When Peter Pan returned home from Neverland he found that the real world was a far more surprising and confusing place than the fantasy world he had grown so used to.
In Neverland his days were simple. Wake up in a pile of leaves, spend the morning hiding from savages in the jungle, fight some pirates all afternoon on the deck of the Jolly Roger, play some grand tricks on the lost boys as the sun set behind the mountain, and finally fall asleep in a hollowed out tree somewhere and dream about mothers. He enjoyed this life. It had a certain cadence of adventure that appealed to him. He was independent and dangerous, and yet confined and in danger. It was a clenched jaw dizzy world of noise followed by silence followed by noise. Armored cars, international politics and doughy meat filled pastries.
His plane landed in the real world at 1:00 in the morning. As he dragged his crudely packed bags off the plane he discovered a wife he had nearly forgotten existed. She was beautiful and motherly; he remembered her from the dreams he had in the hollow trees. He dropped his bags, ran to her, and shook her hand warmly.
She led him to a car with buttons and handles that he would now use to travel. It was far less convenient or exhilarating as simply laughing yourself into the air and chasing a trail of fairy dust into the clouds. He blinked at the controls and then in the mirror. Crammed in the backseat of this car was a row of three pink and blue paisley car seats.
Later that night, when he arrived home, Peter found the owners of the car seats. Two curly headed girls that called him “Father” and a tiny baby boy that blew bubbles and crossed his eyes. Peter could remember the little girls vaguely, but thought that maybe he was remembering a family of squirrels. As they piled onto him the following morning he had to resist the urge to draw a knife from his belt and force them out of the house. The boy just stared at him, as if he alone was aware of how much this man-child did not belong in this house and in this world. Peter winked at him and smiled. The boy opened his mouth and showed Peter he didn’t have any teeth. Peter frowned, unsure of why the boy would do this. His mother handed the child to Peter, and at first he held him upside down, and then hung him up by his wrists, and then finally he threw him over his shoulder like a bag of pirate loot and bounded down the stairs.
That was the morning Peter discovered he had a job. A very important job. A job in a building, with a desk. He discovered he had a computer and it had a keyboard and there was a mug with so many pens in it that it was hard to drink out of. He didn’t know what he was supposed to do at this job. He just smiled a lot and adjusted his chair for most of the day. Frequently, that first week, he would take breaks and walk around the building shaking bushes looking for spying pirates. One afternoon a coworker found him staring into a tree near the parking lot. Peter explained that a deadly savage was probably somewhere in the top branches and he was waiting for them to get thirsty and try to come down. But no savage ever came down from the tree, and Peter was forced to return to his desk and draw numbers on a pad of yellow paper for the rest of the afternoon which was what he saw everyone else in his office doing.
His boss stopped him on Friday while he was about to walk out the door. “How do these numbers look?” the older man asked pointing to one of the pads of paper.
Peter looked at the notes and then back to the man, “Upside down.” He replied honestly.
His boss frowned looking at the numbers, “I think you are right, Pan. You are going to have to work hard to turn the department back around by next quarter.”
“Yes sir.” Peter nodded as he turned to leave.
He was excited to start his first weekend. He assumed everyone in the neighborhood would do something exciting, like pitch in money to rent a large tiger and all of the families would come out on their lawns and spend Saturday pulling its tail and running from it. But instead the families stayed in their homes, and only the fathers came out onto the lawn. They started up machines and cut the 5 inch high grass to be 3 inches high. Peter stood on his porch and watched. When it was over they all shut off their machines, wiped their hands on their foreheads, and waved at him. Suddenly Peter’s yard, which had looked completely fine that morning, now resembled a jungle in comparison to the surrounding lots. His neighbors’ doors all slammed behind them in unison and he was left alone in the silence contemplating this strange world with its odd rituals and barbaric mannerisms. It was a cold frosted world, greyed of emotion and passion, and wilted with slow laborious concentrated noncommittal inactivity.
That night Peter climbed up onto his roof and crowed at the moon till his wife came out and asked him to come back inside. But he didn’t hear, or he chose not to hear. He just continued to crow up into the darkness and the stars. He crowed for Neverland as it slowly faded into a dream in his memory. He crowed for the pirates sailing dastardly circles in a dark forgotten cove. He crowed for his beloved lost boys, his companions and teammates in the great living game of danger and victory. He crowed for the jungle and for the freedom of flying and for adventure.
He remained on the roof for most of the night until his wife brought him a blanket and a cup of tea, and sat down next to him. And then she crowed with him. They crowed for the past long lost and for friends long gone. And as lights came on all down the street, and people in robes came to their windows to demand peace, they crowed even louder. Together they stood up and crowed for their future. With every ounce of energy they crowed together in defiance to the challenge. They crowed and crowed and then together fell silent. He looked at the woman as she rested her head on his shuddering shoulder, with stars reflecting in her eyes. He shook her hand warmly, smiled, thanked her, and climbed down the gutter pipe into the back yard. Once inside he kissed each of his sleeping daughters quietly on their foreheads and smoothed their blankets with his hand. He picked up and rocked his baby boy delicately in his arms. When the sun rose the next day he drove his car to his office and remained all day at his desk writing numbers and answering telephones while him boss gave him an approving thumbs up from across the room.
The following weekend he bought a lawn mower and erased the jungle from his yard.