Broken Boys

Words || Niko Campbell-Ellis

When Neil's leg broke and he got sick, Ooma was delighted. A sick boy is better than a well boy. Well boys want to make noise and play and eat all the food, but a sick boy will lie in bed and stay quiet and sip water from the glass you hold to his lips. 

But all Ooma’s brow mopping didn’t make Neil better and eventually Oompa drove to the hospital. At the hospital, I got scared because even the doctors and nurses looked worried. I’ve seen a lot of tv and usually doctors and nurses are calm, even when things are really bad. But when they saw Neil, they looked frightened and did everything in a hurry. Some people came running with a bed on wheels for Neil then pushed him away through swinging doors. Someone else asked Ooma and Oompa lots of questions about Neil.

Oompa told Fraser and me to go and play with the toys. I was too big for them so I just watched Fraser. He was having fun, making vroom noises for the trucks and playing with the dolls. He was noisy and I was worried that Ooma would hit him so I kept telling him to be quiet. 

A lady in a hospital uniform came and sat next to me and watched Fraser playing. She made me nervous, I didn’t want Fraser to get in trouble. I told him again to be quiet but the lady smiled at me and said, “It’s okay, he’s just having fun.”

I nodded. I wasn’t sure if she meant that it was really okay or if she was tricking me and I should make Fraser come and sit down. I stayed quiet, watching Fraser. She looked nice, like she wasn’t going to growl at me, but I wasn’t really sure.

Oompa came over and told Fraser and me to go with him. In the car, Fraser played with imaginary trucks, making secret vroom sounds Oompa couldn’t hear.

When we went back the next day, the lady was there again. She asked me questions. Some I knew the answer to, like where our mum is, and some I didn’t. She was nice and at lunchtime she brought two whole plates of food for Fraser and me. It was really good food too, chicken meat and peas and corn and fluffy mashed potato and gravy. It looked like food on an ad. We ate everything on our plates. 

I asked the lady about Neil. She said that he was really sick and his leg wasn’t healing properly. She asked how he had broken his arm. I wondered how she knew about that because that was all better now. 

“Can we see him?” I asked but the lady said no. 

I sat on the seat and watched Fraser play. He wasn’t bored with the toys yet. Whenever other kids came into the play area, Fraser barred his teeth and growled at them like a dog.