It is always interesting to see what odds and ends have accumulated on my bed by the end of the day. My bedroom is a favorite spot for reading, playing Polly Pockets, destroying bedsprings acrobatics, and sundry other activities. Often, at the tired end of a day, I’ll find a pair of dice, a toy frog, a candy wrapper, a sprinkling of buttons: flotsam and jetsam suggesting that perhaps Beaver Cleaver has wandered in and emptied his overalls pockets on my comforter sometime between his after-school milk and cookies and his slingshot attack on Eddie Haskell.
Tonight I find: two hair barrettes (it’s not the Beaver, then); two small sun visors, one pink, one white; a Sandra Boynton book; the decapitated head of a coreopsis; a crumpled tissue, presumably used (ew); and a book I distinctly remember leaving on the nightstand: Noel Perrin’s A Reader’s Delight, a surprise birthday gift from a darling friend, which I have been treating myself to, one delicious essay at a time, over the past six months. What’s especially intriguing is that this morning, the book’s cover was papered with small pink Post-Its: the evidence of a previous day’s fun-in-Mom’s-room hijinks. I had been keeping a small chunk of Post-Its on the aforementioned bedside table for the handy flagging of quotes to savor later. A couple of weeks ago I noticed that the small chunk of notes had been systematically dismantled, one satisfying shhhnk after another, no doubt, and reassembled mosaic fashion upon Mr. Perrin’s fine tome.
Now, today, all the little pink stickies are gone. Vanished. I’ve looked under my pillows. I wonder where I’ll find them?
Beanie and I bawled in each other’s arms today. It was awfully sweet. She had picked up an Illustrated Classics version of Jack London’s White Fang at the library earlier in the day. An adaptation, yes, but the kid is seven. Adaptation or no, this was still a hefty volume. She also checked out Dracula, but I told her I should preview that one for her, might be a little scary. She doesn’t like scary. When we got home from the library, all three girls scattered with their armloads of treasure. Beanie reappeared about 45 minutes later, her finger holding her place in White Fang.
“I think you’re right, Mom,” she said. “Dracula might be a bit much for me right now. White Fang is about a REAL wolf and it is so scary! But I love it. You’ve GOT to read it.”
She remained glued to the book all afternoon. When she finished, with a happy sigh, she turned to me and told me all about it. White Fang’s numerous escapes from peril, his brave acts, his poor mother whom he never saw again.
I tried to think of other wolf/dog books she might like, and Stone Fox came to mind. But oh, that heartbreaker of an ending. I told her I knew a wonderful book about a dog similar to White Fang—a Husky, not a wolf—but that it had a sad ending. She likes forewarning of these things.
“Does the dog die?”
“Yes. It makes a brave sacrifice for a little boy. Do you think you’d like to read it?”
“Mmm, no, not yet. Will you tell me the story?”
And so I did, the two of us perched on bar stools at the living-room side of the kitchen counter. How the little boy’s grandpa can’t pay his back taxes, loses heart, gets sick. How the little boy hears about the sled-dog race, the prize money in just the right amount. How he practices with his faithful old dog, Searchlight. How everyone knows the race will be run by the big silent Indian, Stone Fox, with his team of five champion dogs. How the boy is determined to try anyway because it’s his last hope. How Searchlight holds her own against the dog-pack surprisingly well, running neck and neck with Stone Fox’s lead dog. How, yards from the finish line, her old heart bursts, and she falls down dead. How the little boy stares down at her in stunned disbelief and grief. How Stone Fox halts his dogs, leaves his sled, picks up the fallen Searchlight and carries her, pulling the boy on his ramshackle sled, across the finish line.
Both of us were bawling by this point. How could we not? My voice was cracking as I tried to finish; tears were streaming from Beanie’s big eyes. She lunged forward, tipping her stool, throwing her arms around me.
“Oh, Mommy. That’s so sad.”
“I know, sweetie, it really is.”
“But it’s…” She paused, seeking the right word. “It’s noble, too. Isn’t it?” Another pause. “White Fang did some noble things too. But it’s a very happy ending. It’s the best book I ever read, Mom.”
I’m in my bedroom, writing this post, when I hear the following sequence of events: Scott walking down the hall. Scott suddenly bursting out in an incoherent shout: “GAAH!” Scott bellowing for Rose, speaking to her softly. Rose murmuring a reply. Scott calling the other girls. Pattering feet. Shrieks, squeals, commotion. Paper rattling. A door slamming.
A little while later, Scott IMs me from the other computer. Wants to know if I’m still awake: a joke, because even if I weren’t working, who could sleep through all that shouting? What on earth, I ask him. He explains, but you’ll need a bit of backstory. See, Rose has this toy snake that looks completely realistic. And sometimes she plays a joke on me: coils it in a box of diapers or a laundry basket, somewhere I’ll come upon it unsuspectingly and scream my head off because THERE IS A SNAKE IN THE BOX OF DIAPERS. Then everybody comes running and laughs and laughs. Oh, isn’t it hilarious, Mom just lost another ten years off her life. Ha ha.
I live with a pack of smart alecks; have I mentioned that?
So what happened was, Scott was walking down the hall to the laundry room and at the bottom of the two-step staircase, he almost stepped on a big old lizard. (That was the GAAH.) Looking twice at the hideous, motionless thing, he realized it wasn’t real. Must be one of Rose’s little jokes on Mom, which hmm, seems my hubby finds those a lot funnier when I’m the hapless victim. Thus the bellow for Rose, presumably to tell her to save her jokes for when Mom is sure to be the patsy.
“That’s real, Daddy,” says Rose. And then it moved.
It was this thing. Eek. No wonder he shouted.
Is a transcript too dorky?
Scott: It was about eight or nine inches long
I love it
Bit the hell out of me, though.
me: It bit you????
Doesn’t have much in the way of teeth, fortunately
me: no way!!!! baby!!!!
Scott: Um. Put its mouth on my finger and closed?
me: You offered it your finger?
I thought it might be hungry.
me: Seriously. Did it really bite you?
me: And more importantly, where is it now?
Scott: It started running, but had trouble getting traction on the floor. So it started to go into a paper bag, which was good.
me: Hooray for lousy housekeeping!
Scott: But the bag was ripped, so it ran out the hole. Which was bad.
me: Boo for lousy housekeeping.
Scott: So I picked it up.
And it bit me.
So I dropped it.
Then I picked it up again.
Scott: And it bit me again.
Scott: So I dropped it.
Then I picked it up again and tried to throw it outside.
But it was biting me again so I dropped it again.
Finally, I threw it.
And the last I saw it was running under our bedroom door.
(At this point I emit a piercing shriek of my own. I am a long way from Scott’s computer, but evidently the sound carries.)
Scott: Thank you.
That was very gratifying
me: I HATE YOU.
Scott: It landed between the garbage can and the recycling can.
me: I am never taking out the trash again.
Scott: I love it and wicked regret tossing it out of the house.
me: It will never be your friend now.
Scott: Sometimes I act without thinking
Scott: I know!
I think this might really hurt our long term relationship, Liz and me.
me: That’s the same kind of lizard who freaked me out that time in the watering can.
hanging out in there, looking like a rattler.
I do not want to know how that thing got into my house. Nor do I desire to know, any longer, what happened to my little pink Post-Its. It ate them, I just know it.
I Have Told This Story Before
Rose’s American History Reading List
These FB memories are GOLD
From the Morning’s Reading: Hoppers
Booknotes: Byatt’s The Children’s Book