Through the dark ethereal mists floated sighs of a child. “Yo yo yo yo yo yo. Yo yo yo yo yo yo. Yo yo yo yo yo yo. Ya hoo! Barump bump bump bump. Barump bump bump bump. Ya hoo hee hee hee!”
“I beg your pardon.” A voice arose from a bottomless cavern in the distant nether. “What are you doing here?”
“What am I doing where?” The child giggled at his own cleverness.
“This is the land of whispers and memories. We weren’t expecting any new arrivals.”
“And I wasn’t expecting to go anywhere so that makes us even, doesn’t it? Barump bump….”
“What are you doing? What is that noise?”
“I’m playing my drum.”
“You can’t be playing a drum,” the deep voice replied, a pronounced irritation shading his tone.
The child paused. “That’s right. My drum has disappeared. I’m pretending to play my drum.”
A moan echoed through the blackness. “My pardon, young man. I should have known I was speaking to someone of your age. By the way, what is your age?”
“Seven. It’s my birthday. It’s the best birthday I ever had.”
Tenderness softened the cave voice. “And why is it the best birthday ever?”
“My daddy took me on a trip. He’s never taken me anywhere before. You see, he works really hard and Mommy says I shouldn’t expect him to take time off from his job just because I want to go someplace. If Daddy doesn’t work, we don’t eat and we don’t have a roof over our heads and we’d have to run around naked because we couldn’t afford any clothes.”
“So why did your father take time off for your seventh birthday?”
“I don’t know. I’m just glad that he did.”
Where did he take you?”
“The Indian reservation.”
“Which Indian reservation?”
“The one with drums and war bonnets.”
“Oh, that one. Well, good. That’s a good one.”
“The one with the mountains and waterfall and paths you can go walking on. I saw a squirrel.”
“That must have been exciting.”
“We got to eat hot dogs.”
“I didn’t know Indians had hot dogs.”
“They had hamburgers too. Daddy had a hamburger.”
“No wonder it was the best birthday ever.”
“Know what the first thing we did when we got there? First thing in the morning?”
“Daddy bought me a war bonnet and a drum. He let me wear the war bonnet all day. It had real feathers too. And he didn’t mind that I wanted to beat my drum all day. At home he used to get mad real easy if I made too much noise but not today. Not on my birthday.”
“So what happened on your birthday? Why are you here?”
“I still don’t know where here is.” The child paused. “Yo yo yo yo yo yo. Do you know Indians like to hop around in circles and sing yo yo yo yo yo yo?”
“Did you like watching them dance?”
“I liked everything about my seventh birthday!”
“There wasn’t anything bad that happened?”
“No. Daddy didn’t get mad and yell one time. I don’t ever remember a day when Daddy didn’t yell about something.”
“Do you remember anything after you got home? Anything bad?”
“No, I don’t remember much. Daddy said I could wear my war bonnet to bed. He said good night and turned off the light. I was so tired I went right off to sleep. It got real hot in the middle of the night. I started coughing. I think I started coughing. It might have been a dream. Then I started wheezing. I could hardly breathe. I cried out; at least, I thought I cried out.”
“What happened next?” the cave voice asked.
“I think Daddy and Mommy came into my room and I think Mommy said something about getting those feathers away from my face. Daddy said to let me wear my feathers because they made me happy. He said the cough was nothing. He said I was just tired.”
“Do you remember anything after that?”
“No. Wasn’t that nice of Daddy to let me keep my war bonnet?”
The voice from the distant cavern was silent for several moments. Eventually the child began to play his imaginary drum again.
“Barump bump bump bump….”
“My dear child,” the cave voice finally said, “I don’t think you’re supposed to be here in the land of whispers and memories.”
“Where am I supposed to be?”
“With your mother and father. You were supposed to create many more memories before you came here.”
“I can’t imagine any better memories than what I got on my seventh birthday.” His excitement trailed off. “Can’t I have my war bonnet and drum now?”
“No. You can only have your memories here.”
“Can I go back to my war bonnet and drum?”
“You can go back to your mother and father, but I don’t think you will ever get your war bonnet. Maybe your drum.”
“But I will get some more happy memories?”
“Oh, I can’t promise all your memories will be happy.”
“So,” the child said slowly, “if I stay here I can keep my birthday memories?”
“Of course. And if you notice, you don’t have many bad memories now, do you?”
“No, and they are slipping away fast. How come that happens?”
“I’ll explain it to you later. We have lots of time for things like that.”
“What if I decide to go back and get more memories later? Can I do that?”
“Yes, you can go back anytime you want, but they won’t be the same memories of the same people from before. And, like I said, I can’t promise they will be all happy.”
“Okay, I think I get it now. Yo yo yo yo yo yo. Barump bump bump bump.”

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