When you are 5 years old, your teeth are either full milk, totally gone, half permanent, or fully permanent. Not chipped slanted like 5 and a half year old Jojo’s. How he begged his mother to pluck it off, for the kids in his new school made fun of him. But she said, “Everything has a time and place, jojo. It not time for this little monster to fall out.” So jojo had to wait till this one decided to pop. Meanwhile he was the mascot for jokes, and a regular prey for bullying sessions in spite of being in the school for a whole 6 months.
Jojo had a vivid imagination and a favorite red crayon that he carried with him everywhere. He made pigs and boats, flowers and apple pies, a dog tag on the math professor and made the librarian look like a cow. His drawings won him many a friend in his old school. But in this new one, it just added to his weird quotient. He found being made fun of instead of making fun together with friends a little hard to swallow. He wondered why everyone laughed at him, behind him or without him but never with him.
Things at home weren’t that great either; his mum n pop had new jobs to live up to. They were too busy to even make him a brother or sister to give him company.
Soon jojo started retreating into himself and his only friend was his red crayon.
One-day jojo’s parents took to a mime show and jojo instantly found a new love. He wanted to be a mime artist. He loved the sway of hands; he loved the unseen realities the artist painted. The mime artist was as alone as jojo yet he made everyone laugh with him, not at him. That’s it, jojo wanted to be a mime artist. He even made his mother buy him a beret.
That night jojo stayed up till 10 pm under his sheets, drawing a portrait of himself as a mime king for show and tell the next day, he would talk all about this, and like the mime artist, and he would make everyone fall in love with him.
The day turned out like the colour blue. Kids with borrowed ideas of being an engineer, doctor astronaut, got applauded. Jojo with his mime dreams and a beret was rewarded with shrill laughter; the sound of mockery. A joker, jojo the joker they all chanted till the teacher threw a duster at the first boy making the noise. But the chants continued in the bus, in the prayer time the next day, through the entire week to come.
After 7 days jojo had had enough
He stormed into his room. Flung his beret out of the window and started drawing, he drew himself an awesome costume, he drew himself a wand which could turn into anything and which could turn any other object into anything. He painted the walls a pleasant red and had a hug bed with a tent. He made a window that overlooked a garden that was yet to bloom. Jojo made himself a magnificent beret better than the last one and he proclaimed himself the Mime King as he walked through the balcony to a cheering crowd of all the people he knew. He was the king of laughter now, with secrets of the smile that no one knew. Now every one would laugh with him, never at him or behind him. They would believe him even of he said the moon was purple.
He performed every evening and everyone loved his act; his classmates who never had a good taste in jokes or his librarian who never even had a sense of humour. He sashayed around and wove scenes with his hands that everyone believed in and were mesmerized by. They clapped, whistled and threw roses on the stage. He bowed graciously taking it all in his stride.
But his favorite part, “the Smile Keeper” was always at the end. He would call upon one of the enthusiastic volunteers (they always wanted to come) to the stage and he would ask them to smile for him, which they gladly did. With a sway of hands which looked like he was drawing something out of the volunteer, he drew a wisp of smoke from their faces, played with the smoke in his hands and voila ! Made a balloon out of it. It was always a big flower with a huge smile on it. The crowds loved it, without realizing that with each volunteer they paid the price. Now that he was king, all their smiles and laughter belonged to him. He took the happiness in the form of the light balloon and planted them in his garden. He would sit and stare at the lovely gay balloons dancing to the wind and felt compensated for the all the times people laughed at him. All the times he was not a part of the laughter but an object of it. Soon this became a routine, his garden started filling up while the streets outside his garden were more n more devoid of smiles. Soon the cheer was out of awe and wonder. They clapped, unable to laugh or beam at his amazing prowess. The garden became too full for the flowers to dance freely; they bumped into each other and looked more like a crowd waiting to get out of a line.
There came a day when he collected them all; the helium bursting with life to fly off, but tethered to ground; a checklist of his wishes. One day after a mundane show where he repeated his act and no one complained he dragged himself to his garden to see that a few balloons were bust, thanks to the approaching storm. Before he could think of securing them, the wind tugged to happy flowers with it. Jojo was furious, they were his; he chased the naughty wind to a deserted tree where the balloons were stuck on a branch above a kid sitting and reading. Jojo ordered the kid to get the balloons. The kid quickly sprang to action trying to reach out to the balloon through the dry branches when the wind twisted the string on of balloon and it burst rite on the kid. Jojo watched in shock as the happy helium from the balloon restored colour on the kids face. The kid beamed looking at the second balloon stuck near by and lunged for it without caring for the fall he had as he slipped off the branch. The kid laughed a laugh like crinkling water. The sound so alien to jojo by now, that he watched in a trance. The kid played with the balloon, tugged it bounced with it like a puppy dog.
It was then that jojo realized that happiness belonged to the world, he should let everyone be infected by it and not bottle it up. He then called all his people in his garden and let lose all the balloons and burst many on their faces. Soon the garden was full of happy people with the smiles where they belonged. Then jojo got sleepy and went back to his room after a hard day’s work. When he returned to his room he saw a little gift on his bed. He opened the box and was thrilled to see the beret he had thrown out of the window with a flyer next to it that announced a talent competition. And a note next to it in his mother’s writing “Everything has a time and place, jojo . The place of this hat’s on your head, and yours on the stage.”
He ran down to hug his mother with a teardrop rolling by his eye.
The last panel with him in his make up and costume in the same action on a stage with a teardrop painted on his cheek and an ecstatic crowded auditorium in front of him.