Mr. Ferkins has never had to consult any parenting book before, having had no reason until now to believe that his son, Henry, is any different from any other twelve-year-old. But here he is, pouring over Distance Kills: Reaching Out to Your Adolescent, trying to find the section where they address the habit of talking to inanimate objects, and worrying about his son's sanity.
Said son is upstairs in his bedroom, sitting on a big overturned self-locking Tupperware container, conversing with a brontosaurus named Larry who lives in a cardboard box. His dad, Henry laments to Larry, is so stupid. He thinks he's talking to the box. How stupid is that?
Larry admits that it is rather stupid.
Henry thinks if his dad loved him he'd be more perceptive of Henry's thoughts.
Larry asks, Is that what love is?
Henry thinks so.
Larry disagrees. What you love doesn't need to think. What makes it beautiful is its ability to exist. It takes up space and changes one exact spot forever, just because at one moment it was there.
Henry wonders if, then, if that's really all there is to it, then can you love something that's not even real?
Larry says sure.
I love you, says the boy to his dinosaur.
Mr. Ferkins enters and demands to know once and for all why Henry is speaking to an empty cardboard box. But it's not just a cardboard box, Henry shouts, it's a beautiful rectangular space-filler, and inside is not emptiness no but a brontosaurus named Larry and though not rectangular he is a beautiful space-filler too.
And because he's overwhelmed and frustrated with his son and that stupid book downstairs, Mr. Ferkins grabs the cardboard box, runs outside, and tosses it onto the garbage truck that comes every Saturday morning and sure enough is passing by now, right on schedule. Henry reaches out for Larry but is dragged inside, and begins to cry. Mr. Ferkins says he's never seen a boy at Henry's age cry at something like this, and Henry should be ashamed of himself. So Henry runs to his room, gets in the big Tupperware container, and nudges the lid closed so his dad won't hear him cry.
Larry appears in a fog and says Henry should never be ashamed for loving something, regardless of whether it's real or not, and should get out of that container: he's embarrassing himself. And Henry, who's beginning to feel slightly claustrophobic in that container, tries to nudge it open again, but the self-locking seal has self-locked. So he starts crying again because he cannot open the container and the oxygen is running out and Larry's just a blurry haze now and he can't get out, he's stuck, he's trapped.
Later that day, the garbage truck empties its contents at a special facility where the plastic is separated from the paper, melted, and flattened into giant sheets to be sent to Tupperware for the production of new EvenMoreAirtightÔ locking lids. Meanwhile, Mr. Ferkins, feeling guilty and insensitive, walks upstairs to check on how his son is doing.
BIO: Sienna Zeilinger first thought of this story when there was no paper nearby, so she brainstormed all over her arm and then couldn't wash it off. Her fiction has appeared in Scripta (Hathaway Brown School's literary magazine), and in The Power of the Pen Book of Winners 2007. She has also written a short play that was produced by Dobama Theatre. Sienna lives with her family in Cleveland, Ohio, and currently drives a bicycle.