Subject 84B

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Mister Short always says I’m a wonderful child. Then he laughs, like somebody’s told him a joke. Maybe it’s his imaginary friend—Barry tells me jokes all the time–but at least I know not to laugh at that sort of joke where someone else can hear.

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I live with Mister Short in the middle of the desert. I think I used to live somewhere else—somewhere green and cool and smiley—but when I ask about it Mister Short just tells me I don’t live there anymore. Which is true, so I can’t argue.

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Mister Short only says true things, so I never argue with him. That’s what he told me a long time ago—you can’t argue with the truth. He’s so smart. He’s always talking on the phone and reading books and peering through his glasses like the librarian at my school. He has very important business to do, he tells me. Very important business. Go practice your violin and leave him to his very important business.

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Mister Short likes it when I play the violin. I don’t think I’m very good—he’s played me real classical music, people who play the violin in a real band (an orchestra, Mister Short just told me)—and Mister Short agrees. I’m not very good. But I should still play, so I can get better.

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Mister Short also likes it when I draw. He doesn’t think I’m very good at that either, but I do it for the same reason I play the violin. Cause that’s the only way I’ll get better and cause Mister Short says so. At least I like playing the violin. It’s pretty, when I get it right, and it makes my arms vibrate and my skin get all shivery. But drawing is just boring. And sad, sometimes. Sometimes I draw things that I like and that Mister Short doesn’t, and then I have to tape it to the wall before he can throw it away.

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He tried to do that to my king and queen. I like my king and queen. They have nice, shiny crowns that I colored with a brand new crayon, and they have brown eyes that look nice and brown hair like mine. I put the picture on the wall by my bed, so they can watch me and protect me. The king has a sword, so he’d be a good protector.

I don’t always need a protector. But sometimes the kids at school don’t like that I get my homework done right all the time, and they don’t like that I wear glasses. And sometimes, even when I come home from school, I have to worry about needing protecting.

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Mister Short doesn’t believe me, but there’s a monster that lives under my bed. It has GIANT tentacles, and a bunch of small, little eyes, and I don’t like him very much. The first time I saw him, I tried to talk to him, but he didn’t want to be friends, and then he tried to eat Barry, and then I knew we couldn’t be friends anymore. Barry is the best. No one tries to eat Barry.

Since Mister Short says the monster isn’t there—“Monsters don’t exist, Darren”—he’s not very good at protecting me and Barry from the meanie monster. But that’s okay. The king and queen will do it for him.

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I wish the king and queen could protect me from the funny juice too. Mister Short gives it to me sometimes—he says it’s wonderful, for a wonderful boy, and it’ll only make me more wonderful—but I don’t like it much. That doesn’t happen a lot. I like to eat a lot of things. Cereal is my favorite food, but my second favorite is Mister Short’s grilled cheese. He doesn’t like it—whenever he tries to eat it, he spits it out—but Barry says that’s because grilled cheese is for kids; I like it lots.

I don’t like that funny juice thought. It makes my body all tingly—not like the violin does, but the way that the wind does when its super cold and first your fingers get tired and not bendy and then you can’t really feel them anymore and then, when you come back inside and its warm again, your fingers get tingly and they kinda burn. It’s like that. And after I drink the funny juice and the tingly stops, I still can’t sleep. For the whole night and the next day too, sometimes, I stay awake and awake and awake. Mister Short tells me to practice violin or practice drawing or practice pirates, but then he goes asleep, and the whole house is dark, and it’s just me and the king and the queen and Barry.

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I think I want to meet the king and queen one day. I told Mister Short that I wanted to meet them, and when I did I wanted to play them a special song on the violin. I tried to show it to them, but then he said I didn’t need to play violin anymore and then the violin went away. The next day, instead of my drawing table, there was a big round table with chairs and a lot of little men. Chess, Mister Short said, and then he made me learn how to play.

I don’t think I like it much. It’d be boring to play a chess game for the king and queen. Plus, I’m not very good.

But Mister Short says I have to keep playing to get better, and then after that I can go back to violin.

Really? I asked him,

Yes, he said.

And Mister Short always says true things, right?

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