“Babysitting,” New chapter from novel “Pushing the River”

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Sierra was in her usual spot on the couch in the sun room, except facing the other direction, her back to Madeline as she came in and leaned against the door frame.  Also as usual, Sierra was dressed head to toe in clothes that belonged to her big sister – right down to the borrowed socks — with the exception of the fleece Madeline had lent to her, and which Sierra wore day and night, inside and out.  She was on the phone, though it was difficult to tell at first, as she was saying absolutely nothing.  It was only the slight crook of her head which implied that her ubiquitous cell phone was buried somewhere under her hair, tucked against her ear – that, and the fact that she didn’t turn around when Madeline came partway into the room, didn’t jump at the barest possibility of a warm, live body to talk with.  She spent an astonishing amount of time “talking” on the phone, saying absolutely nothing.  Hours, sometimes.  Hours in which she would walk all around the house, open and close the fridge, go in and out of the bathroom, play with the dog, the silence broken by an occasional giggle, or a comment of notable brevity, such as “What?”  “No way,”  “Are you shitting me?” – four words was pretty much the max.

Madeline caught a glimpse of the impossibly neon blue gum in the corner of Sierra’s mouth, which promptly fell onto her boob when she eventually turned her head towards Madeline, rolling her eyes as if being on the phone was really an enormous ordeal.  She reached down without thought to grab the blue wad, pop it back into her mouth, and chew the heck out of it to soften it back up.  This happened a lot, too.

Jesus, Madeline thought.  Fifteen.  She really is fifteen.

What the hell was I doing when I was her age?  Madeline’s mind leapt to a photo of herself and her father that a visiting camera-crazy aunt had snapped when she was fifteen.  It was very early in the morning, and her father was about to give her a rare ride to school.  She had an armful of books, and though she looked sleepy, a supremely chipper smile.  Ha, she thought, every single time she ran across that picture.  It seemed that between her aunt and her mother, about a million copies had been made of that picture, because everyone thought both she and her father looked so good.  More to the point, it was probably the one and only photograph that included both of them, as it was most likely the one and only time she had stood that close to her father for a period that extended a number of years in both directions of that particular morning.  Plus, her other dirty little secret was: she wasn’t just sleepy; she had been stoned out of her mind the night before.

OK, but besides that smoking pot thing, Madeline pondered, what the hell else was I doing?

Well, babysitting.  She did a lot of babysitting in those days, largely to support her music habits of album-amassing and concert-going.  A flipbook of the various families she regularly babysat for ran through her mind.  The Roys.  The Kelloggs. Families she could no longer remember names of either them or their children, but whose homes – their furniture, wall art, record collections, the various Things they had positioned in places of honor because of status, or nostalgia, or duty – these remained locked in her memory as if it were yesterday.

When she thought of these families as a whole, they all seemed impossibly earnest, clean-cut, each and every one of the men a future Scout Leader, and the women, they would be battling one another for PTA president, a freshly baked batch of cookies/brownies/banana bread forever on the spotless kitchen counter.  And religious.  Each and every one of these families was devoutly religious.  Weird, she thought.  How in the world did that happen?

Once the kiddies were asleep in their beds, she would peruse the snack options, put on some tunes, and settle in for an evening of making some money to sit there and do homework.  She always expected that the parents would return home with flushed cheeks, giggling and leaning against one another in a blush of fun at having a Night! Out! and perhaps one too many cocktails.  But this never happened.  Never! The mommies and daddies would arrive home looking every bit as polished and coifed as when they had left, and even more surprising, seeming genuinely eager to talk with her.  How was school going?  Was she still studying piano?  What was she reading in her spare time?  Their interest amazed her in a way that made her feel inexplicably sad — all wide eyes and toothy smiles.

There was that one couple, though.  What the heck were their names?  Rick?  Was that it?

Kathy?  They had that one baby boy who was generally asleep by the time she arrived.  Even when he was still awake, the kid did absolutely nothing.  Just kind of hung out.  Then went to sleep.

