Near 500 words: The nightmare

“What are you afraid of?” the psychiatrist asked his patient. He sat in a large comfy chair next to his desk.

“I’m afraid something is going to happen to Frankie.” Darla rested her head against the pillow on the couch.

“And what makes you think that?” Dr. Spenser asked, furthering his questions.

“I keep having this nightmare,” Darla said.

“And?” Dr. Spenser scribbled a line on his pad.

Darla hesitated.

“Darla, we’ve only an hour.” Dr. Spenser hated to rush his patient but they did have only an hour.

“George says I am being foolish.”

“Are you being foolish?” Dr. Spenser asked. He always asked obvious questions. It was his way.

“I don’t think so. Frankie’s the only child I can ever have.”

“Anything that happens to him, and that’s it?” The psychiatrist was getting somewhere.

“Yes,” Darla said, hoping for some reassurance.

“You think you have any control over that?” Dr. Spenser started a doodle. His doodles were always helpful. Over the years, he’d never known a doodle to fail.

“No. I don’t.”

“So? Tell me about the dream.”

“Frankie has a dog.”

“Do you have a dog now?” The doodle was slowing coming into a shape.

“Well, no.” Darla’s eyes were closed. She was afraid of the dream but she wanted to give the doctor an accurate picture.

“Continue. Does the dog have a name?”

“Fluffy, I think.”

“You’re not sure.”

“Yes, Fluffy is his name.”

“Sounds like a very nice dog.”

“Oh, he is. And he loves Frankie. At least, at the start of the dream.” Darla opened her eyes. Tears filled them. She decided that she didn’t want to go on.

“Continue. What makes you think there’s a problem?”

Darla resisted, then went on, “Fluffy and Frankie are out running in a field one day.”

“How old is Frankie? In this dream?”

“About eight. Please don’t make me go on.”

“That’s up to you. But naming your fear could be very helpful.” Dr. Spenser looked at the clock on the wall. Forty minutes left of the session. Plenty of time.

“They are running in the park. Then Fluffy turns and—”

“Yes?”

“No, I can’t go on.”

“I see.”

“Tell me what it means.” Darla was desperate to know.

“That you can’t go on? That’s easy. You’re afraid of what happens next.”

“I am.” Darla was crying.

Dr. Spenser reached over to his desk and pulled out a Kleenex and passed it over to Darla. As she cleaned up her tears, he studied his pregnant patient.

“It took us a long time and a lot of effort to get pregnant.”

“And you’re having these nightmares about that child and a dog?”

“I am.”

“What if Frankie doesn’t have a dog?”

“No Fluffy?”

“No Fluffy.”

Darla had never thought of that. It seemed so obvious. “No Fluffy,” she whispered to herself. Then to Dr. Spenser, “But what if he wants a dog?”

“Get him a cat instead.”

Darla smiled and sat up on the couch. She was so relieved.

Dr. Spenser looked at the clock. Fifteen minutes to go. He turned to Darla. “Anything else?”

Darla stood and shook Dr. Spenser’s hand. It was obvious she was relieved.

Dr. Spenser escorted her to the door.

Darla turned and hugged her psychiatrist. Then she went out into the lobby.

Dr. Spenser picked up his pad, stared at the doodle, and smiled. It was of a cat.

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