Wednesday, October 20, 2004


"Where's LZ?"

"Is LZ around?"

"Where's LZ?"

LZ was busy with D at an all day band competition, and I'd taken the Things out to the local community event. As someone who is fairly well read and fairly well immersed in popular culture, I'm very much aware of the possibilities when a dad has the kids for a day in a sea of moms. Another mom is invariably intrigued by the fish out of water and casts a hook. This then leads (depending on whether one is the high art or the low art sort) to anything from an erotic entanglement ending in disaster, or to a series of comic blunders of the Mr. Mom variety.

Apparently we don't live in that kind of town. Or mabye I'm just not the right type of dad.

The other moms appeared irritated with me for showing up in public without LZ, as if I had forbidden her to leave the house, or even forcibly restrained her in some way. A few kept looking past me, scanning the crowd, as if willing LZ to appear over the horizon and save their afternoons.

I saw Amy's mother. She didn't look especially happy to see me, so I walked over to her.

"I'm glad to see Amy's recovered," I said.

"Recovered? Recovered from what?" she asked.

"Why the girls told me that Charlee Anne had cut Amy in half and put her back together," I said. "Looks like it went off without a hitch." I gestured to Amy, who was obviously in one piece.

"We've got to get going," she said. "Amy wants to paint a pumpkin."

Someone was tugging on my sleeve. "Daddy, can we paint a pumpkin?" T2 asked.

"Sorry," I said. "Our religion forbids the creation of graven images. Especially at five dollars a pop."


The girls threw some plastic balls in the general direction of some peach baskets.

"They get a small prize just for trying," the woman at the stand told me. "Would you like to buy some more balls and let them try for a bigger prize?"

"I hope you're not trying to hustle me like some two bit carny," I said. "The small prize will be fine."

The woman made a sour face at me as she pointed the girls to a basket containing the small prizes.

"That was Callie's mom," T2 told me as we left the stand.

"Uh oh," I said.


I took note of the prizes. T2 had a bag of Skittles. T1 has a pack of something called candy sticks. It took me a second to realize that they were oldtime candy cigarettes, renamed for the new world.

"Look Daddy, I'm smoking," T1 said. She had one of the candies expertly drooping out of the side of her mouth.

Two more moms passed by. One stopped, hands on hips, and glared at me as if I had personally fired up a Marlboro and forced it on T1.

"How do you know about smoking anyway?" I asked.

"From TV," they both said.

"Oh," I said. Then I remembered: "Wait a minute," I said. "They don't smoke on TV, especially not on the shows you watch."

"We saw it on The Simpsons," T1 said.

"D lets us watch it with him, in his room," T2 added.

Oh," I said.

"Can we trade some candy?" T2 asked her sister. "I want to smoke too."


We came upon a raffish looking man with slicked back black hair and an aggressive mustache.

"Hola, muchachas," he said as he passed.

"Hola, senor," the Things replied.

"What was that?" I asked. "Who was that?"

"Our Spanish teacher," they said.

"You have a Spanish teacher? In kindergarten?" I asked.

"Si senor," they giggled.

"Daddy," T1 said. "El cielo es azul."

"And Daddy," T2 said. "La hierba es verde."

"I believe you," I said.


We watched a small boy roll down a big hill. He got up and ran right toward us. He pointed to himself, and shouted "Arriba." Then he ran back up the hill, laughing hysterically all the while.

"That was Kenny," Ti said.

"I thought you didn't like Kenny," I said.

"The Mean Kenny is the one we don't like," T2 said. "That one is the Silly Kenny."

"We like the Silly Kenny," Ti said. "Even though he is a nut."

"Why do you think he is a nut?" I asked.

"I think he watches too much TV," T2 said.

"Well, I think it's too much sugar," T1 opined.

"Too much sugar?" I said. "Where did you come up with that?"

"It's what the bus mom said about me and Charlee Ann," she answered.

"Oh," I said.


I came upon a big burly man shepherding two little, though burly, children through the refreshment line. He looked vaguely familiar.

"Long time, no see," he said.

"Baseball season?" I guessed.

He gave me a bonecrushing handshake.

We stood there in silence.

A black standard poodle walked by unaccompanied.

"I'd rather carry my wife's handbag than be seen with a dog like that," he said.

I wasn't sure how to respond. "Me too" seemed a little lukewarm as well as unoriginal. I tried to picture any of LZ's handbags but couldn't conjure any up. I could have pointed out that the dog appeared to be alone and doing quite well. Then I remembered that we had a dog that, in certain quarters, could be seen as even worse than a poodle. Did the burly guy know that? Was he insulting me?

"Oh," I said.

"Daddy, can we eat on a stack of hay instead of a picnic table?" T2 asked.

"Sure," I said.

"See you around," I said to the burly guy.

He didn't hear me. A couple of the moms had attached themselves to him and were hanging on his every word. I though I heard him say "handbag," just before the moms broke out in waves of laughter.


"What a great day," I said as we were leaving. "I guess you girls saw all your friends."

"Yes, daddy," they said.

I sprung the trap. "I was hoping to meet Charlee Anne," I said. "But she wasn't there, was she?"

"Daddy," they said, "we already told you. Charlee Anne can't come. She had to go on a secret trip."