One look at Kathy and Rick and you couldn’t help but picture them as that glorious high school couple – the Captain of the football team and the head cheerleader – You knew that Rick would have been captain based not on any real degree of skill, or even leadership ability, but because he oozed an easygoing, blond smoothness and a manner that gently projected, “Damn!  It is really good to be me!”   Kathy could be defined by a word Madeline hardly ever thought of, let alone used in a positive way: cute.  She had porcelain skin with a dusting of freckles across her nose, and red hair that grazed her shoulders in a perennially perfect flip.  Sometimes she wore her black-framed, cat’s-eye glasses, other times not.  She had married The Catch, and was devoting herself to the role of wife, mother, homemaker.  She would keep herself trim, keep a spotless, if modest home, try out new recipes from Ladies Home Journal on a regular basis, make a boxed cake mix every week, and always wear an apron so she’d look her best when she sat down for dinner with Rick.3633530233_eb0ee307ce_z

She was also the only one who would arrive home from her date night with her husband with her hair out of place here and there, her smile a little goofy, fumbling with the money, all of which Madeline found immensely adorable.

Rick would always be the one to drive her the distance of fifteen or twenty houses from their home to her own, which struck her as quaint but ridiculous in what she viewed as the world’s safest and most preternaturally bland suburb in existence.  She disliked Rick for reasons she couldn’t put her finger on at first.  His perpetual too-deep tan, his mirrored aviator shades, his profound and unflappable belief that every guy he met would yearn to be his best friend and every woman would sigh internally in his presence, unable to shake the image of his blond hair brushing against their faces, his sun-kissed hands gripping their hips.

Madeline had grown used to the parents’ fascination with her; but Rick possessed a clear, confident expectation that she would, of course, be fascinated with him.  He fiddled with the radio dial and changed the station to something he thought she would love.  She glanced over at him.  He had turned his body part way to face her and let his knees fall open.  He might have looked friendly and relaxed and nothing more, but she knew better.

You fucking piece of shit, she thought to herself.

He was waiting.  Expecting that Madeline would be overcome with desire and would make a move.  And if she did not, he was contemplating making the first move himself.

You fucking piece of shit.  Madeline thought of Kathy at home, drowsily checking on the baby, removing her clothes, crawling under the covers in a boozy glow that told her that life was truly good.  Rick’s hair was just beginning to thin, his overly-tanned skin withering with the advancing years.  Shit, the guy didn’t have a clue how desperate he was, how much of a joke.  But he would break his wife’s heart nonetheless.  He was one step away from trying to fuck everything in sight, while Kathy continued to hum in the kitchen and bake him cakes.

Thinking about this, about all of this, filled her with an intense rage, a full forty years later.

She looked again at Sierra, right as Sierra’s gum dropped out her mouth yet again.

Shit, thought Madeline.  Every single day of my life has been a cake walk, a total fucking cake walk, compared to this kid.

 

all photos from Flickr

Life Gets in the Way, and Sometimes, That’s Just Fine

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Meh.  The formation of ideas into words, into sentences, into pages that comprised my writing of this third novel for a good chuck of time has come to a temporary halt.  Sigh.  I know this is how it goes for me.  At times it flows, and the flow can proceed along – sometimes at a pace that surprises me, other times at a crawl – but still it proceeds, without substantial interruption.

But the halts do come.  For me, they do.  I am not talking about “writer’s block;” I am talking about the times – now being one of them – where life gets squarely in the way of being able to find and maintain the wide open mental spaces necessary for the creative picture to remain in focus,  not to become too blurry for a while, too hazy-in-the-distance, just out of reach.

It’s! the! Holidays!  With their sundry boisterous chaos.

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Some of the chaos is magnificent, such as the nearly-two-week Thanksgiving visit from my daughter, soon to be followed up by another for Christmas; and the shelving of our usual family board games at the holidays in favor of being fascinated by a one-year-old baby who is fascinated by everything.

Some of the chaos is wrenching, such as the enormous suffering of many of the people I work with in my day job as a clinical social worker.

The words will flow again.   And though I know this from history, part of me remains patient while another part sighs internally and drums its fingers.

In the meantime, let us all make merry, and rejoice for the gifts we have.  In lieu of words, I offer some pictures of twinkly lights from my very own corner of the world – in this case, my own block in Evanston, IL.

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Hanging Out with D (#2)

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            This past weekend’s adventure with my foster grandson D: Chicago’s Lincoln Park Zoo and Conservatory.  D. and I actually did this same outing a number of months ago, which consisted mostly of him sleeping soundly in his stroller in front of numerous outdoor animals’ cages as well as in the fecund, heavy-aired, lush Conservatory.  It proved an invigorating walk for me against a backdrop of gorgeous park flora and exotic (if caged) fauna.  As for D, well, it reminded of the comedian who once quipped about the opera: “I love it.  You just can’t sleep like that at home.”

