“Charlie, go to your room.”
Charlie flung a hand toward his sister and wailed.
“Mom, she started it.”
“I don’t care who started it. You are never to call your sister names.”
He had called his sister, Susie, a “doody-head” after she had told him it was impossible for him to teach his cat, Merriweather, to do tricks.
Susie had been teaching her nipping, snarling chihuahua, Daisy, to sit and to lie down. Charlie figured if Susie’s snapping, ugly dog could learn to do tricks, perhaps he could have some success using the same training techniques with Merriweather.
“Your cat is just not as smart as my dog,” Susie had said, stroking Daisy.
“Well, maybe not,” Charlie had replied, “but I think she can learn to sit.”
“Well, you’re not as smart as I am, either,” Susie had added, “you’re practically still a baby.”
“I am not a baby,” Charlie said, but Susie ignored him.
“You have to be pretty darn smart to teach a dumb old cat anything. Your cat will do tricks when pigs fly.”
And that was when Charlie lost his temper.
Apparently alarmed by Charlie’s yelling, his mother had come into the room, hands on hips. Of course, Mother did not want to hear any of Charlie’s explanations. She only wanted to punish him for name-calling.
Charlie stomped his feet all the way up the stairs and down the hall, then kicked open the door to his room. He threw himself down on his bed and cried.
“I am not a baby,” he said, between sobs. “I am smart. Someday, Susie will see just how smart I am.”
He cried until he was exhausted, then fell into a deep sleep. He dreamed that he was a scientist, wearing a white lab coat and working in a laboratory with all sorts of grown-ups. The grown ups also wore white lab coats.
There was a bat in a cage on a table in front of Charlie. Next to it was another cage which contained a pot-bellied pig, which was pearly pink with tiny black eyes.
The pig looked friendly. Charlie smiled at it. It oinked and Charlie heard a friendly voice in his head say “hello”.
“Hello to you,” Charlie said to the pig. “What is your name?”
The pig lowered its head and gave a low growling grunt. “I don’t have a name,” said the voice in Charlie’s head. “ I’m a laboratory animal.”
In the same way a little boy knows anything in a dream, Charlie knew that he was in charge of some of the other scientists in the lab. He clapped his hands and two of these scientists came running over.
“This pig needs a name,” Charlie said, pointing at his pearly-pink friend. “I want him to be called ‘Oswald’ from now on.”
“Yes, sir!” The scientists said, giving a little half-bow before returning to wherever they had come from.
“There,” Charlie said to the pig. “You have a name.”
The pig grunted and moved its tiny front feet up and down, as though doing a little dance in its cage. “Oh thank you,” Charlie heard the voice say in his head, “I love my new name. But, what I would like more than anything else is a pair of wings, like that bat next to me has.”
Charlie looked at the bat. It was hanging upside-down, asleep.
“You want wings?” Charlie asked the pig.
“Well, I suppose wings aren’t necessary, if you can help me to fly in some other way.”
“You want to fly?” Charlie asked.
The pig repeated its little dance. “More than anything,” the voice in Charlie’s head said.
Charlie clapped his hands again. The two scientists reappeared.
“Bring me a whiteboard and some markers. I need to design wings for this pig.”
The dream scientists produced a board and markers, and Charlie was suddenly not inside himself, but watching from far away, the way that sometimes happens in dreams. He watched himself draw the outline of a pig with giant leathery bat wings.
“Eureka!” Dream Charlie shouted.
The dream changed into an operating room scene. The two scientists were there, dressed like surgeons. Charlie was inside himself again, not watching, and he was also dressed like a surgeon. He was sewing a set of wings onto Oswald, who lay on the operating table with his eyes closed, a little mask covering his snout.
Charlie’s hands tied a knot in the sewing thread and then he threw his hands in the air and shouted “Eureka,” once again.
The two scientists applauded. More scientists in lab coats appeared, and they all applauded as well. Charlie took a bow.
The dream changed again. Now Charlie and Oswald stood in a large, grassy field. All the scientists were there, too, and all the people of Charlie’s town, including Charlie’s Mom, Charlie’s Dad, and Susie, who, as usual, was carrying Daisy in her arms.
“Ladies and Gentlemen,” A lady in a business suit said into a microphone, “the most brilliant scientist in our time, Charlie, has achieved the impossible!
“Introducing, Oswald, the flying pig!”
Everyone except Susie cheered and clapped. Susie rolled her eyes.
Now she will see that I am not a baby, Charlie thought. Now she will see that I am smart.
“Go, Oswald,” Charlie cried.
Oswald did his little front-foot prancy-dance. “Up, up and away!” said the voice in Charlie’s head.
At that same moment, Oswald unfolded his smooth brown wings, which extended some three feet from either side, and began flapping them rhythmically. Oswald took three or four running steps and then he lifted off, little piggy feet skimming the grass, his body creating a shadow on the ground that looked like a giant “W” with an egg shape in the center.
Oswald skimmed the ground for a yard or so before he shot up into the air and did a complete loop in the sky. Then he righted himself and zoomed over the crowds of people, swooping low and then soaring high. Charlie grinned. He looked and saw Susie gaping up at the flying pig. She brought her eyes down to meet Charlie’s and said his name.
Charlie stirred and shook his head.
“Charlie, it’s time to wash up for dinner. Mom said so.”
Charlie sat up in his bed and remembered that he had been sent to his room. There was no Oswald the flying pig. His sister still thought he was a baby.
Frowning, Charlie went into the bathroom to wash up for dinner. Merriweather wove in and out of his legs, purring.
“You’re a good ole cat,” Charlie said, rubbing the kitty’s head. He picked her up and carried her downstairs.
“Mom, I’m going to go outside with Merriweather for a few minutes, if that’s okay,” he said.
“Sure, honey, get out and enjoy the sun. But don’t leave the yard. It’s almost suppertime,” his Mother said.
Charlie took Merriweather into the yard and tried to ignore Susie, who was pushing Daisy around the driveway in a doll carriage. He set the cat down in the grass before him. The cat stood looking up at him and gave a little meow.
“Okay, Merriweather” Charlie said, taking a cat treat from his pocket.“Sit.”
Charlie swore he saw Merriweather’s front feet move up and down in a sort of little dance. Then, the cat sat.
“Good girl,” Charlie cried, delighted with the cat’s obedience. He fed her the treat as he praised her, then turned to see if Susie had been watching. Charlie was pleased to see that it appeared she had been - her mouth was an o-shape and her eyes were wide. At that moment, Charlie was certain he saw a shadow move across the ground, a giant “W” with an egg-shape smack in the center of it. He looked up, and saw nothing.
“Thanks, Oswald.” He said.