[From time to time, I write a story in an hour or so based on an image. Sometimes I’ll reprint my favorites.]
There’s only so much you can do when the Nazis bomb your boy’s house, especially when you’re trying so hard to resemble a stuffed elephant and not entirely succeeding.
You just have to kind of go quiet and let the human clutch at you while his people do their best to clear the rubble and find his parents. You can’t say anything, that’s for sure, certainly not about how the Nazis will be hiding or hanging from the gallows or foaming at the lips from self-inflicted cyanide in just a few years.
You also absolutely cannot mention that humans will be standing on their Moon in one quarter century or connected all over their planet in two or shaking hands with creatures like you not long after that. And you can’t let it slip that there will be a lot more rubble between now and then.
Here’s what you can do.
You can stick close to your human, not letting anyone dunk you in a washtub to get the dust off of you and find out what you really are.
You can make sure they find his science fiction magazines and the book about dinosaurs.
You can tumble out of his arms at just the moment when the air raid wardens start talking about how they wish the bloody Huns, all of them, the women and children too, would get marched into their own goddamned gas chambers.
You can keep him away from the torn iron bars and bent nails.
You can nudge him toward the charred engine of a V-2 so he can ask what it is and be told by Warden George McAllister that it’s an “awful waste of a rocket, that’s what it is.”
You can remind him to look up, look up from the windows of his train from London just as the black night goes its blackest, and when he whisper-asks you if all of those suns have wars going on around them, you can somehow tell him that some do, yes, but not all.
You can sit with him on the window seat of a country home while all the other children play outside and read The Time Machine together.
You can resist the box, the sack, the closet shelf as he grows older, reminding him by your presence that yes, he survived and yes, it was for a reason.
You can make him wonder how neat it would be to get a degree in physics. You can help him decide that another in linguistics at the same time might be handy in ways he’ll never expect.
You can do your best to keep him away from hate and from war and from disappointment at his species, human though he is, and even when he can’t, you can help him try again.
You can hint, ever subtly, whenever he’s alone, that we’re on our way.