“2017/365/91 Smoking Candle” by cogdogblog is marked with CC0 1.0
Cream was the color of the carpet on which a boy with ginger locks sat on. He sat on it everyday. Its rough texture made his skin light red and bumpy. That did not matter to him, for in his hands he held his dolls. Dolls made of wax. The wax was pale yellow and neatly carved. His collection consisted of three: a little boy, a little girl, and a lion. From the hours of 8 o’clock in the morning to 7 o’clock in the evening he played with them. Nobody interrupted him. The nanny sat quietly reading the newspaper rather than interacting with him. The dolls were the only things in his life that loved him back. They never went anywhere, they never left, they always stayed by him.
This boy’s life was like this until he reached the age of six, then he went to public school. For the next four years he brought the wax dolls in his lunch box. Each one wrapped in plastic and next to an icepack. When his classmates asked about them he did not respond and when his teachers found this peculiar they had a counselor watch him everyday.
“Rian, what about playing with the other boys?” asked the counselor.
The boy shrugged and continued playing, having the little girl wax doll ride the lion and the little boy wax doll chase after them.
After a few similar encounters, the counselor’s verdict was that the boy was shy and there was nothing wrong with him. So, by the time he began to grow out of playing with the wax dolls, he was lonely and had no friends.
Each day of fourth grade he sat quietly in the front of the class waiting to go home. Not that there was anything or anyone special to go home to. He just longed to be away. Anywhere but school. Yet, he still sat quietly, waiting for the bell to ring and be able to walk home. For a year it went like this.
Rian’s house was only a few blocks away in a quaint neighborhood. It was old and creaked, rust grew on the gate leading up to the front door. The roof was missing a few shingles and the windows had a strange green tint. When Rian walked inside he crossed over the rough carpet he had made so many indistinguishable memories on.
Although by now he had grown out of playing with the wax dolls, every so often he found himself returning to them and just holding them in his hands. They were like peanut butter which was a comfort food of his. Nostalgia flowed through him accompanied with sadness. Sadness because he knew, deep down that the only reason he played with them was because his parents were always gone. His mom was a lawyer and his dad worked in a restaurant. His parents decided to hire nannies when he was younger but it never worked out.
“Why does he play with dolls?…”
“I should be paid more….”
“Your house house frightens me…”
“Your child is weird…”
Each excuse was more blunt than the last. Rian’s parents finally hired their house maid as Rian’s nanny and continued to go to work. She lasted 8 months like all the others and then moved across the country to retire.
Rian did not care. If his parents were around to ask him what he wanted, he would have just said,
“I’d rather have no nanny. I just want you guys home.”
This was his wish that he asked for on all his birthdays. And one day his wish came true, but with consequences. It was March of 2020 that schools were shut down, restaurants were closed, shopping malls were deserted, and homes were more occupied than ever, including Rian’s. His parents started to work from home.
Outside, progressingly got more intimidating. Appliances and grocery stores were emptying out. Rian’s family added a lock on their rusty gate and planted hedges to keep onlookers out. Police cars drove up and down each street. Eventually Rian’s father was let go from his job along with millions of other people, but his mother kept working to provide for the family. This caused many fights and an abundance of stress.
Several months passed and the world was still on lockdown and Rian’s family moved to the edge of separation. It did not render Rian surprised and he began playing with his wax dolls again. His father let him be while he repaired the house, since it was too dangerous for Rian to help. Soon there was no strange green tint on the windows, no missing shingles on the roof, and no rust of the gate.
As it got closer to winter, the leaves on the hedges around their yard had fallen and rain sprinkled the ground almost everyday. The rain soon turned to hail and then thunder and lightning.
One day the power went out. Rian’s family resorted to the drawers of candles beneath the kitchen cupboard and few flashlights they owned for light. Rian’s mother continued to work on paper documents because her computer did not work with no power. She had to work like this for a week. Nobody dared go out in the storm and rain to fix electric panels at the risk of death from electrocution. For so many nights there had been no power so Rain’s family’s candle supply was rapidly dwindling.
When they reached the remaining ones, Rian’s dad was very fed up with the power not working among other things.
“I’m going out.”
“Where on earth do you think you’re going?” asked Rian’s mother.
“I am going to go and fix our power since it seems nobody else will.”
“Don’t be ridiculous,” said Rian’s mother.
