Tommy has a vivid imagination. Around the age of three, like most children, he began to explore the world of pretend. He liked to race cardboard boxes down the hallway, which in his mind bared the likes of Motor Speedway alongside Lightning McQueen. Jumping out of window sills and off coffee tables he was parachuting off of buildings to come to the rescue in Adventure Bay with the Paw Patrol. With each passing year this imaginative child withdrew a little more from socializing with other children as the world of pretending only got bigger and more in depth for Tommy. As he approached his 10th birthday during the summer of 2022, the few real friendships that he had formed had all but vanished.
When it came time to send out invitations for Tommy's big 10th birthday party he shrugged and told his parents they could give one to Bobby if they wanted to. Bobby was the last boy on their street that occasionally would come over and spend time with Tommy. He usually left after about half an hour because he didn't like Tommy's imaginary friend, Snickers, because he told Tommy dirty jokes that Tommy would then repeat. Tommy's parents looked at each other with concern, they didn't want to have to explain to Bobby's parents again why he was asking about what Pinocchio's girlfriend says. "I don't think Bobby's going to be coming over much anymore, sweetie," Tommy's mom said to him. "Oh, that's OK," he replied. "Can I invite Snickers?" he asked. "NO!" scolded both of his parents in unison. Tommy's dad suggested that he make up some other friends. Tommy took offense, shouting, " Snickers is REAL!" and he stormed off to his room.
The week leading up to the birthday party began with Tommy sprinting downstairs excitedly on Monday morning. "Mom! Dad! I know who else I can invite to my party!" He exclaimed. "Who might that be?" asked his mother. "Maverick!" Tommy said, and then he dove into his adventure, rambling, "We were up all night on the most epic adventure of all time. First we shot out of the window in a rocket ship, and then we landed in the middle of the ocean and swam to a pirate ship that was battling the navy, we snuck aboard the pirate ship and took control and then Maverick helped save the navy commander who had fallen in the water surrounded by blood thirsty sharks, and then we..." Tommy's dad interrupted with, "Slow down, son, we'd love to invite Maverick to your birthday." Tommy leaped into the air, and ran off, full of excitement.
During Tuesday morning breakfast the next day, Tommy requested pancakes with extra syrup, whipped cream, strawberries and a side of ice cream covered in sprinkles. "Ice cream for breakfast? I don't think so," exclaimed Tommy's mom. "Well, Clark has ice cream for breakfast, cookies for lunch cake for dinner and root beer floats to drink all day long," he stated with attitude. "Who's Clark?" asked his father. "He's my new best friend! Every Halloween he comes home with five pillowcases overflowing with candy and next year he wants me to be the other M to his costume so that we can fill 10 pillowcases!" Tommy said. "Why don't you invite Clark to your party?" dad suggested. Tommy jumped for joy again.
As mid-week rolled around the Friday birthday loomed just a few more days away. Tommy's dad found him in the garage, climbing the shelving and pulling down his old baseball gear. "I've been trying to get you back into baseball for years, what's changed today?" dad asked. "Benny is the best baseball player around here, we are going to have a home run derby!" Tommy stated. "That's great, let me know if you need anything," said his dad. "Can we go to the mall in a little bit?" asked Tommy. "What for?" his dad said, puzzled. "We need to get a couple new bats, a bucket of balls, catcher's gear, new cleats, and a pitching machine," Tommy proclaimed! "How about you make a birthday wish list with those items and be sure to invite Benny to the party," his dad suggested. Tommy emphatically agreed and ran to the park.
The day before the party Tommy sat alone at the foot of his bed with his head slumped in his lap. His mom came in and asked him what was wrong. "I'm just a loser. I was telling my new friend Fred about my week and he made fun of me for being too scared to jump into the shark infested waters to save the navy commander, then he called me a fatty when I told him I wanted ice cream for breakfast and then he laughed at me when he saw me swing a baseball bat," he professed. Tommy's mother consoled him and said, "I don't think you should invite Fred to your birthday party tomorrow." Tommy frowned, but then asked "Well then, can Snickers come?" His mother responded with, "We'll see". Tommy smirked a little.