"I knew nothing about this," I said.


LZ was waiting for us at home.

"What went on at that fair?" she asked.

"What do you mean?" I asked.

"Eve called. She heard you weren't letting the girls do any of the activities. You told them they were Jewish and weren't allowed to participate."

"There's been a lot of misinformation about this Fun Fair," I said. "And I'm going to get to the bottom of it."

Wednesday, October 13, 2004


We were standing in the driveway, The Things and I, waiting for the school bus.

I saw it round the corner. "Here comes the bus," I said brightly.

Without a good-bye or a backwards glance The Things charged up the driveway.

"Me first," said T1.

"No. My turn," said T2.

When the bus door opened they charged and stuck, cartoonlike, shoulder to shoulder, backpacks swinging.

"Me," said T1.

"No," said T2.

She twisted a little and broke free, but stumbled. T1 adroitly stepped over her and attained the bus first.


"Did they get off all right?" LZ asked.

"Fine," I said. "But there was quite a scrum about who would get on the bus first."

"Apparently there's a new girl, a Charlee Anne on the bus."

"Oh," I said. "Do we have any more coffee?"


I was on my way to the farm market with T1.

"Can we buy a pumpkin?" she asked.

"No," I said. "I'm just buying tomatoes. It's still summer for me."

"Look," T1 yelled. "There's Charlee Anne's house. She showed us from the bus."

I noted a big new brick and vinyl monstrosity dropped into what had been, until recently, a fine field.

"That's quite a house," I said.


"I saw Charlee Anne's house on the way to farm market," I told LZ.

"I doubt it," she said. "Unless you took a very odd route. I'm pretty sure she lives in Eve's neighborhood, not out by the market."

"Hmm," I said.


"Charlee Anne lives all by herself," T1 said.

"No parents?" I asked.

"They had to go to jail," T2 said.

"Why was that?" I asked.

"For stealing. Money."

"Does Charlee Anne have any brothers or sisters?" I asked.

"Daddy, you weren't listening," T1 said. "I just told you, she lives all alone."

"Here comes the bus," I said.


"Did you know the parents were in jail?" I asked LZ.

"There may be something to that," she said. "Something's going on. Eve told me. She doesn't know all the details, but there is a chance that someone is in jail. She's trying to get the scoop."

"Oh," I said.


There was big news at the dinner table that evening.

"Charlee Anne had to leave school early," T2 said.

"And why was that?" I asked.

"I don't know," T2 said. "She didn't tell me."

"I know," T1 said.

"Tell us," I said.

"Charlee Anne had to leave school early," she said. "Her deer was in the hospital and she had to go visit it."

"Charlee Anne has a deer?" I asked.

"Yes, Daddy," they both chimed in. "We told you already."

"What happened to the deer?" I asked.

"It was bitten by a big animal, like a bear," T1 said.

"We don't have any bears around here." I said. "I'm sure of it." (I was pretty sure.)

"I said a big animal LIKE a bear, not a bear," T1 said.

"What kind of animal do think it was, then?" I asked.

"It was an animal bigger than a dog, but not a dog. Like one of the animals we see on television," T1 said. "I don't know the name of it."

"And how is the deer?" I asked.

"It was bitten on the leg only," T1 said. "It has a bandage and it will be all right."

"Good," I said. "Oh, by the way, how did Charlee Anne get to the hospital? Don't tell me she drives a car."

The Things laughed at my credulousness. T1 laughed so hard she spit up some food and was severly admonished by LZ. I was given a warning look as well.

"Her grandparents took her," T2 said. "They are not dead yet."


"In the summer," T1 said, "Charlee Anne cut Amy in half and then put her back together again, and she wasn't hurt at all."

"Who wasn't hurt? Charlee Anne?" I asked.

"No, Daddy, Amy wasn't hurt."

"Who told you this, Charlee Anne, or Amy?"

"Charlee Anne," they yelled.

"Aha," I said.

"Here comes the bus," they yelled. And they were off.

But as they charged I was right behind them. As they ran up the steps and down the aisle I leaned into the bus and motioned to the driver, Miss Ricki.

"Could you do me a quick favor?" I asked. "Which one of those girls is Charlee Anne?"

Miss Ricki laughed loudly, and, I felt, inappropriately.

"Charlee Anne," she roared. "No Charlee Annes on this bus!"

She reached for the crank and began closing the door. I stepped off the bus. As it pulled away I could see that Miss Ricki was still laughing, her head bobbing and weaving as she bore down on the next stop.

I stood there for a minute trying to puzzle it out. Then I felt a chill. Summer really was over. I went back into the house.


"We have to talk," I said to LZ.

What about?" she asked.

"I'm not sure," I said.


Friday, October 08, 2004


"Daddy, where's the water pistol?" T2 asked.

"I put it away," I said. "I don't think it's a good tub toy."

"Why not?"

"First of all," I said, "there's only one of them. There's too much whining about whose turn it is, and there's been grabbing and hitting. You two don't seem to be able to share it properly. And also, whoever's getting squirted gets angry and there's a big commotion. That's why we won't be using it in the tub any more."

"Just think Daddy," T2 said, "if we were triplets, we'd be even madder."

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