Flip was a little blue man. He had a big blue head, and a big blue tummy, with little blue legs. So he looked kind of funny as he jumped onto the Number 93 bus. His name wasn’t really Flip, it was Hghhrmdpbf – but, of course, that’s impossible to say in our language! He hopped up on the seat in the Number 93 bus and felt in his big blue pocket for some change. Fishing out some coins he smiled winningly at the woman who was leaving the bus screaming, and nodded in a friendly fashion to the older man just before he fainted clean away. He swung his little blue legs until the conductor arrived, and then held out his money with a big blue smile.
‘One to the terminus’ said Flip.
‘Fifty pee’ said the conductor, busy rattling and whirring his ticket machine. He glanced at the little blue hand holding out the coin, then slowly raised his eyes to take in the little blue legs, the big blue tummy and the big blue head. His eyes opened wide, and he scarpered – pausing only long enough to snatch the money out of the little blue hand. The ticket floated down and landed in Flip’s big blue lap. He checked it, folded it neatly and put it safely away in his big blue pocket.
Looking up he saw a little boy watching him. Now, the little boy wasn’t blue, and he didn’t have a big blue head, or a big blue tummy or little blue legs. He was a little pink boy, with yellow hair and freckles. He smiled at Flip, with little pink lips. Flip smiled back, with big blue lips.
‘My name’th Thomath’ said the little boy with a pronounced lisp.
‘My name’s Flip’ said Flip, without a trace of a lisp.
‘Why are you blue?’ asked the little boy, who was sporting a rather fetching Tom and Jerry t’shirt.
‘Everyone from my world is blue’ replied Flip, who was, of course, wearing nothing except lots of blue skin.
‘Why are you tho fat?’ asked the little boy who probably tipped the scales at 4 stone.
‘Everyone from my world is fat’ replied Flip, who more than likely would break the scales.
Thomas looked down at his legs, encased in shorts with ankle socks and Buzz Lightyear trainers.
‘Why are your legth tho thort?’ he asked.
‘Everyone from my world has short legs’ replied Flip, looking down at his own little blue legs and his big blue feet.
Thomas’s mother heard him talking and finally wrenched herself from the in-depth discussion about Mrs Jenkins from Number 28 and the milkman, to see who her son was talking to.
‘Hello, Flip’ she said warmly. ‘I haven’t seen you since I was a little girl’
‘Yup’ said Flip. ‘They sent me back for Thomas. Apparently my work here is not yet done’
‘Mummy – what ith Flip?’ asked Thomas. ‘He’s blue.’
Mummy smiled, and looked fondly at Flip. When she smiled there was an echo of the five year old girl she once was, but the straight white teeth gave no clue to the cumbersome braces she wore as a child.
‘Flip is a sprite, a guardian angel………an invisible friend’ she replied. ‘He helps with school and friends and life. Flip’ she continued ‘why are you here?’
‘Well’ said Flip. ‘According to our records, Thomas starts school next week, and he will require a sprite.’
‘Why?’ was the next question – well, we never claimed Thomas’ mummy was the brightest bulb in the pack.
‘Come off it!’ cried the little blue man, ‘Have you heard him ‘thpeak’?? The kids will make mincemeat of him.’ He looked critically at Thomas ‘and he’s short too.’
Thomas’ mummy cast a horrified glance at her short son with a lisp. He was studying a fly on the window, debating whether to summarily execute it with the tip of one little pink finger or let it fly free.
Flip smiled ‘He can’t hear me, Jennifer. I can make myself impossible to hear, or even invisible if I want to – remember?’
Thomas’ mummy smiled crookedly. ‘I’ve forgotten so much from those days. So why did you make the lady scream and the man faint? Not to mention messing with the conductor’s mind?’
‘Well’ replied Flip with a wicked blue grin. ‘A sprite’s got to have some fun in life – all work and no play makes Flip a dull sprite.’
Thomas shrugged his shoulders and straightened his sweatshirt. The little blue man watched him with wide open blue eyes. He had a confused look on his big blue face.
