Bill, the football player of the family, denies his talent for the dramatic but is by nature a ham. "Oh nooooo. Looks like Jimmy is going to have to cancel the sleepover. Rats," he says.
Joey, looking up from reading his Farside one-a-day calendar, asks, "Why's that?"
"Well, I told Jimmy I'd bring some extra batteries to help run the flashlights and radio, but I forgot to buy some. If only there were some small, electrical being that could save us." Bill droops to the ground, burying his face in hands and failing to hide his laughter.
"Tiger can help! He can run it all, if you give him some breaks before he gets tired. And it would be neat for him to meet Jimmy."
Joey looks startled as Tiger disappears into Bill's arms, embraced in a bear hug.
"Oh thank you so much, Tiger!" Bill says. "You are the best pet this family could ever have!"
We all take turns building Tiger into something more than a piece of plastic. He becomes the family hobby, the center of our shared effort to make new adventures, new crises only he could resolve. It's goofy, but we do it as a family. We do it to make one of our own feel better. Even Dad chips in.
Dad loves to joke and laugh, but talking to and praising a Tamagotchi isn't what he considers hysterical. He comes home from work and talks about it, but never gets too into it. "How's the rat? Alive? New tricks? That's good," etc.
Near the end of his leg's internment, Joey is due to have the cast removed and replaced with a splint. After five weeks of wanting nothing more than to escape his plaster prison, he is terrified at the thought having it sawed off.
Dad senses his fear. He looks at the digital pet. "Hmmm ... hey Joey, Tiger doesn't look so hot."
Dad cups the toy in one hand and strokes his newly grown beard. "Yep. He looks kinda yellow to me. I think it may be jaundice. Well, good thing we're headed to see Dr. Fonte anyway. We'll have him take a look at it."
"Is jaundice bad? As bad as getting a cast sawed off?"
Dad pauses for a moment. "You know what, I bet they're about the same. They're each something that isn't fun but that you only have to do once and then it is over. Good thing you're heading into this together, though."
Joey wasn't thrilled, but he never complained. He was brave - for himself and for Tiger. When he came home, he took Tiger on a walk. Joey had to start strengthening his leg, and Tiger needed some sunlight.
Brendan Sears graduated Augustana College with a degree in English and is a freelance writer, improvisational comedian and the proud operator of Cardboard Colossus in the Quad Cities. He is eager to hear from you at [email protected]. Check out his site at www.cardboardcolossus.com.