It’s three in the morning. I’m having a lovely dream, the usual one about going back to uni days and not getting up until lunchtime. A little voice pierces through my dream. “Mummy, mummy,” it cries plaintively. In my dream I’m still a teenager with nothing to worry about but whether to watch neighbours, go to the bar or maybe even attend a lecture. Small children are definitely not my responsibility. I roll over and find myself face to face with a small blonde girl who is staring into my face. There are too many films these days which feature small blonde girls as zombies or vampires to make this anything but terrifying. After a few moments I wake up enough to realise that its not in fact a zombie child but my own daughter.
“Mummy I had a bad dream,” the daughter says as she climbs into bed. My resistance is weak in the middle of the night so I let her get in, thinking I’ll take her back to her own room in ten minutes but knowing I probably won’t.
|OK, I’ll admit it – I really shouldn’t have watched The Walking Dead
– I’ll stick to PGs now.
“What was the dream about?” I ask, my voice slurred. I wonder whether I can go back to sleep quickly enough to catch last orders in the Student Union.
“The shoulders,” she says.
“Ahhh,” I reply, “not those shoulders again.”
It’s been the same thing for a few months, ever since she did about them in school. Every time she has a bad dream its the same: the shoulders are coming. The dead shoulders. Sometimes she sees one on TV or a toy shop and in the cold light of day they aren’t so scary. “Look mummy it’s the shoulders,” she’ll cry when she sees them.
At parents evening I’m planning on questioning the school about whether it’s a good idea to introduce dead shoulders to four year olds. Its not really a subject for four year olds, is it? Especially when it gives them nightmares. I try to explain to her that she must have misunderstood when they were talking about it. That the shoulders wouldn’t actually be coming into their school. That it’s just a job. That you think about how brave they are one day a year. I try to explain that shoulders aren’t scary, even the dead ones. I struggle though because she has said shoulders so many times I can no longer say it properly. The shoulders, no that’s not right…. the shoulders, damn it, the soldiers.
I fall back asleep and shoulders or soldiers no longer worry me. Although I can’t shake off the nagging feeling I have an essay due in tomorrow.