Philip laughed. Herve wondered why. It was a stupid, cheesy story, but it was all Herve could think of to keep him entertained. They sat in the middle of an abandoned soccer field, in the middle of what used to be Los Angeles. One of the Red Cross workers shone a flashlight on their play. “Can you keep it down, please? We have sick people who need rest.”
Herve touched the young woman’s arm with his fingertips. He leaned close. “Please. He hasn’t laughed in days,” Herve said.
The girl sighed. “Who has?” She looked like she hadn’t slept, either.
“I didn’t say stop. Just keep it down. Or…” She turned off the flashlight to conserve the batteries. “You can go over by the fire pits. Most people over there are still awake.”
“Thank you, young lady.”
He made his squeaky puppet voice and waved them at her. “Thank you, thank you!” She laughed. Herve nodded. “See? Everyone needs some laughter.”
Herve picked up Philip and carried him over to the fire pits. The woman led the way, stepping around tents and huddled refugees using the flashlight. Herve wasn’t thankful that the Big One had struck, but he was thankful that God had chosen for it to happen in summer. The nights were cool but not unbearable.
Around the fire, a little girl sat in her mother’s arms as her mother read to her. Her mother used a magnifying glass instead of glasses. A bookish-looking elderly man was sharpening wicked-looking arrows using a stone. A man in a Red Cross uniform was teaching someone twice his age how to do first aid. They sat on an air mattress, and nudged over to invite them to sit.
The woman shook Herve’s hand and pat Philip on the head. “You two have a good night.”
“Won’t you join us?” Herve said.
“There’s a whole story,” Philip finally said. Herve covered his mouth. His heart sang. Philip would laugh, but he had barely spoken to anyone besides his father since the earthquake.
The woman noticed the look on Herve’s face. She crouched down and looked Philip in the eyes. “I’ll stay for a quick story. Then I need to go see if other people are okay, too. How’s that?”
Philip nodded. Herve’s eyes sparkled as he began the play.
Tonight’s post came from a roll of Rory’s story cubes: a mask (Herve’s trying to hold it all together), comedy and tragedy (the play), a flashlight, a tree (wood, the fire pits), a magnifying glass, an arrow, a sheep (I imagined a big, white, soft cushion, which led to the air mattress), and then two that I didn’t use: a bridge and a shooting star.
Photo credit: “Paper Finger Puppets” from Scribbled. Used without permission.