A few weeks ago, a terrible thing happened: we gave Will a stack of books before checking for dead flies.

Now, in most households, you wouldn’t expect this to be something you’d need to do. Will, however, is petrified by (of?) flies. Over the fall, our house seemed to be invaded by big, fat flies, making their presence known. Every night before bed we did a fly check and kill; God forbid you went anywhere without a fly swatter within range. Even now, I quake as I realize I have no idea where one is. I still shiver at the memory of the bloodcurdling scream from when that slight buzz was heard.

So, now that you know the history, it might not surprise you that, on that fateful night, when Will turned his head to the stack of books that has become in his mind one of the things that makes all the world right, the sight of a dead fly on Fizz the Fire Truck’s book binding shook him to his core. Since that night, we’ve had to inspect each book before putting it on the bed. He refuses to go near the trash can where the dead fly was disposed of. And, each night since then, I’ve had to come up with the three things he can think about so he won’t be scared.

Despite all this, I had no idea what the root of the fear actually was. This conversation from earlier this evening shed some light on the subject. It started with the requisite, “Mommy, are there any dead flies on the books?”

“There aren’t any dead flies on the books,” I answered, trying to keep the impatience out of my voice. “Besides,” I said, “they’re dead. They can’t do anything to you.”

After looking at me for a good, long moment, Will said, “But what if they turn into zombies?”

“They won’t turn into zombies,” I answered, silently cursing Fahad and Antonio, the two boys in his class that keep talking about zombies and beasties. “That doesn’t happen.”

Undeterred, Will said, “But dead people do.”

“Do what?” I asked, not sure where he was going with this.

“Turn into zombies,” he replied.

“No,” I said. “That doesn’t happen either.” (Being the Buffy fan that I am, I did knock on wood.)

“What about baby Jesus?” he asked, taking things down an entirely different road.

“What do you mean baby Jesus?” I said, trying to hide my surprise. I mean, I know this kid has a lot of things running through his head, but this isn’t exactly something I would have come up with, even with my own overactive imagination.

Solemnly, he said, “Baby Jesus came back to life.”

And here’s where you need a little background. Over the Christmas vacation, we had quite a conversation on our way to NYC, during which the subject of Baby Jesus came up. (One of these days, I’ll try to get that conversation down as well. It was a good one. Trust me.) Needless to say, there was some talk about that third day.

Ummm… “Baby Jesus is different. He was very special. When he came back to life it was good; he watches over people. He didn’t turn into a zombie.”

“Don’t say that word,” Will said.

“Zombie?” I foolishly repeated.

“I SAID DON’T SAY THAT WORD!!!!!!”

“O.k., o.k.” Dumb mommy. That’s, like, one of the first things you’re supposed to learn in Mommy School. I must have missed that class. “Pretend I didn’t say it.”

“I don’t want to talk about this any more,” he said. “What else should I think about? And don’t say anything about the thing happening tomorrow.”

Almost making the same mistake again, I said, “You mean-”

“I SAID DON’T SAY IT!!!”

Sigh. Right. “Then think about Jasper, Sour Patch Kids Watermelon, and opening the presents from your birthday party.”

“What else?”

Ugh. More than three things? “I can’t think of anything else. After that, just count to 1500.”

“I can’t count to 1500. I don’t know anything past 9 billion.”

Oh, my God. Do not laugh. Do not even crack a smile. That might have been the only lesson I did learn, but at least I’ve got that one down. “1500 is less than 9 billion.”

He looked at me suspiciously. I saw my opening. “Good night, Will. I love you.”

“Me too, Mommy. Good night.”

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