Tuesday, November 11, 2008
Jimmy and the Black Dot
Jimmy was excited! He had been waiting for this day for a long time. Today was they day of the eclipse.
They had studied eclipses at school. Jimmy had learned it was called a solar eclipse when the moon gets between the sun and the earth. Today was going to be a very special solar eclipse because it was going to be a total eclipse—the sun would be completely blocked for a short time.
At school, they had learned how to look at the eclipse. You should never look directly at the sun. It can hurt your eyes! The way to look at an eclipse is to poke a hole in a piece of paper and hold it above another piece of paper—white paper. The sun will shine through the piece with the hole and onto the paper on the ground and the shadow will have a dot of light where you poked the hole. Jimmy had already poked holes in about 10 different kinds of paper. He wanted to find the best one. But, when he took them outside and tested them, he found they all worked perfectly.
His teacher assured the class that when the eclipse was happening the dot in the shadow would copy what was happening in the sky. As the moon blocked the sun, the dot would have a bit missing. When the eclipse was full the dot would be gone. You would also be able to tell the eclipse was full because it would be nearly dark in the middle of the day.
Jimmy had been talking about the eclipse for weeks. His dad had surprised him last night by saying, "Jimmy, how would you like to stay home from school tomorrow and I will watch the eclipse with you?" Jimmy had jumped up and down with excitement. Just Dad and Jimmy, watching the eclipse.
Now the time was here. The eclipse would be starting soon and Jimmy had been testing his pieces of paper all morning. His dad opened the front door and asked, "How's it going? Started yet?"
Jimmy said it should start soon. His dad came out and picked up one of Jimmy's papers. He tested it out. "Hey, this works really good!"
Jimmy and his dad didn't have to wait long. Soon they noticed a piece of the dot missing. Then the missing bit got bigger.
"It's working!" Jimmy laughed. "It's really working!"
As they waited and watched, the eclipse slowly progressed. Soon, half the dot was missing.
Then the phone rang in the house. Jimmy's dad said, "I have to get that, Jimmy. I'll only be a few minutes." Jimmy didn't mind, he was having too much fun watching the eclipse.
When the eclipse was full Jimmy was amazed. The dot was gone and it was almost dark. Jimmy could just make out the shapes of things around him. It was like dusk—After the sun has gone down but before it gets completely dark.
In the semi-darkness, Jimmy had an idea. He had seen pictures of eclipses. In the pictures of full eclipses there was a ring of glowing light around a black dot. Jimmy wondered if that was what the sun looked like right now. He knew he wasn't supposed to look at the sun. But he thought, one quick look wont do any harm. And Jimmy looked at the sun.
There it was—a glowing ring in the sky. Jimmy was amazed. He should have looked away, but he didn't. After a few moments, on one side of the ring, a shiny diamond started to appear. Then it got bigger. And bigger!
Jimmy was so transfixed, he forgot he was staring at the sun. He watched as the ring disappeared completely and a shiny round diamond took it's place. It wasn't until the eclipse was finished that Jimmy had a sudden panic. I'm staring at the sun! He jerked his eyes away from the sun and looked at the ground.
Have you ever stared at a bright light and then looked at something else? If you have, then you know what happened to Jimmy's vision. He had a dot in the middle of everything he saw. It was a black spot—opposite to the big bright sun—a residual image. Everywhere Jimmy looked, the big black dot was there, in his way.
Jimmy blinked his eyes over and over. He could not get rid of the dot. He started to get scared. If Dad sees me like this, he will know something is wrong, thought Jimmy. Dad will be able to tell I am not looking at him properly. Jimmy kept blinking his eyes rapidly, hoping it would make the dot go away. But it didn't!
He decided to go for a walk around the block. Maybe if I walk, Jimmy thought, and look at lots of different stuff and blink a lot, the spot will go away. He walked and blinked—blinked and walked. Around the first corner. Then the second. And the third. He was almost home and the black dot was still as strong as ever. Then, out of the corner of his eye, Jimmy saw Andrew.
Andrew was a homeless man who often slept on the park bench around the corner from Jimmy's house. Jimmy had brought Andrew food a few times. And on hot days, if Jimmy saw Andrew, he would bring him a bottle of water. Andrew was laying on the bench. He's probably asleep, thought Jimmy as he walked and blinked.
Then Jimmy had the strangest idea. I wonder, if I put the black dot on Andrew . . . It would be like Andrew just disappeared. Like he didn't even exist. Jimmy liked the idea of making someone disappear! He stopped in front of the bench and looked straight at the sleeping Andrew.
In the black dot, the bench disappeared. Andrew was gone. Then something really weird happened. It was like a movie screen coming to life inside the black dot. The dot flickered, went bright white then black again except that Andrew was in the middle of the dot. The dot was as dark as ever, but Andrew was lit up like the sun was shining fully on him.
