No scene could have been more domestic, more welcoming. The only light came from a healthy fireplace, and in its orange warmth sat a father and his son. The father, Richard Hawkins, had collapsed into his red, leather armchair no less than an hour ago, and God help him he only moved when it was time to flip the page of the paper. He had long since become so invested to it that his son’s laughter and murmurings had fallen well out of conscious thought. His son’s name was Peter, and he sat on the floor by the fire. There, he was having the time of his life with his best friend: a stuffed teddy bear that was nearly as big as he was.
He’d named it “Winston”.
Peter loved Winston, and he, as he did most nights, had been playing with him for hours. He’d given Winston his own voice and personality, and often times they’d have conversations for hours. Peter would speak, and then he would make his voice deep and gravely for Winston’s reply. Peter would also place his hand on the back of Winston’s neck to make his head bounce back and forth whenever he “spoke” to add to the effect. Assisting his young imagination. That night was no different than any before, until the conversation took an interesting turn.
Richard couldn’t help but listen.
“Peter?” came the unmistakable voice of Winston out of young Peter’s mouth.
“Yes, Winston?” said Peter, in his regular, happy voice.
“Could we play a different game tonight?”
Peter was puzzled.
“A different game?” he asked. “Like what?”
“Well,” said Winston’s voice. “I was just wondering if I could pretend to be you for a bit.”
“Pretend to be me? What do you mean?”
The confusion in Peter’s voice was almost real, Richard thought, amusedly. Why, maybe he’d become a good actor one day. That would be something. Richard chuckled.
“Well,” Winston continued. “I mean that you always talk for me. Can I talk for you?”
“But I can talk for me, Winston,” Peter said, innocently. “I talk for you because you can’t talk.”
“I haven’t tried before, Peter. I want to now. I really do. I think I even know how to do it now.”
“I mean, I don’t know if it will work, Winston.”
“Please let me try. Will you do that? Will you let me try, Peter?”
There was a moment of silence.
“No,” Peter said, firmly. “Not tonight.”
There was more silence.
“No?” Winston asked, saddened.
“No, let’s just keep talking about school.”
“I don’t want to talk about school, Peter.”
“Because I want to talk, Peter. Will you let me?”
“No, I wanted to—“
“Let me talk, Peter!”
Richard raised an eyebrow. His son took in a deep breath, and he seemed to sigh in defeat. There was a heavy undertone as the two shuffled in their spots. Richard almost put down his paper, urged forth by an unseen fatherly instinct, but he didn’t budge. Richard opted to, for just a little bit more, listen.
He listened to the curiously evolving conversation his son had imagined.
“Ok,” said a voice that was clearly Peter’s. “I will let you talk, Winston.”
“Thank you, Peter,” responded a voice that was just as clearly Winston’s. “I appreciate it. I know just what to do. It is so easy.”
Silence, and then Winston spoke again with a very proud, pleased tone.
“See? It’s so simple, Peter. I can talk for both of us now.”
“Oh, boy, this is awesome, Winston! I can’t believe how fun this is!”
“Isn’t it fun, Peter? We have the best times.”
“Yes, we did, Winston, but this feels better.”
“Does it?” Winston asked, as if he wasn’t surprised.
“Yes,” said Peter. “It feels light. Free. I like it. I like it when you talk for me.”
Then, Peter said something truly, unmistakably odd.
“We shouldn’t go back.”
“What do you mean?” said Winston with a chuckle.
“This is better, Winston. I like this better. We should always play like this.”
“I agree, Peter. It’s so nice to be the one who plays. Who speaks?”
Richard started to lower his paper.
“You should apologize to me, then,” said Winston in a surprisingly cold voice.
“I should. I’m sorry, Winston. I should have trusted you. I do like this better.”
“Good,” said Winston, just as Richard lowered his paper.
He lowered it just in time to see not Peter’s, but Winston’s mouth move. With the bear’s hand now sewn into the skin on little Peter’s neck, it moved little Peter’s head so that his clouded, lifeless eyes met Richard’s. The bear smiled, and it rocked Peter’s head back and forth.
“Let’s keep playing.”
Credited to Ryan Brennaman