I was unceremoniously dismissed.
Considering the fact that I had never officially been employed, it came as something of a shock. It was one of those friend-of-a-friend hypothetical situations that had been presented to me in some social gathering or other. Certainly I ought to have insisted on a formal examination of the child in question, but the case seemed innocuous and straightforward enough that I saw no harm in rendering an opinion. Now my curiosity was piqued and my professional judgment called into question. As a matter of honor I sought more details.
But let me explain the case as it was initially presented to me. Again, this was a second-hand account at best as I never met the child or her parents. Still, I trusted Mr. [name redacted] to present the facts plainly, logically, and honestly — at least insofar as they were presented to him — and in the absence of proof otherwise I continue to believe he did so.
The bare facts were these: a young girl was having recurring nightmares in which she was attacked and eaten by a beast. She would wake the household with her shrieking and crying and it was hours before she could be lulled back into slumber and the family could try to recover some little bit of rest. It was never made clear to me whether the beast dwelt in forest or myth — it might as easily have been a bear as a dragon — but I didn’t deem that important at the time and I confess I did not inquire.
Given that basest of descriptions I was of the opinion that the child faced some challenge in her waking hours that she felt inadequate to conquer. I suggested that she be encouraged to believe that she could make a simple substitution, that when she sensed the beast approaching in her dreams that she imagine instead that it was nothing more than a vegetable from her supper plate. Just as she regularly ate those vegetables, rather than vice versa, she could consume and defeat the beast. Further, this might also give her courage to conquer whatever it was in her waking life that had prompted the nightmares in the first place.
I thought nothing more about the matter until some weeks later when I got word from Mr. [name redacted] that the parents were quite distraught and were calling my professional acumen into question. What’s more, I was persona non grata in the case. As I said, I was unceremoniously dismissed even though I had never officially been hired on.
As civilly, and thus as circuitously, as I could I later determined that my advice had indeed been followed, but with wholly unanticipated results. It seems that the child will no longer touch any vegetable on her dinner plate. But what got the family up in arms is that she now wakes the household every night with shrieking and crying as she is attacked and eaten in her dreams by a monstrously large and aggressive stalk of broccoli.
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