Eric the Omnipotent
I’ve been making up a bedtime story for my boys (ages 12 and 8). I decided to start writing it down. What I have below is the first few evenings’ worth. I have a fair bit to catch up; there will be adventures at school, making money, and trips here and there. I thought I’d share it on my blog to invite some feedback. Let me know what you think.
Once upon a time, there was a boy named Eric, age 10, who lay dreaming of bacon. It was a very vivid dream. He saw it cooked to perfection in a pan; he smelled that inviting, savory smell; he even heard it sizzling. Then, in his dream, he saw the gorgeous bacon removed from the pan, ready to eat on a plate. There was a lot of it, but not too much. It was the perfect amount of perfect bacon.
Then Eric jolted awake and sat up and rubbed his eyes. Next to him, on his nightstand, was just the plate of bacon that he had dreamed. It was still sizzling.
“Gee, thanks, Mom!” he called out.
Eric looked for his mother to appear in the doorway, but no one did and no one replied. Eric shrugged and took a piece of bacon. It was, indeed, just as perfect as in his dream. It didn’t burn his fingers, but it was crispy hot, and delicious.
“Eric!” his mother, Martha, called out from his doorway. “Where did that bacon come from?”
He looked up with a wrinkled brow. “I don’t know. You mean you didn’t make it?”
“No, I did not,”
she said, sternly. “I didn’t give you permission to—” She
stopped herself, then said,
“Wait.” She shook her head with her eyes closed and yawned. “I don’t remember buying bacon.”
Eric’s four-year-old sister, Molly, appeared in the doorway with a frown of deep confusion on her face. She spotted the bacon and immediately ran and snatched a piece. “Yum!” she exclaimed.
By this time Eric’s father, Frank, appeared over Martha’s shoulder and said, “Where’d the bacon come from?” Then: “Wow, did you make that yourself, son? Looks good.”
“I didn’t buy bacon, Frank,” Martha said. “You must have.”
Frank looked at Martha, nonplussed. “I…don’t buy bacon,” he said, as he walked over and helped himself to a piece.
“I know you don’t, but you must have,” Martha said.
“I didn’t. Swear to God.”
Martha’s eyebrows raised and she shrugged her shoulders. “O…kay, guys, whatever. Enjoy your bacon.” She got herself a piece and went off.
“Eric,” Frank said, “I didn’t buy that bacon. And I didn’t make that bacon. And if I know your mother, and I think I do, I don’t think she—”Just as Martha had, Frank stopped himself, then said, “Maybe your mom forgot it.”
“No, no,” Eric said, “she’s just pretending that she didn’t make it. Obviously she made it.”
Molly was silently standing in front of the plate and biting into her second piece. Eric was on his third.
Frank, like everyone else, was frowning in confusion and thought. “You must be right, unless you’re the trickster. But it sure doesn’t sound like her. Or you.”
The breakfast table conversation was about who made the bacon. Everyone but Martha maintained that she made it and was puzzlingly pretending not to have done so, while Martha maintained that it was Frank who made it and who was pretending. Molly wondered grumpily why she didn’t get any bacon next to her bed, but Martha said that she had eaten as much as anyone, so it was perfectly fine.
* * *
Eric, an intelligent but otherwise (as far as he knew) perfectly ordinary fifth-grader, went through his normal school-day routine. Last year, he had asked to be allowed to come home instead of going to day care, which Martha agreed to, saying that she wanted to come home early and work from home anyway. She was a graphic designer. Besides, Frank was often at home; he was a professor of astronomy at a research university.
Today, however, Eric found himself home alone, as he sometimes was for an hour or two before his mother came home. His instructions were clear: stay at home, do his homework, have a snack if he needed one.
Eric, being a nice and diligent boy, usually did as he was told. That is why, today, he was sitting down at his desk in his bedroom frowning at his math book. “Ugh,” he said to himself, “I wish I didn’t have to do this. I wish it were already done.” He opened the textbook and then opened his binder to take out a clean sheet of paper, when he noticed that the paper was full of writing. This was a great surprise to him because, just a moment before, it had been blank. He was about to put it back, thinking it was yesterday’s homework, but he had just turned in yesterday’s homework. Besides, this had no markings on it. All of his old homework had markings on it. He looked again: it was marked with today’s date. He examined it carefully: he couldn’t remember doing it at all, but this was today’s assignment. Completed.
“Wow,” he said to himself, remembering the bacon. He had just been thinking he wished it were already done. And here it was, already done.
Eric held out his hand palm up, and said experimentally—not particularly expecting anything to happen—“I wish I had a pencil.”
A pencil popped into his hand.
Now, for a ten-year-old, Eric was not much of a dreamer. He didn’t really go in for swords and sorcery or fairy tales. He was, in his parents’ opinion, a geek who liked computers and machines. So while you might think that he would shriek with delight, or grow round-eyed with wonder, or maybe faint, that wasn’t Eric. Instead, he instantly frowned violently, mouth agape, and whispered:
Then he said said: “I wish it were a cupcake.”
The pencil became a cupcake, a glorious, fancy, chocolate-frosted confection. Eric bit into the cupcake, again experimentally, still frowning. Then his eyebrows went up. It was very good indeed.
