Aphelion Issue 240, Volume 23
June 2019
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They Call Me Leaky

by Eddie D. Moore

I was told to grow up at least once every one of the eighty-four years I lived. I never saw the point, so I always ignored them. As I breathed my last breath, they transferred my mind out. My chosen vessel for my post life was a four-foot-long mechanical brontosaurus. The patients and staff at the children’s hospital call me Leaky.

No, there isn’t anything wrong with me mechanically. I do my best to make these kids happy and give them a chance to forget that they’re in the hospital. Many of them are there for weeks or in and out for years. It’s my job to connect with them and help keep their spirits up. When a nurse gets a late-night call that someone accidentally wet the bed, I’ll slip into the room and have my own embarrassing accident. The nurses play along and grumble about the mess I made. The routine always makes the children smile. They all love Leaky. Well, all of them except Jax the girl in room seven twenty-six.

When the nurses tried to introduce us, Jax became hysterical. It took the nurses twenty minutes just to get her to stop crying. I’ve tried every trick I know to break the ice with her: funny hats, acting shy myself and peeking around the door frame. I’ve even fell and slid past her room, nothing works. She visibly stiffens every time she sees me.

I didn’t realize that I was lost in thought and staring at the floor until two white shoes stopped in front of me. I looked up as the floor nurse on duty said softly, “There’s no reason to be upset, Leaky. You can’t reach all of them, and sitting outside her door is just creeping her out even more.”

I dipped my head to signify that I understood as she stepped into Jax’s room. Giving up just isn’t in my nature, so I decided to give the sad act one more try. I lowered my head to the floor, adopted a sad puppy expression and slowly peeked around the door frame. She was distracted by the nurse, so I waited.

The moment Jax noticed me she pulled the cover over her head and shouted, “Make him go away! He’s scary!”

An instant later, the door closed in my face. I let out a mournful wail just loud enough to be heard through the door.

The nurse posted at the nursing station gave me a sympathetic shrug and said, “You’ll find a way to reach her, Leaky. I have faith in you.”

My sensitive electronic ears let me hear the conversation between the nurse and Jax with perfect clarity.

“There’s no reason to be upset, Jax. Leaky just wants to be your friend.”

“I don’t care.” Jax’s voice quivered as she spoke. “I… I don’t need a friend. I want to go home. Where’s my mommy?”

“She said she’d be back as soon as she got off work. It shouldn’t be too much longer.”

I heard the familiar snap of a syringe cap, and Jax began to cry and beg. “No! Not again! Get that away from me.”

A gentle tone sounded and the nurse at the desk answered, “Yes, ma'am.”

“Don’t yes ma'am me and get your butt in here. We’re going to have to hold her down again.”

The station nurse grimaced and slipped past me into Jax’s room. After a short struggle, Jax shouted, “Ouch! That hurt!”

When the door opened again, the station nurse briskly walked back to her desk. The floor nurse stopped in the doorway and turned to face Jax who was rubbing her arm and sobbing.

“I’m sorry, but you have to have your medicine if you want to get better.”

Jax glared at the nurse and ignored my presence. Seizing the opportunity, I lifted my leg and leaked on the station nurses’ white shoes. She lifted her leg and shouted, “Hey, stop that!”

I heard Jax giggling as I ran down the hall. The station nurse gave chase until we both were out of Jax’s line of sight. She covered her own mouth to hold in her own laughter as the floor nurse walked the opposite direction with an audible squish and slurp every other step.

The janitor winked at me as he passed with his mop bucket, and I watched from a distance while he cleaned up the water by Jax’s room. I could see the janitor’s lips move as he spoke to Jax, but I couldn’t make out what was said over the half dozen televisions playing in the different rooms.

I waited until the floor was dry and then walked past Jax’s room. She glanced at me as I passed. She didn’t stiffen up this time. The station nurse gave me an encouraging nod, and I slowly peeked around the door frame.

Jax pointed at me and curled her little finger twice, so I lowered my head and cautiously stepped into her room. When I reached her bed, I slowly raised my head up and peeked over the covers. The freckles that dotted her cheeks only made her more adorable.

She placed an open hand on top of my head, and I nuzzled under it encouraging her to pet me. A moment later, I heard her softly say, “I don’t like that nurse either. I guess we can be friends.”

Mission accomplished, Jax and I now have a common cause, and I know how to brighten her day. The floor nurse on the other hand might want to consider bringing a dry pair of shoes and a change of clothes to work for the foreseeable future.

2019 Eddie D. Moore

Eddie D. Moore travels extensively for work, and he spends much of that time listening to audio books. The rest of the time is spent dreaming of stories to write and he spends the weekends writing them. His stories have been published by The Martian Wave, Kzine, Alien Dimensions, Theme of Absence, Devolution Z, and Fantasia Divinity Magazine. Find more on his blog: https://eddiedmoore.wordpress.com/.

Find more by Eddie D. Moore in the Author Index.

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