“Ichabod! Ichabod! Ichabod!”
“Hello boys and girls, welcome to my Tree House! Adventures await us today, so let’s get climbing!”
Ichabod, facing a plethora of smiling children sitting excitedly in rows of seats, sat cross-legged in a tree house setting crafted onto a sound stage, eager to entertain his studio audience. Strapped with a backpack, blazing blond hair, and the adventurous attire of khaki pants, a red mountain-climbing jacket crisp in appearance, and a lime green staff, Ichabod was not the most conventionally dressed individual, especially for a children’s performer. Yet, he captured the children’s attention with little effort.
Over two thousand miles away, a young child in overalls sipped quickly on a glass of juice, with his blue eyes glued to the television screen. He stared at Ichabod eagerly anticipating his next move, as the blond-haired icon cracked clean jokes with the kids, who were roaring with laughter. The boy saw the entire stage set up: the makeshift tree house, the green screen attached to the missing wall in the back of the tree house where Ichabod would run from lions and tigers and bears in his many escapades. The lush, green vegetation artificially surrounding the stage and, once the camera panned to the audience, the bright lights overseeing the padded seats and multiple LED television screens for all vantage points.
Unbeknownst to the boy, his audience position was much less glamorous.
While Ichabod filled the children’s hearts with joy in the Golden State of California, the boy lived in a place that never touched gold; Lowndesville, South Carolina. There was no tree house for him to explore in, only a trailer in need of desperate repair, on the outside with peeling white paint and grim bricks, and the inside with faucets playing music with dripping water. The television, the pathway for the boy between California and Lowndesville, was far from LED; his viewing came from a CRT model, a callback to 1997 and far from the luxuries of the 21st century. His seating was comfortable to him with a few pillows leaned against the sofa, but still not the studio seats his peers were using. Yet, the boy didn’t care, or rather he was unaware of the contrast, being at the tender age of four.
“You ready for your burger, Day-Day?” a voice echoed from the kitchen.
The voice came from the boy’s father, Bruce Conroy, who donned a white undershirt and a pair of ripped blue jeans. He shared his son’s blue eyes, and sported short blonde hair, much shorter than Ichabod’s locks. Bruce sizzled the burger on the skillet, letting the meat cook while whistling a tune.
Davey, hearing his nickname, walked up to his dad, cup in hand.
“Whatcha watching on TV, sport?” Bruce asked warmly.
“Ich’bod!” Davey said with childhood glee.
Bruce finished cooking Davey’s hamburger and they sat on the lumpy sofa together and turned their attention to the vintage television and Ichabod. The performer had just finished performing a sketch with his assistant, the energetic teenager Binks involving balancing pies on his staff, when he faced the studio audience.
“Say Binks, let’s get to know some of our adventure companions! Who wants to come on stage?”
As if the ceiling was magnetic, dozens of hands shot up into the air, and you could hear the chants of, “Oooh, me, me me!”
“I pick…..you, in the back with the yellow baseball cap! Come on down!” Ichabod exclaimed.
Davey sat up slightly, interested in who was chosen. Bruce, watching with mild curiosity to amuse his son, was also drawn in.
The yellow capped child ran on stage, and Ichabod asked, “What’s your name, young lad?”
“Timmy,” he said with wonder in his voice.
“Where are you from Timmy?”
“Chicago, eh? That’s quite a long ways away. What do you want to be when you grow up, Timmy?”
“I wanna be a doctor!”
“A doctor?” Ichabod said. “You want to help people feel better Timmy?”
“Yes! And….the free band-aids,” said little Timmy, causing Ichabod and the audience to chuckle.
“Oh, I’ll need plenty of those after running from the tigers and bears; be sure to have extra!” Ichabod said jokingly. “But Timmy, I believe you can be the best doctor there is, just stay in school and keep making good grades and keep a good heart. Promise?”
“Let’s give a big hand for Timmy!” Ichabod yelled as the child took his seat.
