Terri and Tonka
Mr. Prendergast lived in a small unit on the first floor of an old inner city high rise.
His apartment was small and shabby but filled with books, mainly biographies. He liked to read about other peoples lives.
Each day he walked to work. He had his own office and would return at the same time every evening.
Sometimes he would pass Mrs. Parker on the stairs and say Good Morning or Good Evening, whichever the case might be.
Mrs. Parker lived in the apartment opposite. She was small and pretty with blonde hair going grey and worked part time as a remedial teacher at an inner city primary school.
One late afternoon, the lift arrived just as Mr. P. had reached his apartment. Surprised, he turned to watch it open. Mrs. Parker stepped out with a small boy and some luggage.
“Mr. Prendergast, this is Jamie,” she said. Jamie looked up with a serious face and said “Hello.”
Mr. Prendergast replied “How do you do,” before turning and entering his apartment.
Jamie looked up at Mrs. Parker who smiled and stroked his face and said, “Come inside now and help me make tea.”
During the weeks that followed Mrs. Parker and Jamie would often pass Mr. Prendergast on the stairs, until, one evening there was a knock on Mr. P’s door. . .
“This is your letter,” said Jamie when the door was opened. “It was in our letter box.”
“Thank you,” said Mr. P. taking the letter and about to close the door when Jamie said, “I live with Nana now. My mummy died.”
Mr P. looked at Jamie for what seemed a long time, then said, “I see.”
He shut the door softly and sat down with his letter. His own mother had died several weeks earlier and the letter was from his solicitor who was settling the estate. The letter was to enquire whether Mr. P. wanted any furniture or personal items from his mother’s home before the impending sale.
Mr. P sat at his table looking at the letter until it grew dark. He had no brothers or sisters and his father had died many years before. he was the sole heir. he realised he could now buy a house of his own, somewhere with a garden. He could have a dog.
Next day he rang in sick to his office, a thing he had never ever done, and caught a bus out to his mother’s home in the suburbs. When he arrived home he carried a small parcel containing two small items. He unwrapped them carefully and placed them in front of him on the kitchen table.
They were his.
They had always been his, given to him by his father over forty years ago on his return from a business trip overseas. This was the first time he had handled them.
He had retrieved them from his mother’s china cabinet , locating the key under the lace doily, where it had always been. His mother had locked them in the china cabinet along with some cups, saucers, plates, and crystal glasses deemed “too good to use,”or in Mr. P’s case – “too good to play with.”
He was still sitting there when there was a gentle knock on the door.
“Come in Jamie,” said Mr. P.
The door opened slowly. “More mail, Mr. P.”
“Come in Jamie,” Mr. P. repeated. “Bring it here.”
Jamie had never been inside Mr. P’s apartment. It was quite poorly lit and smelt of musty books. He walked in softy and stood by Mr. P’s chair.
“Wow,” said Jamie, “Awesome!”
“Yes,” said Mr. P.
“What are their names?”
“Well,” said Mr. P. reaching foreword and picking up a small celluloid elephant, beautifully moulded and decorated. . .
“This is Tonka. ” He placed him carefully in front of them. . .”and this,” tucking a gorgeous little turtle, crafted by the same hand, under the elephant’s trunk, “is his best friend, Terri.”
Little springs inside Terri helped him nod his head and wag his tail on being reunited with Tonka. Jamie and Mr. P. watched silently as Terri and Tonka greeted each other.
“Now,” said Mr. P., “bring me a saucer of water.”
Jamie put the letters down on a chair and did as he was told.
Mr. P. pulled up a small lever on top of Tonka’s head, put his trunk in the water and pumped ’til Tonka was full!
“You were thirsty, old chap.”
“Now,” said Mr. P, “this is the game.”
“You place Terri anywhere within this circle” – (he drew a circle with salt from the salt cellar around Tonka) and Tonka can only turn on the spot!”
Jamie did as he was asked.
Mr. P. then pushed the lever down on Tonka’s head. Tonka’s large ears flapped and water gushed out his trunk just missing Terri.
“Wow, magic!” said Jamie. “Terri and I won that one!”
“OK — swap over —” said Mr. P.
Jamie and Mr. P. played the game over and over until Jamie finally went home. He hadn’t been home long before he returned and knocked on Mr. P’s door.
“My mum wants to know if you’ll come to dinner! We’re having Salmon Pasta!!”
Mr. P. took a big breath and let it out slowly. “Why, yes. Thank you.”
At 5.30 Mrs. Parker welcomed Mr. Prendergast to her apartment, as in need of renovation as his own, but made cheery by fresh flowers and colourful cushions.
“My name is Veronica,” she said softly, “but please call me Ronnie.”
Jamie looked at Mr. P. expectantly. There was a pause. Mr. P. gave a little cough. “umm, ah, Trevallyn” he replied.
Jamie’s eyes grew huge.
“But Trev to my friends!” Mr. P. added, just in time.
The dinner went splendidly, and Ronnie and Trev sat talking at the table long after Jamie had gone to bed.
Later that evening, before retiring, Mr. P. was cleaning his teeth in his bathroom. Midway he paused, and looking in the mirror with a mouthful of froth, he mouthed softly, “Wow, awesome!” and then, a little louder — “MAGIC!!”
On the shelf in the dinette, Tonka rested his trunk gently on Terri’s shell.
Terri nodded gently and wagged his tail. . . . . .
Kay Perry is a sailor and lives on a sailing boat called “Truant” with her husband. When not sailing around she likes to write short stories and poetry for adults and children.