Initiator: Nancy Vachani – Boy and the Bubble
Initiator Artist: Nancy Vachani
Artwork Title: Boy and the Bubble
Size: 12 x 16″
Responder Author: Stephanie Rickman
Writing Title: A Special Friend
Finn, only 7 years old at the time was caught in his petty crime. Every Monday, he waited for the Old Man to leave the laundromat- a tiny nondescript hut at the end of a lonely road. He watched as the Man deposited quarters: thunk, thunk, thunk.
The Old Man, made his way down the snowy path towards the beach, his white beard glowing. Finn seized the moment; tossed his blue sweatshirt and muddied socks into the swirling tub of soap and sat atop a warm dryer watching flurries of snow dance through Sugar Pines.
He thought about the Old Man walking through the snowy dunes. He was drawn to him despite his brooding manner of casting a stern eye when they chanced to pass in town. But there was something underneath, something keen that the boy found good and honest. He thought too- about Jake and how he mocked him on the schoolyard. “Ain’t you got no proper socks!” The man-sized socks spilled over the back of his shoes dragging mud in clumps. But how could he explain his father’s socks. His sister Billie, reluctant to be his sole caretaker made scant efforts at basic provisions after their parents, as she would explain with a toss of her hand, “ are no longer with us.” Finn, fearing Billie would leave too, nodded like he understood.
His thoughts were interrupted by the wash tub click. He reached in separating the Old Man’s garments from his own and emerged standing beneath a pillar of a man. The Old Man stood strong and fierce as he pulled clumps of mud from the drum. For a moment Finn was awestruck. But, the Old Man placed a large hand of assurance on his shoulder and held it for a moment. He looked up at his thick white beard stained brown with coffee. He wore a thick flannel and smelled of sweet soap and pine needles. Looking squarely at Finn, he held out a small pile of quarters. For a moment he saw a wound that lived within the man that corresponded to his own. Finn knew nothing of angels then.
The Old Man left with his belongings, saying things in silence that were few but full. Finn was curious and waited for the Old Man to come once again.
On Monday, he waited and played with a trail of bubbles from a heavy handed dose of soap. He reached up to pop the sudsy orb and wondered what he would say to the man. But, when the Old Man approached, the words would not come. His complex nature held wisdom Finn wanted to know, so he followed him to the snowy dunes.
They drifted together, one respecting the solitude of the other. For miles they said nothing and listened to the crunch of boots on snow and the echo of crashing waves in the open air. A gust of wind sent the Old Man’s tartan cap sailing and tumbling down the shore. Finn, wanting to prove himself, ran hard and fast through sheets of sparkling powder until he jumped and caught the hat in mid-air, waving it for the Old Man to see.
The Man’s nose was strong and rouge in the chill, his olive skin wrinkled but taut. Finn studied his green eyes and searched for words to say as he offered the hat. “Thank you boy.” The Old man smiled wide and for the first time Finn understood. He had everything he wanted- adventure, clean socks and a simple friend.
© 2023 Stephanie Rickman