By Paul Riches
Because I am on Daddy’s shoulders, I know what I must do. Bend myself way down, till my face is in Daddy’s hair, something I have always liked doing since it smells so nice. Besides, it is only for a few seconds, just to get us through the door of the store.
And now we are inside.
“Okay Eli-Sweetie, you can stop smelling my stinky hair now.” Daddy makes jokes like that with the most normal voice, which fills my stomach with giggles.
“Eeeeww! Your hair smells really yucky Daddy!” I play along, just like Daddy likes me to, making more giggles pop up in her tummy.
“Well than, Elinor, sweetie, howsabout we get some nice, great, grand chocolate bars so that we can wash the foul smell of my hair from your mouth?” Daddy looks up at me, and I can see the smile I love.
I am up high, right where I belong, getting the royal treatment today, the great day, in which all other days will never be as good as.
Forever ago of a week, or is it two?, Mommy and Daddy told me about a trip to see my new school. I know all about my old school, the one I never ever went to, because of the move for Mommy’s job. Now we live, with Daddy and Mommy and Laura and the promised dog we have not yet gotten, back to the place Mommy and Daddy came from. It took a week for me to get my tongue used to the name of this new home, called Toronto, something my baby sister, who we just dropped off at Grampies, is too little to do.
Daddy’s plan, that we high fived on, is to have a trip just for us. Firstly is the corner store, which I like because of the chocolates and candy and comic books. Daddy said we would need something from the sugar food group to survive the trip.
I look around the store from way up high, and notice how different it is. It was all exciting down below, but even more exciting from up here, with the potato chips looking like mountains. Each aisle is so long before, but now seem like they go on forever. I see the dust hanging from the lights and wonder how they sweep up here.
Waiting in line, Daddy is at the chocolate bars, with hundreds and hundreds in front of us. Finally everyone goes and Daddy picks our two, and I know right away which one is mine. A nice man behind the counter takes our money and smiles. I don’t remember him from before, but he sees me way up here.
I like his face and his smile and his happiness.
“Say hello to the clouds for me!” The boy says to me. I like that.
“Okay I will!” I tell him and start kicking my legs just because. That sounds like a great idea. Why have I never done that before?
“Ouch, ouch, ouch ouch.” Daddy says as he hands me my chocolate. He said ouch every time I kicked him, because Daddy is funny that way.
Bending my head one more time, we leave the store and see the bright sunshine. Turning my head around from one side to another side, I try to find some clouds. I spot one, floating away over some houses, and wave both of my hands at it.
“Hello cloud! And hello from the man in the store!” I shout real loud, because the cloud is so far away and it keeps going.
“Don’t ever stop taking things literally Eli-Sweetie.”
“What does that word mean?”
“Nothing. Just keep being you.”
We walk along to the school, my school, my new school. Kindergarten is months and months away and I cannot wait.
I rip open the chocolate bar and put as much as possible into my mouth. I need a bigger mouth.
A dog, with four legs and a tongue flopping about, walks down a driveway we pass. I wish the dog would look up and smile at me. Maybe if I talked to the dog?
“Hello doggie! And hello from the man in the store!”
The dog looks up at me. It’s tongue starts dripping on the driveway. Maybe the dog wants chocolate?
Daddy starts laughing and spitting crumbs out in front of him.
“Mommy says you should not laugh and eat and walk because you might choke and get sick and end up in the hospital.” I am very proud to remember all that, and say it the same way Mommy does.
We turn a corner and for the first time see the school and it is beautiful. Even up here on Daddy’s shoulders, it looks big and large and full of bricks.
“Wow.” I open my mouth as wide as possible. I hope no flies go in.
“Pretty cool, eh?” Daddy takes another bite from his chocolate bar.
“Wow. Can we touch it?” I shove as much of the chocolate bar into my mouth as I can. My new school deserves something tasty.
Daddy starts laughing again and again he spits crumbs out.
“DADDY! Mommy says you should not laugh and eat and walk because you might choke and get sick and end up in the hospital.” For the second time, I am very proud to remember everything Mommy says.
Daddy’s voice sounds all junky, kind of like a laugh, but not enough.
“You are quite right Elinor. And Daddy is going to have to teach you some of his sayings, just to equal everything out.”
“Equal? You are going to teach me math?”
“No, Mommy has ruled that one out. And Eli-Sweetie, keep being you.”
Daddy walks over to the school, right up to the sign saying its name. I lean a bit and put my hand on the wall, and it is really brick. I look at the name on the sign and know some of the letters, but not enough.
“What’s the name of my school again? I wanna know what to call it.”
“It’s called SummerFall Junior School. It’s been around for years and years. Mommy and Daddy and Grandpa went here. And…” Daddy walks us over a few steps, going right by the big doors, almost all made up of glass. I see inside a big empty hallway, with only some of the lights on. I hope they turn on the rest when school starts up.
