The bad news: my son woke up at 5:45 AM.
The good news: he chose to go into a room that was not mine.
Aunt M knew that something was wrong when she felt a hot breath on the back of her neck. Rolling over, she found the boy staring at her.
“Where’s Uncle B?” he asked.
“He’s downstairs,” she answered.
“What, you mean he has to sleep downstairs?”
“No, he got up early and went downstairs.”
“Oh,” the boy said. “You wanna hear a song?” Without waiting for an answer, he started to sing Summer of ’69 to her. I hate that song, but it’s on his iPod because his mother has no musical taste whatsoever. What can I say? I love her anyway.
“Would you like to get in bed with me?” Aunt M asked.
“YES!” he leapt into bed before someone realized that the children, in our house, are never allowed to get into grownup beds.
Some few minutes passed before he decided to begin educating her.
“Do you know what the most sensitive part of a boy’s body is?” he asked.
“No,” said Aunt M. Bear in mind that she is a nurse who has written teaching texts on the subject, so is well familiar with anatomy.
“You might think that it would be the butt,” he said. “But that’s wrong. It’s actually the privates. Not the butt part of the privates, but the penis.”
“Oh, I see,” she said, laughing.
“I get hit in the butt a lot,” he said. “About once a day.”
“Why is that?”
“Because my parents spank me,” he said. Disclosure: the boy has never been spanked in his entire life.
“Why do they spank you?” Aunt M asked.
“Because I’m very naughty,” he said in a rare moment of honesty.
“Would you like some breakfast?” Aunt M asked.
“Yes!” he said.
At that moment the girl wandered in. “I want breakfast, too,” she said.
Entering the kitchen, Aunt M asked them a question that was far too open-ended. “What would you guys like?”
Let the bidding begin!
The girl opened with “Bacon!”
“Cereal!” raised the boy.
The girl saw that with “Eggs!”
“Toast!” said the boy.
Finally, the coup de gras: “Banana bread!”
“Yeah, banana bread!” said the boy.
“Your grandma told me you like that, so I made some yesterday,” Aunt M said. “I’ll get you some.”
So she cut them each a slice of banana bread and sat them down. The boy took one look at it and pushed it away.
“What’s the matter?” she asked.
“This has nuts in it,” he said. “Banana bread doesn’t have nuts.”
“The recipe said to put nuts in it,” Aunt M said. “So this banana bread has nuts in it.”
“Mommy’s banana bread doesn’t have nuts in it,” the girl said.
“Grandma’s banana bread doesn’t have nuts in it,” the boy said. “I don’t like nuts. Suck them out.”
Aunt M laughed. “Well, if you don’t want nuts, then you can’t have this banana bread.”
“You can make some more,” the girl suggested.
“Yeah!” said the boy. “Just open another box!”
“Try again,” Aunt M said. She proceeded to make them cereal, bacon, and toast.
“I would like an egg, please,” the girl said. “Hard-boiled, with no soft stuff inside, but not warm. I like them cold.”
“How about if I boil an egg and put it in the freezer for a while?” Aunt M suggested.
So that is what they did. When the egg came out, the girl declared it “still too warm” and it went back into the freezer, where it was forgotten about for the next 30 minutes. When the egg finally came out, it was frozen to the dish.
“This is no good any more,” the girl said. “Can you make another one?”
“It’s this or nothing,” Aunt M said.
“I’ll eat this one,” the girl pulled the egg apart. “But I don’t eat the yellow. Can you throw it away?”
“Okay,” Aunt M tossed it in the garbage. The exact moment that they yolk passed into the can, the boy spoke up.
“I like the yellow!” he said. “I would have eaten that! Can you get it out?”
“You don’t want it now,” said Aunt M.
“Then can you please boil me another one and freeze it so I can eat it?”
“Maybe tomorrow,” said Aunt M.
About this time, I emerged from the bedroom to find them both being waited on hand and foot. I don’t get treated this well, and I’m the sole wage-earner in my house. I focused on the boy.
“What are you talking about? You’ve never eaten an egg in your life,” I said.
“I know,” said the smiling boy. “But I MIGHT like an egg yellow. You never know, daddy. Tastes change.”
Once breakfast had been finished, we went fishing. Uncle B has a really nice boat, and he, the children, and I went out on it to do some catfishing. As an avid sportsman, Uncle B knows the ins and outs of all manner of hunting and fishing.
As somebody who never does this sort of thing, I know enough not to stick the hook into my own thumb. Although I do have a secret fear that someone will reel back, hook my eyeball, and then cast it forty feet out into the water, where it will be devoured by a barracuda yet all my nerve endings will perfectly function and for the rest of my life I’ll be wracked by horrible pain in my vacant, staring socket.
An eye or a testicle. Either way, it doesn’t sound pleasant.
Apparently in order to catch fish, you pick the one spot on the lake where every single particle of light from the sun hits at the exact right angle to make a sunburn itch painfully and make sweat drip from every pore in your body. Then, when you’ve made sure there is no breeze whatsoever, you wait.
It was enough to remind me of why I’m not an avid sportsman, but rather somebody who goes to one of those places where there’s a stocked lake with half-starved fish that will attack anything you dangle in the water, like drunken horny college boys at last call in a darkened bar.
That, or the fish case in the supermarket. Those are the prime fishing holes for me.
In fact, forget about all those other places and let’s just go to Red Lobster.
