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At first Shirley Watkins tried to comfort Mumfrey, her imaginary friend, with messages she drew in crayon on pieces of construction paper. “Don’t give up!” she scrawled on one. “I’ll be there soon!” she wrote on another. She pressed them against the window, hoping they would lift his spirits. Once night fell and it began to rain she didn’t think he could even see them anymore. And the terrible noises coming from his crushed body were beginning to scare her. She first met her imaginary friend in 1999, shortly after her mother died of complications due to a routine surgery. At first they didn’t get along very well, Mumfrey and Shirley. Shirley had her way, and Mumfrey his, and it took a while for them to work out their differences. But when her dad re-married, she and her imaginary friend grew very close. Which is why what happened this afternoon has gotten Shirley so, so sad. Shirley and Mumfrey were playing make believe in the backyard, pretending to play explorers of an abandoned Ogre Kingdom, when the accident happened. Mumfrey was on his stomach, peering through a telescope when a thick branch from the big tree snapped and landed on him with a sickening crunch. Alarmed by the commotion, Barbara, her new mom, ran outside with a phone in her hand and began yelling at her, as if she was the one who made the branch fall. “What are you doing! What have you done!” Her new mommy was dragging her by the arm. “Why can’t you just stay inside and play a god damn game.” But Shirley wasn’t paying attention to her. She was craning her neck, staring in shock at Mumfrey. He was in a lot of pain. He was groaning and bright red fluid was foaming around his mouth, like he was in the middle of brushing his teeth with blood. The branch had fallen flush on his back, and snapped it. His legs were twisted under him in grotesque angles that made her tummy feel yucky to look at. He was moaning, lifting one of his arms up, pleading for her to come back for him. “Please, Shirl, please, don’t leave me here, please…” his words faded, lost in a hacking red spray. Shirl wanted to run to Mumfrey, but she was too weak to break free. “Barbara, please, we have to help Mumfrey he’s hurt. He needs our help!” Barbara slapped her in the face. “What have I told you about calling me that. I’m your mother now like it or not. And how do you think your dad will feel if I tell him about your imaginary friend again. Remember last time. Remember the pills?” Barbara dragged her stepdaughter into her room and locked the door. Shirley had a window facing the backyard and ran to it. She tried to lift it, but her parents had installed guards. Mumfrey stared at her messages longingly at first. But eventually, as he came to grips with his slow death, a look of desperation was replaced with indifference -- vacant glazed, glassy. He had begun to groan a long, repetitive, droney sound, like the wail of an air raid siren. She was worried he wasn’t going to make it through the night. Now, Shirley curled up in a ball on her bed, crying real tears for her imaginary friend, the pillow squished against her little ears, hoping, hoping, hoping the noises would stop.
Date Written: June 29, 2005
Average Vote: 3.875