Roger and the Picture
One day Roger was walking to school through the park. As he passed the fountain he remembered when he was a little boy Mom always told him to throw a coin into the fountain, close his eyes and make a wish.
As he was passing a garbage can he noticed something unusual inside. He went over to take a closer look and found it was a picture in a wooden frame. The picture showed a man wearing a long dark coat playing a flute. Sitting on the grass listening to the man were some children. They appeared to be on top of a hill.
Roger felt there was something special about the picture so he took it out of the rubbish bin and put it in his school bag.
Roger looked at the picture several times during the day. Each time it seemed a little different, as though the people had moved.
After school Roger went home. He took the picture out of his bag and put it on the bed. Then he started thinking about the history homework his teacher had given him.
Suddenly Roger heard the sound of a flute playing in the distance. It was very strange because his door and windows were closed. The sound gradually grew louder. Then Roger noticed the picture. The people were moving. The man was playing the flute and the children were gently swaying as they listened.
Then Roger felt himself being sucked inside the picture. He found himself standing on the hillside watching the man and children. The man stopped playing his flute and told the children it was time to go. The man and the children didn't seem to notice Roger.
The children followed the man and Roger followed the children. They made their way across the hilltop to a little wooden cottage.
Inside the house the man gave the children different jobs to do.
"Anne and Barry, cook my dinner. Chris and Diane, dig the garden. Edward and Gerry, wash my clothes…" he ordered. And so he continued until all the children had been given tasks.
Then the man lay on the sofa and closed his eyes.
Roger wondered why the children worked so hard for the man. He went into the garden and tried to speak to Chris and Diane. But they did not see or hear him. And when he tapped them on the shoulder they could not feel him.
So he went into the kitchen. Anne couldn't see or hear or feel him either. But when he spoke to Barry the little boy was terrified.
"Don't be scared," said Roger, "I'm not a ghost. I was looking at a picture and I just found myself here."
"Did you hear Freddie's flute too?" asked Barry.
"Yes. Is that how you got here?" replied Roger.
Barry explained that all the children had heard Freddie playing the flute and had been drawn into Freddie's world.
"Freddie's alright really", said Barry, "he gives us food and somewhere to sleep. But we all miss our Mommies and Daddies."
"Can't you leave here?" asked Roger.
"No", said Barry. "If we try to leave Freddie just plays his flute and we have to come back again."
"Why can't anyone else see me?" asked Roger.
"I don't know," said Barry, "you look kind of transparent. I thought you were a ghost at first. That's why I was scared."
Roger decided that he would talk to Freddie and ask him to let the children go home.
Freddie was still asleep on the sofa. Roger spoke, but Freddie didn't hear. Roger tapped Freddie on the leg, but still he didn't wake. Then Roger took the flute from Freddie's pocket. He started to play.
Freddie woke. "Who are you?" he asked in a frightened voice.
Roger stopped playing and told Freddie his name. He asked why Freddie kept all the children with him in the house.
"My Mom and Dad left me when I was a little boy. I had no friends or family," he told Roger sadly. "I was all alone. Then I found this flute under a tree. I'd never played before but I found I could play beautiful music. And I found that whenever I played near children they had to follow me. The children are my friends and family. I look after them and they look after me. They're happy here. Every day we play together on the hilltop, and every day I play my beautiful music for them."
"Haven't you ever thought they miss their Mommies and Daddies, just as you miss yours?" asked Roger.
"Maybe", said Freddie, "but I can't let them go. I can't be all alone again."
"Haven't you ever tried to find a wife?" asked Roger.
Freddie said he hadn't and he was too shy even to speak to girls.
Roger remembered the fountain in the park. "Why don't you just close your eyes and wish for a wife?" he suggested.
"No, don't be silly," said Freddie, "wishes don't come true."
Roger went back to the kitchen and told Barry to gather all the children together in the garden.
"Who can see and hear me?" asked Roger.
Slowly all of the children raised their hands.
Freddie stood by the door watching.
"Right," said Roger, "if you want to go home, all you have to do is close your eyes and wish for it. Go on, just try."
The children all closed their eyes. Freddie laughed.
But one by one the children started to disappear as they found themselves back with their Mommies and Daddies.
Freddie stopped laughing and started playing his flute. Louder and louder, and faster and faster he played. But still the children disappeared until only he and Roger were left.
Freddie had tears in his eyes. "Now you'll have to stay with me forever," he told Roger.
"No," said Roger, "I have my own family. But why don't you try wishing for a wife?"
Freddie closed his eyes and wished. All of a sudden the figure of a beautiful young lady appeared in the distance walking towards them.
"There you are," said Roger, "and now it's time for me to go."
Roger closed his eyes and wished himself back to his room. His mother was calling him downstairs for tea.
Roger took another look at the picture. It still showed a man wearing a long dark coat playing a flute. But now there were no children. Instead a young lady in a long green dress was lying on the grass listening to him. And they were smiling at each other.