in his wheel chair.
Mom was home now. Snort was gone. Dad was with the horses and the milk and the machines near the horse barn that was in the middle of town. Dad called her Hanks. Hanks was going to her secret place where it was quiet and dark and alone and safe. A place under the table mom set on Sunday for dinner when there was company. She put a white cloth on the table and sometimes she forgot to take it off for days. That was when Hanks could go to her secret place and play with Bradshaw.
Bradshaw was a billion years old and was small. Some times Bradshaw was a he and sometimes a she. But probably mostly a boy. Bradshaw always wore green corduroy pants with suspenders, a white shirt, a vest and sometimes a hat. Most times Bradshaw was bare footed and sometimes carried a back pack. There were surprises in the back pack. Often times Bradshaw brought friends to play too. It was like having another family. A big family with lots of kids who laughed really loud and did hard stuff like climb mountains, or swim lakes, or fly.
When mom had one of her sick headaches and had to go in the bedroom and close the door, that was a very good time for Hanks to go to the secret place to have an adventure and to forget that mom was sad and dad was scared and Snort was gone. Sometimes Hanks stayed in the secret place for hours. She didn’t even get hungry and if she got thirsty, Bradshaw had something in the back pack for her. One time Hanks could hear mom crying softly in her bedroom with the door closed. Hanks was sure she understood what mom was crying about. Hanks missed Snort too and wished dad would come home sooner. He had to take care of the horses and deliver the milk to all the houses in town and out of town and then work in his office before he could come home for dinner. Mom didn’t have anything cooking anyway, so maybe best dad not come home yet. He would be hungry and mom would be sorry and Hanks would worry that it was not okay.
When Hanks heard mom cry she crawled into the secret place and wished for Bradshaw to come and bring friends. Then they could play together. All she had to do was make the wish, and Bradshaw would turn up. This time Bradshaw brought Curly, a little monkey, and Tall Boy a baby giraffe. Hanks had never met them before. They all fit in the secret place just fine. Tall Boy suggested that Curly and Hanks climb up on his back so they could fly over the lake.
Hanks felt free and easy, happy and safe, when she went flying with Bradshaw and friends. All her worries, all the hurt and pain and sadness and fear went away and Hanks would laugh right out loud and sometimes shout, “Get on with it!! Way to go! Man alive!” It always made her happy. And she really liked being loud when she was with her friends, because being loud usually hurt mom’s head and it was very quiet in their home and most always almost dark. The light hurt mom’s eyes. But mom never heard her when she was loud with Bradshaw. It was an inside loud. Inside she would just about burst with happiness and noisiness and all the surprises an inside life had for her. Today, with mom crying softly in her room and Bradshaw and Tall Boy and Curly with her in the secret place she felt magic right on the edge of her space.
The white cloth shimmered and colour, blue and green and yellow and even orange, whispered around the bottom of the linen. Hank saw stars all around her and began to hear music. Fast, fancy, dancing music and she jumped up and was a ballerina in her secret place with a giraffe and a monkey for partners. Bradshaw watched and clapped and sang along. Hanks heart filled with the joy of playing and dancing and being noisy and having friends and not being sad. Suddenly they all just floated out the top of the wooden table through the white table cloth over the floor and out the window into the back yard where they went up and up into the clouds.
Hanks was free! She was happy! She could do anything she wanted to do. She could be anyone she wanted to be! She knew love, she knew hope, she knew joy. It was so funny she laughed until pink pearl tears washed her checks and they glittered and sparkled in the sunlight. Bradshaw grabbed her as she floated through the air and they hung on to each other and felt safe and tight and happy. Hanks knew she could be happy. She just needed help with it sometimes.
The four of them made a circle and held hands and flew down to the lake. They played until they were tired. Hanks was not sure she wanted to go home, but she was beginning to get chilly and she knew Bradshaw and Curly and Tall Boy had to leave soon. Together they all went back just as the sun was beginning to set over the lake and a chilly breeze began to dry her tears and make her want a sweater. It was sad to say good bye to her friends but she felt mom needing her.
Hanks landed with a bit of a bump on the floor under the table in her secret place and could smell food cooking in the kitchen. She climbed out of her secret place and went into the kitchen where mom was baking cookies. Mom asked her why her checks sparkled and said she looked pretty and happy. Hanks laughed, I’ve been flying, she said. Good for you said mom. Maybe you can take me with you next time. ‘We’ll see,’ said Hanks with a twinkle in her eyes. And just then she felt Bradshaw swish by and heard music in the air. ‘Dad’s home,’ said mom.