Nov. 8th, 2016

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It wasn't often that Guppy ran into kids on his elderly care ward, certainly not in the staff areas. But this boy is in Dr Ahmadi's room, quietly attempting to do some maths.

"Hey, have you seen Dr Ahmadi?" Guppy asks the boy.

The boy looks up, startled. Suddenly, Guppy can see the family resemblance. This must be his colleague's missing nephew from Syria.

"Are you Joram?" he asks, gently.

The boy nods, then gets up and offers him a handshake.

"My name is Joram. What is your name?"

"Dr Guppy Sandhu." Guppy says. "Is your uncle around?"

Joram doesn't answer. Guppy suddenly realises that he doesn't speak a huge amount of English. Fortunately his colleague appears in the doorway. Joram smiles slightly and goes back to his maths.

"Hey, here's the audit you wanted." Guppy hands Dr Ahmadi the USB stick he'd brought in. "Your nephew is very polite."

Dr Ahmadi smiles. "He is. He is struggling a little with the language though."

"I bet he'll pick it up fast at school." Guppy says.

"We have to move his school." his colleague sighs. "Some of the children were spitting at him and telling him to go back to Syria to die. He understood that."

Guppy blinks in shock, and looks back at the little boy. He can't be much older than Fry.

"Poor kid, he's been through a lot. Have you got another school lined up?"

"Yes, he's going to one closer to our home." Dr Ahmadi says. "Berry Hill Top?"

"Oh, I've heard good things about that one." Guppy says. "Our neighbours bought a flat in the catchment area to get their son transferred there." He looks at the boy. "How come he has homework?"

"He's quite behind, he was a good student in Syria, but he missed a lot on the journey." Dr Ahmadi says. "He's just catching up a little."

Guppy considers for a moment.

"If he's short of friends, would he like to come on a playdate with my kids?" he says, spontaneously.

***

He was slightly relieved that Joram didn't bring the maths homework with him when the kid came over. His uncle stuck around and had a cup of tea with Fran, while Fry and Coral taught Joram the words 'Nintendo', 'game', 'win' and 'tennis'.

"Four children under eight? I don't know how you manage it." Dr Ahmadi says. "I have enough to learn with one."

"At least they're all toilet trained now." Fran says. "But yes, they can be a bit of a handful. Brooke has just been through the terrible threes. Her teacher sent a letter home today despairing that she keeps insisting that she wants to be a dragon."

Dr Ahmadi laughs. Guppy looks thoughtful.

"As in the creature or the ice hockey team?"

"... I hadn't thought of the hockey one, maybe that's what she's on about!" Fran grins. "Maybe she should try out, might burn off some energy. She can ice skate pretty well."

"At four? Surely she's too young." Guppy says, getting out his phone. No, wait, you can start at four. Who knew?

"Is it fair though," Fran says suddenly. "For her to do two big activities?"

"Maybe she could do karate and ice hockey instead of learning an instrument?" Guppy suggests, suddenly keen to do something positive with Brooke, who has really been... incredibly difficult over the last year.

***

When Guppy approaches the ice hockey coach with Brooke, the coach's face lights up. He assumes for a moment that it's because she's already pretty steady on skates, but then he sees the coach looking her up and down.

"Hey kid, I'm Scott." he says. "What's your name?"

"Brooke." Brooke says, grinning at him.

"How old are you, Brooke?"

"Four."

"When's your birthday?"

"November 5th." Brooke says.

Scott grins broadly.

"You the biggest kid in yer class?"

"Yes." Brooke says.

"Awesome. Might have to make you netminder." Scott says, straightening up. "All right Dad, off you go to the other side while I put Brooke through her paces."

Guppy realises later that this is to make sure that Brooke can't only perform with a parent present. He heads back towards the dividing rope, and goes to look for Coral, who is making her way around the edge of the rink. Being a perfectly competent skater himself, he moves easily over to her. She reaches out to take his hand.

"You're quite sure you didn't want to have a go?" he asks her.

"No thanks." Coral says. "I'm all wobbly."

They skate around together for a bit, before getting off the ice to watch Brooke through the glass. Apparently Scott hasn't decided where to put her yet, because she seems to be doing a bit of everything, and considering it's her first time, pretty well.

"Brooke, you did brilliantly." he says at the end. It's the first time in a while he's been able to say that, and it feels good. "Good job." He looks at Scott. "Can she come next week?"

"Sure thing." Scott says. "She's naturally sporty, she'll be on the team in no time. Probably end up in the net."

"Long as she burns off some energy." Guppy laughs.

"Oh she will, netminder is the hardest job, you're on the ice the whole match." Scott grins.

"Am I a Dragon now?" Brooke asks.

"Not quite." Scott says. "Welcome to the Newts."

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