I had a dream last night. I think it might be what takes me to the next step on this search.
After Mommy had tucked me in and I’d polished off my nightly juicey (we’ve all got our vices), I started to drift off. I was awoken by Daddy. Bless his heart, Daddy is just an absolute amateur when it comes to beddy-time. Poor tucking method, doesn’t do silly voices when he reads a goodnight story, takes up too much of the bed, and always falls asleep before I do. Sometimes I can’t believe we’re related.
Drifting off, I had the strange sensation of floating. Suddenly, I found myself walking in a field. Sunflowers as far as I could see, the sky an unnaturally pale blue. Jeez, I said to myself, this is what happens when you hit the sauce too hard. Indeed, I had smacked the everloving poopy out of a bottle of marinara that morning because I thought Paul Newman looked like a ghost. Don’t even act like you wouldn’t have done the same.
A voice comes from behind me. “Hey there, friend-o.” I turn around, and my still-forming jaw nearly drops. It’s the man himself. A walking god. A titan of toddlerhood.
It’s Mr. Rogers.
“Walk with me, Charlie.”
“How… how do you know my name?”
“I know a lot of things. Come along, now.”
I was flabbergasted. And that says a lot, because I can’t even pronounce that word.
“Sir, I just wanna say—”
“No need for sir, Charlie. Call me Mr. Rogers.”
“Mr. Rogers, your work with crayons is just… astounding. Truly unlike anything I’ve ever seen.”
“Well, thank you for that. Maybe you and I can draw together one day.”
Now I know that I’m dreaming.
“Mr. Rogers, where are we?”
“We’re in the Neighborhood of Make-Believe, Charlie. Do you know why you’re here?”
“I haven’t got the slightest clue.”
He smiles. “Walk with me,” he says.
We walk a ways through the field. The sunflowers never stop, but off in the distance I can see—yes, there it is—the castle. I don’t know what to say, and every time I look over at Mr. Rogers, he just smiles at me. I know I’m asleep, but something tells me that this is going to be important. And if it helps with the case, well… I’ll do whatever I have to.
“Charlie,” says Mr. Rogers, “I need a little help with something. Do you think you can help me with something?”
“Absolutely. What is it?”
“I can’t seem to find my favorite red cardigan. I’d really like to find it.”
“Well,” I say sheepishly, “I’ve had a little trouble lately finding things.” I see a disappointed look on his face, so I tell him I’ll help anyway.
“Okay. Well, let’s think. Who else might want your cardigan? What’s their motivation?”
Mr. Rogers smiles at me. I don’t understand what he’s getting at.
“Charlie, do you think you might be asking the wrong questions?”
It hits me like a ton of bubble wrap. That’s been the problem with my whole investigation. Whoever has that tricycle has me asking the wrong questions; that way, I’ll never get the answers I’m looking for.
“Maybe we should retrace your steps. Then we can find your cardigan.”
And that’s what we did. It was easy as pie. The cardigan was behind his ear the whole time. Some people.
Waving goodbye to me, Mr. Rogers gives me a wink.
I wake up with a start, sweating through my footie pajamas (though I usually do that anyway). I’m a little scared, but I’ve got a new lease on this case. Even though it’s still out of my reach, I can practically taste that tricycle. And it’s metallic. In a good way. I’m trying to say I feel close to finding it. Jeez. I’m four-and-a-half years old, gimme a break.