Bruce Fisher knew his parents meant well. He just wished they’d leave him alone. I mean, OK, he did keep them awake at nights screaming that he was being kidnapped by aliens; he could understand how that was annoying, interrupting their sleep pattern. But why couldn’t they just sound-proof his room or something? Why were they subjecting him to this humiliating torture? Hadn’t they sated their sadistic urges when they named him Bruce?
A man that had to be the doctor came out of an office and smiled at Bruce’s parents.
"Thanks so much for waiting," he said. "You just leave Bruce with me and come back in fifty minutes."
"You charge by the hour," Bruce’s father grimaced in what Bruce knew was as close as he could come to a smile. "Does the mean we get $20.00 off the price?"
"Donald," Bruce’s mother whined. "This is no time for jokes. Are you sure he’ll be all right?" she asked the doctor.
"Oh, absolutely," said the doctor. "Don’t you worry about a thing."
Right, Mom, thought Bruce. Like he’d really tell you if he was going cut me up in small pieces and feed me to his aquarium full of pet piranhas. Bruce hated when he did that. He’d make a wise-ass remark to prove that he wasn’t scared, and then he get terrified. As the doctor ushered him into the office, he looked around anxiously. No aquarium, thank God.
"Now, Bruce," the doctor purred. "Do you know why you’re here?"
"Yes, sir," said Bruce. "You’re going to hypnotize me to find out why I scream at night."
Bruce realized that he had called this man sir and cringed. Why had he done that? He never called anyone, sir.
"That’s right, Bruce. Now I’d like you to make yourself comfortable, take three slow, deep breaths, look at this pen and listen to the sound of my voice."
Bruce opened his eyes. His first thought was, where am I? But that was always his first thought on waking up. He looked around the office, and for some reason the word piranha popped into his mind. Then he remembered everything. He focused on the doctor who was looking at him with a very annoyed expression. Guess he hadn’t gone under. Man, thought Bruce. I’m even a failure at getting hypnotized.
"I’m very disappointed in you, Bruce," the doctor said. Bruce started to protest that it wasn’t his fault, some people just can’t be hypnotized. He saw a special about it on A&E. But the doctor was walking away from him. He opened the door and asked Bruce’s parents to come in. Bruce was puzzled. They wouldn’t be there. The doctor had told them not to come back for fifty minutes and if there’s one thing his parents were religious about, it was obeying orders from people with "doctor" in front of their names. But there they were, looking pale, sweaty, and grim. Same as usual. Bruce glanced at the clock on the wall in the waiting room. 11:50. Where had those fifty minutes gone?
"Well, Mr. and Mrs. Fisher," the doctor said. "I have some good news and some bad news. The good news is that there is nothing seriously wrong with your son. The bad news is he’s been playing an elaborate prank at your expense. I suggest you take the cost of my appointment out of his allowance. Maybe then he’ll think twice before playing with your hearts, minds, and wallets in this callous manner."
"What are you talking about?" Mrs. Fisher asked. Bruce had been about to ask the same question.
"Would you like to know what your son said?" the doctor asked. Without waiting for an answer, he proceeded to read from the clipboard in his hand.
"In response to my request to describe his nightmare, Bruce stated that he had been kidnapped by aliens. When asked to describe what these aliens looked like, he said that they have pale skin, the female weighs approximately 160 lbs. and the male weighs approximately 200 lbs. They are stupid, slow moving and spend 90% of their free time cooking out on the patio and throwing peanuts to the squirrels."
Silence. Bruce was appalled. He knew his mother would never forgive him for saying she weighed 160.
Mr. Fisher said, "I’m afraid I don’t understand." The doctor looked like he wanted to shake him.
"Don’t you get it? The whole thing is a hoax!!! He’s probably doing this to get out of going to school. He pretended to let me hypnotize him, then acted as if his own parents were the scary aliens he’s been having nightmares about. Now this may seem like a harmless prank to you, but if you want my professional opinion, you have one very hostile child on your hands. I’d be happy to recommend a good child psychiatrist if you wish."
No one said much on the ride home. Bruce’s father was wondering if he should defrost the ribs before putting them on the grill. His mother was promising herself that she wouldn’t eat desert for a month. Bruce knew his parents pretty well. That’s why it amazed him that he hadn’t realized before what the problem was. Of course he knew now that it was his parents who caused him to wake up screaming. But what he hadn’t realized until this moment is that it wasn’t his parents who were the aliens. He was. It was all so clear. And now, for the first time, he remembered the nightmare.
He was being lifted out of a space craft which had landed on a grassy plot. His beloved progenitor put him down and went off to look for signs of intelligent life. Naturally she paid no attention to Mr. and Mrs. Fisher who were standing 30 feet away, barbecuing. These idiots picked him up, and took him into their house. They then moved to a town where no one knew them. By the time his true parent returned, he had been whisked away to a grassy lawn with an outdoor grill, far far away.
When they pulled into the driveway, Bruce’s father looked over his shoulder. "So, champ," he asked Bruce. "What’ll it be? Franks or burgers? I think we should let those ribs defrost before we pop them on the grill. Give your mom a chance to stock up on that swell barbecue sauce you like so much."
"I think," Bruce’s mother said thoughtfully, "I’ll just have a nice salad with low-fat Italian dressing."
Bruce was so used to going along with the program, he almost caved. But then he remembered how happy he had been on the spaceship with no backyard, no cookouts, no squirrels, just computer games and black space stretching into infinity.
"Take me back," he demanded.
"What?" his mother asked. "Whatever are you talking about?"
But Bruce had seen a flicker of guilt on her face. She knew the game was over.
"Take me back to the place you found me, where you stole me from my people and my true home."
Bruce’s mother started to cry. His father put his arm around her and said, "There, there, mother." He turned to Bruce. "Sure you don’t want a wiener before you go? It may be a long time before you get another."
"I’m sure," Bruce said.
"How ‘bout the squirrels? Want to feed them a few last peanuts? I bought a new bag. It’s in the trunk."
"No, thanks," Bruce said.
His father put the car into reverse and backed out of the driveway. Bruce silently forgave his adopted parents. They weren’t really bad. Just unbelievably stupid.
As they made the long drive back to the spot where the Fishers had abducted him, Bruce reflected that he had been a toddler at the time of the kidnapping. He was now ten Earth years old. But the spaceship would be there, waiting for him.
He knew it would.