Watching at home, Bruce couldn’t help but feel a sting in his consciousness at Ichabod’s motivation. Stay in school…he played that in his head repeatedly. He had earned his high school diploma, an accomplishment in itself, but he decided not to go further in his younger days, opting to do odd jobs instead. Nowadays, his income came through unemployment checks that funded the low-rent but low-class trailer he and Davey called home. Bruce was not lazy, far, far from it. On the contrary, he previously worked at the merchandise distribution plant five miles from home, but due to the economic recession, he was cast to the curb unceremoniously. He actively searched for jobs to support his son, but with a diminished education, he could only go so far, and with Davey’s mother Lana no longer in their life, he was the sole breadwinner –relying on unemployment checks and the generous severance package the plant gave him.
Stay in school…
“Kids, we had fun today,” Ichabod started, in his cross-legged position atop the stage again, “but remember that your adventure can come from anywhere, whether it’s here, your home, books, blacktops, with your friends, with your family, anywhere! Your imagination can go anywhere, so explore the whole wide world, and have fun. Goodnight everyone!”
Ichabod’s theme music played as he danced off stage, and the camera panned across the audience of kids, cheering and chanting, “Ichabod! Ichabod!”
“Ich’bod! Ich’bod!” Davey chanted at home.
Bruce smiled at his son’s enjoyment, but he kept his eyes on the audience. He stared at the attire, most in the latest releases from brand name products. Parents accompanied kids, a mixture of professional attire and casual, yet dignified, shirts and dresses. Bruce glanced down at his own rural appearance, and grimaced.
“Ichabod’s Tree House was filmed in front of a live studio audience in SBS Studios in San Diego, California,” the anonymous voiceover clarified at the end credits.
Davey jumped off of the sofa and marched around the room, chanting “Ich’bod! Ich’bod!”
“Ich’bod, Ich’bod, yeah….time to get ready for bed Day-Day,” Bruce said.
Bruce tucked his son into bed and plugged in his night-light, and kissed him on the forehead.
“Goodnight Day, sleep tight. I love you.”
“I love you too, daddy.”
Bruce smiled and headed out of the room, when he heard Davey say softly, “Dad?”
“When can we go and see Ich’bod?”
Bruce stopped, and lowered his head. He knew better than to tell his son the bitter truth of their financial situation, so he simply said, “One day, Davey. One day.”
He walked into the hallway and sat on the sofa, hands cradled in his hair. He wants to go see Ichabod…how much do I have? Bruce opened his wallet and looked into the loneliness of its confines. Two twenties, a fifty, three ones, and a coupon for half off on detergent. Not even half enough to buy a ticket. No wonder Lana left six months ago.
He grabbed his lukewarm beer from earlier and took a staggering sip. Cheers, Ichabod. He set the drink back down on top of the wanted section of his newspaper, graffitied to the core with circles, highlights, and underlines of possible jobs with a hefty black marker. Bruce took a few more swigs of his liquid friend, leaned back on the sofa, and propped his feet up on the table in front of him.
Davey….I’m sorry, son. I’m sorry I can’t give you what you want. Bruce let out a sigh of exasperation and stared at his feet. Covering his small feet were two white tube socks, the only new piece of clothing in the house. He bent his toes down and said, “Ichabod. Time for an adventure kids,” in a quiet, childlike voice. He chuckled, partly due to his humor and partly from the alcohol taking effect. “Your adventure can come from anywhere…” Bruce muttered with his toes.
Adventure can come from anywhere.
He sat up, and crossed one leg over the other, examining his toes again. He mimicked the mouth movement again with his toes, saying, “Hello, my name is Tubey. Tubey…..” he looked over at the table and saw a socket wrench he used unsuccessfully to fix the faucet, “Toolbury! And we’re going to have lots of fun times today!”
I’ll be damned, Bruce thought, this is the kinda stuff Davey would love. If I can’t take him to a show….what if I bring the show to him?
He hopped off of the couch ecstatic, with newfound rejuvenation and confidence.
“That’s it! I’ll make my own show for Davey, so he can feel like he’s in San Diego too!”
All he needed was just a set.
Morning came quickly, and Davey woke up and yawned. He walked around the inside of the trailer and saw a delicious sight in front of him at the coffee table: scrambled eggs, soft, buttery toast, and apple juice, his favorite breakfast. He scurried to the food quickly and almost began eating his meal when he caught a glimpse of something more surprising in front of him, a box.
