That night, Mike could not get to sleep, his mind kept going round and round about his missing sketchbook. He was thinking about the many drawings, especially the “racy” one that no one should see. But there were others that would have worked so well for that crazy art contest theme, “Healthy Mind, Healthy Body.” He rolled over to his other side in frustration. He could not believe how life seemed to go against him sometimes. Here just when he actually had a few drawings an art contest comes up that fits exactly for the
stuff he’d done, except the whole lots gone missing, stolen, lost whatever. The more he thought about it the more resentful he felt. It was not fair. Life was not fair!
He turned onto his back, stiffly looking straight up. He raised
his two fists into the air shaking them at God. “It’s not fair.” He exclaimed at the ceiling, covered with shadowy moonlight. He waited, but God did not seem to be saying anything and he let his fists fall to his sides in frustrated resignation. He turned onto his side mumbling about God not really caring about his problems after all.
The next morning he hung around by the front steps of the school
waiting for Frank. Frank never got to school early. He had a lot of brothers. In comparison, he only had one sister so he understood. Except, his one sister also took a lot more time to get ready for the day than he did. He could not imagine what it would be like if he had as many sisters as Frank had brothers. He figured then he would not get to school till noon!
Then Jason showed up with his two buddies. Mike knew that he only pretended to like him. He himself never seemed to do anything bad but he knew Jason always made his buddies do all the bad stuff for him. Today, the two bullies came up to the stairs ahead of Jason, pretending they did not see him and bumping into him on purpose, anyone could see that. “Oh, sorry we didn’t see you there, girlie artist.” After they were finished pushing him back and forth
between them, Jason came sauntering along.
“How’s the drawing for the art contest coming along?” he asked in a high voice sarcastically, “sucks when you’ve lost all your drawings and have to start over eh?” He paused. Mike just looked at him. He was not about to give him an answer, he wanted this conversation to be over as soon as possible. “Well, I hope you find it before the deadline comes!” He walked to the first step with a smirk on his face, all the while keeping his eyes on Mike as he went up the steps. Mike stared back saying nothing. He waited till they had all gone up the steps and into the school, then heaved a sigh of relief.
Mike felt weird about those comments. How did Jason even know his pad had been lost? He did not think he’d told anyone that would be talking to a guy like Jason about it. Yes, that was
A few minutes later Frank arrived.
“Look at this.” Frank said in a whisper, once they were seated
alone along the edge of the schoolyard. “Close your eyes…close your eyes.” He whispered with urgency, waiting for Mike to do it. Mike just looked at him strangely, wondering if he wanted to play a trick on him, embarrass him somehow. He knew Frank, he sometimes liked to play tricks on you if he could. “Come-on, close your eyes already, I promise I won’t do anything to you.” He already had his hand in his jacket pocket impatiently waiting for Mike to co-operate. He closed his eyes.
He could hear Frank shuffling around with something, then mostly
silence. Just when he was thinking of the grasshopper sounds in the grass around him he heard Frank’s voice. “Ok you can open your eyes, what-do-ya-think?”
When he opened his eyes, he was shocked because it seemed like
Frank had disappeared and someone else was sitting in front of him. Except he had Franks jacket on…then he could see the freckles on his chin and when he looked into the eyes he realized that it was still really Frank. He’d put on a black "Lone Ranger and Tonto" mask. “Wow Frank, that’s a great mask, you had me fooled there for a second, that’s for sure,” he explained. “But we have to talk about how we are going to find my scrapbook Frank…” his voice trailed off, wondering if Frank really wanted to do this thing at all.
“But that’s what this is for Mike, being a spy,” he rasped, excited, “If we wear this mask no one will know who we are and we’ll find your pictures in no time. Here I have another one for you too.” He dug into his pocket and dropped a second mask onto Mike’s
lap. We'll be like the Lone Ranger and solve the crime of the stolen sketchbook.
That’s what Mike loved about his friend, he could come up with
the greatest ideas and surprise everyone, even himself sometimes. In a few minutes Mike had his mask on and the two buddies were sneaking across the yard, running low, pausing every once in a while, crouching, looking around to make sure no one was seeing them, then springing up again running towards the school and their target, the boys cloak-room.
They spent the whole day, every recess, donning the masks and
hiding in and around the cloakroom. They crouched outside the doors, they stood motionless behind hanging jackets, they took turns lying under the benches behind boots and shoes.
Any students who did see them, just ignored them, thinking of
them as crazy kids living in another world. No one cared or suspected anything about their real goals. The two spies had disguised themselves as kids at play with great success.
Mike even forgot to take his mask off when the first period after
lunch started. Frank got his attention from his desk across the aisle motioning, trying to communicate the problem by holding up his hands to his face, his thumbs and fingers circling both his eyes. Mike understood instantly and ripped the mask off his head, shoving it out of sight into his desk.
It was so much fun “hiding” that they actually forgot why they
were doing it that whole first day. If felt good just to have fun. Mike forgot all about his “racy” picture and the “what ifs” should someone actually find it. It was good to forget about the whole sketchbook thing for a little while.
Having no success finding the sketchbook, he began a new drawing during the art classes leading up the deadline day. Two days before the deadline, when they had all but given up on any success in ever finding the sketchbook, they found themselves looking at it sticking out over the edge of the top hat shelf in the cloakroom. Frank pulled out the bench and Mike stepped up onto it reaching up to pull it off the shelf. He lifted it tenderly and slowly off the shelf, confirming it was his sketchbook as more of the pad
revealed itself. Once he had it in his hands he turned it over and looked at the cover. He was now certain it was actually the one, it was his long lost sketchpad. He stood on the bench pressing it to his chest a huge sense of relief washing over him.
Watching through the door from their hide-out in the girls cloak-room across the hall, Jason and his two bullies watched with
satisfaction. “Finally he whispered, we’re free and clear, hope that preachers kid enjoys that picture we gave him.”
"Yea, maybe he'll even learn something ha ha!" There were high fives all around.
After a moment, Mike looking down at Frank whispered quietly,
“but is that racy drawing in here?” He jumped off the bench and both boys ran down the stairs, hit the landing, turned right and ran down the long length of stairs as fast as they could go, stumbling in their rush as they hit the basement floor. Then off to their spot behind the furnace. Both of them were breathing heavily as Mike opened the pad, paging through the drawings moving quickly from one pate to the other. When he got to a blank page he knew the
truth. They sat looking at each other, Mike’s eyes wide. “It’s not there is it?” murmured Frank. Mike, began again, from the beginning, turning each page. When he reached the blank page he looked up slowly meeting Franks questioning gaze, “It’s not here Frank! Someone has taken out the one drawing I’m worried about.
I’m so dead.” He groaned falling backwards against the furnace. It responded with a “bing.” He looked up heavenward in exasperation. “It's over, it's so over, uuuuuhhhhh!”
To be continued.
“Why, Lord, do you stand far off? Why do you hid yourself in
times of trouble?” Psalms 10:1
Photo by Cliff Derksen, Winnipeg MB