The Stress-ball Thief

For my mother.

“The mall, Mommee! Let’s go to the mall!” I could hear the gears turning in my mother’s head. This made me nervous. It isn’t normal for her to be deep in thought; unless, she might actually say yes. Could she actually say yes? I thought that, perhaps, she might finally be willing to bring me somewhere exciting; grocery shopping no longer amused me. Our pantry always had enough food, but the house never had enough fun. After an incredible amount of contemplation, she turned to me, and a soft smile crawled onto her lips.

“If you are good, you will receive many blessings. Be good, and I will bring you to the mall.”

“Really? Yay! Okay. I’m always good, mommee!” The sun seemed to glow a brighter orange.

At the time, I never considered the fact that she never actually confirmed whether or not we were going to the mall. My nine-year-old brain wasn’t quite developed yet; the way I saw it, her answers to my questions were either a yes or a no– it was never a maybe. I gave her the benefit of the doubt and assumed that she meant yes. So, when she parked our white Nissan Rogue in front of a supply and department store, I immediately felt a surge of anger. “Not fun,” I muttered to myself. Pulling the corners of my mouth to the ground, I swung the car door open, slammed it closed, and stomped into the Canadian Tire. The sun was gone.

I had only wandered for about a minute when boredom began to wash over me. There’s only so much you can see in a department store before your eyes tire of seeing the same things over and over again, like riding the mini carousel at a street carnival. I dragged my size seven boots to the “toys” section, leaving a trail of mud and ick. If my mother ever needed to find me, I figured that she could follow my tracks.

Initially, nothing seemed to interest me. You would think that a nine-year-old boy would see the “toys” section as a heaven; however, at my young age, I sought the unconventional. Strangely, what peaked my interest was an odd looking ball in the shape of a miniature garbage bag. The moment it was in my sights, I knew:

It was love at first sight.

I approached the odd object, as fascination glinted in my dark chocolate brown eyes. Atop several boxes, it sat, stacked high from the floor to the height of my shoulders. It was out of place. Under the flickering lights of the old building, its green rubber skin contrasted the dull grey of the surrounding environment. It was the ugly duckling lost in a swamp of garden tools and Christmas decorations. Carefully, I lifted it from its rectangular throne and held it in a relatively loose grip. After several squeezes, I figured that, in my hands was a truly peculiar ball; it was a stress-ball designed to mimic a miniature garbage bag. A rubber imprint pressed onto my palms. In white, a sketch of a crying baby was the only distinct characteristic of the endless dark green fields that wrapped all the way around.

A part of me wanted to help him…But how?

“Would you like to stay with me, um– ‘Garbagey’? I chuckled at the absurdity of my strange ideas. Mommee would be furious, but Mommee wouldn’t have to know, right? I had no choice! I created a special bond with an inanimate object that needed my help. Perhaps, I was a little bit too sentimental in the heat of the moment; yet, today, I have learned that any of my decisions have always taught me well and have influenced my future decision making in life. A mistake is simply a lesson learned. After much contemplation, my head swiveled to ensure that the coast was clear. A guilty smile crawled onto my face and, swiftly but sneakily, I stole the stress-ball and officially bore a title that left a scar on my soul. I became the Stress-Ball Thief.

On our way back to the car, I dragged my feet with a heavy heart. I didn’t like the feeling of keeping secrets from Mommee. It just wasn’t right. When we were halfway through the trip back home, I decided that it was time to confess my sins. I knew that she would find out eventually, it would be better if it came from me.

“Mommee…” My gaze fell to my twiddling thumbs then to the protrusion in the pocket of my sweater. I winced at the sight.

“Yes, Sobun?” Although my mother kept her eyes on the road, I could hear that she was smiling.

“Mommee, there’s something that I have to tell you.”


“Oh– I uh. Ummm…”

“What is it?” I could feel the daggers of my mother’s eyes.

“Umm. I uh–I… I stole po*, Mommee.”

“You what!?”

“I stole something po. from Canadian Tire.”

“What? Why?”

“I don’t know, Mommee. I really don’t know.”

“You really don’t know? You stole!”

“I stole! I know! I don’t know. I– I’m confused.”

“What did you steal?”


“What did you steal, Jed?”

“Oh. Uh– I think it’s a stress-ball po.” I uncovered the object in question and presented it to my mom.

“A wha- Ano yan**!?”

“A stress-ball!”

“Why do you have a stress-ball!?”

“I stole it, remember!?”

“You stole it!? What!? Why did you steal it!?”

“I don’t know why! Remember!? Did you even hear a word I said?”

