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Natasha from Bosnia had a fright

Me, Kimmie and Natasha were playing, having a tea party. We couldn't agree on which tea to serve, so we all drank different tea. Kimmie drank green tea like Bachan. I had Red Zinger because I like the way it sounds more than I like the way it tastes. Natasha liked her tea "english" with milk and sugar. I said we are all having our tea in English. Kimmie and Natasha laughed because they come from someplace else, not America.

Kimmie is from Korea and that is close to Japan, Bachan said. Natasha is from some place I never heard of, Bosnia. I asked MoMo where Bosnia was and MoMo said she didn't know exactly, some place across the sea in the other direction of Japan, and all she knew was it was a sad place right now.

Natasha is 7 years old and taller than me and Kimmie, but she is still a baby with English so she don't mind playing with us. Not like the other older kids. We asked Natasha where her grandma was and she said her "BaBa" is still in Bosnia. When she said that she held her dolly tight. She calls her dolly "BeBe". She said, "To me Baba gave Bebe." And she kissed her Bebe real sweet like. I was feeling her miss her BaBa and felt sad for her, because I got my Bachan and MoMo and even though I would share them with her it ain't the same, you know. It made me hold my dolly tighter too.

Kimmie and me, we are nice to Natasha because Kimmie's Bachan only speaks Korean and I got to be careful talking to my Bachan so she will be 'standing us. Kimmie and me talk to Natasha real careful just like we was talking to our Bachans and Natasha is 'standing us most of the time. Each day her English grows up a little bit and we are learning little words from each other. Natasha knows how to say "Kamsamidah" to Kimmie when she means "Thank you" and Kimmie always giggles and says "Cham Mana yo." Which means "you are welcome". Natasha already knows words Momma and I use, like "Alhamdolilah" which means "Thanks to God" so I didn't need to teach her much more than English.

The other yesterday there was a really scary thing what happened. The road down by the Trailer Court Gate just opened up like a big mouth and half swollowed a car and a tree fell in. Daddy said it was a sink hole, but I didn't see no sinks in it. Momma said it was a "Stink hole" because it was a pipe what broke and that pipe takes unchi and shiko someplace after you flush it down the toilet. It did stink something awful.

Kimmie and me were very interested in this stinking sink hole. We never saw nothing like it before. The lady whose car was getting eaten by the hole was crying and crying. She was this old fat lady with spider web hair that look kinda pink, kinda purple. Her make up was all running down her face and she looked like a racoon. "My Impala, My Impala" she cried and would look and turn away and woo hoo and then turn back and look again and start woo hooing all over again. I said to Kimmie and Natasha, "I guess she don't like taking the bus." Kimmie laughed with her hand over her mouth like Daddy.

Then I see Natasha. She eyes were all bugged out and her mouth was shut so tight her lips were white. She was breathing really fast like she just got finished running, but she didn't run, she walked with us there right slow. She looked like she was going to woo hoo her own self.

I touched her arm and she jumped and looked at me like she didn't know me and I say, "Hey, wazza matta?"

Natasha looked at me and said something that sounded like "bojati se od.."

I say "what?"

Natasha looked at me and then looked at the half eaten white car in the stinking sink hole and then looked at me and said, "My English is too broken.." and then these big tears started to creep out of her eyes.

Kimmie saw the tears and got woo hooie too. Kimmie got a big heart. "You know this pink hair lady? That pink hair lady you aunty?" Kimmie put her arm around Natasha and rubbed her back, patting her like. Natasha shook her head, "ne". Now I am not 'standing her because to me she say "yes" like my Bachan and then I got to remember that don't count and I got to figure her shaking her head means no.

There were a lot of grown ups hanging around doing nothing much but pointing, shaking their heads and talking with each other. No grownup paid any mind to Natasha's tears, except JJ.

JJ come walking up to us with her thumbs hooked in her belt like she does, as if her pants were too tight to put her hands in the pockets and she looks at me.

"Wazzup Cookie?" JJ says mussing my hair and now looking at Natasha's teary face with one eyebrow up and the other down. I don't say nothing but point with my eyes to Natasha who still don't seem to notice Kimmie patting her back and talking poor baby noises to her in Korean.

