“I may be a bunny, but I ain’t afraid of no dog!”
With that gauntlet thrown, Bradley the Bunny tore across the open field of white-gold wheat and pounced on Dougie Doggy’s neck.
“Yeeeee-ooooouuuccch!!!” Dougie howled. “Why’d you have to go and do that! I was just standing here, minding my own business. Scratching my butt. And … wham!”
“You looked at me funny.”
“Funny, huh? Is this funny?”
Suddenly, Dougie morphed into ten fingers and two hands against the bedroom wall. They wiggled back and forth, reaching for their prey.
“No, Daddy!” Lanny shrieked, part in terror, part in delight, as the tickle monster descended on him. He forgot all about his role as Bradley.
“Too late, I’m afraid,” Scott said as he pulled his son close and hugged him tight, fingers dancing along the boy’s ribs and armpits. “You’ve unleashed Tommy Tickles!”
“Mom, help!” Lanny cried through laughter that was already starting to stream tears down his cheeks.
“Sorry,” Laura said from her perch on the mattress next to her two boys. “I’m just here to run the flashlight.” She looked at her son squirming on the bed and couldn’t resist. “I do have one free hand, though.”
She leaned over and squeezed Lanny’s knee with her fingers, and his laughter pealed through the otherwise silent house. Off in the distance, thunder rumbled, but the boy seemed to have forgotten all about the fear that sent him scrambling for his parents when the power went out an hour earlier.
It had taken ten minutes of coddling to calm him down and another ten minutes of running through ideas for passing the time before they could pull him out of his pout. After all, the storm was cutting into his video game time, a precious commodity on school nights.
“Stop, stop!” Lanny shrieked. He was laughing so hard his breaths were coming in gasps, and Laura patted Scott on the hand. He pulled the boy back into a seated position and patted him on the back.
When Lanny had caught his breath, he said, “What do you want to do now, Daddy?”.
Scott hadn’t heard that name — “Daddy” — in a long while. At ten, Lanny was no little boy, and intimate family moments were getting harder to come by. The storm was a pain, but it was also a blessing.
“Well,” Scott started, “we could …”
Just then, lights flashed on through the house, and Lanny’s TV roared to life across the hall. Electronics chirped awake here and there, and refrigerator motor whirred into action.
Laura and Scott looked at each other, both disappointed that the the electricity was back. Lanny craned his neck to look at the overhead light, then glanced toward his room.
“Do I have to go back to my room now, Daddy? Couldn’t we just turn off the lights and pretend the power is still out? For just a little while longer?”
Laura was already out of bed, heading for the doorway. “I’ll throw the breaker.”
Sleep could wait. And so could growing up.