            Last weekend was a horse of a different color for D, who will mark the milestone of his first full year on Earth in just three weeks.  D is easygoing as babies come, but the wheels are turning all the time.  He is at the very beginning of understanding what developmental theorists call a “concept of mind,” meaning that he has a rudimentary understanding of himself as a being, a “self” with all kinds of thoughts and feelings and such.  What’s more, he also understands that those around him, those of us who talk and dress and feed and rock and sing and tickle and hold and love him – well, we, too, have minds.  

            It is a critical moment in infant development when they begin to point to stuff, for it is in this way that they demonstrate their desire to share minds – they point our attention to whatever it is that they’re focusing on, in order that we share the same focus, that we align our two minds in the same direction, and feel the deeply satisfying sense of sharing an experience.  Interestingly, the only other mammals who demonstrate an understanding of pointing are elephants (which was established pretty recently) and dogs, simply due to so many years of close proximity to humans and their inherent desire to communicate and please us.

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            Anyway. High falutin’ language aside,  D could not get enough of pointing to every single animal.  We would stroll over to a cage, I would say the name of the animal, and he would point.  He particularly loved scanning through the chimpanzees’ and apes’ habitats to seek out and point to each and every one he could find lolling in a high-up hammock, or swinging on a rope, or hiding in a dark, out-of-the-way corner.

            Babies learn by categorizing.  If you think about it, it’s kind of amazing that a very young child can recognize that a Great Dane and a Chihuahua are both dogs!  D isn’t quite there yet, but we have been working on animal sounds.  When I start to moo, or oink, or woof-woof, he gives me a special sidelong glance that says, “You’re weird; but I like it!”  D has known for weeks now what a quack-quack is.  When I say quack-quack, Dawson will crawl through all four rooms of my first floor until he finds the hideously gaudy stuffed animal that’s meant to resemble a duck.  Everything else, for the time being, is a woof-woof. 

            Really, a joyous little boy who’s scanning every inch of an animal habitat until he finds the giant, panting, pent-up, blazing-eyed jaguar so he can shoot up his arm, point his index finger right towards the big cat’s face and from deep in his belly grunt out a “WOOF WOOF!” makes for a wondrous day.

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Hanging out with D: My Life According to Me

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            I have a foster grandson.  The unexpected, chaotic, shape-shifting circumstances that led to this little boy’s emergence into this wide world have served as the inspiration for my third novel.

            But back in the “real” world, the one in which my son and daughter-in-law are forever forging their unexpected lives day to day, hour to hour, exhausted and improvising; well, there is only today. 

            My son worries that my taking care of the now 11-month-old baby one or (infrequently) two days a week is an unfair thing to ask, a burden to me, a toll on my body as I continue to recover from a  back injury.   I, in turn, worry about him, nearly every minute, as is my right. 

            The baby boy, in the meantime, thrives, blossoms, works to figure out the world little piece by little piece, babbles, bangs things together, tests gravity continually to see if it will really always make objects fall – every! time! – touches, pats, dances, sings.  Nothing can match the thrill of eliciting a full-on belly laugh from him.  You just never know what will strike him as simply hilarious.

            This past weekend I took him to Chicago’s wonderful National Museum of Mexican Art for their annual Day of the Dead exhibit.  I try to make it down every year for this; it’s a highlight of the city’s cultural year.  I had forgotten to pack the stroller for our outing, and so had to carry baby D in my arms through the museum. 

            D took it all in, as he always does.  The entire time, his expression was what I call “The D Amazed Face” – mouth slightly open in sheer awe, eyes drinking it all in.  When he took particular notice of something, the tip of his index finger would wander into his mouth, much as it might with a thoughtful adult.

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            It turned out to be quite fortuitous that the stroller had been forgotten, as D kept both of his little hands gripped tightly to my clothing – one on my sleeve, the other clutching a bunched up handful of sweater from around my neck.  He eagerly took in the whirl of weird shapes, wild colors, scads of flowers, platefuls of play food – but only if he could maintain the abiding sense of being safe, and secure, and loved.  Every so often, for a little extra reassurance, he would burrow his face deep into the pit of my arm, just for a second or two, then resume his amazed examination of this brand new world.

