Benchwarmer by Mike Resnick and Lezli Robyn is the story of where our imaginary friends, or “playmates,” as they’re called, go when we no longer need them. We first meet Mr. Paloobi, a teddy bear-like creature who befriends a young boy whose parents are rarely around. Mr. Paloobi teaches the boy to play chess, and together, the two have a wonderful time. But eventually, as all children do, the boy outgrows Mr. Paloobi, and he is pulled back to the “here and somewhere,” also known as the limbo where he will stay until he’s given a new charge.
Although Mr. Paloobi has had other charges since the boy who created him, they have not had the same kind of relationship that he shared with the first boy, and Mr. Paloobi often reminisces about their time together nearly seventy years earlier. Finally, he and the boy—who is now an old man with a fading memory—are reunited, and they’re able to pick up their relationship exactly where they left off.
The authors do a fantastic job of showing that even as people grow older, they’re never really alone. Not only is this story wonderful because it addresses the common fears of loneliness that come with age, but also because it shows that true friendship, no matter the distance or time that separates the companions, can last a lifetime.