‘Thomas’ he asked. ‘Why do you wear play clothes to school? Why aren’t you wearing uniform?’
‘We don’t need to wear uniform’ replied Thomas, turning to one side and looking at his reflection critically. ‘How do I look?’
‘Oh, gorgeous’ said Flip sarcastically, while digging in his big blue pocket for his little blue notebook. Then he took out his big blue pen, the one with the cascading blue feathers coming out of the end, and, with a theatrical sigh, he scored a line through the page marked ‘100 Ways to Correct Using Uniform Items’ the first item of which was ‘Asphyxiation by Necktie’. He muttered to himself, and Thomas heard a few blue words.
A couple of hours later, Thomas made his first little steps into the school playground, grasping his Superman lunchbox in one hand, and a Scooby Doo doll in the other. Trotting behind him came a little blue man, although he had set Sprite Perception to ‘None’ so no one except Thomas could see him. Flip looked around, not much had changed since Thomas’ mummy came here twenty five years earlier – except the boys looked bigger and meaner………and so did the girls.
‘What’s your name?’ asked a big boy. Flip’s blue heart sank, this was not going to be a good day. Business was picking up early. He made a ‘rolling up of sleeves’ motion.
‘Thomath’ said Thomas.
The big boy grinned nastily, opened his mouth to say something, and found it suddenly full of cotton wool.
‘Flmpfffff’ he cried. Thomas watched spellbound, as the big boy’s friends sank to their knees laughing their little Spiderman socks off. The big boy pulled handfuls of cotton wool out of his mouth.
‘Nathty lithp you got there,’ cried Thomas as he saw his teacher out of the corner of his eye and ran off. The big boy continued to spit out mouthfuls of cotton as he wandered off to class.
At lunchtime, Thomas collected up his Superman lunch box and resolutely walked to the dining room. He sat down and opened his lunchbox.
‘What have you got?’ asked a red-headed girl a couple of years older than Thomas, in really quite a friendly voice, as she settled down next to Thomas and opened a yoghurt.
‘Thalmon thandwicheth, with thalad and fruit’ struggled Thomas, wishing his mummy used ‘Lunchables’ or at the very least a ham roll, rather than salmon sandwiches and salad.
The girl smiled broadly as if to make a kind statement, then proceeded to mimic Thomas.
‘Thalmon………….’ was as far as the hapless girl got, before her plaits wound their way around her head and got tied across her mouth, which was full of yoghurt. See? You should never talk with your mouth full! ‘than………….mpfmpf……’
‘Sorry, I’m late’ said Flip. ‘I was just checking up on some old friends.’
Four o’clock came around and Thomas came bouncing out of school into Jennifer’s arms. She looked into her son’s smiling face.
‘How was school?’ she asked nervously
‘Well, we had a bit of a rough start, but the kids soon learnt that Thomas was more than just a lisp and a Superman lunchbox’ came a clear voice as Flip trotted up behind Thomas. A bigger boy came past, saw Thomas and hesitated.
‘We’re playing football in the park, if you want to come’ he called and then spat out a little piece of cotton wool.
‘Why does that little boy have cotton wool stuck to his cheeks?’ asked Jennifer. Flip and Thomas looked at each other.
Then a girl with ginger plaits came past and saw Thomas. She was still wringing out her pretty pink ribbons.
‘Lunch tomorrow, Thomas?’ she called.
‘Why are her plaits all damp?’ asked Jennifer.
‘Kids!’ exclaimed the little blue man rubbing his little blue hands on his big blue tummy. ‘They’re bigger than they used to be, they know more than they used to, but they’re such wimps these days! Right, I’m off now’ with that he pulled a little blue box out of his big blue pocket. ‘hmm’ he mused, ‘where to go? I hear the planet Zgog needs some special sprite care’
He pressed the button on the little blue box with his little blue finger and with an audible ‘pfft’ he was gone.
(c) cq 2002