By: Stephen Halpert
Tommy’s mom called him to come in for supper. She tousled his blond head and said, “go wash your hands and get the germs off them.”
“That’s what you always say.” His hands looked clean to him.
“Your father will be home soon and I want you to be ready to sit down with us for supper.”
“I am,” the seven-year-old said.
She sensed that belligerent nature doubtless inherited from his father’s side.
Her voice rose. “Go wash your hands and face, now!”
Reluctantly he trudged into the downstairs bathroom and turned on the light. That’s when he saw the tiny black speck on the side of his thumb. As he put his hands under the water, it jumped onto the plastic soap dish.
“What’s for supper?” His father asked coming home from work. Later, as they finished, he said, “Today they announced there’ll be no promotions in our department.”
“Maybe it’s time to look elsewhere?” She said.
“Do you want to move?” He asked.
“If it comes to that,” she said, although she wanted to stay where they were. “We’re young! Your career is what’s important not so much where we live.”
Tommy piped up. “I don’t want to move. I don’t want to lose my friends.”
“That won’t happen,” his father said. “We’ll be fine.”
Later David went into the downstairs bathroom. Checking the bottom of the soap dish he saw that the speck seemed bigger. On its middle there was a little orange dot the size of a crumb.
He decided not to tell his mom about the speck. She’d just throw it away. He looked at his new pet. “She’s always talking about germs outside,” Tommy grinned. “That’s where I found you, so I’ll call you Germ.”
As the days passed Tommy noticed his parents seemed more worried than usual. Most days, dinner time was pretty quiet. Neither of them said much. They hardly touched their food.
Maybe their appetites already moved away, he thought. As time went on, even when they did speak, they disagreed about practically everything.
After three weeks Germ had grown. ” I’d better hide you in my room. You’re getting bigger.” He started upstairs with the soap dish. “My mom says everyone has to eat so they can grow! I wonder what I should feed you?” He removed the soap and hid the dish on a shelf at the back of his closet. He considered what he was doing his first scientific experiment. What that experiment was exactly, he wasn’t sure.
One day his father came home from work. He hugged Tommy’s mother and Tommy saw tears in his eyes. “Starting next month, the entire department’s been laid off,” he said.
“I guess that’s it then,” she said. “I’ll get the house ready to sell.”
Tommy perked up. “Why can’t you ask God for your job back so we won’t have to move?”
“I doubt that God has any experience helping people keep their jobs,” his dad said. Then he smiled. “Nice thought though.”
“”If he made it rain that long like in the Noah’s Ark story, why can’t he get you back your job?”
After dinner he went upstairs and checked in on Germ. He watched it slide around the soap dish. “You must be getting very hungry, got to find you food,” he said. He went downstairs.
“What do germs eat?” he asked his father.
Caught unaware and feeling particularly morose he looked at his son and said, “District Managers!”
“Especially the one who jettisoned your father’s department,” his mother added.
His father sighed.
Several days later Tommy asked his mom “Can we go see daddy at work?”
“Sure,” she said. “Why not! Let’s surprise him and take him out for lunch.”
Tommy extracted Germ from the soap dish and enticed his creature into a matchbox. By now it had grown tiny feet and was the size of a small red ant. Tommy noticed teeny wings on either side of the orange dot. He grinned proudly.
As they walked toward his father’s office Tommy saw the sign District Manager on an open office door. Inside was an empty cluttered desk. “Oh good,” he thought lagging behind his mom. “Now you can eat!” He opened the matchbox and watched Germ fly into the office. Then he smiled and caught up with her.
Several days later Tommy’s father said. “Weird stuff at work. The District Manager’s in the hospital. Apparently, his skin turned orange, and he appears to be delirious from time to time.
The good news is that he’s been replaced and the new guy has rescinded his order to lay off my department. We’re all saved.”
I wonder what he came down with?” Asked his mother.
“Apparently some rare germ with no known antidote.”
“Really,” she said. “I hope the poor man recovers and doesn’t stay orange all his life.”
Tommy listened carefully to their conversation. “Maybe God made him orange,” he said.
Both parents looked at him and smiled.
After supper Tommy went outside to the edge of the driveway where he liked to play. There in the outskirts of a puddle he saw another infinitesimal black speck with an almost invisible orange dot. Avoiding it, he played elsewhere.
From that day on every time he came inside from playing, he always made sure to carefully wash his hands.
Shop for Stephen’s book, ABACADABRA MOONSHINE & OTHER STORIES by Stephen Halpert, online at: https://smile.amazon.com/