Saturday, May 14, 2005


      Sticky chairs. This is what makes a grown-up office different from, say, a playground or a grocery store. The principal, the dentist, the sleep psychologist - if your legs are painfully stuck to the surface of your seat, you're probably in for it.
      There was a long silence. Douglas lifted one leg and it made an awful suction-cup noise. He put his leg down. Dr. Bromyde flipped through his notes, ignoring the sound. Douglas unstuck his other leg.
      "Hello, Douglas," started Dr. Bromyde, clearly annoyed.
      "Hello," said Douglas, and put his leg back down.
      "The last time we met, which I believe was over a month ago..." He looked hard at Douglas's mother, who was looking anywhere but back, "we began to discuss a new character, named Josef. Is he still appearing in your dreams?"
      "And is he still a..." the doctor dove into his notes.
      "A laboratory mouse," helped Douglas, "Yes. More than ever." Dr. Bromyde looked at Douglas. Douglas looked at Dr. Bromyde.
      "Right. A superintelligent lab mouse."
      "Oh no," corrected Douglas, "he's quite an ordinary lab mouse." Dr. Bromyde put down his notes.
      "An ordinary lab mouse who talks and flies a spaceship to visit you in outer space?"
      "All mice can," said Douglas, simply, "We only think we're the smartest animals on Earth. Josef says mice and dolphins are both smarter."
      "And if Josef is right, why don't all mice talk to us - you know, ask for a nice piece of cheese, try to take over the world, that kind of thing?"
      "They're doing experiments on us."
      "Ahh," said Dr. Bromyde, "So when we run them through mazes and chase them with brooms, that's what they want, because they're smarter than us."
      "And dolphins," added Douglas.
      "And dolphins," sighed Dr. Bromyde, "Tell me, are the dolphins also doing experiments on us?"
      "Nah. They just, you know, muck about having a good time."
      "Of course. Douglas, dreams are extremely important. They can show you what your brain is thinking about, even when you don't realize it. I want you to start recording your dreams in a dream journal. All you have to do is keep an empty school notebook by your bed. As soon as you wake up, write down as much as you can remember of your dreams. Do you think you could do that?"
      Douglas pretended not to be excited.
      "Good," continued Dr. Bromyde, "Is there anything new you'd like to talk about? Other characters maybe? When was the last time you spoke with Josef?"
      Douglas shrugged.
      "About a week ago," his mom said quickly.
      "Uh-huh, uh-huh," nodded Dr. Bromyde, taking notes, "and what did he say?"
      "He told me he's going to come and get me," answered Douglas, "because I've got to save Earth."
      Dr. Bromyde looked at Douglas's mom, then back at Douglas.
      "And what are you saving Earth from?"
      "I don't know yet," said Douglas confidently.
      "Oh, look at that - our time's almost up," said Dr. Bromyde, "Why don't you go sit in the waiting room, while your mother and - "
      "I know, I know," Douglas interrupted, "I'm going."
      Dr. Bromyde followed Douglas to the door, and then pushed it closed.
      "The door doesn't close all the way if you just push it," Douglas said quietly to no one in particular. And he walked a small circle that returned him to the crack in the door. He listened.
      "This is getting serious," said Dr. Bromyde, approaching Douglas's mom.
      "It's gotten better since Josef arrived," she replied, rising from her chair.
      "Amelia, I'd hardly call a talking space-rat better."
      "It is in fact a lab mouse," she corrected, as if that made more sense. Douglas smiled.
      "Yes, yes, well," the psychologist huffed, in that way that only really smart people can, "in any case, he is a fiction. And one that is keeping your child from a good night's sleep. Honestly, Amelia, sometimes I wonder..." He trailed off importantly.
      "Yes, doctor?" Amelia responded. She wasn't going to be beaten by silence. "What do you wonder?"
      "It's just, sometimes," he wasn't at all ready for this, so he stumbled and grew irritated, "you act as though you believe his dreams. Like this rodent is going to waltz in your back door tomorrow and take Douglas on some great space adventure to save the Universe. I think this fantasy is a convenient alternative to dealing with more important issues, like his father, and sometimes I wonder, well, I wonder if you want the fantasy to end." Douglas cringed.
      "Uh-oh," he whispered, "wrong answer, Doc."
      Things were suddenly very quiet in the office, and Douglas carefully peered inside. His mother stood there, kinda funny, with her mouth open, and her finger in the air. She turned away, then back again.
      "I know that there is a problem," she began finally, angrily, "and Douglas knows I will do anything to help him. But I am not a bad mum, and I am not going to listen to you tell me that I am."
      "Amelia - " the doctor protested, but she was already opening the door. Douglas jumped to a chair.
      "And I know he's not going on some great space adventure to save the Universe," she added, her hand on the doorknob, "just the world. Isn't it your job to listen?"
      This time, the door shut.


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