I had the conversation I wrote about in my last post about a week before I wrote the post. The Prata Boy had been following the plan rather reluctantly, with a great deal of effort on my part in the form of constant reminders and daily reiterations of the entire train of logic from the top down. Then, a couple of days ago, he appeared at the door wearing his bike helmet.

"You're wearing your bike helmet," I observed casually.

"Yes," he agreed. "I'm wearing it to defend myself against people who want to take me away. When they look at it they will see the fire and they will stay away so they don't get burned into tiny little shrivelled pieces."

I nodded, simultaneously feeling a) dubious that many strangers would fear the cheerful sun motif which now adorned his head, b) stupid at not having thought of the idea myself when similar techniques have worked with PB so many times before, c) overjoyed that he'd independently worked out a way to manage his stress and keep with the program, and d) uneasy at the continued, if now latent, violence of his theme.

Once we were safely seated on our bus, I had a go at tweaking the concept. "PB," I started, "you know how you're a pilot?" (A little background: The Prata Boy has not actually been The Prata Boy since he was about two years old. Instead, he has expressed a variety of personas, both human and non-human, the latest of which is Captain Prata Boy - a pilot who flies with Emirates Airlines on their passenger routes in and out of Tokyo. It's a fairly specific fantasy.)

"Yes," he replied, fiddling with his chin strap. "This is my helmet." (More background: he has not yet ironed out all the subtle differences between military and commercial aircraft operations. But he will.)

"A great helmet it is, too," I enthused. "I was just wondering, though, what you think is the best way of greeting your passengers." I cast my hand around the bus to indicate 'his passengers'. "You know, as the pilot of a commercial aircraft, with paying guests on board."A look of realisation spread across his face, and he stared thoughtfully into the middle distance. After a long pause I continued. "I mean, you'd have to treat them politely, wouldn't you? Otherwise they wouldn't fly with your airline any more. And if nobody flies on your airline, well, pretty soon they won't need a pilot any more. You'll be out of a job and instead of flying planes you'll have to... well, I don't know what you'd do. Do you have a backup plan?"

"No! I'm a pilot!" he insisted.

"Well then." We sat in silence for a while.

"How do pilots greet their passengers?" I prompted at length.

"Very nicely," he replied. I nodded silently. We rode along, looking out the window.

Later that day, he started blowing kisses to everyone who met eyes with him. ("Is he piloting The Love Plane?" Mr Bea asked, when I recounted events to him later that night. "The pendulum may have swung a little far on the first stroke," I agreed.) And you know, though part of me still feels I should have thought of it sooner - way sooner - there's this growing gladness he was forced to put some of the work in himself. I can't always be on hand to write his life's screenplay, or cast everyone into their correct roles.

So if you're wandering around Singapore and you see a woman whose four-year-old is wearing a bike helmet for no discernible reason, you'll know it's me. You can wave hi, but maybe leave the little guy alone. His air kisses are much sweeter than his air kicks, but he still finds the interactions exhausting.

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