‘Here we come, walking down the street….,’sang The Monkees on Danny aka Donald’s iPod (a gift from his uncle). Oblivious to his surroundings, he danced to the belting tune with funny moves.
Danny was a unique boy. Ask him to describe himself and all he would do is click his fingers, adjust his cap and say ‘I’m unique’ and grin wickedly. He always had a smile plastered on his face. No one could remember him without that goofy smile and cap. As he continued humming the song he noticed something on the ground a few feet away. He frowned and screwed his eyes to take a good look at it.
Noticing it to be a wallet he turned his head left and right and then went to pick it up. He casually turned it around in his hand as he headed back to the sidewalk. As he opened it something slipped out and fell to the ground. He picked it up and was about to put it back into the wallet when he glanced at it. He stopped humming the song, his face turned grey and he stumbled a little.
Danny was a regular five year old kid. He played, he went to school, and he spoke in the cutest of voices… a typical five years old. Danny loved animals. He would chase street puppies playfully and play with them, catch spiders and keep them as pets and even cuddle with cats. He would beg his parents to get him a pet. It didn’t matter which animal. For all he knew he wouldn’t mind even having a giant bear as a pet!
But his parents would always refuse. They couldn’t afford it, they would say. They have him and his little sister to take care off and with the soaring prices, it was difficult. Danny was disappointed but he understood his parents’ dilemma. He wasn’t too fussy. But he missed having a pet. He never had one but his friend, Amit, had a pet dog and seeing them together all the time made Danny long for one. So instead, he played with and adopted the puppies from his area. He even named them. After school, he would rush back and hunt for the puppies and sit down cross-legged and tell each one of them what happened in school every day.
“Today, Mrs. Sharma taught us addition” or “Amit brought a picture of him and his pet dog, Rocket” and so on. The puppies would scramble to get onto his tiny lap and Danny would stroke them lovingly. He would sit for hours together with them and talk to them about everything. Sometimes he would describe things or people to them. He even introduced them to his friend, Amit. Amit was his ‘sort of’ best friend, as Donald would describe him.
“You know Tingles; Amit is my ‘sort of’ best friend. We share everything. Our lunches, our water bottles, our toys. You understand what I’m saying?”
“That’s why I introduced you all to him. You see I’m going to disappear for a day and I don’t want you guys to think I’ve left you or something. But the thing is; I’m ill. And I don’t know what’s wrong. But I tend to get this funny pain like thing in my head and well, they hurt. No one knows why it happens. So I’m going to one of those big hospitals that try and figure out these sorts of things. They all use these fancy words so I have no clue what they’re saying. I just go with mom and dad when they ask me to. So while I’m gone, Amit will be here with you. “
Danny wanted to tell them more but he didn’t know how to get the words out. After all, he was just five. So he sat there letting Tingles, Waddles and Nudgers nibble on his fingers.
The next day his parents took him to the hospital for and the doctors conducted various tests on him, poking him with needles and scanning various areas of his tiny little head. Danny stayed quiet through all of it, patiently letting the doctors do their work. All the while his parents had a worried look on their faces. Danny would look at them and say “don’t worry mom and dad. They are doctors. They know what they’re doing. I’m sure they’ll figure out what’s wrong with this (knocks his head with his knuckles) and tell us how to fix it.”
But they never did. They couldn’t figure out what was wrong with him and why his head would hurt so much. Days passed by, years even and doctors were baffled. Danny continued to grow irrespective of the pain and hoped that someday he would be relieved of it.
After all the tests that day, Danny returned home and longed to meet his four legged pals. So as soon as they got home, he ran to his room, changed his clothes and rushed back out.
“I’m off to Amit’s house.”
“Come back before it gets dark”, yelled his mom.
“Amit! Amit! Are you there?”yells Danny, standing outside Amit’s house. Amit pokes his head out of his window and looks down.
“Danny, you’re back. I’ll be right down.”
Amit rushes out of his house yelling at his parents that he’s meeting Danny downstairs and will be back in a few hours. His mom yells the same as Danny’s mom about getting home before it’s dark.
“Danny, Danny! Are you alright? What did the doctors say? Did they use those cool ‘gadgets’ on you?”
The questions poured out in eagerness and Danny answered them with equal enthusiasm. As they talked they rushed to the spot where the puppies stayed. The puppies were delighted to see them and ran towards them, half tripping, trying to climb onto them, bite them, sniff them etc. Danny and Amit were delighted too and played with them for a long time. After a while, Danny asked Amit a question.
“I have a favour to ask of you. Would you do something for me?”
“Sure, what do you need?”
“Could you take a picture of us? The puppies and me? Just like the one you have with Rocket. I’d like one for myself.”
“I’ll go get my dad’s camera.”
Amit ran to get his dad’s camera. Danny was thrilled. Now he would have a picture too. He looked at the puppies and grinned. Amit returned and took a few pictures of Danny with his favourite puppies. Not wanting Amit to feel left out, Danny pulled him along and they snapped a picture of all of them together. They ran back to Amit’s place and his dad downloaded them, took a few copies and gave them to the kids. They beamed with pleasure.
It was beginning to get dark so Danny left Amit’s house and went home. He went around proudly showing the picture to his parents and little sister. He went up to his room and stuck it to his cupboard. Amit’s father had given him several copies of the photographs in different sizes. Danny stashed one in his school bag to show his friends, one in his personal drawer, one onto his computer and one (his favourite) into his kiddy wallet. He remembered asking his father to buy him one so that he could be a grown up too. He never used it for he didn’t know what to keep in it. But now he had something. He kept it safely in it and shoved it into his pant pocket–just like his dad.
The next morning, at school he showed off the pictures to everyone in class. They were all very excited to see them. Danny couldn’t wait to show the pictures to the puppies. So he and Amit met up after school and went straight to the puppies’ hideout.
They couldn’t find them. They ran here and there calling out to the puppies.
“Tingles! Nudgers! Waddles! Where are you? Look it’s me and Amit. See what I have to show you. Where are they?”
“Maybe they’re playing over there. They must have run off. Come on. I’m sure they’re here somewhere.”
Danny and Amit ran around searching for the puppies but in vain. In the end they reluctantly went home. The next day being a holiday they started looking for them since morning. But they couldn’t find them. They were fine just two days back and now everything’s different. They looked for hours, days together. But they could find them anywhere. Danny was distraught. He couldn’t understand what happened.
After a week, he went back to the spot and looked again. He still couldn’t find them. He sat down on a rock nearby and pulled out his new wallet containing that one picture and looked at it hungrily for a long time. Tears poured down his face as he clutched the picture tightly. He sat there for a few hours and finally shoved the picture back into the wallet. He got up, wiped his eyes and finally accepted the truth, the truth that the puppies were never coming back. He looked at his wallet one last time and then flung it as far as he could. He turned his back on his favourite spot and walked home. He never looked back again. He never visited that spot again.