“Well, we’ve called far more than enough times and it still isn’t fixed! We only have a couple candles left and no fire wood and our flashlights are starting to run out of battery. So, what do you suggest?”
“Do you really think, you of all people, can fix it?” Rian’s mother replied to her husband. “Especially considering that I was the one who fixed the garbage disposal last spring!”
“It’s better than being cooped up in this house either way!”
“Fine! You do that, go ahead and freeze for all I care.”
Usually Rian would ask to go with his father and play in the puddles but of all days his stomach felt nauseous. Earlier he got the wax dolls out and was still sitting on the scratchy cream carpet with them. In a matter of minutes though he quickly stood up, abandoning the wax dolls and followed his mother outside in the downpour because just after his father went out, there was a cracking noise. Rian’s mother had looked at him with worried eyes and stood up to leave.
“Stay here Rian,” she had said and went out the door, slamming it behind.
Rian disregarded what his mother said and leapt up to follow her out. He was not going to be left alone again.
The rain was harsh and slapped his cheeks pink. He could barely see through his glasses but saw a blurry mound of dirt moving. It was not dirt he saw though, it was his parents slowly moving towards him.
“Rian, I told you to stay inside!” The downpour was so loud the only way to hear yourself was to shout.
“Mama, I can help!” Rian said. “What’s wrong with dad?!”
Rian’s dad was limping and clutched to his wife’s shoulders.
“Sweetie, your papa’s fine!” the father said. “We can tell you more inside!”
“Honey, could you get your father’s other side!” his mother asked.
So Rian did, and together they helped his father inside to the couch. It was here that Rian’s family began becoming united again. Rian’s father laid on their beige couch with his head rested on a pillow and his feet extending off the couch’s arms. His mother had gone to get blankets and towels out of the closet. Rian was going to say something but his father closed his eyes before he could.
“Here honey,” Rian’s mother handed him a towel and a soft blanket. “Dry off and wrap up in the blanket.”
This woke Rian’s father up.
“I bet you want to know what happened Rian.” said his father.
Rian nodded and his dad explained what had happened looking both at Rian and his wife. He told them a tree in their front yard fell and when he was running away so he would not get hurt, he fell and twisted his ankle.
“That’s what the sound was then,” said Rian.
“Yes, and for future reference Rian, you never go out in a storm unless it is absolutely necessary,” his mom said. “Your father is lucky to be alive.”
Now, the three of them were in the living room sitting together, which was a rare occasion. It was the perfect time for Rian to ask the question he always wondered.
“Why do you guys not love me?”
Both his parents were taken aback by this.
“We do honey…” his mother started.
“… and we always have and will,” finished his father.
“But you’re never here with me,” The boy’s hazel eyes teared up as he said this.
“Oh honey, it’s because we’re working so you can go to college and never have to worry about money in the future like your dad and I did.”
“But I don’t care about the money, I just want you guys! All I’ve had to do is play with these wax dolls!”
The parents wished they could explain to him the hardships they went through to be where they are now. Instead they decided to explain the dolls.
“Did you know that your name means ‘king’? And that the Lion King was the first movie you ever saw and you loved it?”
“I don’t understand.”
“I know, what your mother‘s trying to say is that’s why we gave you a lion. Because you’re our lion king.”
“Oh, then why the boy and the girl?”
His parents were not quite ready to bring up the subject of Rian’s late brother and sister.
And so, as the days went on Rian’s family played board games and cards while they still had a few candles for light. Two days went by, there were no candles left, and the power was still out. It was still raining heavily and Rian’s father’s foot was not fully better. When the sun began to set, Rian thought of a possible answer for light.
“Honey you don’t have to shout when we’re right next to you,” said Rian’s mother.
“We could use the wax dolls as candles!” Rian said excitedly.
“Your mother and I thought about that but do you really want to part with them?”
“Are you sure honey?” asked his mother.
“They are already losing shape and we need light so why not?” said Rian.
He was correct. The dolls had become deformed, Rian had held them so much that the faces of them were covered in his fingerprints and the limbs were twisted at odd angles.
“Alright, if you say so!” said his father. “It’s your choice.”
And so, that afternoon, Rian and his mother inserted a wick into each of the doll’s heads. Then when the sun began to set Rian lit them and watched them burn and melt.
He never regretted his decision once.
Evelina is a freshman at San Marcos High School…