Andrew sat up in the black spot. He looked at Jimmy. And then he spoke. "I could really use a hug, Jimmy." Then the dot flickered, Andrew disappeared and it was just a big black spot again.
That was weird, Jimmy thought. Well, I guess I can give Andrew a hug. Jimmy leaned over Andrew on the bench—he was asleep again—and wrapped his arms around the man's shoulders.
Andrew woke with a fright. "I'll move! Don't hurt me!" Andrew shouted, "Don't take me to jail. I'll move officer!" Jimmy stumbled backward as Andrew lurched into a sitting position. "Oh, it's you, Jimmy! Why were you grabbing me?"
Jimmy said, "I thought you wanted a hug."
Andrew looked at Jimmy with a quiet stare. Then he said, "I suppose I did, Jimmy. I don't get many hugs. And I do like them!"
"I gotta go now," Jimmy said.
"Yup, ok." Andrew replied. "Come back any time you need another hug!"
"Thanks Andrew," Jimmy said. "I will."
When Jimmy go home he went into his room and closed the door. He hoped everyone would leave him alone until the dot went away. His dad yelled from the kitchen asking if Jimmy was hungry for lunch. He was, and his Dad let him eat in his room. He heard his sister and mother come home from school. They were talking about the eclipse and the great day at school. He heard his mum cooking in the kitchen. Then he heard his mum yell out, "Time for tea! Everybody to the table."
The spot was still as big and black as ever. Jimmy had been practicing walking around without bumping stuff. He was pretty good at using his peripheral vision—the edges of his view—where he could still see. He opened his door, walked down the hall, pulled out his chair and sat at the table.
During tea, Jimmy did his best not to look at anyone. It was hard to eat tea without being able to see it! He had to look at his plate out of the corner of his eye without looking strange. It was hard work and took a lot of concentration.
He had almost emptied his plate when his mum said, "Jimmy, would you like more mashed potatoes?"
"Yes please," he answered. Then as he saw her, out of the corner of his eye, scoop up some potato and reach toward his plate he looked up and said, "Thanks, Mum."
He didn't mean to do it! He just looked look up without thinking! He was a good kid and always said please and thank you. But looking up was a big mistake.
His mum was in the middle of the black spot. She had the spoon in her hand and the potatoes were in the air—frozen in mid flight! It was as if the dot stopped reality and only allowed whatever it wanted.
Jimmy's eyes were focused on his mothers face as she looked deeply into his eyes and said, "I love you so much, Jimmy. You will make mistakes in your life, but no mistake will ever be so great that I will stop loving you. I will always love you, no matter what! I need you to know that."
Then WHAM! The potatoes hit the plate. Jimmy looked back down and everything was normal again. Well, normal except for the big dot. What just happened, Jimmy wondered. Mum was so serious. I know she loves me but that was just weird. It was like I was hearing her deepest thoughts. Jimmy was confused and a little bit scared.
Jimmy cleaned off his plate, enjoyed his desert and then asked to be excused. He went to his room and went to bed early. I hope the spot is gone when I wake up in the morning! And with that thought in his mind, Jimmy fell asleep.
The next morning, when Jimmy woke up, before he opened his eyes, he said aloud, "Please be gone!" He hoped more than anything that his eyes would be back to normal. Surely a good night's sleep would fix the problem, he thought. No black dot, no black dot, he thought over and over. Then he opened his eyes.
The dot was still there, and as big and black as ever. Jimmy was upset, but got busy getting ready for school.
He made it through breakfast without looking at anyone. He brushed his teeth, packed his bag and headed to the bus stop.
When the bus arrived, Jimmy let everyone else get on first. As he entered the bus, he knew he needed to find a seat. He stared walking to the back of the bus—hoping there would be an empty seat next to the aisle. And there was!
He looked at the empty seat and then glanced up to see if anyone was in the seat next to it—by the window. His eyes met Sally's eyes.
He didn't mean to do it! It happened so quickly! Sally was in the black dot. Everything around her disappeared and Sally said, "Please sit next to me, Jimmy. And would you please talk to me?"
Jimmy plopped into the empty seat, breaking the black dots connection with Sally. They sat there in silence as the bus started rolling down the street. Then Jimmy remembered what Sally had asked. She never talked to anyone on the bus. People avoided Sally. Jimmy didn't know why, but he usually did to—just because everyone else did. But, today, she had asked him to talk to her.
"What are you doing?" Jimmy asked.
"Going to school. What are you doing?" Sally responded.
"Yeah, going to school," Jimmy said. "What do you have for lunch today?"
"A sandwich," she replied. "What about you?"
"Yeah, a sandwich," Jimmy said. "Actually two sandwiches. I always tell mum I only need one. But she makes me two because she says one day I will start growing and will want the second one."
That seemed to be enough talking for both of them. They sat in silence until the bus pulled into the school yard.
