My Friend Bobby

by Alan Edward Nourse

Public Domain

Science Fiction Story: A five-year-old boy can communicate with his dog via think-talk. The little boy finds another friend, a panda, to make their trio dependent only on themselves, not to include his parents. His mother goes nuts, thinking they can read her mind, his father isn't so sure at first. How independent the little boy, dog, and panda become is the shocking and creepy ending you won't forget.

Tags: Science Fiction   Novel-Classic  

My name is Jimmy and I am five years old, and my friend Bobby is five years old too but he says he thinks he’s really more than five years old because he’s already grown up and I’m just a little boy. We live out in the country because that’s where mommy and daddy live, and every morning daddy takes the car out of the barn and rides into the city to work, and every night he comes back to eat supper and to see mommy and Bobby and me. One time I asked daddy why we don’t live in the city like some people do and he laughed and said you wouldn’t really want to live in the city would you? After all he said you couldn’t have Bobby in the city, so I guess it’s better to live in the country after all.

Anyway daddy says that the city is no place to raise kids these days. I asked Bobby if I am a kid and he said he guessed so but I don’t think he really knows because Bobby isn’t very smart. But Bobby is my friend even if he doesn’t know much and I like him more than anybody else.

Mommy doesn’t like Bobby very much and when I am bad she makes Bobby go outdoors even when it’s cold outside. Mommy says I shouldn’t play with Bobby so much because after all Bobby is only a dog but I like Bobby. Everyone else is so big, and when mommy and daddy are home all I can see is their legs unless I look way up high, and when I do something bad I’m scared because they’re so big and strong. Bobby is strong too but he isn’t any bigger than I am, and he is always nice to me. He has a long shaggy brown coat and a long pointed nose, and a nice collar of white fur and people sometimes say to daddy what a nice collie that is and daddy says yes isn’t he and he takes to the boy so. I don’t know what a collie is but I have fun with Bobby all the time. Sometimes he lets me ride on his back and we talk to each other and have secrets even though I don’t think he is very smart. I don’t know why mommy and daddy don’t understand me when I talk to them the way I talk to Bobby but maybe they just pretend they can’t hear me talk that way.

I am always sorry when daddy goes to work in the morning. Daddy is nice to me most times and takes me and Bobby for walks. But mommy never takes me for walks and when we are alone she is busy and she isn’t nice to me. Sometimes she says I am a bad boy and makes me stay in my room even when I haven’t done anything bad and sometimes she thinks things in her head that she doesn’t say to me. I don’t know why mommy doesn’t like me and Bobby doesn’t know either, but we like it best when mommy lets us go outdoors to play in the barn or down by the creek. If I get my feet wet mommy says I am very bad so I stay on the bank and let Bobby go in, but one day when Bobby went into the water just before we went home for supper mommy scolded me and told me I was bad for letting Bobby go into the water and when I told her she hadn’t told me not to let Bobby go in she was angry and I could tell that she didn’t like me at all that day.

Almost every day I do something that mommy says is bad even when I try specially to be good. Sometimes right after daddy goes away in the morning I know that mommy is angry and is going to spank me sooner or later that day because she is already thinking how she will spank me, but she never says so out loud. Sometimes she pretends that she’s not angry and takes me up on her lap and says I’m her nice little boy but all the time I can hear her thinking that she doesn’t really like me even when she tries and she doesn’t even want to touch me if she can help it. I can hear her wondering why my hair doesn’t grow nice like the Bennet twins that live up the road. I don’t see how mommy can be saying one thing out loud and something else inside her head at the same time but when I look at her she puts me down and says she’s busy and will I get out from underfoot, and then pretty soon I do something that makes her angry and she makes me go to my room or she spanks me. Bobby doesn’t like this. Once when she spanked me he growled at mommy, and mommy chased him outdoors with a broom before she sent me to bed. I cried all day that day because it was cold outdoors and I wanted to have Bobby with me.

I wonder why mommy doesn’t like me?

One day I was a bad boy and let Bobby come into the house before mommy told me I could. Bobby hadn’t done anything bad but mommy hit him on the back with the broom and hurt him and chased him back outdoors and then she told me I was a very bad boy. I could tell that she was going to spank me and I knew she would hurt me because she was so big, and I ran upstairs and hid in my room. Then mommy stamped her foot hard and said Jimmy you come down here this minute. I didn’t answer and then she said if I have to come upstairs and get you I’ll whip you until you can’t sit down, and I still didn’t answer because mommy hurts me when she gets angry like that. Then I heard her coming up the stairs and into my room and she opened the closet door and found me. I said please don’t hurt me mommy but she reached down and caught my ear and dragged me out of the closet. I was so scared I bit her hand and she screamed and let go and I ran and locked myself in the bathroom because I knew she would hurt me bad if I didn’t. I stayed there all day long and I could hear mommy running the sweeper downstairs and I couldn’t see why she wanted to hurt me so much just because I let Bobby come in before she told me I could. But somehow it seemed that mommy was afraid of me even though she was so big and strong. I don’t see why anybody as big as mommy should be afraid of me but she was.

