The Scene Setter

jennifers-legos FF


“And then what happened?”

The soft-spoken woman in ugly tweeds shifted in her chair, and Thomas knew he was in trouble. He almost told. She expected him to. She was nice so he’d do what she wanted.

They all wanted to trick him. Especially those pretending to be nice. So he’d do stuff. Make mistakes. Be punished.

Thomas fiddled with the pencil. He wanted to pull Santa’s head off. Instead, he drew circles. 

He hated circles.

He put toys inside them.

Made the toy-boy lie down. Ran him over. 

“Well,” the woman sighed, “perhaps you’ll be more talkative tomorrow.”




Note: Dedicated to the brave children who find a way to tell, even when they tell without words, even when those around them may not see that they are, indeed, trying. May you find someone who understands.

For Rochelle’s Friday Fictioneers

Photo: © Jennifer Pendergast


57 thoughts on “The Scene Setter

    • Ah, adulthood. I heard of such a thing. Not sure I’ve seen much of it being lived out yet … 😉
      Just kidding … but, yes, childhood can be difficult, and for many, more difficult than it should be … And not all adults – not even those whose job it is to support children who faced serious adversity – are able to support the children well enough. It’s all a work in progress, eh?

      Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Penny. Sadly I know too many such a child, and it takes a lot of courage for them to learn to even try to trust that the ‘rules’ of a crazy life (which they somehow managed to survive), may not be the only possibly ‘rules’ to live by. And … yes, there is always hope, isn’t there? There ought to be!

      Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Bill. This drinks from the well of too many such real stories. The struggle across little faces is real, and it is hard to be at the end of that distrust when one does not wish to harm them but all they know with certainty (in their experience) is that one would.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Very interesting take on the prompt. This could easily be part of a much larger story… perhaps a crime fic, or a fic about child abuse. Maybe even a sci fi fic. It could go so many ways. Thanks for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you! (If you want a larger story … 😉 I’ll toot my own horn to recommend “Emilia” and/or “Apples in Applath” … (under books and publications in my tabs if you want more info …).
      And … yes, it can go many ways, can’t it? 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. There’s such sadness in this story. He already knows of being manipulated by those close to him and he’s also experienced deep pain I think. Let’s hope she sees what he is trying to communicate without words, which is a safer more comfortable way for him to do so. Brilliant writing, Na’ama!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Brenda! Yes, alas too many children learn to view the world as something to survive and interactions as something intending to exploit them somehow. It is very VERY sad. Hopefully the fact that he is even sitting with that lady means that someone is trying to help him, and hopefully they will learn to understand each other, and enough help will come.


    • Thank you … and I’m gratified that it was transmitted that there was ‘a lot of story’ there. For there always is, isn’t there? Especially for those who say little, or little of substance, and whose lives unfold under layers of secrecy, wariness, and worry.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Great story, it’s so devastating when children have to deal with abuse and trauma. I’ve read that they often paint symbolically what’s happened to them. So maybe the woman pays attention to what he does instead of what he says.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi, yes, children will ‘tell’ even if their stories are masked – even to them, for some are scared of telling anyone, anything, and some don’t know there is anything to tell if their reality is all they know – and it is up to us to understand what they are trying to communicate, and how to interpret it, and what to do about it. None of it is simple, let alone when children are aware of fear of being punished if they let something slip. I, too, hope, that the woman is indeed more astute than he gives her credit for, though I’ve also seen people who mean well but are overworked, under-trained, and miss the subtle (or sometimes not so subtle) clues children are communicating. That is always added heartache.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Na’ama Y’karah,

    How fortunate are the children you work with. You have such a huge, understanding heart. Perhaps fortunate is the wrong word. We know that these children will carry the pain into adulthood if someone doesn’t listen. Hopefully the therapist in your well-written story will crack the code.



    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Rochelle! I think that fortunate is a word I’d use to describe the humbling privilege of being with a child who has every reason in the world to not trust me, to not believe I’d even try to understand them or will succeed in making anything better … and yet, they do, somehow, give me the benefit of the slimmest doubt, to try and communicate and to possibly form other kinds of understanding. We cannot undo the pain they had suffered and what they’ll carry with them, but we can try to help give them more context for knowing their worth, for learning that there are other ‘rules’ than the ones they’d grown up with, and that communication doesn’t have to be scary. Most people won’t hurt a child, and that is as important an understaning for a child to have as it is to know that some would … and had …and that they need not be alone with that knowing. xoxo Na’ama

      Liked by 1 person

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