The Statue Game
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This is a stand-alone story. If you have read my other stories though, you might notice that it is a kind of spiritual successor to “The Robot Game.” There is even a little robot in it. However, you do not have to read one to understand the other. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I did writing it.
Mrs. Lewis, or “mom,” as I know her, is an immensely popular kindergarten teacher. Some of my friends who were in her class fifteen years ago still talk about the fun they had in her class. It hasn’t hurt her popularity any that she is still as pretty and youthful as she has been for as long as I had known her.
I still loved to visit her classroom. She put so much heart and care into the decorations and activities she set up. Every year she strives to outdo herself. You would think the other teachers would hate her for it, but they all loved her too. It is impossible not to. The goodness shines out of her, and yet this is tempered by her mischievous, playful spirit.
This year, a week before her school year was due to start, she asked me to help her out. I was taking shop in my senior year, having set my heart set on a career in industrial design. So, my mom had called me in to use my skill, my brawn, and my knowledge of power tools, to help her build a scale model of a western-style prairie house in the back corner of her class.
It also helped that my dad had passed on a great deal of his knowledge and skill through the countless hours we had spent together in his workshop. He had been a carpenter, well respected for his skill. However, despite his years of dedicated work he had not amounted to much more than your average joiner before his death from a sudden heart attack, one month before my twelfth birthday.
Without him there I felt it my duty to help my mom out, even during my vacation. Besides, I genuinely loved spending time with my mom, which is not something many eighteen-year-olds will admit in public. She was like a big kid the way she played around. Yes, she had taken the death of my dad hard, few people loved each other as much they did. But, largely for my sake, she had pulled herself together in short order and returned to her fabulous bubbly self.
I never mentioned that sometimes, when she didn’t know I was around, I caught glimpses of the melancholia that still lurked beneath the surface. I had seen her standing in front of my dad’s closet once, just staring at the neat rows of well-worn clothes she could not bring herself to throw out.
She was so warm and flamboyantly affectionate as a wife that I could sense her ache to be held and loved as she once had. Yet, none of the men she met could come close to filling the gaping hole my father’s death had left in her life.
Still, when she knew I was around, she was always able to shake off her reverie and greet me with a smile as warm as it was wide.
Today was no exception. I was hit with that high-beam bright smile as soon as I stepped into her classroom. I was brandishing a toolbox and a power saw, and said, in my best southern drawl, “Howdy, little lady. I hear this here town is in need of cleaning up.”
She was up on a step ladder, hanging up some western-themed bunting, dressed in a voluminous peasant skirt and a matching off the shoulder white blouse. As she turned her head and her berry red lips parted into a grin she became the very picture of a pretty young senorita.
Not missing a beat she stepped down and, mock fanning herself, replied, “I do declare, sir, we surely could use the help of a big brave man such as yourself.”
We both grinned then. I would have died of embarrassment if my friends had seen me behaving in this way, but it was hard not to act like a fun-loving kid around my mom.
She rustled up to me in a flurry of skirts and reached up for a hug. I was so much bigger than her that, without even trying, I lifted her from the ground and gave her a half turn that threw her skirt up in an arc before putting her down.
Though we both laughed, I was suddenly very conscious of her slim body pressed to mine. Hastily breaking the embrace I stepped back and, color rising to my cheeks, I pretended to doff an invisible hat and asked, “Where do you need me to start, ma’am?”
Bouncing up on her toes and clapping her hands together, like a child unable to contain its excitement, she replied, “Over in the back corner there. I can’t wait to get started. Did you bring the wood?”
Still being a teenager, if only just, I had to use a cough to stifle a chuckle. But I managed to answer with a controlled nod.
Not noticing, or else ignoring me, she continued, “I can’t thank you enough Finn.” As she addressed me she absentmindedly rested her fingers on my bicep. I was surprised at how nervous I suddenly felt around her today. I had been conscious that my mom was pretty for a long time, but today was different for no reason I could fathom.
Her mass of thick, dark, wavy hair was pulled back into a messy bun and her dusky skin shone with a luster to match canlı bahis her energy.
“Why don’t you take the measurements in here and then you can put the sides of the house together outside on the grass. There’s no one in today, most staff won’t be back for another few days, so you don’t have to worry about the noise.”
