by Molly Dowling
I am holding Dad’s hand. We walk through dense crowds in concrete summer heat. Dad walks fast. For every one step he takes, I take three. We’re going to catch the Tube.
People up ahead are clumped in a semi-circle. They all face the same way. We squeeze through. As dad cuts past the front, I turn to see what they look at.
A man stands wearing a black and white stripy top and white gloves. His face is painted bright white. I stop and look. I’m surprised. The man seems to be inside a box. His white hands feel the inside walls. I don’t understand.
I lean forward, trying to see the box. Still I can’t. His hands push above his head. There is a ceiling on the box too. I wonder why he is in this box, why nobody helps him. People watch and smile. Some have their phones out. I feel bad for the man. I walk closer.
Spotting me, he pauses. He looks down at me. I look up at him. A white glove waves, and he smiles. I smile and wave back. He must be ok if he’s smiling.
Suddenly, he grabs something on the box. I watch. He twists it… A handle! There must be a door. He swings it open and steps outside. He looks very relieved, wiping his forehead. This makes me laugh.
Holding the door, he looks at me. His other hand offers for me to go in the box. At first, I am scared. But people around me start to clap. Up close, the man looks sweaty. There are streaks in his white paint, his face looks tired. He has kind eyes. I decide he is a nice man.
I step into the box. I turn to look at the crowd. Everybody cheers! I feel good.
Then, the man closes the door.
There is no door. I look up and all around me. There is no box! It’s just pretend! The man is playing Pretending. I’m excited. I know this! I do Pretending all the time!
I see the handle. I reach and turn it. I open the door, and walk outside. Everybody goes crazy. The man is laughing and clapping. I feel happy that I made these people happy.
The man holds up a finger, and turns away. He turns back. Making an ‘O’ with one hand, he draws a big loop coming from it with the other. I’m confused. A necklace? Then I understand. A medal! A gold one!
He places the loop over my head. The medal is on my chest. Everyone claps again. Just then, dad’s head appears in the crowd. I didn’t realise we separated. He grabs my hand, pulling me away. I turn to wave. I see the white hand waving back.
Dad’s annoyed because we missed the Tube, but I don’t mind. I’m wearing my gold shiny medal. Dad doesn’t see it. I don’t mind this either. I wear it all day.