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Magic’s Inchworm
Neesha Dosanjh


The big kids up the street had long hair. Sukhi’s mother said they were hippies and they were dangerous because they lived together in that big dirty house and ate drugs all day. Her mother said to stay away from that house and those people and to remember that they didn’t like our kind.

And Sukhi did stay away. A few times her four-year-old brother, Magic, rolled over to their part of the street on his inchworm and Sukhi had to run after him to bring him back. She was happy to stay away from that scary house, except that now Magic’s inchworm was missing.

Sukhi would have thought it was just any old green worm, but her best friend Jenny told her that it was an inchworm. She said she knew because it was squeezed up in the middle. She said that’s how inchworms move, they squeeze their back toward their front, and the middle part of their body goes up into a little hill. Then they straighten up and do it again until they get to wherever they’re going. Magic’s inchworm was granny-apple green, with a bright tomato-colored seat at the top of the hill that it’s body made, and four shiny, tomato-colored wheels at the bottom. It’s face had a wide, happy smile and one eye was closed in a wink.

And now, it was in the front yard of the scary house and one of the hippies had his feet propped up on it. Sukhi went inside and told her mother that the hippies took Magic’s inchworm. Her mother stopped washing the plate that was in her hand, and said, Well they were going to throw it out anyway. I’ll bring him something else from work. Sukhi’s mother worked at a toy factory.

Sukhi said, But it’s Magic’s inchworm.

Her mother’s voice got louder, You two have been outside long enough, go bring your brother inside and do some work.

When Sukhi went back outside, Magic was sitting on a bench all by himself, staring at his inchworm down the street. He looked at her and said, That’s mine.

She told him to stay where he was and don’t move. Her mouth was dry as she walked over to the hippie house. She stood on the sidewalk in front of their lawn and said to the man whose feet were on Magic’s inchworm, Excuse me Mister, that’s my brother’s inchworm.

The man put down his beer and looked at her. Then he smiled and said, No it’s not. I bought this. It’s mine’s.

Sukhi said Oh. Maybe she was wrong. Maybe it wasn’t Magic’s at all. Except that it had the same crack on the front left wheel as Magic’s inchworm. Her eyes were stinging as she walked back to where Magic was still sitting. He asked her, Are they gonna give it back Sukhi? Are they gonna give me my inchworm back?

She told him to shut up. That’s not yours, you shouldn’t have lost your stupid inchworm in the first place! Magic started to cry and she shoved him. She wished he would just stop crying and forget about the dumb worm. They went inside and her mother looked at Magic’s splotchy wet face and told him to wash up and get ready for bed.

For the next few days, Jenny and her little brother, Scott, came outside and brought a soccer ball. Magic didn’t want to play. He just sat on the bench like Sukhi’s Raggedy Ann doll and swung his feet. She looked at the inchworm in the front lawn of the hippie house. They weren’t even using it. It was lying on its side next to a broken stove and an old, ripped up sofa.

One day when Jenny and Scott weren’t allowed to play outside, Sukhi sat next to Magic on the bench. She was looking over at the lawn again, when she saw the hippies get into a van and drive away. The inchworm was still outside. Sukhi told Magic, Don’t move, and started walking toward the house – slowly, in case the car came back. Her mouth was dry again.

She stopped in front of the lawn for a minute to see if anyone came running out the front door. She took a deep breath and stopped thinking. She was just moving now. Her legs were moving fast and her arms snatched Magic’s inchworm. Then, she was running towards Magic, who had jumped off the bench, his mouth hanging open. Sukhi yelled Come inside! Come inside! as she ran past Magic. He ran behind her into the building. They didn’t stop running until they were upstairs in front of their apartment door, where they leaned against the wall trying to catch their breath. Then, Sukhi gently set down Magic’s inchworm.

Here, she said, now don’t take it ouside. Magic nodded, his eyes wide. He looked at his inchworm and his eyes started to sparkle.

After that, anytime Magic wanted to play with his inchworm, he rolled up and down the hallway on it in front of their apartment, making loud Vroom Vroom! sounds until the neighbors complained to Sukhi and Magic’s mother. She knew what they were saying, but just smiled and nodded her head to them like she didn’t understand English. She let Magic play as long as he wanted to in the hallway.

Neesha Dosanjh has been published in various anthologies, journals, newspapers and magazines. She has produced two films which are currently being distributed internationally. Whether on film or in print, she tells universal stories with multicultural characters, paying careful attention to the lives of girls and women.


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