Daddy stops by the next window. We see a plaque inside with even more writing, but it is smaller and harder to read.
“What’s it say? What’s it say?” I thump my feet on Daddy’s chest.
“Ouch, ouch, ouch, ouch.” Daddy says as he grabs my feet.
“…As I was saying before you attacked me you little dictator, one of your great great great great or something grandfathers got this school built. Waaaaay back in 1960.” Daddy proudly tells me.
“Which one? How long ago? He built it all by himself? Does that mean we own it? Is he still inside? Can we sell it? How much is—“ Daddy stops me from asking more.
“Whoah, whoah, whoah! Lots of questions, all falling under the umbrella called Ask Mommy. But I can text her one question right now. Which one do you want answered right this very second?” Daddy pulls out his phone and starts hitting buttons. I am not allowed to hit buttons anymore.
“The first one! Which great great great great great great grandfather built my school?” I wave my arms in the air, hoping to get the answer faster that way.
“Okay, typing away. Okay, hitting send. Okay, letting the network fly it away to Mommy now.” Daddy flaps his hand in the air as he says this.
“And don’t forget to say hello to Mommy for me. And hello from the man in the store!” I lean down to look at Daddy’s phone, to make sure he sends the text.
“Okay, once more into the network I go.” Daddy clicks buttons again on his phone.
As Daddy turns to leave, I shout so the inside of the school can hear me.
“Hello my school hallway! And hello from the man at the store.”
We walk away and start going around the huge building, with Daddy laughing so much I jiggled on top. It is all wall, wall, wall, all made of brick, brick, brick. It is hard and makes a smack sound when I whack it. Along the way, windows keep popping up. We look inside and see classrooms with no light and lots of tables and chairs. It first I am excited and bounce my feet on Daddy’s chest, but after the same classroom over and over again, it looks kinda boring. Daddy says they are all different and I will be learning so much and having a lot of fun. I hope so. But I forget to say hello to every room, even for the man from the store.
Daddy starts whistling that song I like but can never remember the name of. I call it the doo-doo song because that is what it sounds like, and those are the words I made up for it. I think he is doing this because he knows my school feels boring. We finish our chocolate bars, and I hope something happens.
He stops right in the middle of everything and suddenly shouts at me.
“Why look! It is your very favourite place in the world, besides getting in my way, the library!” Daddy’s arm reaches out in front of us, acting like we just won a prize on a game show.
“Closer! Closer!” I shout back, and kick, and wiggle. I love libraries and books and all the wonderful stories they can tell me. My school has a ginormous library! We smush our faces up to the dirty windows and have to remember not to lick it.
Books fill the shelves. Books fill the tables. Books fill the displays. Some thick, some thin, and a few I have already read, with a bit of help from Mommy and Daddy of course.
“Hello library and books! And hello from the man in the store!” I say this and my mouth almost touches the dirty window. I pull myself away so that the grossness does not get into me.
We move along a few more windows, and Daddy leans into the last one. When we see inside that the books at this end are a whole lot thicker, and probably have no pictures in them. One has lots of copies on display, and I know it from the mall. And I always forgot to ask about the cover.
“What is that man holding on the cover, Daddy?”
“That? That’s a trident. It’s like a spear, but with three pointy ends. It would give more ouchies than your pounding feet do.”
“Hello book with a trident on the cover! And hello from the man at the store!”
“Keep being you, Eli.”
The song Daddy was whistling is suddenly coming from his phone.
“Daddy! Your phone sings the doo-doo! Is it Mommy?”
“Yes, it does. It’s Mommy and Daddy’s Wedding song and I finally put it on my new phone. Now let’s see what Mommy has to say about life, the universe and everything.” Daddy says the last part even louder.
“That’s what Mommy’s t-shirt says. I like that shirt.”
“So do I Eli. Now Mommy has answered your query. It was your great great grandfather, on your mother’s side, who got your school built.”
Daddy reaches up and shows me his phone. I can’t read the words real well, but Mommy’s face is right on top of the words. She is smiling and laughing and beautiful.
Putting his phone away, we start walking again, turning a corner and we see the schoolyard. Lots and lots of swings and slides and what looks like a fortress made of wood. A girl, not as old as the man in the store and not as young as me, is walking near the big fortress, looking up.
“Hello pretty girl! And hello from the man in the store!” I shout to her.
She sees at us and jumps in surprise.
“Sorry. Did we scare you? We didn’t mean to.”
“It’s alright. I was just looking at something.” She says.
I turn my head up and see some clouds have come closer to my school.
“Were you saying hello to the clouds too? I think I said hello to that one already. Wanna say hello together?”
She is surprised again, than smiles at me.
