A little statue with a big secret

by Laura Cadieu, writer from Los Angeles, CA

They’ve been together for a long time now. These two have seen a lot of change, this little boy with his Scottie Dog. The bronze statue called “Boy and Dog” created by Ruth Peabody with its green patina sits at the corner of Upper Cliff Drive and Pacific Coast Highway at a tiny park called Jahraus Park in Laguna Beach, California. 

The park is named after Elmer Jahraus who came to Laguna in 1903. He was involved with many artists’ projects until 1927, the year the city incorporated. The statue celebrates his commitments to Laguna Beach. Most people pass by it and don’t even notice it, and then others are enchanted by its presence.

These two have a special bond, and few know of their little secret. The boy whom I’ve named Nathaniel and Sheldon, his Scottie dog, have a secret few know. It is a blessing or is it a curse? They can hear others talk, especially young children. But, over the years the conversations have changed. It used to be about the anticipation of playing in the sand, hearing the waves crash and children with their parents visiting this charming city with its’ artists community being revered. But things have become more serious. They often hear people honking their horns or arguing about their political stances. Everyone seems to point the finger at others. There seems to be a general discontent and it worries them.

They long for days where they would seldomly hear of any consternation or loud noises from Lamborghinis or Harley Davidsons. It used to be Model-T’s, then Chevy’s, Woodys, and the occasional Porsche Carrera. In the ’30s they recalled “In the Mood” would play, then came the ’50s and Chubby Checkers sang “The Twist”. In the ’70s they could hear The Eagles song “Hotel California and by the ’80s Madonna was very popular with “Material Girl”. Perhaps a little foreshadowing of things to come? 

But they noticed a change in tunes that were popular around the ’90s. The melodic songs sounded more like raps. An occasional explicative was spoken about girls with big butts. They had hope that it would turn around again and become lighter, but it just seems to be getting more and more controversial. There is nothing they can do about it except hold onto one another and dream of days gone by.

At night is when “Nate” and “Shelley” seem to reminisce the most. When no one is around they talk about what they had seen during the day. One girl stood out on a mid-July summer day. She was around six years old. She had blonde hair with ponytails, wore a yellow sundress, and had on cute white sandals with butterflies on them. 

While everyone was busy going about their day, she stopped to gaze at the statue. Her beautiful green eyes stared into Shelly’s eyes and she just knew he could see her too! They were making a special connection but just then they heard her mom call out, “Hazel, where are you?” Her parents hadn’t even noticed she wasn’t standing by them to cross the street. She was enthralled by Nate and Shelley. She tried to explain to her parents how this statue is special, but they didn’t have the patience to take the time to understand. Like most adults, they were lost in the rush of the day and didn’t stop to notice she was having a special moment.

“Come on Hazel, we need to get going”, her mom said.

But as they walked away Hazel kept looking back at the statue and felt a sadness come upon her. She wanted to stay with them.

The Johnston’s had spent the day at the beach. Hazel and her little brother Joe busied themselves building sandcastles. Her mom read a bunch of People magazines she had been saving up for this vacation. Her dad was sunning himself and appreciating time away from the office. They ate chips and tuna sandwiches, and even drank soda, which was a special treat for the kids, and truth be told, the parents too. 

By 4 pm the family started to head back to the hotel and Hazel instantly remembered they would be walking by the statue again. She got so excited she started to skip with delight and practically ran right onto PCH as she headed for Cliff Drive. Her dad yelled out “watch what you’re doing Hazel.” He rarely raised his voice, but he was just protecting her.

“Okay daddy, I just want to see the statue again” Hazel stated.

“No sweetie”, he said. “We’re going a different way this time.”

Hazel pleaded and said, “I must see them again.”

Her dad acquiesced and told her they would stay for only a bit because they needed to get back to their hotel and get ready for their dinner reservation.

“Yippee,” Hazel exclaimed.

When they arrived at the statue her parents were surprised to see that Hazel seemed to be having a conversation with the statue. Hazel could hear Nate and Shelley’s voices and she was able to communicate with them. She asked them an important question. “Do you like being a statue?”

Nate and Shelley were shocked. In all their years and having countless conversations with other children, no one had ever asked them that. Nate spoke first. “I think it is neat to be able to disguise ourselves as though we are not alive, but we can hear people speak.”

Shelley paused for a moment and he had a different answer. 

“I used to like it, Hazel, but I don’t like what I am hearing or seeing. People always seem to be rushing and forgetting to enjoy this special place. They all talk on these weird contraptions, looking down and forgetting to even look at one another. I see people drive faster, walk faster, and talk faster as if there is always something more important to be doing than what they are doing right now. You’re a rarity in these times because you stopped and took the time to listen to us. Little children used to do that all the time. But now they seem to be so wrapped up in the next best thing, so they miss seeing us too. I can understand why adults forget to be present, but young people, they’ve lost their innocence and forget to see the gifts which lie in front of them. Remember to stay present so you can notice the little things.” She thought she saw Shelley wink. “We think you’re special Hazel and we won’t forget you.”

Just then her mom said, “Come on Hazel, that is enough time.”

Hazel said, “But mom this time is all we have. Nate and Shelley taught me that.”

Her mom asked, “who are Nate and Shelley? Do you know them from school?”

Hazel said, “no, momma, the statue told me.”

Mrs. Johnston said, “Oh, Hazel, that is ridiculous.”

“But mom”, Hazel said. “Why do we need to go and what is so important?”

Her mom said, “You’ve spent enough time with this little statue and now you’re speaking nonsense. We are keeping your dad and Joe waiting, we need to go.”

She had no choice but to listen to her mom and leave. But Hazel kissed Nate and Shelley on their cheek and said, “I won’t forget what you taught me.”

That night as Nate and Sheldon drifted off to sleep, they thought a lot about Hazel and wished more people could be just like her.