When daddy came home that night I heard him talking to mommy, and then he came up to the bathroom and said open the door Jimmy I want to talk to you. I said I want Bobby first so he went down and called Bobby and then I opened the door and came out of the bathroom. Daddy reached down and lifted me high up on his shoulder and took me into my bedroom and just sat there for a long time patting Bobby’s head and I couldn’t hear what he was thinking very well. Finally he said out loud Jimmy you’ve got to be good to your mommy and do what she says and not lock yourself up in rooms any more. I said but mommy was going to hurt me and daddy said when you’re a bad boy your mommy has to punish you so you’ll remember to be good, but she doesn’t like to spank you. She only does it because she loves you.

I knew that wasn’t true because mommy likes to punish me but I didn’t dare say that to daddy. Daddy isn’t afraid of me the way mommy is and he is nice to me most times, so I said all right if you say so. Daddy said fine, will you promise to be nice to mommy from now on? I said yes if mommy won’t hit Bobby any more with the broom. And daddy said well after all Bobby can be a bad dog just the way you can be a bad boy, can’t he? I knew Bobby was never a bad dog on purpose but I said yes I guessed so. Then I wanted to ask daddy why mommy was afraid of me but I didn’t dare because I knew daddy liked mommy more than anybody and maybe he would be angry at me for saying things like that about her.

That night I heard mommy and daddy talking down in the living room and I sat on the top step so I could hear them. Bobby sat there too, but I knew he didn’t know what they were saying because Bobby isn’t very smart and can’t understand word-talk like I can. He can only understand think-talk, and he doesn’t understand that very well. But now even I couldn’t understand what mommy was saying. She was crying and saying Ben I tell you there’s something wrong with the child, he knows what I’m thinking, I can tell it by the way he looks at me. And daddy said darling, that’s ridiculous, how could he possibly know what you’re thinking? Mommy said I don’t know but he does! Ever since he was a little boy he’s known--oh, Ben, it’s horrible, I can’t do anything with him because he knows what I’m going to do before I do it. Then daddy said Carol, you’re upset about today and you’re making things up. The child is just a little smarter than most kids, there’s nothing wrong with that. And mommy said no, there’s more to it than that and I can’t stand it any longer. We’ve got to take him to a doctor, I don’t even like to look at him. Daddy said you’re tired, you’re just letting little things get on your nerves. So maybe the boy does look a little strange, you know the doctor said it was just that the fontanelles hadn’t closed as soon as they should have and lots of children don’t have a good growth of hair before they’re six or seven. After all he said he isn’t a bad looking boy.

Then mommy said that isn’t true, he’s horrible! I can’t bear it, Ben, please do something, and daddy said what can I do? I talked to the boy and he was sorry and promised he’d behave himself. And mommy said then there’s that dog--it follows him around wherever he goes, and he’s simply wicked if the dog isn’t around, and daddy said isn’t it perfectly normal for a boy to love his dog? Mommy said no, not like this, talking to him all the time, and the dog acting exactly as if he understands--there’s something wrong with the child, something horribly wrong.

Then daddy was quiet for a while, and then he said all right, if it will make you feel any better we can have Doctor Grant take another look at him. Maybe he can convince you that there’s nothing wrong with the boy, and mommy said please, Ben, anything, I can’t stand much more of this.

When I went back to bed and Bobby curled up on the floor, I asked him what were fontanelles, and Bobby just yawned and said he didn’t know but he thought I was nice, and he would always take care of me, so I didn’t worry any more and went to sleep.

I have a panda out in the barn and the panda’s name is Bobby too and at first Bobby the dog was jealous of Bobby the panda until I told him that the panda was only a make-believe Bobby and he was a real Bobby. Then Bobby liked the panda, and the three of us played out in the barn all day. We decided not to tell mommy and daddy about the panda, and kept it for our own secret. It was a big panda, as big as mommy and daddy, and sometimes I thought maybe I would make the panda hurt mommy but then I knew daddy would be sorry so I didn’t.

Bobby and I were playing with Bobby the panda the day the doctor came and mommy called me in and made Bobby stay outside. I didn’t like the doctor because he smelled like a dirty old cigar and he had a big red nose with three black hairs coming out of it and he wheezed when he bent down to look at me. Daddy and mommy sat on the couch and the doctor said let me have a look at you young fellow and I said but I’m not sick and the doctor said ha ha, of course you aren’t, you’re a fine looking boy but just let me listen to your chest for a minute. So he put a cold thing on my chest and stuck some tubes in his ears and listened, and then he looked in my eyes with a bright light and looked into my ears, and then he felt my head all over. He had big hairy hands and I didn’t like him touching me but I knew mommy would be angry if I didn’t hold still so I let him finish. Then he told daddy some big words that I couldn’t understand, but in think-talk he was saying that my head still hadn’t closed up right and I didn’t have as much hair as you’d expect but otherwise I seemed to be all right. He said I was a good stout looking boy but if they wanted a specialist in to look at me he would arrange it. Daddy asked if that would cost very much and the doctor said yes it probably would and he didn’t see any real need for it because my bones were just a little slow in developing, and mommy said have you seen other children like that? The doctor said no but if the boy seems to be normal and intelligent why should she be worrying so? Then mommy told me to go upstairs, and I went but I stopped on the top stair and listened.

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