Peter and the Disembodied Voice

"Do you ever wonder about The Voice?" asked Peter.

"The TV Show?" asked Peter's grandfather.

"No, Grandfather, The Voice," said Peter

"What voice? Is someone talking to you?"

"No, The Voice that tells us what's happening. I can hear him sometimes, when I'm out playing."

"Are you sure it's not one of the neighbors?"

"No, no. It sounds like God. He talks about what I'm doing, as if he's explaining it to someone else."

Peter's grandfather studied him. The boy had never been quite right, not after his parents had died, and Peter had been sent to live with him. Grandfather petted Cat sleeping in his lap. Cat had worn himself out, chasing Duck and Bird again, but hadn't had any luck. He reached across the table for Peter's hand.

"Peter, do these voices tell you to do things?"

Peter pulled his hand away. "Grandfather, I'm not crazy," he huffed. "There aren't any voices telling me to burn down the wood shed. There's just one voice, and he describes what's happening, like a, uh, like a nora-tor."

"Do you mean a narrator?"

"Yes, that. 'Narrator.' It was his voice that told me when Wolf came out of the woods and tried to eat Bird and Duck last summer. That's how I knew what was going on. I heard Narrator talking about how Wolf chased Bird and Duck, and I heard the French horn and flute and oboe. That's when I snuck out the window to save them."

"What does Narrator sound like?" asked Grandfather, leaning forward slightly. Cat raised his head to make sure everything was okay. He didn't hear his clarinet, so he went back to sleep.

"Well, he sounds funny. Like he's British or something. He sounds like someone Very Important."

"Do you still hear him?"

"Sometimes," said Peter. "Not all the time. Usually when I'm outside playing. I started listening to him more, in case he tells me when Wolf is coming out of the woods."

"Not The Wolf, Peter. You marched him right to the zoo in a big parade and rescued Duck from the tree."

"I know that, Grandfather."

"Kitschiest damn ending I'd ever heard," said Grandfather. "God forbid we inject a little real life into a children's story." Grandfather reached for his bottle. "When I was a boy, it was cold. We were always so cold. Some days, we never had enough to eat, and my mother would—"

"Grandfather, you're getting maudlin again. We have fun times here. This isn't an MFA story."

"A what? Emmiff ay?"

"No, M. F. A. It means Masters of Fine Arts. People get them for writing sad stories about their childhoods or wars."

Grandfather set his bottle down. "You're right, Peter." Grandfather rubbed his face with his hands. "So why do you think you hear him?"

"I think he's just lonely. He doesn't have anything to do anymore. Apparently we only had the one wolf in the woods. It's been six months, and we haven't had any more sightings."

"Well, that was pretty exciting, you have to admit. The Hunters with their great guns and drums, carting off The Wolf. You all certainly gave me such a fright when I thought he was going to eat you. I certainly wasn't happy with you, until I saw you leading The Hunters and The Wolf in a parade to the zoo."

"I remember, Grandfather," Peter said, his eyes staring at nothing far away. "When I think of how we almost lost Duck that day, I still get the shivers."

"Now who's getting maudlin? So what else does Narrator talk about?" said Grandfather, changing the subject.

"Well, he talks about Cat, Bird, and Duck a lot. He saw the Hunters off in the distance once, and I heard the kettle drums. Another time, we had a tense moment in the garden when I thought I heard The Wolf, but it was just a trombone."

"Maybe he is lonely, Peter. Now that the villain has been taken to the zoo, there's nothing for him to do."

"Can we invite Narrator to dinner, Grandfather? Maybe he wouldn't be so lonely if he had some friends."

"Oh, I don't know Peter."

"I know you didn't like being portrayed by a bassoon, but maybe he'll even let you pick a new instrument."

"That's not it, Peter. You know what a man like that can become once he gets the drink in him. A darkness comes over him, a cold darkness, and he begins to—"

"Grandfather, you're MFAing again."

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