The children seemed largely unbothered by Otto’s absence this weekend, but they were on him the second he walked in the door, yesterday, to fill him in on everything he’d missed. There was soccer! And Sonic! And some things they’d watched on TV! And look at this thing I built! And how loose my tooth is! And we tried to go swimming but it was COLD! Monkey hung from Otto’s middle while he chattered on, while Chickadee hung back, far too cool to climb on him, of course, but adding bits to the conversation with authority.
Also, Otto brought home free baseball hats for everyone. And that’s pretty darn exciting. (Yes. My children have long been fans of… Coker Tire. Also, chewing tobacco!)
Otto returned a few hours earlier than we’d expected him, and although (thankfully) my boyfriend had left and I’d let the kids out of their cages before he walked in, I hadn’t yet made it to the grocery store or actually done anything else remotely housekeepingish. Fortunately for me, several nights of sleeping in a budget hotel with another man predisposed Otto to be happy to be back even though I am a rather substandard wife.
Apparently part of the weekend’s festivities included driving around with the windows down and realizing that he really needed a haircut (or so his mop of hair suggested), so once we extricated him from the children’s ministrations we headed out to the porch for a trim. The kids stayed inside, playing, so we had half an hour for him to fill me in on his trip and say things like, “So, you know, if we ever wanted to rebuild a Jeep, I know exactly where we can get one!”
(For those keeping score at home, there are currently FOUR vehicles here at the house. Two which run, one that sometimes runs, and one that would run JUST FINE if you had a small leprechaun who could just perch on top of the radiator and pour fluid in continually during any trip you might want to take.)
“You are very brave, saying things like that to me when I have a pair of sharp scissors so close to your head,” I remarked.
Otto waved his hand in the air. “Hey, I figure if you haven’t stabbed me with anything after all this time, I’m probably safe,” he answered.
That seemed like an open invitation to shave my initials into the back of his head, but I restrained myself.
I finished cutting his hair and tried to brush the little bits of hair off of him, but it had gotten pretty hot out and hair, as it turns out, sticks to sweaty skin. We walked down to the pool—me to stick my feet in, him to splash some water up onto his neck—and decided it really wasn’t THAT cold. We decided to corral the kids into a swim.
“Noooooooo!” complained the children who were busy watching television and playing Webkinz, “the water’s TOO COLD!” We assured them that it was MUCH WARMER than the previous day, honest. And that was true, sort of, because the outside temperature was much hotter, and so perhaps the water was, too? Who knows.
Otto jumped off the diving board, surfaced, and declared the water to be “a bit brisk” after he finished shrieking like a little girl. I walked in slowly because I like to torture myself, but once I reached the edge of the shallow end I took the plunge.
Yes, “brisk.” Having icicles jabbed into all of your pores simultaneously IS a bit brisk.
We then commenced trying to lure the children into the deep end. It took a little while, but eventually we four were all paddling around, teeth chattering, Monkey doing his Barnacle Boy routine. (I think he got the name from SpongeBob, but THIS Barnacle Boy’s only superpower is the ability to cling to any adult in the pool with such ferocity that you can only escape his clutches by pretending to drown. It’s charming.)
After about fifteen minutes Chickadee hopped out, lips tinged blue, saying she was too cold to continue. After another minute I got out and joined her because she seemed lonely hanging out poolside all alone. Eventually Monkey followed and then, finally, Otto. We sat there dripping in the sun, talking about the gecko we’d seen the previous day scaling our deck chairs. Monkey offered a bounty for the capture of a gecko, and I gave my standard speech about leaving them alone and how would he like it if someone caught HIM.
This led into the offer of money for all sorts of things. I’ll give you a nickel for a beetle, etc. Chickadee was coming up with all sorts of silly things, and finally Otto turned to her and said, “I’ll give you two dollars to go back into the water.”
Her eyes lit up. “Really?”
She’d whined so about being cold, I think he figured she’d back out. “Okay!” she said, hopping up and putting her goggles back over her face. She headed to the stairs. “Can I do it slow?” she asked.