After about thirty minutes we were parched, so it was time to pull out a drink. The girl was sitting on the edge of the boat dangling her feet in the water, just in front of the drink hatch.
“Can you hand me a drink?” I asked the boy.
“Sure!” he said, opening the door and promptly dumping his sister into the lake.
After we’d finished laughing and fished her out (everyone in lifejackets: safety first), everybody said sorry and we went on. We picked another fishing spot and dropped our lines. Then I settled in to watch the fish finder, Uncle B busied himself with the trawling motor, and the children began dangling their feet in the water again.
I heard a SPLOOP behind me and turned just in time to see the girl’s hat disappearing beneath the waters. She bobbed up a second later, with far more aplomb than I think I would have managed.
“Could someone please pull me out of the water?” she asked.
In her position, I’d have said several kid-unfriendly words. After some time, we got a call from the shore that Wifey had come out with Aunt M and was ready to join our expedition. When we went back to shore to pick her up, the girl announced that she would prefer to disembark and seek further adventure on the shore.
The boy wanted to keep fishing. Until the exact moment we cast off the rope, when he decided that he, too, wanted to go ashore, thus ensuring the maximum amount of messing about and wasted effort until we got everyone where they wanted to be.
Plus, Wifey was somewhat disenchanted that her darlings had abandoned ship the moment she came aboard.
We fished a few more spots, catching one decent-sized catfish for our four hours of effort. But since there’s a big difference between 0 fish and 1 fish, we were happy. Plus, the quitter children didn’t get to see it, which teaches them a valuable lesson about perseverance.
Or something like that. I imagined that they were probably back at the house, sipping Virgin Marys while Aunt M fanned them as they ate peeled grapes.
On second thought, strawberries and cream. They don’t like grapes.
Back at the house, what we actually found was Aunt M busily slaving away over the grill as the children sat inside and watched cartoons. It seems they’d conned her into a barbecue, with various meat courses on the menu such as veal, elk, and longhorn antelope lightly glazed in an olive oil/basilica sauce. Aunt M had cleverly converted all requests into “hamburgers” and was working on those.
Once finished, we sat down to eat and everyone dug in. Everyone, that is, except the girl.
“What’s the matter?” I asked. “These are really good hamburgers.”
“She’s not eating,” said the boy. “You should spank her.”
I’ll take a moment to note that the boy typically does not eat and gets in lots of trouble about it, and his general prescription for any problem with his sister is to spank her. We don’t spank in our house, but we do hold it out as a potential punishment should the children cross the line so completely that they need the ultimate punishment.
So “spank” in our house is a code word for throwing the book at another child. It is always the boy’s first option for how we should deal with the girl.
“I was told there would be hot dogs,” the girl said. “Those are not hot dogs.”
“It’s basically the same thing,” Wifey said. “You like hamburgers. Could you please just eat one?”
“No,” she said. “I want a hot dog.”
“Spank her,” the boy said. “Spank her good!”
“Hush,” I said. “You had hamburgers just before we left Europe.”
“Those weren’t hamburgers,” she said. “Those were A-1 burgers. They’re completely different.”
“That’s backtalk,” the boy said. “Spank her twice.”
“Hush,” I said again. “Or I’ll spank you.”
“I have A-1 sauce,” Aunt M said. “Do you want some of that?”
“It’s too late,” the girl said. “They’re already cooked.”
“Could you try it with A-1 on it now?” I asked.
No, I want my hot dog,” the girl said.
“Daddy,” said the boy. “You know what I’d do? I’d spank her.”
“I’ll make her a hot dog,” said Aunt M. “I’ll just microwave it.”
“I would like it on the grill,” the girl said. “Like everybody else.”
“That’s it, if you don’t spank her, I will,” the boy said. “She needs to learn.”
“Hush,” I said.
“No grill,” said Aunt M. “Microwave or hamburger.”
Seeing she had no choice, the girl acquiesced and agreed to a microwave hot dog. To paraphrase Walter Kronkite, when you’ve lost Aunt M, you’ve lost the war.
That afternoon Aunt M took the children next door to visit her neighbor. This visit went well, until one child referred to Mr. B, and was viciously corrected by the boy that it’s “Uncle B!” and don’t you forget it.
A fistfight was narrowly averted by bringing out popsicles. The children also received parting gifts, which can be translated as “some kid’s crap that I want in your house instead of mine.”
As a thank-you I sent back over two fruitcakes and five pounds of lima beans.
Meanwhile, we washed clothes. And by “we” I mean “me” because Wifey informed me that, thanks to another round of snoring by someone who will remain nameless and undersexed, she was going to go take a nap.
So I decided to take revenge on her: I washed the only working key fob.
What else was I supposed to do? It was in her pants, and I didn’t check the pockets. The only real interaction I ever have with her pants is figuring out how to get them off of her. So it stands to reason that I never realized there would be keys in them.
When she woke up, and I finally admitted a few hours later that we now had no working remotes to open the car with, she said a bad word and called me a few names. Fortunately Uncle B managed to work a little magic, and we dried out the remote I went swimming with. It will now lock the car. It won’t unlock it, but you can’t have everything in life.
Yes, we can still get the car open, just not by remote. We have to do it by hand, the old-fashioned way.
And you know what? If you ever find yourself in this situation, don’t say “you’re old enough to remember when this was the only way to unlock cars, so you’d figure you’re used to this.”
It’s not conducive to intimacy.
Tomorrow: Pickle Sandwiches for Everybody!