JJ stoop down to be face to face with Natasha and said, "Look at me." And JJ took Natasha's chin with her rough finger tips and turned her face to look at JJ real gentle like. "Let's all get away from here, Ok?" JJ said soft but real firm.

"ok" sniffled Natasha, holding on to her Bebe like she was wanting to squeeze the stuffing out of her.

JJ said, "Let's go to the diner. Manx is working there and she can make us some Hot Chocolate."

So we walk to the diner, JJ holding Natasha's hand and we don't say much. Me and Kimmie look at each other and make eyes like we are not 'standing this at all, but we don't talk. JJ is a grown up and she is always nice to the kids so we figured she must know something for that.

The Diner was mostly empty. Manx was there pouring Old Man Fenniman a cup of coffee.

JJ say, "Hot Chocolate for the little ladies." Which makes me and Kimmie giggle and we hold our dollies like they was real babies and we climb into the booth. JJ sit with Natasha and ask her real soft. "Where you from?"

"Bosnia" Natasha says still teary but getting better.

"How long you been in America." JJ asked

"I don't know. When I come I not know even "please", "thank you", I not know English." Natasha said wiping the tears from her face with her hand, leaving a streak on her cheek. JJ took a napkin and finished the wiping and cleaned the streak from Natasha's face.

Manx says from the counter, "I've known people who were born here who still don't know "please" or "thank you" yet." And then she laughs.

Old Man Fenniman say, "Amen" to no one in particular.

JJ didn't laugh, neither did Natasha. So Kimmie and me just look at each other trying to talk with our eyes, holding our faces still and our dollies tight.

Manx brings the Hot Chocolate and looks at JJ with her head cocked over like Sheeba does when Old Man Fenniman says that Sheeba is confused. Manx put little marshmellows in our Hot Chocolate and me and Kimmie were playing with them with our spoons, pushing them under and watching them bob up to the top again.

Natasha didn't touch her cup at all. She was looking like she wasn't really seeing her cup. Like she was seeing something else and she didn't seem too happy about it.

JJ say, "Lookie here Cupcake", so Natasha is now Cupcake like I am Cookie, we got to give Kimmie a sweet name soon. "You are here now, not Bosnia." Natasha look up at JJ. JJ keep on going "I know you been through some hard times. We all have in some way or other. "

Old Man Fenniman say "Amen" again. JJ say, "We all feel for you. We all want you to feel safe now because all the hard times you went through are over. We got new things to do. You got to learn English and get on with being the woman you are going to be when you grow up. Just like Kimmie and Kaiko here."

Kimmie and me look up hearing our names and we look at each other and we both have Hot Chocolate mustashes and we laugh at each other. Natasha looks at us and sees us with brown mustashes and can't help but smile. She say, "Funny women they will be with brown mouth." And we all laugh at that not because it was so funny but because Natasha stopped looking like she was going to woo hoo any minute.

Natasha picks up her cup and looks at the melted marshmellows. "Thank you. Of Bosnian things I was scared. This no Bosnia."

"This is Bonsai Trailer Court." I said and Kimmie nodded.

JJ says, "There are things we will never stop being afraid of when we see things that remind us of hard times. " I waited for Old Man Fenniman to Amen to that but he was looking off like he wasn't seeing now. "But we have to keep going forward even if we are reminded of when we were afraid."

"Got to be alive to complain." Old Man Fenniman said, getting up slowly, like his backside still hurt from tripping over Jake the Snake. He come to our booth and say real slow, "I seen things that would curl your hair, " pointing to Kimmie, "and straighten yours," pointing to me, "but I can't let what I've seen stop me from getting on with living life while I have it. That's what you got to do, little missy. It ain't bad to be afeared now and then, but it can't stop you from moving on, is all. That's my say and I'm done with it." Then he move towards the door.

"Amen" JJ and Manx say to his back and he wave back at us without turning around, but I know he was smiling like he do.

So Natasha figured everyone get afeared now and then but if they all stopped moving on then we would see the streets full of folks stopped in their tracks, looking without seeing, not 'standing their lives. I hope the old fat pink haired lady knows Old Man Fenniman, he could show her that woo hooing ain't going to pull her Impala out of the stinking sink hole.


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