“Cool,” I said and put my dad’s toolbox down on one of the knee-high desks. I cracked it open and pulled out the measuring tape.
“Are you sure it’s not too much to ask?”
I gave a self-deprecating shrug and a laugh before saying, “It’s nothing, mom. Seriously. I have seen some pictures online and I think I can knock this out in a couple of hours with a nail gun and my trusty power saw. You forget, dad and I once built a treehouse in a day.”
I winced, regretting the comment as soon as it left my mouth. My mom’s smile remained, but its sharp edge was suddenly dulled.
“Shall I get to work?” I offered, trying to salvage the mood we had started in.
My mom nodded quietly and gave my arm a squeeze before letting me go. Even as I began to measure the space for the house and mark down the information in my notebook I still felt a warmth where her fingers had impressed themselves into my muscle.
While I worked I could not help but glance up at my mom every now and again. I recognized her expression of concentration, dark brows down and her bottom lip protruding just slightly outwards. I couldn’t believe that I had not fully noticed how appealing that look was until now.
I spent a long time trying to think of ways I could bring her to spontaneous laughter again, but nothing came to mind. After a while, I shook myself and got on with the job.
I only looked up again when I heard a small cry and creak of metal. I saw my mom atop the step ladder again. Only this time her arms were windmilling as she tried to keep her balance. I didn’t waste a moment in deliberation. In two bounds I was beneath her, knocking two or three desks and chairs flying in the process. I arrived just in time for my mom to fall back into my arms.
She was so light it was like clutching a bird to my broad chest. I could feel her heart beating rapidly as she clung to me. I held her there for a long moment, not wanting to put her down just yet.
“Thank you, Finn,” she exhaled when her heart rate had slowed.
“Any time,” I replied, reluctantly setting her on her feet. She fit so comfortably in my arms. It was strange to think she had once carried me like that.
“Whew, that was close.” She flattened her dress against her thighs with the palms of her hands, “Luckily I have my big hero here to look after me.” She stood up on her toes and gave me a kiss on the cheek. My arms were still around her and they tightened reflexively. I only realized I was doing it when she tried to step back and we found I had pinned her to my body.
Sheepishly I released her and replied, “Any time, ma’am.”
Her smile, as she turned away, was enigmatic and I wondered if she was remembering a time when my dad had been the hero waiting to save her.
A question floated up like a bubble from deep inside me. When it popped it asked, “Can’t you be that guy?”
I tried to return to my job but I was continually distracted by thoughts of how gorgeous my mother had looked when her big dark eyes were gazing up at me while she was being cradled in my arms. It meant that I kept losing track of my measurements and the job took me far longer than it should have.
Nevertheless, I eventually got it done and then went to my truck to fetch the rest of the supplies. My truck was parked next to my mom’s well-cared-for Honda in an otherwise empty lot.
When I returned to her classroom, my mom pushed an extension cord through the window at me. There was a brief moment when our fingers touched and I could have sworn I felt a static charge pass between us. My mother said nothing, but her eyes deliberately did not meet mine and I noticed her lips compressed tightly.
Being a kindergarten teacher, my mom had never been wealthy. But, fortunately, my dad had taught me enough that I would always have a valuable skill to sell. His old boss, Alfie, who I think still held a candle for my mom despite being a married man, was always happy to employ me on a part-time basis. I was no worse than any of his full-time employees and better than a few. While most of the kids I went to school with went to summer camps or took on internships at their dad’s firm, I worked in the woodshop. But unlike them, I was able to buy my own pickup, even if it was an old heap of junk, and get together enough to kickstart my college fund on my own.
So, it was not much work for me to put together the mock house once I had the measurements and was not constantly being distracted by the proximity of my lovely mom. It was hot out in the grass quad outside my mom’s class, so I stripped off my shirt and went to work with the power saw. I had brought with me a handmade, portable trestle and in no time I had cut the pine planks, bahis siteleri which Alfie had gifted me because I told him they were for my mom, into the right lengths.
I quickly built three frames and then, using the nail gun, made three crude, but effective clapboard walls.
