In Chapter One of THE UNPUBLISHABLES we meet Cuthbert, imaginary friend extraordinaire.
THE ADVANTAGES OF BEING IMAGINARY
by Michael Frissore
I met my imaginary friend Cuthbert when I was five years old. He wasn’t a giant rabbit like Harvey, or a pain in the ass like Drop Dead Fred. He was just a regular guy who would keep me company and protect me. Whenever I was forced to go somewhere I didn’t want to go with my parents like church or Aunt Cindy’s house, or someplace that scared me like The Fabric Place or Anderson Little, where my dad bought his suits, Cuthbert would always be there with me.
Once I started school, it was hard for me to make friends, being as shy as I was. As long as I had Cuthbert, it didn’t matter. Some of the kids thought I was strange, always talking, seemingly, to myself, but it was Cuthbert, who followed me everywhere.
As I got older, my parents became worried. At eight, they thought I was too old to have an imaginary friend. He was never imaginary to me. I knew that, just as the rest of the folks on Sesame Street finally saw Snuffleupagus, eventually my family would see Cuthbert.
When I entered my teen years, however, Cuthbert disappeared. I didn’t notice it at first, but once I did I became quite depressed. I guess he thought I didn’t need him anymore. After a while, I was okay with it, and I was even able to live a normal high school life.
When I went away to college, I became depressed again. I made friends, but I began to miss my family, especially Cuthbert. I wondered where he was, who he was with now.
One Christmas, a time of the year I became most depressed because Cuthbert loved Christmas, the whole family went to see my sister Angela’s school play. It was a horrible play with absolutely nothing to do with Christmas. It was these weird kids singing weird songs, and it seemed like the longest night of my life. They opened with the operatic song “Who Broke My Window?” from those old Mormon commercials:
OLD MAN: Who broke my window?
KID: Telling the truth isn’t gonna be easy!
OLD MAN: Glass everywhere you look!
Who broke my window?
KID: Why is my stomach all nervous and queasy?
He wasn’t the only one. I couldn’t help it. I just vomited right there on the floor. Then I saw, out of the corner of my eye, somebody offering me a towel. It was Cuthbert. I couldn’t believe it. Like old times, when I needed him most, Cuthbert came back to me. He would make the rest of this fiasco of a play tolerable. When they did Joe Dolce’s “Shaddup A You Face,”
It’s a not so bad
It’s a nice a place
Ah, shaddup a you face!
We began throwing things towards the stage and carrying on loudly. My parents gave me the “What are you doing? Are you evil?” look, but I didn’t care. When the play closed with “The Ballad of Casey Macphee,” sung by Cookie Monster on “Sesame Street,”
Through, through, through
He got the train through
Cuthbert and I lost it, and were told not to come back for the spring play. When we got home, my parents cornered me and asked me if Cuthbert was at the play. I told them he wasn’t and went on my merry way upstairs. Cuthbert and I talked. He said I needed time to grow on my own, and now that I’ve done that, we can be together again, like Elizabeth and Drop Dead Fred.
The whole family was over to celebrate Christmas that night. We had a great time, Cuthbert and I, getting reacquainted. I told him that the one thing troubling me is why. Why do I have this gift, when, apparently, other adults do not?
As I turned around to explain my epiphany to Cuthbert, I saw that, in the excitement, Uncle Matt has passed out and knocked the bookshelf over, and it smashed Cuthbert on the head. Cuthbert fell, and I rushed over to him, worried as hell. Like Tom the cat always did when Jerry did something sinister to him, Cuthbert got up, brushed himself off, and was just fine.
“Are you all right?” I asked him.
“Right as rain,” he said.
“That was a nasty bump,” I told him.
“It’s okay,” he replied. “I don’t get hurt or bleed, my hair doesn’t muss; it’s one of the advantages of being imaginary.”
Cuthbert was quoting the character Tom Baxter in Woody Allen’s The Purple Rose of Cairo. Cuthbert always did like Woody Allen. I knew I’d never have to worry about ole Cuthbert. He would always be there, always in perfect health.