The Brawn startles as I walk by. I look at him quizzically.
The Rose explains that he'd just been telling her he heard a ghost when I suddenly appeared, hence the jumpiness.
"I was standing in the hallway," he says breathlessly, "when I heard a creaking in the living room but when I looked, there was nobody there. It was a ghost."
Despite the supernatural being the only logical explanation, I start to explain about houses settling and how today was unusually windy and then I look at his big eyes and earnest eyebrows a little more closely and I say, "do you want me to explain what it really was? Or do you want to keep on thinking it was a ghost?"
He stares at me for a moment. Then, with a tiny smile, he says, "I want to keep on thinking it's a ghost."
It starts sprinkling. Here in SoCal this is unusual enough that the youngest kids always get excited. The Brawn runs in to grab a jacket and asks for help zipping it up. "It might be kinda hard," he warns.
I get it in one. "Like that?" I scoff. "See what I did there? You see that? Know why I was able to do that?"
He looks at me. "Because you're a master?" he suggests.
I blink. I'd thought I'd have to explain to him that it's because his dad's awesome, something he (like most people) probably didn't notice.
He watches me process what just happened, then nods and heads out into the drizzle.
One of the perils of working at home they never warn you about:
I'm finishing up the soup I've been working on for a few hours—can you ever really add too much black pepper? I'm on a quest to find out—when Top Management comes out of the office.
The moment she steps into the kitchen, she begins dancing, seemingly unaware she's doing so. (Such is the power of 70s southern rock even on not especially [to put it mildly] ardent fans.) We get into a brief discussion of arena v. progressive v. southern rock and where the sub-genres cross over and diverge and then she decides to have a bowl of soup even though it's an hour before dinner but what the heck it's ready and she's here and as she's picking through for the best pieces of chicken she suddenly says, "oh! I was totally in the middle of something and just came out here for a drink of water."
She frowns at her bowl of soup, which is clearly at least partially at fault, as I have to concede that this isn't a problem you encounter often while working at Target or IBM.
We've been in the car for well over 10 hours at this point, having driven up to the wonderful San Luis Obispo to see Max for Parents Weekend. The Rose, the Bean and the Golden Weasel all saw her apartment for the first time and then we had lunch downtown and are now on the way back down, just south of Los Angeles. It's nearly 10pm, and we left the house about 7:30am, so to say we're all a little punchy would be an understatement.
But none more so than the Golden Weasel. She's been amazing all day, a trooper and a half. But she's only 9, and driving five and a half hours, then walking around for about three hours, and then getting back in the car, is just not what she's wired for. She's uttered barely a peep of dissent, but she looks exhausted and, oddly, she barely has the strength to speak in more than a whisper.
We've been playing our family's modified version of 20 Questions, where the thing to be guessed is generally an abstract concept, such as "Thursday" or "the smell of the road after it's rained" or "the feeling of love you get when you look at a sleeping baby to whom you're closely related." Naturally, these usually not only take far more than 20 questions to figure out. But the answering of each question is nearly as difficult as figuring out what the concept in question is, and is rarely a straight "yes" or "no" but requires nuance and thoughts on the part of the person holding the answer. I mean, sure, you can taste "traffic," but is is a plain ol' "yes" really the right response there?
Anyhoozle, it's the Golden Weasel's turn to come up with something.
"Is it an abstract concept?" the Bean asks.
"No," the Weasel murmurs.
"Is it broccoli?" asks the Rose.
"Yes!" yells the Golden Weasel hoarsely but happily, and laughs for the next three minutes, before passing out.
So I take the Golden Weasel to pick up the pizza. She's delighted, because she's delightful, as am I, and because the pizza joint gives out little things of cookies to little kids. She chats nonstop the whole way home, nomming cookies as she does. As soon as we get in the house, she goes to throw the cookies wrapper away.
Instantly, the Brawn appears. "What is that?" he asks in a tone that makes it clear he knows it was some sort of Very Tasty Taste Sensation and that he had had none of it.
The Golden Weasel begins to hem and haw, a very, very unusual response for her. "It was cookies," I say bluntly.