During a break, I stretched out and arched my back. My body is well muscled from working so much with my hands and it glistened with the shine of sweat. Glancing back I caught a glimpse of my mother watching me through the window. I gave her a grin and a thumbs up. She smiled back, a little nervously, which was something I rarely saw in her. She was usually such a confident person. She gave a brief wave and then went back to what she was doing.
Shaking my head I returned to my work. My mom said she didn’t want anything fancy, but my dad had always taught me that any job I did was a reflection of me, and I should always do it to the best of my ability. So, after I cut out the doors and windows using the saw, I spent a bit of time carefully framing them. These I then sanded and I gave the whole thing a coat of varnish, worrying the kids might get splinters otherwise.
My mom came outside to check on my work and to bring me a bottle of water. I drank half of it and then poured the rest over my head. I shook it off like a puppy, making her squeal and jump back. Naturally, I ran after her and threatened to hug her.
“Go away, Finnley Lewis,” she squealed, “you’re all wet and sweaty.”
“Come on, what kind of a mother won’t hug her own son?”
I continued to torment her until she finally relented, as I knew she would. My mom’s heart was too big to ever refuse a hug for long, and I wrapped my arms around her. She stood still at first, but then she slipped her hands around my waist. I felt them sliding over my slick back and it gave me a little shiver.
“You are a wicked boy,” my mom said when I finally let her go, “look at what you have done to me!” I looked and saw, with no small amount of pleasure, that her white blouse was now wet in patches where it had touched my skin. Big circles of fabric were now perceptibly transparent. Where it stuck to her I could see her bronze skin beneath and, in one patch, the pale blue of her bra. It should not have thrilled me as much as it did. For one thing, she was my mother. For another, her bra straps were already visible with her off-the-shoulder blouse. Still, this brief view beneath her clothes gave me a curious stirring in my belly.
When the bonhomie turned to an awkward silence we both made our excuses and went back to what we were doing.
It was not even midday by the time I was done. The three walls of my little model prairie house were laid out in the sun. Too hot and sweaty to put my shirt on again, I ventured back into my mom’s classroom and took a deep breath of the cool air.
“Done already?” She asked, busy cutting out laminated name tags.
“Yup, all done. It’s just drying outside. I can finish building it after lunch. I’m assuming you are buying me lunch?”
“Ha! Cheeky,” she laughed, “Who’s to say you aren’t buying me lunch?”
“Hey, I don’t work cheap, lady. I took on this job because I thought there would at least be food.”
“Well, I think we should decide that another way.”
“And what way is that, Mrs. Lewis?”
“The statue game.”
I gave her a confused look and then, as realization dawned on me, I said, “Shut up.”
She smiled wide and nodded vigorously.
“It can’t be,” I continued with genuine incredulity.
“It’s still going.”
“But I didn’t even know you still had it.”
“I do, I found it while you were outside, when I was digging in some old boxes in my backroom.” She reached under her desk and pulled out a retro-looking plastic robot with a black screen centered in its chest.
“Want to see if it still works?”
“It can’t. It must have been lying around for fifteen years. I remember playing with the thing when I was young enough to be in Mrs. Bouchard’s class next door.”
“Let’s find out. Loser buys lunch.” With that she flipped a switch at the back of the toy and, to my surprise and great amusement, it beeped and a red dot appeared in the center of its chest.
“Seriously? You want to decide lunch this way?” I should hardly have been surprised, my mom was a great inventor and lover of games.
“I didn’t make the rules,”
“Actually you did…” I started but was cut off by the click of a button followed by the sound of ascending bleeps.
Then a robotic voice announced: “Find… color… green.”
Despite myself, I found I was frantically looking around. When I finally noticed the green poster on the wall I made a step towards it. Unfortunately, I was brought up short when I saw my mom was already casually leaning one finger on the same laminated surface I had been aiming for. Her face lit up once more in a triumphant grin.
“No fair,” I wailed, “You know this classroom like the back of your own hand.”
“Aw, poor bahis şirketleri baby. Does baby Finn want a tissue to wipe away his tears?” She literally plucked a tissue out of the box on her desk and offered it to me.
Taken aback by her unexpected cockiness I laughed, “Mom!”
“Statue still.” The robot announced and then beeped.
