Dreams can only be assessed afterwards, of course. It’s the morning mind, if it can be arsed, that indulges them with perception, or files away in nevermind land marked with a giant question.

The old man knows this, but how to convey it to a little girl who can accept reality without needing to judge it first? It’s not that she asked a big question. It’s the size of the answer that matters, and he wanted his to help her be someone who won’t waste a good dream by pinching herself.

His harshest critic, who revels in dismissing ideas that get above their station, scoffs all too heartily. There really isn’t one older in the book than ‘it was all a dream’.

Goaded, the old man cracks.

‘The gnome is grumpy because it isn’t laughing anymore,’ he snaps. He doesn’t want to go with the Snow White allegory. Putting it down to drugs is the second cheapest excuse going. ‘The hope is that after they find life on Mars it will be one big happy nation. The hands are fat because he’s no longer thin.’

Everything makes sense if you’re willing to take it apart and reshape it. Interpretation is an act of faith. Wars are waged on nonsense.

‘Hm,’ muses the harshest critic, not entirely unconvinced. ‘And Sneezing Bhutan?’

‘I don’t know!’ The old man is screeching now. Heaven knows why he keeps the ignominious little runt in his pay. ‘The silly boy blue snorting his way though religion?’

‘Ha!’ The smile slices the harshest critic’s face in two. He made the old man go there.

The little girl, meanwhile, has lost interest, wandered off somewhere far, far away. But who’s to say she didn’t get it?

Let her wonder how she pleases, old man. And please, try not to belittle it with a point.

For Leela Joi. By Shihab S Joi
David Bowie, Mark Plati, Reeves Gabrels

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