I will not tell you everything that Eric popped into and out of existence just then, because there were a great many things and Eric had plenty of time. Whole cakes, a million dollars, a very expensive telescope, a friendly cat, and a wolf were just a few of the things that were popping into and out of existence in Eric’s bedroom. While perhaps not a dreamer, Eric did have an excellent imagination.
Then Eric had another idea: Could he levitate? That sounded potentially dangerous, so at first he sat on his bed, then he levitated about a foot off the bed.
That was the moment that Eric heard Martha’s scream. She hung onto the side of the doorway, staring at her floating son and looking quite faint. Eric floated down and got to his feet and said, “Now don’t freak out Mom, it’s OK, but—look at this!”
And he held out his hand and into it popped another cupcake. Martha sat heavily on the bed with her hand clutched to her head. You might think that she would suspect Eric to have learned some very effective magic trick. The problem was that she had seen. She had seen Eric actually levitating in the air, for several seconds. And had seen Eric’s hand absolutely empty and then, in the next moment, absolutely full of cupcake.
She was close to panicking, because she thought it likely she was going insane. Eric popped the cupcake out of existence, which did not help, and he patted his mother’s shoulder, saying, “It’s OK, Mom, really, don’t worry! It’s OK!” and other words of reassurance for about an entire minute. Martha was silent. Eric kept saying, “Do you want me to show you again?” and Martha just shook her head.
Eventually, Martha collected herself and managed a weak smile, and said, “How?”
“I dunno,” said Eric.
“Am I going crazy?”
“Absolutely not, Mom. Unless I’m going crazy too, because I’m seeing the same things! Look, you tell me what you want, and I’ll make it. Go ahead!”
“OK,” Martha said, nodding. “How about…how about a really big…ruby. You know, the gemstone.”
“Sure!” chirped Eric. “I know what a ruby is.” And he opened his hand to reveal a monstrous ruby, surely, Martha thought, the largest ruby that has ever existed. She was increasingly impressed and excited. She took the ruby.
“OK, now a diamond.” Eric produced one and handed it to her.
“An emerald?” Again, Eric handed her one. The three gemstones were difficult to hold all at once in a single hand.
“But I’ll tell you, Mom, I can fill a room full of those, so…” Eric waved a hand, unnecessarily but theatrically, and the giant gemstones disappeared.
“Aw,” said Martha. “I liked those.” Then she fainted.
* * *
Eric was holding her hand and looking quite worried when Martha came around. He was repeating such things as, “It’s OK, really” and “you’re not crazy, Mom!” This didn’t help Martha very much, but she didn’t faint again. By the time she was fully recovered, she seemed to have accepted the situation and was “all business.”
“All right, Eric,” she said, “let’s test you out a little more, OK? Come with me.”
Martha led her son to the living room. She pointed at a couch that was quite old and ratty. “Give me a new couch, please,” she said.
First, Eric waved his hand dramatically and the couch was instantly new again. Martha wrinkled her nose at this. “No, it needs to be something different. Not just new again.”
“Like what?” Eric said, waving his hand and changing the upholstery from brown to blue. “This?”
“No…” Martha looked thoughtful. Then she held out her hands. “Give me a new tablet.”
One appeared in her hands.
“Now open it up to the browser.”
A web browser opened itself up.
They searched the web for pictures of couches. She picked one out, made it larger so Eric could see it well, and said, “That one.” A fancy new sofa appeared in the place of the blue one. “Hmm, it’s kind of small.” It enlarged. “Yes, that’ll do for now.”
Next, they picked out new drapes, a stereo with large speakers, an 82” television, marble countertops for the kitchen, and other assorted odds and ends. Finally, Eric created a new sink. Martha tried it out, only to hear a strange sound coming from underneath; water was spilling onto the floor, because plumbing was missing. After some yelling and mild cursing, Eric said, “No problem!” and cleaned up the mess with a flick of his fingers. Martha showed him pictures of what sink plumbing looks like, and he got it in right.
“How on earth,” Martha said, “can you create a tablet and a television and get a sink wrong?”
“Well, I was only thinking about the sink. I wasn’t thinking about all the pipes and stuff underneath,” Eric said.
“Yes,” Martha replied, “but you don’t have to think about or know about all sorts of things that go into the tablet or television.”
Eric paused. “Well, but I was only thinking about the sink. I mean, that is all I was thinking about.”
“The point, dear son,” Martha said, “is that you can get things wrong.”
“Yeah. Well,” Eric said, “Hey. I’ll just, you know, wish I won’t get things wrong.” He nodded his head. “There! Done!”
Martha looked skeptical. “I’ll bet you still can, though…” She stared into the distance for a minute. “I know. Give me a new refrigerator.” Eric pointed at the old refrigerator and a new one appeared. Martha looked inside.
“Uh-huh,” Martha said, “I thought so.”
“There’s no food.”
Eric said, “here.” Assorted foodstuffs and drinks, roughly what
Eric remembered seeing there, appeared.
“Where’s the yogurt?” Martha said. “We had yogurt.”
“Oh,” Eric said.
“Yes. You didn’t know what was in there. Can you give me back the old refrigerator?”
“Sure, I guess.” It was back with a wave of Eric’s hand. Martha opened it up. The old food was there.
“Interesting,” she said. Suddenly she looked very tired. She said, “I’m going to take a nap.” Then she turned around and looked very seriously at Eric, adding, “Don’t do anything dangerous, don’t tell anyone, don’t go anywhere. Just give me some time, OK? Do you hear me?”