hat was the wish Bobby made on his fifth birthday as he huffed and puffed at the candles on his double-decker, chocolate-fudge cake. It wasn't so much that Bobby hated nightmares, which he did, but what Bobby's mother had so politely told him, after the clown show but before the birthday cake, that prompted him to make this wish.
"You're a big boy now, Bobby," she had said, mussing his hair.
Yes. Yes, I am, thought the boy, smilingly clutching his brand-new, balloon rendition of a giraffe.
"And you know what that means, don't chu?"
No, he did not.
"It means no more nightmares. Big boys don't have nightmares." Bobby's shining morning smile faded quickly when he heard that.
Ever since Daddy left, Bobby had dreamt that Mommy would leave, too. And left she did in Bobby's dreams. The boy searched for Mommy through hallways that never ended and through the Target parking lot he had lost her in last year. The nice man had saved Bobby then. The one with the bell and the red pot. The Salation Armyman. He was collecting money so that little kids who were hungry could eat. The Salation Armyman had talked to Bobby and held him by the hand until the tears dried and Mommy was found, shaken but relieved.
Mommy always said that they were just dreams as she held Bobby in her bed until he calmed down. Just dreams, she sighed. She would never leave him. But now Bobby couldn't wake in the middle of the night and run to her. Apparently, big boys don't do that. Big boys don't have nightmares. Perhaps being five was more than Bobby had expected.
But Bobby was a smart boy and by the time the cake had been brought out to the sounds of an off-tune, prepubescent attempt at the Happy-Birthday-to-Bobby song, he had hatched a plan. He would simply wish the nightmares away. After all, birthday boys, be they big or small, all receive one wish. Bobby used that wish wisely, smiling brightly at Mommy as the last candle went out in a wispy, whirly plume of smoke. No more nightmares.
Cake was consumed and in the flurry of presents that followed Bobby forgot all about the nightmares he would no longer be having. In fact, Bobby was quite content through the rest of his birthday party and into the evening. He was only a little disappointed when Mommy came to tell him that he needed to stop playing with his new toys and prepare for bed. It's time, she said.
Bobby dutifully dressed himself for sleep and nestled into bed, waiting patiently until Mommy came to tuck him in.
"You're such a big boy, now," Mommy told Bobby. She leaned in to kiss his forehead and said, as always: "Good night, my darling angel." As always, Bobby smiled and soon, Bobby slept.
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