“Yes, lets do this.”
We both look up. I shout and she forgets to shout and talks in a normal inside voice.
“And hello again from the man in the store.” I shout. I forget to tell the girl about that part. She laughs.
“This is my new school. I start kindergarten soon. My great great great great grandfather made my school.”
Daddy, who was just letting us talk and talk, looks up at me.
“Actually, take a few dozen greats out and you would be a bit more accurate. And Mommy will explain the built part. But why don’t you introduce yourself Eli-Sweetie?” Daddy looks back at the girl.
“You are right Daddy! Hello, my name is Elinor. I am named after my great great great great great grandmother and I like spaghetti.” I start counting all these facts about me on my fingers as I tell her this.
“Your greats sound much more accurate this time, Eli.” Daddy says.
“It is nice to meet you Elinor. My name is Ilona. I don’t know who I am named after and I like stew.”
“We are going to have so much fun at my school when I come here. We can play in the fort, swing on the swing, and sing the doo-doo song.” I like her. We are going to be great friends.
“Well, we can be friends, but I won’t be here next year. I am off to middle school next year, but I can introduce you to some friends still here. And I am afraid I don’t know the doo-doo song.” Ilona laughs at the last bit.
Daddy pulls out his phone, hits a button, and the doo-doo song is playing. I sing along and shake my head.
“I have never heard of that song! But it sounds so fun!” Ilona starts shaking her head, just like me. The entire doo-doo song plays on and on. When it finishes, Daddy puts his phone away.
“Well not to be the enormous party pooper, but we don’t want to hold up Ilona here. We gotta get going now.”
“Bye Ilona!” I shout and wave my hands crazy like.
“Bye Elinor!” She shouts back, and waves like crazy, just like me.
“Looks like you made a new friend today. All by being you. But now we have to get your sister and head home.”
“Okay, Daddy, but we have to make one stop first.”
“Yes, we have to stop by the store and tell the nice man that I said hello to the clouds for him.”
Daddy looks up at me with the same surprised look as when he caught me hitting buttons on his phone that time.
“Eli-Sweetie, I fail to understand, the, the reason for –“
“I told you Daddy! To tell the nice man that I said –“
“Okay, okay, Eli-Sweetie. I understand. Let’s go by the store. And Elinor, keep being you.”
So we walk back to the store. We don’t see the dog again, or the same cloud, or the girl, and we have no chocolate to eat. But I am still happy to go see the nice man again.
I duck my head down, just like the first time, and we go back into the convenience store. From up on Daddy’s shoulders I can see the whole entire store again. I look and look and can’t see the man anywhere. A door way at the back opens and out comes the man, but with a sad face. A really sad face, and I think he might start crying soon. Daddy sees it too.
“Maybe he is busy and we should come back later Eli.”
“No Daddy now. Let me down.”
I struggle and squirm up on his shoulders and Daddy quickly goes down and takes me off his shoulders.
“Careful Eli, I don’t want to drop you.”
My feet hit the ground and I run to the man, who has already seen me.
“Hello mister nice man. Today we went to see my new school that my really old grandfather made and along the way I said hello to the clouds and the doggie and the library and the girl, and, and, I think that is everyone. Just like you told me.”
The man looks at me and smiles. His tears go away. He kneels down in front of me. Way up close, I could tell he is really a teenager, not a man. People look so much bigger from up on Daddy’s shoulders.
“I did tell you that, didn’t I? To say hello to the clouds. And you actually did it.”
“And of course I did it. It was the right thing to do. And my name is Elinor, by the way.”
“Hello Elinor, I am Joshua. And… thank you.”
“No problemo! Anything for a friend.”
I threw myself at Joshua and gave the biggest hug ever.
When we finished, I saw the happy on my new friend’s face. We had chased away the bad.
“Sorry we have to go now and get my sister and head home try to find out what dog to get. Bye Joshua, see you later!”
“Bye Elinor, and have fun!”
We wave at each other and I run back to Daddy.
“I want up! I want up!”
Daddy got back down and I climbed up to my right place, on top of his shoulders.
“BYE!” I shout again as we go out the door, of course ducking my head. I got this door thing.
As we walk back to our house, I look down at Daddy.
“Joshua was having a bad time before we showed up, wasn’t he?”
“Yes, Joshua probably was, Eli-Sweetie.”
“And I made it better for Joshua?”
“Yes, you did Eli-Sweetie.”
“Good. He is nice and good and deserves a happy face.”
“Keep being you, Eli-Sweetie, keep being you.”
Dedicated to T, R, R, E, and A.
Say Hello To The Clouds For Me is Copyright 2013 to Paul Riches
You can also read, comment, and vote on Say Hello To The Clouds For Me on Wattpad.
First published on Wednesday, June 12th, 2013.