“Let’s see it,” she shrugged, her expression impassive.
“Fine,” I sighed, exasperated, and froze in the pose I was standing in.
The silly statue game, which resulted from a gift my aunt had given me for my third birthday, was dictated by the strange little robot my mom now held. It announced a color and the first person to touch it was in charge. The last person to touch the correct color was the loser, but they had a chance to survive in the game if they could stand perfectly still, without flinching, for the thirty seconds it took the robot to beep again. My mom had always thrashed me at the game when I was a kid. But that was because I was a child and, as a kindergarten teacher, the one thing she knew better than anything was how to make a child laugh. Now that I was eighteen, there was no way I would let her win.
I held my pose, defiantly staring straight ahead, while my mom stepped right up into my personal space. I focused on a poster above her board that read “Kind hearts, kind words, kind hands.”
She was so close to me I could smell the subtle fragrance of jasmine on her skin. I could feel my eyelid twitching, the corners of my mouth tried desperately to pull up into a smile, but I resisted.
Then my mom cheated.
She tickled me high up on my bare sides, knowing that that was my weak spot. I yelped and closed my arms to my flanks, shouting, “Stop it. Mom. Stop!”
The robot beeped a fraction of a second later, while I was still laughing and trying to fend off my mom’s attack. “Seriously, stop!” I laughed as I finally got out of range. She was grinning widely showing a full set of her perfectly straight, white teeth.
“That was cheating,” I gasped, still clutching at my sides, “No touching.” My naked skin still burned where her fingers had brushed me,
“That’s not a rule. I didn’t hear the robot say that was a rule.”
“You know that it is a rule mom. That’s the game.”
“That’s just what losers who have to buy lunch say. And, who said this was a game, Finn? This is war, and in war there are no rules.”
“Apart from the Versailles treaty, the Geneva convention…”
“You know what I mean, smartass. A win is a win. Don’t be such a baby.”
“Okay. Two out of three then. Seeing you’re just making up the rules now.”
“I’ll only do two out of three if you tie me with the next one. My classroom, so my rules. If you don’t like it you can go sit in the naughty corner.”
“Wait, you still have a naughty corner? I thought that was frowned on these days.”
“Right, sorry, the ‘contemplation nook’ then. It’s still the same place I send little brats who can’t play by the rules, only there’s a beanbag in there now.”
Laughing I held up my hands and replied, “Alright. But I still want another round.”
“Okay, you big cry baby. Let’s do it.”
She placed the robot down on her desk and hit the button. The ascending beeps started and then the robot announced “Find… color… yellow.”
My mom immediately dashed off to her left. I looked around desperately but realized that everything was too far away. The closest yellow thing I could see was a large bird puppet that hung off the back of my mom’s classroom door and my mom was already only a stride away from that.
“I win!” She announced, the puppet clutched triumphantly in one hand. I swore inwardly and hung my head in defeat.
Then I gave a burst of laughter. “No, you don’t,” I crowed, far too satisfied for an adult man winning a child’s game.
My mom gave me a skeptical look and then followed my gaze down to my feet.
“No!” She cried.
“Yup,” I grinned my cockiest grin and ground my toe into the big rubber mat under my foot. The part I had my foot on had a large letter B printed on it and it was a very bright and very definite yellow.
“Mom!” I laughed, incredulous.
“Oops,” she turned scarlet and covered her mouth with her hands.
Before she could say anything more the robot interrupted: “Statue still.”
She froze, eyes wide, hands to mouth, looking adorably innocent and just the slightest touch wicked.
My mom was a pro at this game, being a teacher she could keep her composure better than anyone.
My first ploy was to simply run at her. I figured she might flinch if I hurled my six-foot-two, two hundred pound frame at her.
She didn’t even blink and I was forced to stop just short of crashing into her.
“Come on,” I said through bared teeth right into her face, “Crack. You know you want to.”
Not even a flicker.
As the seconds ticked by I decided to turn her own tactics against her. I placed my fingers on her slender waist and tried tickling her flanks. When she remained impassive I ran my fingers up her sides to under her arms and tickled her there. Though I saw a crinkle form at the corner of her eye, the woman remained, miraculously, unaffected.
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