Ugh. An uncomfortable silence fell upon us. Uncertainty flowed in my blood and fed questions to my brain. How was I going to rekindle our relationship? Will my mother ever forgive me? Will Mommee never bring me to the mall ever again? I had been a disobedient son, so there was certainly a possibility that my mom would hold a grudge. Worst of all, I would be a bad kid, and bad people do not receive blessings. Despite the situation, there was a light air in Mommee’s next words.

“I’m happy that you told me, Sobun.”

“Huh? Ano po?”

“I mean, it’s good that you told me.”


“Yes. It would be bad to keep secrets from your mom.”


“You did the right thing.”

“Thank you, Mommee. I’m happy po that you aren’t angry.”

Mommee flashed me a small smile and, seeing that we had reached our destination, pulled the car into a slow stop. After an eventful evening, I was ready to rest in bed; however, to my surprise, Mommee had not parked the car at our driveway. Upon opening the car door, I found myself breathing in the air of various chatter, teenage vanity, social hangouts, and food court grease. We were at the mall. I quickly ran up to my mother and pulled her into a tight squeeze, giving her a swift kiss on the cheek. I began to skip toward the mall’s automatic doors. Its bright lights shone like a flashlight underneath a blanket which was the night sky, like the sun on a cloudless day.


*Po (or Opo)— a word in Tagalog that is added to sentences in order to show respect to elders
**Ano yan– Tagalog for “What’s that”
***Ano po– Tagalog for “What” (polite)

Toy Clouds

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  1. Dear Jed,

    Right off the bat, I really enjoyed the personal narrative that you have composed; I am almost at a lost for words as this piece made me feel a lot of emotions all at once! You also did a beautiful job melting your ideas with various elements of style in order to provide another layer of depth to your piece. In addition one of the main reasons why I loved the piece that you created is that I am really close with my own mother, therefore, your story really hit home for me, in my opinion, a writer that can cause a reader to feel aspects of their own life in relation to the piece is the true art of a fantastic writer.

    Some of my favorite moments within your writing were as follows:

    “Our pantry always had enough food, but the house never had enough fun.”

    When I first read this quote the thoughts that filled my mind were of my childhood and the innocence that you have at the age of adolescence, and what a beautiful time that it is too. Another section that I found amazing is the one below:

    “Why do you have a stress-ball!?”
    “I stole it, remember!?”
    “You stole it!? What!? Why did you steal it!?”
    “I don’t know why! Remember!? Did you even hear a word I said?”
    This section of your writing is very entertaining might I say it reminds me of a scene from a movie and I was actually imagining how this little clip would play out in my head and I am thoroughly amused.
    Your writing is beautiful, one way that you could enhance it is by possibly including the legend that you have for the words in Tagalog that you have at the bottom and put it somewhere where the readers can see it prior to reading those particular words if the theme of your blog permits. This is a very minor detail that I have suggested, and in all honesty, I was having some difficulty finding some areas where you could improve, so well done!

    Overall your writing is great, and I am very honored to have read it. I can not wait to read your future pieces of writing

  2. Dear Jed,

    I thoroughly enjoyed your writing style of the whole anecdote! It made me feel nostalgic since I felt the childhood theme emanating from this piece (that doesn’t really make a whole lot of sense but I hope you get what I mean). Your imagery was used expertly and your tone was on point for the story you were telling! My favourite line was “It was the ugly duckling lost in a swamp of garden tools and Christmas decorations.” I also especially liked the ending because it seemed like the “and they all lived happily ever after” sort of thing used in all children stories which complimented the rest of your story! I don’t really see any errors so I am very sorry I can’t give you any critical criticism. Just out of curiosity, you dedicated your story to your mother, why did you choose this story out of all others?

    Simran C.

  3. Dearest Jed,

    I cannot tell you enough how much I love your writing- seriously, every phrase seems to leave me sitting in awe wondering how someone could be so talented! I really loved this piece because of it’s pure & genuine voice behind it (I could hear you reading it out!), and how you dedicated it to your mom at the very beginning. Your voice through writing is so powerful & seems to affect the reader in a way you could never imagine! So amazing Jed, really! Your ability to create a piece so close to you and tell it in such a beautiful way, allowing the reader to understand your style really is beautiful. One of my favourite lines was: “The sun seemed to glow a brighter orange.” If that doesn’t scream eloquent & stylistically beautiful, I don’t know what does!

    For improvement, all I can really say is possibly put some type of emphasis on the phrases related to the sun, possibly separating them from the paragraph or italicizing them! This was just me falling in love with the way you blended beautiful phrases with an amazing & somewhat humorous piece!

    I love your writing Jed & seriously cannot wait to read more pieces! Your voice is so strong & something I aspire to develop! Can’t wait for more pieces, Jed!


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