A voice called my name from far away. I usually wake up in the middle of the night thinking that my dad called me. If he ever does call me again, I want to make sure I hear him.
But when I opened my eyes to the orange glow of the nightlight, it wasn’t my dad calling me. It was Andrew. I hadn’t realized before when we were outside just how big he was. He was gigantic! The whole room was full of his gray and white hair, and his eyes looked like full moons in the darkness.
“David, get up,” his deep growl rumbled urgently. “We have to escape before your enemies arrive.”
“I saw one earlier, peeking at me through the window.”
“That was their scout who they sent ahead. Soon, the whole pack will descend upon you. Quick, get on my back and I’ll take you somewhere safe.”
I stood up on my bed to reach his mighty back, nuzzled my legs into his thick hide, and felt the rise and fall of his warm breathing beneath me.
“Are you holding tight?” His words vibrated through me. “Very good, here we go.” With a mighty leap, we rose out of the house, above the weather-cock of the barn, and into the dazzling stillness of the stars.
Dad told me the stars are a menagerie. I love that word, ‘menagerie’. I had to practice it fifteen times before I could say it right, and now I just say it to myself sometimes because I like it so much.
“Do you see the cluster right there?” Dad once asked me, pointing to the sky from our favorite spot by the backyard fence. “That’s an ox. And that one, it’s a scorpion. If you’re ever lonely, you just have to remember the heavenly menagerie.”
Now, flying through the air on the back of my friend, the scorpion reached out his claw to me, and I touched it, smiling because I knew his tail held no poison. The bear bellowed and Andrew howled back. I laughed because I couldn’t understand the words, and liked not understanding.
Andrew’s leap had taken us so far up in the air that I had forgotten about the ground, but as we descended, I remembered my enemies.
“What will we do about them?” I asked him.
“Your enemies will not stop until they have destroyed you,” he said solemnly. “We must mount a defense.”
He landed beside our wooden castle with its turrets and moat. Bounding across the entry, he slid me off his back in the courtyard and turned the lever to raise the drawbridge. “That will deter them for now. We must form a plan.”
I was ready to fight. I clenched my fists and took my prepared stance. “Let them come!”
Andrew laughed at me and shook his majestic head. “You are a true warrior, David. But you cannot face this pack alone.”
“I have you.”
“And you always will. But we are not enough. I am going to go find you allies.”
“What are allies?”
“Friends. People to fight with you.”
“But you’ll leave me alone.” My heart dragged me down and I fell to the floor with my head in my hands. “Please don’t leave me alone. In the dark.”
He sighed sadly and nudged my hands, then licked the tears from my cheeks. His breath was warm and comforting, and I buried my face in his coat. “I don’t want to leave you, you’re my best friend. But I am not enough to protect you. If I don’t find more defenders, they will rip down the doors and I will fight to my dying breath – they will not touch you so long as I live.” His words, fierce and emphatic, tore from his chest. “But they will kill me, and then they’ll kill you, and I cannot let that happen. I will not! So I must go, and I must leave you alone. You will be safe here for awhile, and I’ll come back – I promise.”
He parted from me as Moses’ mother must have done when she put him in the Nile, and leaping over the turret walls, disappeared into the night.