That night it took Tommy a long time to fall asleep. He was excited for his party the next day, but he was more concerned with the things Fred had said. Tommy felt like a fat coward with no skills. As the clock struck midnight he finally dozed off. Maverick came in the room and saw Tommy fast asleep. What a grand adventure they'd had earlier that week, Maverick was glad Tommy was there to encourage him to jump in after the commander, it made him feel brave like Tommy was. Ironically, in that same moment, Maverick was spooked as someone walked up behind him and whispered, "Who are you?" Startled, he shot back with, "I'm Maverick, Tommy and I have the world's greatest adventures together, who are you?" The spooky figure came into the light of the moon, revealing an entire pie he was holding up and said, "I'm Clark, Tommy and I make the world's best root beer floats, the perfect balance of root beer and vanilla ice cream with a splash of Tommy's genius secret ingredient." Just then another boy sprinted in the room, startling the both of them, and excitedly asked "What's the secret ingredient?" Ignoring his question, Clark and Maverick just stared at this very athletic and energetic kid. He was carrying an enormous duffel bag overflowing with equipment as if he were Santa Clause, delivering to only the baseball lovers of the world. He went on to introduce himself, "I'm Benny, I live for this game and now Tommy does too! I'm helping him with his swing, you guys should see how great he's doing, he's a natural." The three of them all lowered their defenses, realizing they all really loved Tommy. Just then, in walked Snickers, "So, Pinocchio goes on a date with this girl," he started. "We've heard it!" the others said simultaneously. "Hey Snickers, I've got a joke that I heard from Tommy," said Maverick. "Yeah?" he replied. "What does a snail say when it's catching a ride from a turtle?" Maverick asked. "I dunno, what?" asked Snickers. "Weeee!" he revealed. They all laughed. "Tommy is so funny," Snickers stated emphatically! They all agreed.
The foursome could sense that something was wrong with Tommy. None of them had seen him that day. That's when Fred walked in. "Well look who it is, the hero, the glutton, the dumb jock and the pervert" he scoffed. "It's no wonder Tommy doesn't have any real friends when he's spending all his time with you freaks," he continued. Maverick wanted to beat him, Clark wanted to eat him, Benny was reaching for a bat and Snickers could think of only one place to shove Pinocchio's nose. Before they had a chance to unleash on him, Fred vanished with a fading laughter. The boys loosened their white knuckled grip and came to one true realization that Fred had unveiled, Tommy had no real friends, and the four of them wouldn't be around forever. That night they hatched a plan and split up to prepare for the best birthday party Tommy has ever had!
Friday morning had arrived, the day of the big birthday! Tommy slept in past 10am since he had been up so late in turmoil. He walked downstairs slowly, wondering why none of his friends had visited him last night, wondering if Fred was right. "Good morning, son, happy birthday!" his parents greeted him. Tommy couldn't help but smile a little when he saw a full ice cream bar set up at the kitchen table. "Ready for breakfast?" they asked. "But I thought I couldn't have ice cream for breakfast?" Tommy questioned. "Well, it's your birthday! Plus, we may have been swayed by Clark just this once." his mom giggled. Just then the doorbell rang and Tommy ran to open it. To both his and his parent's surprise it was Bobby. "Happy birthday, Tommy!" he exclaimed. "Snickers visited me last night, he told me the funniest joke about a snail and a turtle! He said he got it from you, hilarious,” he said. Tommy couldn’t even get the words out to thank him before he blurted out, “How come you didn't invite me to your party?" Tommy's parents took the blame and invited Bobby in for sundae breakfast. "WOW! WOW! Tommy! Tommy!" they heard shouting from the back yard. It was the twins, Sean and John, next door. They were leaning over the fence from their tree house and admiring the newly erected custom playground rocket ship that converts to a pirate ship. The twins hadn't played with Tommy in nearly two years, about the time Tommy began ignoring them as he was enveloped in the world of pretend. The two neighbors hopped the fence and ran up to the back door, clamoring on about their adventure with Maverick and how he emphasized not to miss Tommy's party. Before Tommy's parents had time to react to the giant new play equipment that had appeared in the backyard unbeknownst to either of them, they heard a commotion out in front of the house. Everyone meandered around through the side yard to see 12 members of Tommy's old little league team (the one year he was forced to play) coming up the drive way. Most of them didn't even live in town anymore, but they car pooled over for Tommy's party after they all had a chance to play with Benny. Everyone came inside for a frozen treat and Tommy's parents started baking cookies for the lunch hour quickly approaching.
It truly was the best birthday of Tommy's life, he was over the moon... several times in the rocket ship! Amidst the fun, chaos and rekindling of friendships, Tommy's parents inquired about whether Snickers, Maverick, Clark and Benny were enjoying the festivities as well. "Oh, they're not here," Tommy replied. "They've been up all night, they needed a rest," he explained. His parents were impressed, they simply said, "Tell them we missed them the next time you see them." Tommy spoke up again, "But Fred is here, he seemed like he needed a friend!" Astonished and proud, his parents left the boys alone to go prepare the cake for dinner. Four unlikely friends, Snickers, Maverick, Clark and Benny watched from afar with sleepy eyes and smiling faces as Tommy filled the afternoon with danger, sugar, baseball and kindness toward one another. Tommy's parents came out once again to take orders for root beer floats. "Don't forget the cinnamon," shouted Tommy. As the parents retreated back inside and the coast was clear, the boys gathered suspiciously in the back corner behind the garage, whispering to one another and giggling, then Bobby shouted the Pinocchio punch line, "lie to me, lie to me!", and all the boys burst into laughter.