Kim Gray

Toonie and The Dark Cloud

She had been born under a bad sign. A bad meteorological sign, that is. The day she came into the world, it was a
dark and stormy night. Overused clichés aside , it was the truth. The weather man had predicted a 100% chance of heavy
showers and scattered thunderstorms. It was the worst weather the city had seen in decades. The streets began to flood and
the booms of thunder would rattle the windows.

But, that was the least of worries of a heavily pregnant young wife. She was just recently admitted, having found that her
water had broke. The delivery went smoothly as could be expected, finally, she had given birth. However, the present nurses all
agreed that it was a very strange child that was now before them .Naturally, no one dared to vocalize this, lest they appear shallow.

The baby was tiny, but it looked as if her head, hands and feet were too big for her. It would be years before she’d grow into
them, if ever. To top it off, she had humongous eyes, with a teensy little line of a mouth. She looked like something out a
cartoon. Stranger still, the infant was absolutely silent .She gave no cries or screams. She just sat there staring, right through
the hospital staff. Imagine their surprise upon discovering that the child was staring at a small dark cloud that had appeared
out of nowhere, and was now hovering over the newborn!

Wanting to keep composure, the doctors and the nurses ignored the little cloud went about their duties.  Their mouths said
“She’s beautiful”, “She’s lovely”, but their minds said, “She’s a freak.” At that moment however, the dark cloud drenched
them all, as if to say ‘I heard that ’.

Her mother however, was beside herself with joy. She didn’t notice the subtle disdain of the hospital staff  , nor did she see
the small dark cloud that still hovered over her child. All she saw was her baby, how beautiful she was, the love and wonder
in her large eyes.

“You remind me of a cartoon I used to watch as a kid. It was about a koala cub named Petunia, and she was my
absolute favorite.”

This is how Petunia, ‘Toonie’ for short was ushered into this rollercoaster we call life.

Although just a baby, Toonie understood that this cloud was going to be a constant companion .When her parents took her
home from the hospital, they were a little alarmed to see a cloud continually follow their daughter. When they put her in her
bassinet, the cloud would descend low enough for Toonie to reach for its wispy ends with her baby fingers. Toonie was
delighted, and after much activity of playing with her cloudy friend, she fell asleep.

Deeply concerned, Toonie’s parents tried their hardest to get rid of it. Her father tried to yank the cloud away, it responded by
zapping his hand with miniature lightning bolts. Her mother tried to use a fire extinguisher, thinking that the foam might dissolve
it. But the cloud just sneezed and then shrugged the foam off. It wasn’t going anywhere.

As Toonie grew up, she spent a lot of time with her cloud friend. Its’ clinginess was a bother to her parents for sure, but, what
was a real bother was the reactions of people. Toonie was aware of being ridiculously petite with freakishly large eyes, but she
didn’t believe she was any weirder than others. But when she would take walks, strangers would always stare and point at the
troll child with a levitating cloud.

One passerby muttered to his friend to check out the midget with wombat eyes and a floating cloud.

Toonie jumped around excitedly, trying to get a glimpse of the ‘midget’ child they were talking about. Unfortunately, she saw no
one. So she figured that it had probably left, not wanting to hear all those negative comments that had been said about it. 

They decided it was a fine day to play in the park .They invited some children their age to join them. Toonie and the cloud though,
wanted to be respectful. So, they both went up to group of parents and their children walking on the sidewalk .She tried to appear as
friendly as possible. “Hello, Ma’am, I was wondering if your kid and I could play together in a park.” The cloud bounced up and down
in a happy greeting. The children’s parents glanced at Toonie and her cloud companion . My word what big eyes! Do they really want
their precious children playing with a stumpy martian child and her weird cloud thing?

Avoiding eye contact, and faking the biggest smiles possible, they all said the same thing. “Um… thank you, but we all have plans.”

Toonie was puzzled, so she asked her parents, “Mother, Father how can they all have plans?  Doesn’t that seem a little strange to you?”

Her parents did not know how to answer, and after an awkward silence, Toonie quipped, “Oh boy, now I remember, there is a
festival today! My, I must have seemed so rude to try to get them to break their plans to just to go to an ordinary park!”

So off Toonie and her cloud went to play  .They found the swings and Toonie pushed the cloud until it went so high that it slipped
out of its seat. Then it was the clouds turn to push Toonie. They had a great time, her parents could hear them both laughing. The
park was packed that day, but once people saw Toonie and her cloud, for some reason everyone let them have the park to themselves.

When they had tea parties , they would invite all the other little girls on the block , but no one would ever come .They figured maybe their
dress code was a little too strict , after all the invitations did say –hat and gloves required . Stuffy maybe, but it was tradition. Toonie
would wear her wide brimmed hat with a large green bow, and the cloud would borrow her pink pillbox hat with a veil. The cloud
grumbled a little, it felt that it looked ridiculous. But, it wanted to be a gracious guest. The cloud couldn’t lift the teacup, so Toonie
would hold it up high so it could drink. Following etiquette, it made sure to sip the tea demurely and kept its pinky up.

One day, they decided to go to the carnival. Not wanting to be a bad patron Toonie asked if the cloud had to pay admission. Not
knowing the policy on stowaway clouds, the attendant let the cloud in for free, but said it had to buy plenty of snacks. This time the
cloud did not grumble once, it was in a great mood. After riding the coaster, spinning in humongous teacups, swinging on the
pendulum, Toonie and the cloud felt a little queasy. So they decided to take a break and get their faces painted.

Toonie opted for a bright orange tropical bird with its outstretched feathers to be painted on the left side of her cheek. The cloud
chose a smiley face, but the paint couldn’t dry on its surface. So it just dripped down, leaving a trail of yellow paint when it followed
Toonie to the next diversion.