As Jimmy started to stand, Sally grabbed his arm. "Jimmy," she said, "thank you for sitting next to me. And thank you for talking to me!"
Jimmy paused, thought about it, and then said, "I thought you wanted me to sit and talk with you."
"Oh, I always want someone to sit next to me," Sally said. "And I always hope someone will talk to me." Sally's head fell forward and she stared into her lap. "But nobody ever does."
They were alone on the bus now. "Well, your welcome," Jimmy said and stood up.
Sally placed her hand on his arm again. "Jimmy," she said, "would you sit next to me on the way home today?"
"Sure." Jimmy made his way off the bus.
As he was walking down the path to the classrooms, Jimmy noticed someone on the swings. You weren't allowed on the swings before school—because there wasn't any supervision. But Frank was different. He came really early to school. And sometimes he stayed until late after school. He rarely did his homework and often didn't have a lunch. Things weren't too good at home for Frank. So, the teachers gave him a bit of leeway—turning a blind eye to his use of playground equipment.
Frank was swinging really high. Some kids could go so high that Jimmy wondered if they would go right over the top of the swing-set. Frank was going super-crazy high. Jimmy was so caught up wondering about how high Frank was swinging that he stopped walking and stared at Frank.
He didn't mean to do it! He forgot! He looked right at swing-set. Frank, in mid-backswing—at the highest point—froze in the black dot. He was hovering impossibly above the ground. In his frozen state, Frank turn his head and looked right at Jimmy. "I'm really hungry Jimmy. I haven't had any breakfast." Frank said, and then started to swing again.
Jimmy reached into his back and opened his lunch. He took out the extra sandwich and walked over to Frank, making sure not to look directly at him. "Hey Frank, I have an extra sandwich," Jimmy said. "Do you want it?"
Frank dug his heals into the dirt and brought the swing to a screeching halt. He looked long and hard at Jimmy. "Why?" Frank asked, "Why are you giving me your sandwich?"
"I thought you were hungry," Jimmy replied. "And my mum always gives me two."
"I am hungry," Frank said looking at his feet as they dangled from the swing. "But how did you know that?"
"It's hard to explain," Jimmy answered, "You just look like you haven't had breakfast."
"That's true," Frank said in surprise. "I haven't eaten since yesterday."
Jimmy reached his arm out, extending the sandwich toward Frank. Frank took the sandwich, thanked Jimmy and started to eat it ferociously.
Jimmy saw one of the teachers headed up the path, directly toward the playground. Even out of the corner of his eye Jimmy could tell it was Mr Rankie.
Jimmy rushed for the path, he didn't want to get in trouble. Mr Rankie was the cranky teacher. He was always grumpy and telling kids off for doing things. Nobody knew why he was never happy. He was so mean that he was alone. Nobody lived with him. No wife. No kids. He was too grumpy for family, that's what the other kids said.
Jimmy was on the path now. He tried to walk normally—like he had been on the path all along, like he wasn't just on the playground. He didn't want to get in trouble. He walked toward Mr Rankie. And Mr Rankie walked toward him. Oh, no! Jimmy thought, I'm going to get in so much trouble.
When he was about to pass Mr Rankie, he was so nervous he forgot about the black spot. He knew if he said something nice it would help. Jimmy looked up at Mr Rankie and smiled.
He didn't mean to do it! It was an accident! And now Mr Rankie was in the middle of the big black spot.
Jimmy stood frozen like a statue. Mr Rankie looked down at him. "I'm not really a mean teacher," Mr Rankie said, looking deeply into Jimmy's eyes. "I just need someone to love me."
Jimmy stood there—it seemed like forever—studying Mr Rankie's face. He doesn't know he just said that to me, Jimmy thought. Everyone seems surprised when I know what I have learned about them from the black spot. Maybe I should just go around Mr Rankie and go to class. But Jimmy had a weird feeling about what he had just heard Mr Rankie say. He may not know he needs someone to love him, but he does need it.
Jimmy sat his backpack on the ground. Then he stood as tall as he could, wrapped his arms around Mr Rankie and gave him the biggest hug a little boy can give. While still hugging Mr Rankie, Jimmy looked up at his face and said, "I love you, Mr Rankie!"
A big tear ran down Mr Rankie's cheek. He rested one of his hands on Jimmy's shoulder and tussled Jimmy's hair with the other one. "I love you too, Jimmy," Mr Rankie said. "Thank you for that hug."
"Your welcome, Mr Rankie," Jimmy said with a smile. Then he picked up his bag and ran to class.
As the day went on, the spot slowly faded from Jimmy's vision. By the time he got on the bus that afternoon, and sat next to Sally, the spot was completely gone.
After talking to Sally for awhile, Jimmy stared out the bus window and thought about the black spot and all that he had learned from it.
Then Jimmy made a decision, "I don't ever want to stop seeing people the way I saw them after looking at the sun."
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