A rather large box, used to hold the supplies to build a child-sized bed. However, this box had been modified, with a square hole cut in the center, and the words Tube Town written carefully on the side with a black marker, juxtaposed with pointy grass, tall trees with skinny bases, and a few carefully placed houses with jagged roofs, also created in black. It was conveniently placed in front of the television, with the flaps opened out to finish the four walls of its confines.
“Daddy, where are you?” Davey asked.
“Hello little boy!” a high pitched male voice echoed from the box.
Davey straightened up quickly.
“Don’t be scared, little boy,” the voice said. “Welcome to…”
A tube sock rose from the opening of the box.
The tube sock was rather new in appearance, if not used recently, and anatomically it had asymmetrical eyes with brazen pupils cascaded by caterpillar eyebrows and a wide, circular mouth, all crafted in black.
“Who are you, young breakfast eater?” the tube sock asked.
“D-Davey..” Davey replied, feeling more at ease with the strange visitor.
“Well Davey, I’m Tubey Toolbury! Nice to meet you, I’d shake your hand but…” Tubey rose further out of the box, “I left it back at home!”
Davey started laughing with a childlike innocence, “You’re funny, Tubey.”
“Really, I thought I was funny looking! Oh ho ho!” Tubey bemused.
“Say,” Tubey started, “can I have a piece of that bacon?”
“Sure!” Davey said. He tore off a piece of his bacon and held it out to Tubey, who tried eating.
“Num num num! It’s good, but I guess I left my teeth back at home too. I’d forget my feet if they weren’t attached to me….” he stretched out again, “oops, nevermind!”
“Hahaha,” Davey cracked up again, “you’re like Ich’bod.”
“Ich’bod you say? Can Ich’bod fly?” Tubey zoomed around the inside of the box. “Can he dance like a worm?” Tubey rolled his body akin to a flexing worm.
“Nuh uh,” Davey admitted.
‘Yeah, Tubey is the man! Err, tube sock.” Tubey’s high voice rang out. “But, Davey, what do you want to be when you grow up?”
“A firefighter,” said Davey.
“A firefighter, you say? Well, Tubey has a hard time cooking in his kitchen, so I may need to see you alot!”
“But,” Tubey continued, “you need to work hard and do your best when you go to school. You’re going to see alot of kids, alot of kids who all want to be different things when they grow up. Some of them you’re gonna get along with, and some maybe not. Just remember what makes you special Davey, and remember that no matter what you want to do when you grow up, your daddy loves you very much.”
“Daddy! Daddy, you gots to see Tubey!” Davey turned from the box and yelled.
“Say, why don’t you show me your favorite toy Davey?” Tubey slyly suggested.
“Okay!” Davey scurried to his room looking for his yo-yo, unaware that the box was starting to rustle. The left flap extended out, and Bruce quickly and quietly sneaked away from the box and into the bathroom, sliding Tubey into the pocket of his jeans. He grabbed a towel from the bottom of the sink and wrapped it around his shoulder.
“It’s a yo-yo, Tubey!” Davey yelled as he hurried back to the box. “Tubey? Where are you?”
Bruce stepped out of the bathroom, pretending to dry his hair and scratching his head.
“Hey, Day-Day, who’s Tubey?” Bruce asked with a small grin.
“Oh he’s from Tube Town, and he forgot his hands and feet, and he’s funny and he can fly and dance, and – “
“Woah whoah, slow down Davey! So he’s like Ichabod?”
“I like Tubey more! Tubey Tubey Tuuubey, Tubey Tubey Tuuubey!” Davey chanted while he marched. “Dad, where’s your sock?”
“Oh, it’s in the laundry machine, don’t worry,” Bruce said. “Wish I could have seen him, but maybe he’ll come around often.”
Bruce sat down on the lumpy sofa and looked around. The walls may be peeling, the faucet still dripping, and the money still disappearing, but he didn’t care. He didn’t care about the bright lights and fashion status of San Diego, and he didn’t care about how his life lead to this point. However, he did care about one thing, the most important concept to him.
He made Davey’s day.