 When the two sat down to eat some cotton candy and watch the street shows, the other patrons assumed she was part of the freak
show performers.  After having watched bearded ladies, giant babies, and a reptilian man, Toonie and the dark cloud were much less
bizarre. After all, they assumed it was all part of an act.

Not wanting to disappoint their audience the pair came with a series of some impromptu acts. Toonie would do a rain dance and then
the cloud would shower the audience. She would then pretend to be a mad scientist while the cloud darkened and put on a spectacular
lightening show .That day they both earned about $60 from tips.

A young man, probably just starting college, had been watching the entire performance .While the rest of the small audience enjoyed the
show, he looked apathetic. His arms were crossed and his lips were pulled into a tight scowl. His sour face continued even when the crowd
had departed. He stood there for a while, sulking and staring at Toonie and the cloud. Finally, he could no longer handle it. He angrily
charged forward until he was right in front of Toonie.

“Do you realize what you’ve done?!”  He was flailing his arms , shouting at the top of his lungs at little Toonie. He was of an
average height, but she was so small that in comparison he looked like a bear towering over a baby fox.

Toonie was taken aback, she hung her head. “Yes, I’m sorry. I probably needed a permit to perform with my friend. Are you
here to fine me?”

That just made him angrier, his face turned red and the veins in his neck began to show.

“That’s not what I am talking about!” “Don’t you realize that now, you’ll always be a freak to these people?” “You’ll
always be a performing monkey!!”

“No, sir, I have no monkey, just a cloud.” “Adopting a monkey is very difficult these days.” she said with wide eyed honesty.

He sighed.

“Let’s try this again  ... You know that you have a cloud hanging over your head, don’t you?”

The young man was not prepared for her next answer.

“Oh of course! She’s my best friend; I named her Strawberry Sherbert , Sherbert for short. What did you name your cloud?”
Toonie gave a toothless smile; she had just lost her two front baby teeth.

“My cloud? I don’t have a cloud, you do.”

Toonie gave a childish giggle.

“Oh really so what is that there?” She pointed up above him.

The young man turned his neck .Bewildered, he saw that, up above his head was a shadow, above the shadow was a
plumpish gray cloud. How long had that been there? His eyes darted back and forth from Toonie to Sherbert and then back
to his own cloud again. He did this a few times. He counted, one cloud, two clouds. One cloud, two clouds. Sherbert and mine.
His hands were shaking and his lips stammering . Toonie couldn’t understand the words he was saying. He kept staring at the
cloud above him for several moments. Toonie used this time to buy different colored balloons with the money she had earned.

“Um, mister  ... I have to go now. My parents are going to worry if I’m gone too long.” Toonie then turned away and started to walk.

“Wait! You can’t go!” He was finally snapped out of his stupor. He frantically walked by her side and began to desperately fire
off a round of questions.

“How long have you known about your cloud?”

“You mean, Sherbert? She was there when I was born.”

“How did you come to realize that you had a cloud?”

“It’s pretty hard not to notice Sherbert, she’s always around me”, Toonie and Sherbert shared a chuckle.

 “So , what does it do then ? Is it just going to rain on me every day?” he wailed.

“No, not every day, only when it’s upset, or when it’s being playful. Don’t worry the water is a little cold but it’s always refreshing.”

“Will it ever zap me with lightening?”

“Sometimes, but it’s not very strong.”

The young man was near tears. He cried out in frustration “Why did this have to happen to me?

“Sir, don’t feel bad. Everyone is born with a dark cloud above them. I can see all the clouds above the people here in this
carnival. But for some reason, everyone pretends  that they are not there. I think that hurts the clouds feelings and the cloud rains on them
until they are noticed.”

The young man felt little comfort. He sarcastically blurted out, “Well, isn’t this grand?”

“Yes it is! I never feel alone. I always have someone to play with or someone to listen to me . Guess what my favorite part is?”

“What?”

“After the thunderstorms, lightening, and the rain are all done, out comes the sunshine and the rainbows! .Just remember that,
and you’ll be alright mister.”

Toonie forgave him for his outburst earlier; she knew he wasn’t angry, just sad. She then went on her way, and left the young man to h
is own thoughts. After some reflection, the young man mustered enough courage to begin walking to his car.

He never could put his finger on it, but he had known that something had been hanging over him his entire life. For him, life had been
one endless, miserably rainy parade. Well,at least  now he knew where the rain was coming from. But like other people, he didn’t even
know how to identify the root cause of his dark cloud. He knew even less on how to deal with it, let alone how to become chummy with it.
At last, he reached his car and was about to open the door. He looked back at the carnival from which he had come .He saw that strange,
large eyed girl and Sherbert. The girl was clutching her precious balloons; my how she had bought a large cluster! All of that helium would
periodically lift her above the ground .The cloud would fly to the very top of the highest balloon and gently push it back down , and then Toonie
would be touching the ground again.

He lifted his eyes to stare squarely into the cloud he had tried so hard to ignore for years. Ok, no more hiding now. When he finally spoke,
his voice was different. He was calm but resolute.

 “Hello, it seems we never introduced ourselves. My name is Brian.”

“I think I will call you Max. That was the name of my brother. We used to be very close, but not anymore. Life is funny that way .Well, this time
Max can’t shut me out anymore .Why don’t we go home now, Max?”

With that, ‘Max’ nodded made his way into the car. He hovered slightly to the right of his host and politely gave him a few rays of sunshine.
 
 

 

All rights belong to its author. It was published on e-Stories.org by demand of Kim Gray.
Published on e-Stories.org on 03/10/2013.

 

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