by Than Pence
Timmy's mother doesn't like her son's stuffed ladybug, and his imagination even less.
|“It’s a Pillow Pet! The ladybug one that’s so cute!”
Watching the delight play out on his face, Timmy’s parents were pleased with their decision to buy the Pillow Pet for their son’s birthday. “I wish it had gone on sale at some point,” Timmy’s mother would say. “But I’m glad he really likes it.”
Days turned into weeks and his parents quickly outgrew what their son did not: the Pillow Pet. Timmy brought it with him everywhere. As a typical six-year-old, he had been expected to start kindergarten, but his classmates made fun of him for his unhealthy obsession with the stuffed ladybug.
Notes came home with Timmy. They chronicled the merciless teasing their son was going through and Timmy’s overprotective mother took it upon herself to home-school her boy.
At home, the Pillow Pet stayed with Timmy at all times, even in the bathtub. The boy would spend extra time each day blow-drying the stuffed bug while humming off-key tunes. Timmy’s mother began to grow worried and she decided to ask Timmy why the ladybug was so important.
“He’s a ladybeetle! His name is Lawrence and he’s not a ladybug, but a ladybeetle! And he’s the only one that will look after me. He says so! If I take care of him and love him, he’ll grant all my wishes and let me watch over his prisoners back on his home planet.”
His mother thought it was the most imaginative of tales and decided not to argue with her son. She was thankful that he was a creative boy, but she hoped he would loosen his hold on the Pillow Pet sooner rather than later: home-schooling was not something she wanted to always be doing.
In the dead of night, Timmy’s mother snuck into her son’s room and stole Lawrence away. It was a difficult feat since the boy clutched to the stuffed bug fiercely. She had chosen this night to act because she had slipped an extra dose of allergy medicine into his juice to insure that he wouldn’t rouse easily.
With the bug in hand, Timmy’s mother went to her bedroom where Timmy’s father lay. “What’re you doing with Lawrence, hon?”
“Hiding it. Timmy’s obsession is unhealthy. It’s nice that he’s got an active imagination, but this seems to be something that could stunt his development later on.”
“But he loves that thing.”
“And I love the idea of being a normal kid’s mother more. Lawrence goes.”
Sighing, Timmy’s father, as usual, conceded defeat and turned the lights out.
In the morning, Timmy’s mother awoke to the sensation that something was on her legs. Throwing the comforter away, she screamed at the ladybugs that covered her. She looked to Timmy’s father in wonder as the scream should’ve caused him to stir—only his face was gone, replaced by a mound of ladybugs. As soon as blood escaped his face, the ladybugs were there to gobble it up.
At the foot of the bed, Timmy’s mother finally noticed her son: he was staring with his lip out and his face red, dark circles under his eyes. Timmy’s hair was wildly placed. He was angry. “Mom, Lawrence found me and said you stole him.”
Sobbing, she asked, “Honey, what’s happening? What’d you do?” The bugs began to bite her skin; listening was hard but she managed
“I didn’t do anything, Mom. You did this! You and Dad! You never wanted me to go away with Lawrence, did you?! You just wanted me to stay here and grow up and get a boring, job in management, didn’t you? Have a wife and a little brat like me, right? Don’t bother answering. Lawrence already told me what you want of me, and I won’t have it, Mom. On his planet, I’ll get to be a guard over prisoners. He told me so!”
“Baby, please, let’s just forget anything happened.” She wanted this to end. She wanted to wake up and discover that she was truly part of the American dream, not some terrible European nightmare.
As if Lawrence were listening, Timmy’s mom awoke. Timmy’s dad was snoring next to her. His face had not been replaced by ladybeetles… or ladybugs. Her heart was hammering in her chest and she thought she might shake badly enough to move the house.
Getting out of bed, she grabbed Lawrence from his prison and returned him to her son. After two doses of allergy medicine, she slipped back under the covers and was fast asleep.
In the morning, Timmy’s father woke her up. “Hon, it’s nine-thirty. How’d you oversleep this late?”
“It’s okay. I fed Timmy, but I gotta get to work. Take care, hon.” He kissed her forehead and started for the bedroom door.
Timmy’s mother was quick to throw back the comforter to see any possible visitors. There were none. Upon standing, she looked into the corner of the room, near the ceiling, and shrieked. Timmy’s father quickly returned and said, “What’s wrong, hon?”
Pointing, her finger trembling, Timmy’s mother showed the cause of her outburst. Crawling on the wall was a ladybug.
“Hon, relax. It’s that time of year. When the ladybugs come in. Don’t worry.” He kissed her cheek, saying goodbye again.
She found Timmy in the living room, watching TV. She started to tell him to turn it off when she noticed another ladybug in the room, crawling along the window’s edge. “Hi, mommy.”
Her mouth was suddenly dry and sour, but she managed to scratch out, “Hi, kiddo.”
“I know we don’t normally watch TV this early, but Lawrence said it’d be okay.”
Looking at the stuffed bug in her son’s arms and then at the bug crawling by the window, she said, “Yes, Timmy. It’s okay. But just this once.” Her knees wobbled slightly, like the weight of a thousand bugs were crawling on them, in them. She knew none were there.
“Just… just this once.”
Word Count: 977