The Slayer of Nightmares (Barks at the Mailman)
There is no reason and every reason to be afraid of the dark. There’s a whole lot of nothing in there and you can’t see any of it, and even after your pupils adjust to the proper size, there’s always a few shadows off in the corners that some beastie or another could emerge from just as soon as you convince yourself that there’s really nothing there, that you didn’t hear anything, that Mommy and Daddy are right down the hall and it’s safe to go to sleep. The moment your eyelids slam shut, it’ll slip out of the darkness and slither towards your bed, oozing mucus all over the carpet.
Such is the inner life of an imaginative young child like my youngest son, the boy whose senses take in not just the waking world, but paints all over it with images of the dreamscape that lives in his head. Don’t get the wrong idea, it’s not all morose and macabre in there. When the sun’s shining, he see all sorts of worlds filled with all sorts of creatures, kind, unkind, and everything in-between, all of whom bow to his whim. But when the sun descends, so does his courage, his trust in the safety that exists inside the four walls of his room.
Night lights help some. He’s got two of them, shining from opposite ends of his room. We even leave the light on in his closet sometimes with the door cracked just a touch. But there are some nights that even this fails to drive away all of the imagined evils under his bed, behind his dresser, walking straight through his walls from the outside. Did you know cats can do that? He told me so. He’s also got a bed full of stuffed friends, but he’s made it clear time and again, this army can’t possibly stand against the one he imagines is coming for him.
It became really clear, the kid was scaring himself shitless with his wonderful imagination.
But just as he created the problem, he also nailed the solution. When in the midst of yet another one of our pre-bedtime conversations where I was trying to be rational with him, pointing out how there was nothing in his room, nothing dangerous that could get in, that his family was outside, and that he had a bed full of stuffed buddies, he bawled out, “But I want somebody alive in here!”
Somebody alive. None of this stuffed animal nonsense. Something with a pulse.
Of course, his mom and I are way way way past any of that co-sleeping business. This kid barely ever slept with us anyway, back when we had the new parent fortitude to do such a thing. But a dog? Well hell, a dog can sleep anywhere.
We called in Elliott, our oldest child, our medium-sized lab-dachshund-ish mutt dog whom I’ve often referred to as The Best Dog Ever because, well, he kinda is. He laid down and went to sleep at the end of the kid’s bed, and there he stayed. Kid’s slept easy every since.
I thought I loved this dog before. Now, he’s something like my hero.