Maggie was preparing the material scheduled for the coming week’s episode when the head of the station called her to his office. He leaned back in his chair and beamed. “Well, Maggie, how would you like a promotion to host and be programmer for the youth section?”
While the promotion excited her she nervously wondered how she could possibly connect with teenagers. She was thirty years old and struggled to recall her own troubled teenage years. Experience taught her that writing useful programs for those viewers was extremely demanding. Their fragility had to be subtly and sensitively depicted. She needed to show she understood teenagers’ complicated tastes and that was not going to be easy.
She realized she had to put herself in their place and to recall what she liked when she was a teenager. Those were anecdotes, songs, toys and board games. As a lover of animation characters, she created a sidekick named “Jiggy Bo,” a hand puppet with inquisitive eyes and gentle manner. She based him on Mr. Pricklepants from the adorable Toy Story series.
As the show received many positive reviews, schools, charity events and teenage rehab centers invited her to perform.
One day she was due at one of these centers. She had watched documentaries and seen how tough life was inside them and this worried her. Her anxiety heightened when the nurse searched her for illegal drugs.
To calm down she left her team setting up and took a walk down the echoing hallway. She came upon a young person who shyly smiled at her. He was playing with his long hair and looked cutely androgynous.
He started to greet her when the nurse interrupted. “Danny, get back to the room and take a seat,” she barked.
The smile immediately disappeared from Danny’s face and a scowl replaced it. He spun on his booted feet and disappeared with a flick of tartan skirt. The nurse followed Maggie’s gaze, then rolled her eyes, “She,” the nurse rolled her eyes… “He, is only fourteen but such a troublemaker. We are all absolutely sick of him.”
Troubled by this, Maggie returned to the room where the crew was setting up. It buzzed with the sound of chattering, giggling teenagers. She settled Jiggy Bo on the table next to her and began to read some poems. She continued with a play and ended with a small quiz. The nurse told her not to make the show longer than one hour, and Maggie made sure to finish just before dinner time. As she performed, her eyes kept returning to Danny who sat away from the rest of the group, legs and arms tightly crossed.
Afterwards, instead of rushing from the room as the others did, Danny stayed and drifted about. She began playing with Jiggy Bo's arms, twisting the arms around his floppy body. Danny cautiously looked around then said through his wild brownish hair and pleading eyes, “Can you adopt me? I’m really scared of this place.”
Azadeh Nafissi (France)