“Nope, you have to go jump off the board,” he answered. She hesitated. “Do you think she’ll do it?” he asked me, in a low voice.
“I like money!” she called over her shoulder as she made her way over to the board.
“She likes money,” I agreed.
Chickadee jumped off the board and into the water. She swam down to the other end of the pool and hopped out, then did it again. Only after the second jump did she come back to sit down with us, pointing her finger at Otto. “You owe me two bucks, mister.”
I’m not entirely sure what sort of precedent this sets. I mean, I’ve done nothing but whine about how much money it costs to run a pool (the water! the electricity! the chemicals!) and now we’re PAYING THE CHILDREN TO SWIM? Something has gone awry, here.
“What will you give ME two bucks to do?” asked Monkey.
“I will give you two bucks to pull your tooth out,” I responded immediately, because for about a week now Monkey has had a tooth suspended by an invisible thread in his mouth, and when he’s not busy bouncing off the walls he can generally be found turning that tooth ALL THE WAY AROUND and whining that it hurts, but refusing to remove it.
“Really?” he asked.
“Really,” I said. “But you have to do it RIGHT NOW.”
Monkey fiddled with his tooth a bit, cringed and whined that it hurt, and then said he didn’t want $2 anyway. At least, I think that’s what he said. It was sort of hard to understand him with his tooth sticking out of his mouth at a 90 degree angle. Yuck.
We went inside and pondered dinner (given that I’d never made it to the store). We ended up having what we call Stefania pasta, which—if you’ve never made it, you must IMMEDIATELY—is easy but also incredibly yummy. (I think it may have something to do with the STICK OF BUTTER involved, but I could be wrong.)
Before bed Monkey was whining about his tooth again, so I asked him if he would PLEASE just let me pull it out.
“Well, okay. But stop if I yell!” he cautioned. I grabbed ahold and pulled a bit until he yelped. Nothing. Hmmm. I told him I was going to try twisting, this time, and as I felt the tooth let go, he yelped again. And then I dropped his tooth.
I dropped his tooth onto the floor, which is covered with a neutral berber carpet that looks an awful lot like… an eternal field of baby teeth.
There was much excitement, then, as we all dropped to our knees to search, and Monkey called for Otto, and I had just sent one of the kids for a flashlight when I found it. Phew. Then of course Otto needed to take some pictures, while Monkey told him, “This is really exciting for you, because this is the first time you’ve had a stepkid lose a tooth!” and Otto agreed that this was true. I left Monkey holding his tooth while I went to fetch an envelope, and Chickadee was busy taking dictation for a note to the tooth fairy (“I write faster than he does!”) and Otto was trying to get Monkey to hold still for a photo.
When I came back, Monkey dropped the tooth. Onto the same carpet. We all dropped to our knees again, and when I finally called for someone to get a flashlight Chickadee said, “As soon as he goes to get it you’re gonna find it.” And while I was chuckling over that, I put my hand right down on top of the tooth. Spooky.
Otto finished taking pictures and we put the tooth and the note in the envelope and the kids went to bed.
We grown-ups passed the evening uneventfully, and we were laying in bed talking in that delicious, half-asleep, I’m-so-tired-but-I-have-just-one-more-thing-to-tell-you sort of way, when I realized that the tooth fairy, um, hadn’t been alerted.
Furthermore, the tooth fairy was short on coinage. Dammit.
Otto saved the day by calmly getting up, heading into his closet, and coming back with two half dollars. That—as it turned out—was the easy part. Some ninja moves (including dropping down to the floor by the side of the bed upon a snort and sitting up) were required to get the envelope out from underneath Monkey’s melon head. A return note was penned and the money included and then the envelope was returned to safety.
“You know,” I whispered, once we were back in bed again and nearly asleep. “It’s sort of too bad that you won’t have your own kids. You’re a pretty good daddy.”
“Monkey and Chickadee are as much my kids as any child could be,” he replied without hesitation.
I knew there was a reason I haven’t stabbed him.