They both look at me in surprise. "They give them to kids who never, ever fuss and are always cheerful," I explain. "Your sister hasn't fussed in years, so she gets cookies."
Her other sisters come in the kitchen. "The Rose here, for instance. She hasn't fussed in nearly three years, so every single night, she gets cookies."
The expression on Rose's face makes it clear this is news to her.
The Brawn looks astonished by this information. His face begins to cloud over, until he realizes that a Cloudy Face is not a Cheerful Face and he struggles.
"Dude," I say. "Has Rose fussed even once in the past three years?"
He shakes his head, then stops. "Yes," he says slowly. "She has."
"Exactly," I say. "I was just teasing. She doesn't really get cookies every night. She only wishes she did."
She confirms the accuracy of this statement. I then add, "The Weasel, on the other hand, really hasn't fussed in years. But she still doesn't get cookies every night."
Her big sisters are looking at me like I'm insane. "What?"
"She fusses all the time."
"She does not."
"She does so. She fusses every day."
"Yes. If we're drawing together and I get up to do something else, she gets all upset and makes that face."
"You know, that face."
"Oh," I say. "I didn't know."
And I didn't. I later relate the story to Top Management.
"Of course you haven't seen her in anything but a good mood," she patiently explains. "You're not the one who makes her do her math or clean the patio. You're the one who gives her cookies."
"Who is this?" asks the boy, who always wants to know the name and artist of every song.
"It's..." I pause. "Huh."
I can't remember.
I know every lyric. I know how to play it on the guitar. My college band played it, and being the drummer, I was the one to kick it off, and set the tempo way too damn fast. (Also, I forgot that we changed the setlist and was supposed to be starting an entirely different song. Whoops.) I've been listening to Natalie Imbruglia's new cover of it for days on end now. If I could draw, I could probably storyboard the video, even without having seen it in years. (Or at least that was the case before I wrote this post.) I was outraged when it was used in a fast food commercial. I loved it when it was used in Valley Girl.
I know this song.
But I cannot think of the name of the artist.
The hit was so pervasive that it's not like this is some arcane bit of music trivia, like who was the first major rock artist to use Paiste cymbals or something. I can picture where the artist's catalog was located in the record store I worked at in high school. The band was the very definition of "one hit wonder." I'm working my way there...but no. I can't quite do it.
I'm crushed. How can this be happening? And it's not a temporary glitch: the song's nearly over and I still can't came up with the artists' name.
I can't believe this. This is the most
"Modern English!" I yell.
I breathe a sigh of relief. And then I simply sigh.
"This is it," I tell the Rose. "I have passed my peak. This is like peak oil, only it's me. We have hit peak Scott. This is the exact moment at which I have started my long inevitable decline. It's all downhill from here."
The Rose pats my knee. "Remember, Daddy," she says. "Once you've crested the mountain and start going down the other side? Well, a mountain looks beautiful from the other side of the peak, too."
"Hey! Why's the carseat over on this side now?" asks The Brawn as he gets into the car. Almost all his trips are taken in the minivan, and apparently, at some point, in this vehicle his carseat got moved from the passenger side to behind the driver's seat.
"I dunno," I say. "The carseat goblins must've come in the middle of the night and moved it."
He pauses, mid-buckle. "Are there really carseat goblins?"
"No," I say, and take over buckling for him.
He stares into my eyes a long moment and then, very slowly, he smiles ever so slightly and nods almost imperceptibly, with what might have been an attempt at a sly wink.
Sorry for the radio silence. What can I say? Other than Comic-Con, a few sniffles and the Rose having abandoned the family, things have been perfect. Which is nice, but doesn't lead to having much to say. (Not that that's often stopped me.)
I'll be back with more when things fall apart again, as they're certain to.
"Did you know the low for today was 54?" the Rose asks in delighted disbelief. Given that it was in the high 90s just a few weeks ago and she blooms when it's cold and overcast and if it's rainy? oh my. This is her way of making it clear it was a good day.
The Golden Weasel looks perplexed. "What a loafer?" she asks. Clearly she didn't know me back in college.