“So you got another guinea pig?” I asked the children. They were eating applesauce and whispering amongst themselves. “You know what happened to the other guinea pig,” Lexie told me, eyes widening like we were sharing a secret. Yes, I knew. “Hopefully this guinea pig won’t leave,” Clary said, nodding for emphasis. “I love Red.”
“His name isn’t ‘Red’ Clary it’s Baxter!” hissed Lexie. “Don’t lie to Miss Lola!”
“I wasn’t lying! I changed my mind and now his name is Red.”
“He isn’t your guinea pig. You don’t get to name him. We had a, a . . . ”
“Vote?” I supplied. All such school decisions are settled by vote. She nodded. “A vote. His name is Baxter.”
I wish I could tell John the stories I want to tell him. I guess I never say what I set out to say but most of the time I don’t really care, or else the rhetoric of work is basic and easy to follow.
I wonder how it is for people who get to know friends and then see their children, smaller fragmented reflections. I’m only used to getting to know the children until one day I see a smile – a walk, a casual mannerism – in the adult that I immediately recognize from the child.
It isn’t the sort of thing to talk about, but I feel my lips curving into a smile nonetheless.
“Just because you can reach the light bulbs with ease doesn’t make you into some sort of superior human,” I told him. He cocked an eyebrow at me. “Just leave them alone, Paco,” I wondered which tone of petulance was the right one to use, which one would remind him of his mother –
Right, I reminded myself. He never had one. Mostly.
“Your light,” he started, looking up at the ceiling fixture, “it wants to smash me in the head, and also I think it is dying.” I sighed. He thought everything was after him once he started drinking. My cheap light fixture? Murderous. His wife? Homicidal. The cows on the side of the road? Obviously plotting his doom.
“Come here!” he yelled suddenly, grasping the light bulb, then recoiling and sitting on the ground immediately. “Did you – did you burn yourself?” I asked, my mind jumping between Serves you right – I hope he’s okay! – What are the repercussions to a burned dad? quickly and repetitively. He wiggled his fingers. “Good thing I have this ice-cold beer!” he was cheerful again. I could relax. Mostly.
“Like I told you, Lola,” his grandiloquence – or imitation of it – was returning, “cold beer cures a multitude of sivels.”
The first time I saw him I thought only that he was very tall. I didn’t feel like meeting new parents – I had the most epically skinned knees from some good idea turned bad, had just returned from the doctor who had stopped just short of pronouncing me the most unmarriageable girl possible, and I don’t like it when only one parent shows up to the interview, especially sans children. They can tell you all they want about their kids as a description, but at the end of the day it can range anywhere from accurate to bullshit to complete delusion.
Anyway, he was tall, and he smiled at me as if we knew each other, so much so that I said “Do I know you?” just as the director asked him “Do you know our Lola?” and he shook his head. No, he didn’t know me, hadn’t met me, mouthed my name like I was a rare fruit. I sighed. I wanted no part of this. He came towards me with his brilliant smile – and neglected to see the plastic ‘gym’ at his feet. He fell head first, completely unprepared, and some little voice began yelling “Splat! Splat!”
I slipped out, still limping slightly. Like I said – I wanted no part of any of it, whatever it was.
I love my bed. It isn’t a big deal and can’t bear the weight of description but it is a bed and quite useful, chiefly for sleep but also for hiding. When I am in bed I inhabit a different state, like a principality inside a country – like the Vatican. My phone and laptop are turned off and there is quiet inside my own house even if the neighbors make an ungodly amount of noise.
But mostly it comes back to hiding, to the meaning of Easter break always including a parent who will show up at my doorstep with a frightened and confused child because the school, amazingly, was closed for the holidays that were announced a year in advance so obviously the next quite logical step was to hunt down any and all teachers at their private residences and assume one of them will care of a kid or two.
I can’t speak as to the exact circumstances of Havana’s youth, but she hides excellently. As if the entire species of cat were being hunted.
“Can you think of a better name for this trenchcoat?” Lizzy’s mom asked me. I don’t know if she is a good person or not, but she has a charming manner. Enough so not to feel degraded by providing words on demand. “A better word than coat?”
“No, I mean I think it’s tacky but my mom wants me to wear large florals so, well,” she belted it over her tiny waist, “here we are.” I looked at it carefully. “I honestly don’t think that it’s tacky,” I told her “I think it’s vibrant.” She smiled, widely, and looked down at herself. “It is vibrant, isn’t it?”
Amy does not now nor has ever been employed at any of our child storage facilities (child storage being an inside joke I feel certain you are all clever enough to comprehend).
She does, however, work in the industry, which means she is a teacher. We met at a workshop where the host dispensed such gems as “Don’t even pretend to yourself that you know all the names of your kids. Count them. You got a fire drill? Count their heads. Tornado busy destroying the town? Count their heads in the basement.”
I don’t know what peculiar synthesis of fate brought Chubby Hump and his wife together; all I know is that she is altogether too much for him. She is beautiful, and he is not good looking, not any type or sort of good looking, not even sexy ugly. She is funny and witty, and he is not, his jokes being of the either completely confusing or knock-knock level variety. She is sexy, statuesque I think is the word – and he is round, like a dinner roll. In fact the man is entirely too much like a dinner roll, round and soft and white and equally bland.
This assessment is harsh. I refrained from making such assessments of him earlier, kept the thought of him suspended in a sort of opinion-less ether, never revisited. Then one day I saw her looking on the verge of tears, and I felt that familiar chest tinge that meant my empathy was acting up again, and I asked her what was wrong. She told me that it was nothing, but she had a job interview, and in bits and pieces it came out that she couldn’t afford a new business suit for the interview, but it didn’t matter of course, she was just on a budget, after all it was fair. I consoled her without verbal opinion – what good could it possibly do – but you must know the man is rich. Whether or not she was bringing in ‘her share of the bacon’ there would be no shortage of money. If our state was plunged into fiscal drought, there would still be no shortage of money. If their child grew up to become a drunken tiger racer, there would still be no shortage of money. If the western part of the continent fell into the ocean – still, no shortage of money.