Bedtime Version 2

The Faraway Mountain Episode 6

20 minutes in

“Sammy, are you okay? Why don’t you come back home son? Just for a little while.We’ll send Mr.Holt to pick you up. He can be there tomorrow morning”

Sam Swan was at the payphone at a Travelers’ Stop in Circle Forest. It was raining.

“Sam?”, the telephone echoed.

“I’m listening”, Sam said to his father. He drew a breath.

“Sorry dad, I can’t come home. Not now. We’re very close to the mountain. Mr.Rory is all set for tomorrow’s plan. I can’t leave him. I promised myself and to him”

“You take care son. I know you loved Jack. We miss him too”, his father said.

“Yeah”, Sam replied, his voice finally breaking.

Sam didn’t hang up. Neither did his father.

“I’m sorry Sam”

“Yeah”, said Sam as he hung up.

Mr.Rory was sitting on a chair in the porch. He was staring at a puddle.

Sam leaned against the wall and stared into the open forest and then to the puddle.

Mr.Rory cast sidelong glances once in a while. But they continued staring at the puddle, one melancholy and the other concerned. Sam wanted didn’t want to talk; however, he did want someone to talk to him. Mr.Rory, in the meantime, was contemplating whether consoling Sam Swan was the right thing to do, because Mr.Rory never had a dog. Mr.Rory never had family.

Sam remembered this and decided to break the noise of the rain. He sat down on the wooden floor of the porch.

“Yes, Sam?”, Mr.Rory replied, instantaneously. 
“My dog died. His name is Jack. He was there when I was born and he was my best friend growing up. None of the other kids played with me, since I seemed weird to them. I’d play all evening with him in the alley behind our house.

Sometimes, it hurt. The fact that the other children wouldn’t play with me. So I cried sometimes and Jack would always lick away my tears. That’s why I want him back. I know it isn’t possible. But right now, I unreasonably want to ask you or anyone who can, to bring him back”

Mr.Rory looked on helplessly. Mr.Rory looked at the puddle again. He took a deep breath. He looked at Sam now.

He got up and sat down next to him. Mr.Rory was new to this. He put his arm around him, because he’d seen people do it on television; now he understood. They both stared at the puddle.

“Sam, I’m sad too”, said Mr.Rory.

After a while, Sam started to sob. He buried his face into Rory’s shoulder and cried.

8:00 p.m , Apartment 705 , The Retreat
Bandra, Mumbai

I watched my daughter. She had a halo of TV-light. She turned around, I couldn’t see her face. I could see the texture of her skin. What I could also see was a break in texture. Was she crying? The light seemed to get caught in the tear drops as they ran down her cheeks. But the halo was too bright to know for sure.

She looked at the TV again.

“Back up a little, Pixie. Actually, come sit with me over here on the sofa. Do you want glasses? That’s how you get glasses”, I said to her.

She stood up and walked back, eyes still glued to the screen.

“Daddy, I guess Mr.Rory will bring back Jack won’t he? I mean, Mr.Rory has only one friend - Sam and if I were Rory, I would do anything for my only friend. Plus, he knows magic!”

“Actually, I don’t think so, Pixie. I think Jack’s gone”, I said as I stared studied the credit roll. I looked at Pixie. She was crying. She seemed to be trying to hold back.

“Pixie, it’s okay to cry”, I said, as I hugged her.

She buried her head into my shoulder and let out a silent sob.

“Daddy, what if nobody wants to play with me? I don’t have Jack”, she said

“No Pixie, why would you think that!? Look, all that matters is that you have someone who loves you, and mom and me love you so much. We’ll be friends forever!”

“But I want my other friends to like me!”

“They do!”

“How do you know?”

“They still call you out to play, don’t they?”

“Yeah”, she said slowly.

“So there you have it! Pixie, don’t ever think that! You’re a blast to play with! I’m sure your friends like you just the way you are. You don’t have do anything to get them to like you”

“OK”, she said, meekly.

I knew my words were falling on deaf ears. That’s exactly what I did. I just hoped that she’d find this out for herself sooner and in better circumstance.

There are very few tragedies of the human heart that are as beautiful, bittersweet, and essential as growing up. We walk away from the constructs in our heads, losing all immunity and joy at once. There are always incidents which incrementally chip away at a person’s monument to childhood, when in the end, all that is left is a gem of nostalgia. Memories of emotions that will be impossibly hard to recreate.

“Okay, TV’s done. Time for bed!”

I put her down and nudged her. Halfway through, she reminds me, “Today’s story time!”

“Yeah, I know.”, I replied.

I continued staring at the TV. Lowell and Punch was on. I didn’t like this one. Too much irritating naivety. I turned the TV off.

Maya sat down beside me. She had a book in her hand. I couldn’t see what it was

“Which one is that?”, I asked her

The Diamond as Big as the Ritz. An unusual one, considering…”

“I haven’t read it”

“So what’d I miss today?”

“It was a sad one today. Sam’s dog Jack died”

“Oh… I’ll catch it tomorrow morning”

I stared at our reflection on the TV screen
“Hey, do you think that she could also be prone to …. you know… anxiety and stuff? Because I read somewhere that it can be genetic. I don’t know…. I’m sure it’s bogus, but what if it’s true?”

She looked at me.

“There’s nothing you can do, and I’m sure that she’ll fight it.”

“Yeah…. I’m going to go and read her a story”

“I’m coming too”, she said.

She gets up.Pulls me up by the arms. She hugs me. She puts her arm around my waist. We walk to our daughter’s bedroom.

We see Naina jumping on the bed.

“Well, the little pixie’s flying again?!”, I said, laughing.

“Daddy!! storytime!!!”

“Okay, but first, stop jumping before you hit an airplane”

My wife giggles.My daughter giggles. I never tire of that. I catch her mid air and lay her down on the bed. We pull the sheets over her.

“Comfy?”, Maya asks

“What’s Comphee?”, Naina asks back.

“It’s short for comfortable. Comfy?”, I clarify.

“Yeah, I’m Comphee! Let’s start story time!!”

“Okay, you ready for this? I’m about to unveil history’s greatest story right here.. for the first time… specially for lil’ miss Pixie”,I said, as I tickled her belly.

“What’s unwhale?”, she asks through her fit of giggles.

Unveil”, I stressed, “means to show something really special to everyone”

“But there’s only me and mom here. Should I call Julie?”

“No. This is the best audience right here”, I said as I smiled.

“Yeah”, she laughed.

“Okay, no more talk. story time!”