Boween in the Nursery: Part Two
I had a hard time sleeping that night, and not just because Norman was snoring loudly in his basket at the foot of my bed. I couldn't stop thinking about tomorrow. Would this work? I hoped so. I'd sent Dylan's mother a neomail earlier that day explaining my dilemma, and she'd replied saying that Dylan was happy to help out, but what if it didn't work? I couldn't expect Tyto to live in a house with a creature he was afraid of for the rest of his life, but I also couldn't expect Shasta to give Norman away just because his brother didn't like him. I sighed and shook my head wearily, it wouldn't do to worry about it now; I'd done everything I could, now all I had to do was wait.
Dylan arrived early the next morning while I was still trying to coax Tyto out of his room. “Come on, Tyto,” I wheedled, “You can't stay in here all day.”
Tyto glowered at me from his hiding place under his cot. “Oh yes I can,” he snapped. “I can stay down here as long as that stupid Boween's still in the house.”
I sighed. “Alright, but you and Dylan are going to have a hard time playing under there.”
At that moment, the little Scorchio, whom Shasta had let in, wandered into the room, having been told that this was where he was to find his friend.
He looked at me curiously, and I motioned under Tyto's cot. He sat down on the floor and cocked a curious eyebrow at his friend. “Hey, Tyto,” he said slowly. “Wha'cha doin' under therer?”
“Hiding from the Boween,” Tyto replied flatly as he pressed himself closer against the back wall.
Dylan's eyes lit up. “You have a Boween? That's so cool! I've been wanting a petpet since forever, only Mama says I'm too little.” He scowled. “It's not fair; my brother an' sister both get one, just 'cause they're bigger than me. Hey, can I see 'im, Tyto?”
Tyto stared at his little friend with a look of tired irritation on his face. “Dylan, if I wanted to go find the stupid Boween, you really think I'd be under here? Ask Papa to show 'im to you. I'm staying right here.”
Dylan looked surprised. “What'sa matter, Tyto? You scared of him or somethin'?”
Tyto nodded, banging his head on the bottom of his cot as he did so and wincing.
“Why? They're the nicest petpets around. He couldn't hurt you if he wanted to; he don't even got no teeth.”
Tyto paused at this. “Really?” he asked. I could sense we were finally starting to get somewhere.
Dylan smiled and nodded. “Sure, he can't bite. Here, lemme show ya.”
For several minutes Tyto lay under the cot, biting his lip and thinking hard. Eventually, though, he slowly began to inch his way forward until he poked his head into the light again. Then, still slowly, he sat up and looked at me uneasily.
I smiled and scooped him up. “Come on, Tyto, Dylan and I will show you there's nothing to be afraid of.” With that, I hoisted Dylan into my other arm and carried them both downstairs to the nursery where Shasta and Lucy were busy tossing their green Pteri ball across the room and giggling with delight as Norman bounded after it until they both crashed into the wall and he nudged it back across the carpet to repeat the process.
Putting Tyto and Dylan down on the sofa, I smiled at them. “Hey, guys,” I said. “Do you mind if I show Norman to Dylan for just a minute? He wants to meet him.”
Shasta rested his forepaws and nose on the rubber ball that was as big as he was and shrugged. “Sure,” he began. He would have said more if his sister hadn't chosen that moment to steal the ball literally from under his nose and run off with it, laughing as her brother picked himself up roughly off the floor and tore off up the stairs after her, shouting a string of baby curses, half of which didn't even make sense. “Get back here, you mutant Moehog face! If I catch you, I'm gonna feed you to Chiazilla, an' don't think I won't!”
I laughed as I watched them go, banging and crashing their way down the corridor, then turned back to Tyto and Dylan, and had to laugh even harder at their grave expressions as they glanced uneasily at one another after watching Shasta and Lucy disappear. As far as a baby was concerned, there was no greater transgression than calling someone a mutant Moehog face.
Still chuckling, I fished Norman out from under the sofa where he had crawled in fear after watching Shasta and Lucy cause so much ruckus. Spotting him, Tyto froze where he was, eyes wide, too scared to even tremble. Even his breathing had stopped. Moving very slowly, I rested Norman on my lap and held him firmly so he wouldn't get away in spite of his efforts. “Dylan,” I said softly, “could you come and help me out with Norman? We need to show Tyto that he's not really dangerous.”
Dylan slid from the sofa and made his way over to me. Slowly he reached out and took one of the Boween's flippered forepaws. “Look.” He smiled. “No claws.” Then he reached out and gently pried open his mouth. Norman let out an indignant squeak and tried to shake his head to keep Dylan from poking around where he didn't want him, and Tyto flinched and yelped, then wriggled farther back on the sofa to put the creature out of sight.
“It's alright, Tyto,” I said. “Look.” Dylan had succeeded in getting Norman's mouth open just far enough to show his decided lack of teeth, and Tyto peered at him cautiously, curiously.
Then I slowly turned Norman around to show Tyto his fuzzy blue mane. “See? No spines either. This guy is as harmless as a plushie squirt; he can't hurt you.”
Tyto sat motionless for several minutes, breathing heavily, then slowly, very slowly, he shuffled to the edge of the sofa and paused, unsure of what he was about to do. Then he took a deep breath and jumped off, so he wouldn't have to slide down and turn his back on Norman. Once on the floor, he stood just a few feet away, staring at his nemesis and shaking like a leaf. At first I thought he was going to turn tail and run, but he didn't; he stood his ground as firmly as he could, his eyes never leaving Norman's face.
Then he took a step closer, and one more, and one more until he was within arm's reach of the Boween. He stood uncertainly for a minute, clenching and unclenching his fists, not at all liking what he was about to do. Then he squeezed his eyes shut and grimaced as he allowed his hand to drift slowly toward Norman. As soon as he brushed his fur, he flinched and gasped, returning to his rock solid state and unable to move another inch. But he didn't have to. Sensing his unease, Norman slowly nudged his nose into the palm of Tyto's outstretched hand. Then he nuzzled his face against it.
Slowly Tyto opened his eyes and dared a quick glance at the petpet. Then he did something I would never have expected; he smiled. A nervous, shaky smile, but it was there. Slowly he reached out his other hand so that eventually they were both resting on Norman's head, and began to scratch him gently behind the earholes. Norman let out a strange trilling purr and closed his eyes, pushing his head into Tyto's hands in an effort to get him to scratch harder.
Tyto laughed. “Maybe he's not so bad,” he said finally.
I let out the breath I hadn't realised I'd been holding and smiled. Life was going to be much easier around here from now on.
At that moment, Shasta, followed by Lucy and Danby, came racing back into the room. Apparently the tides had changed, and now the chaser had become the chasee.
“Look, guys!” Tyto said proudly, trying to hide how badly his hand was still trembling as it rested on the Boween's fuzzy head. “I'm touchin' Norman! He's not so scary after all!”
Shasta skidded to a stop in front of his brother, causing Lucy and Danby to crash into the back of him so they all ended up in a tangled heap on the floor.
Danby poked his head out from underneath his siblings and smiled. “Hey, Tyto, that's great! Since you're not scared of Norman anymore, Papa, does that mean I can get a Tyrowbee?”
Tyto paled and he started to shake. “Papa!” he wailed. “You-you woul'nt let him do that, would you?”
Danby laughed. “I'm just kiddin', Tyto, I wouldn't do that to ya.” He paused and smiled wickedly. “I want a Niptor instead!”