“Mummy?” our kindergartner says, without looking up. It’s bedtime and he is reading a big new book, The Ultimate Encyclopedia of Dogs. Inexplicably, the child is, unlike ourselves, a ‘dog person’, and the different canine breeds are his current topic of interest.
“Yah?” I reply. I’m folding the laundry on the side of his bed.
“Pinky is not my friend anymore.”
“Oh, I see. How come?”
“Pinky is like Bing Bong, gone into the memory dump.”
We watched Inside Out several weeks ago, but the movie remains fresh in the kindergartner’s memory. He has liked it so much that we have bought him a large framed poster of the film. It now hangs on the wall facing his bed.
“Okay,” I say. Our pet horse peers out from under the covers, waiting tentatively.
“Mummy, why did Bing Bong disappear?” the kindergartner repeats.
“Because Riley is a big girl now, and she has new friends.” I am saying the same thing that I did on several other occasions when he’s talked about Inside Out. “She doesn’t think Bing Bong is interesting anymore.”
Pinky frowns angrily at her favourite human, but he is still looking down at his pages.
“Have you made new friends, Russell?” I ask.
“No,” he replies.
“You haven’t made new friends but you don’t like Pinky anymore?” I mirror him. “She’s been your best friend, hasn’t she?”
“Not anymore,” the kindergartner confirms.
“I like Woof-Woof, Click and Ninja,” he adds, putting down his book and picking up his stuffed toys – a puppy that normally accompanies us on our travels, a blue dolphin from our recent visit to the S.E.A. Aquarium, and a Precious Moments green tortoise he’s asked for.
In her anxiety, Pinky cannot help bursting out. “Russell! I’m your best friend. Forever! You promised!”
She tries to clamber up onto his head, but he brushes her off with a quick flick of his hand. “No,” he says. “Not anymore.”
Pinky falls onto the mattress, unhurt but indignant. The kindergartner pounds her on the head with Ninja, Street Fighter-style. “Bam, bam, bam!”
I observe the interaction without comment, wondering at the change of heart.
“Mummy?” the kindergartner says again suddenly.
“Will you die?”
I keep my face neutral. “Not for a very long time, Russell.”
“I don’t want you to die,” he says, blinking.
“I won’t, I will be with you for a very long time,” I repeat.
“I will never die, Russell,” Pinky interjects sharply. “I can play with you forever!”
Again, the kindergartner shoves her aside brusquely. He climbs into my lap, burying his face in my chest, the way he always did as a toddler, and cries slightly. I cuddle him, kissing him all over his head. Subdued, Pinky scrambles up to my shoulder, nuzzling into the side of my neck, also seeking reassurance.
I pat her too.
Jocelyn Lau is a Singapore-based editor and writer. Her ongoing series of flash fiction, LIFE OF PINKY, based on an imaginary pink horse that her family owns, has been written over a span of about two years now. Visit: http://www.kucintabooks.com.