Cones

By: Pete Stine

The boy is new in this hallway.  I’m here every Friday night and haven’t seen him before.  For now it’s just me and him.  Everyone else is in the karate class down the hall.   Parents sit in folding chairs watching kids practicing their kicks, but I’m too busy working to watch tonight so here we are. Together.

“Whoo-wup!  Whoo-wup!“ he sings to no one in particular.  He does it again and I realize that he’s calling to me.  “Whooo-wup” means look at me, so I do.  I smile at the almost 3 foot tall dark skinned boy with the arched eyebrows a smile that seems as wide as the corridor.  He stands beside the table looking at me.

“Did you know that I could do that?” he asks, as if we were already having a conversation.  Like we were old friends.

“I had no idea.”

“I can make another voice,” he confides.

“Well, let’s hear it.”

He lets out a long growl and then half yells “Huuumba!”

I make a face like I’m impressed and ask him to do it again.  He does, but it’s a little different this time.

“You’ve been working on that. I can tell.”

“And I have a brother named Trey.”

“Is that great, having a brother?” I ask.

“Yes,” he smiles and runs to a stack of small traffic cones that sits half way up the hall between me and the classroom door.  He takes the top cone and brings it towards me while I return to my writing.  Reprising his original song, he carries the cones and sets them next to me, one by one in a tower.   A sort of friendship offering.

“Whoo-wup!”

We continue like this for a couple of minutes until he’s moved all the cones.  Looking up at me he begins to lower himself to the floor until his belly is flat down on it and he starts undulating in a strange combination of writhing and pushups.

“Did you know I could do that?!  The worm!  Whoo-wup!  Whoo-wup!”  He punctuates the statement with his singsong call.

I tell him honestly that no, I did not know about this hidden talent.  He looks pleased to be impressing the adult that he’s found outside of Trey’s karate class.

Another child comes out of the classroom door and heads toward the tower of cones.

“Mee-man-moo mah” the new boy says over and over again.

“You must be Trey,” I hazard.

“No,” they both tell me together.  No further introduction is offered.

Not Trey grabs a cone off the top of my tower and turns to walk back into the classroom.  Suddenly he breaks into a run as the class has started chanting.  “Jordan, Jordan, Jordan,” they cheer in unison.

My new friend can’t resist.  He looks at me, and then at the cones, before turning and running to catch up.

“Hey,” I call after him, “what’s your name?”

As he makes the turn into the doorway I can just make out his reply.

“I’m Carsten.”

Finding myself alone again, I begin to type as I whisper “Whoo-wup!  Whoo-wup!” to no one in particular.

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