            The chance to share in his amazement at this wide world is a privilege, indeed.  The chance to offer him whatever measure of safe harbor I can is an honor.  In some ways, there is nothing that allows life to make as much sense as the simple act of holding a baby.

“Pushing the River,” NEW chapter excerpt

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            Sierra is lounging around on the couch, her belly getting so swelled up it don’t look like it could possibly belong to the rest of her body any more.  She’s wearing a raggedy old pair of sweatpants that she borrowed off of my Lady and a T-shirt she borrowed off of her sister, and a giant sweatshirt she took right off the Boy’s pile of laundry while it was still sitting on top of the dryer.  That girl sure does love to wear everybody else’s clothes.

            The television set is on, just like it pretty much always is, but she ain’t really looking at it, cept every once in a long while.  I swear the child likes mostly to push on little buttons, cause every so often she pushes on some buttons to make the sound go up or down, or pushes on some buttons to switch to a different picture altogether, and then goes right back to pushing the little buttons on her little telephone that don’t need wires.

            Then she holds the little phone right up to her ear and says, “Daddy?  Hi.  Hey, what do you think I should have for lunch?”

            Of course I can only hear but one side of this whole conversation, but it goes something like this:

            “Cereal.  I had a big bowl of cereal for breakfast.”

            —

            “No.  I only like creamy peanut butter, and right now all we got is the crunchy kind.  I hate that stuff.  Plus I only really like peanut butter with marshmallow fluff, and pretty sure we don’t have any of that either.  What else?”

            —

            “No, I’ve had bagels every day cause Marie always brings them home.  Plus that’s what you said yesterday.  What else?”

            —

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            My Lady comes in with a big basket of laundry and sets down at the far end of the sofa to fold it.  Sierra puts her teeny little feet in my Lady’s lap and goes on with her phone talk for a bit.

When she pushes on the little button that makes the call come to an end, she says, “That was my dad.  I was asking him what I should have for lunch.”

            “Your dad?”

            “Uh-huh.”

            “Your father?”

            “Uh-huh.”

            “You were asking your father what you should have for lunch.”

            Sierra can see that it ain’t a question, so she don’t answer.

            “Your father, as in, the guy who put you on an airplane the minute he found out you were pregnant?  Who said that you were dead to him?  That father?”

            “Uh-huh.  He wasn’t a very big help.  MadMad, what do you think I should have for lunch?”

            “Oh, no.  No, no.  I’m not playing that game again.”

            This advertisement comes on the television just then.  There’s all these people setting around a table, completely frozen in time.  One of them is caught right in the middle of spilling a whole pitcher of water.  The first drop is just about to hit.  Another is hanging in mid-air, kicking up his heels, his hair standing straight up in all directions.  He is at the highest point, held in the split second before he starts on down.  Yet another is tipping his chair so far back you know he’s about to tumble over backwards; but he’s caught right at the tipping point, held right there in the balance.  There’s one more person.  The only one who can move.  He gets to walk all around this whole frozen scene, check it from every angle, ponder on exactly what’s going to happen next.  He can take all the time in the world to figure it.

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“Pushing the River,” new excerpt (continued)

My brother, Roy Mills Monier, would have been 60 years old on October 9.  He died outside of Quito, Ecuador on December 6, 2001.

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And I don’t just mean with them family members, and their kin and friends and pets that was constantly coming and going; and I don’t mean with all the things they gathered and put in different rooms that marked their lives neither.  I mean that it was full up in the only way that can make a house into a home.

            It was a good long spell that everything seemed to get bigger and bigger.  Not just them little ones, but life itself.

            But the tide, it surely did turn, and thence came the long stretch when everything started going the other way.  One by one, they started packing up and leaving; the Husband, then the Boy.  It was just the Little One left in the house with my Lady when she got the phone call that the very last of her kin had dropped down dead in some far off country.  She was standing right beside me, holding the phone in her hand, when I heared her gasp real loud, and her voice went all shaky.  With that phone call she had no more kinfolk, no more of the people who raised her up or stood along side her while she was doing her own growing, no more people to hold on to her stories.

            I think that might have been the moment, right then with that phone call, that my Lady began trying to push the river.

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“Pushing the River,” new excerpt

Sheesh.  I have been flattened for more than a week with some nasty virus!  These are the first words that have entered my head in all that time.  It’s a mere beginning, but I couldn’t wait to post SOMETHING and get back at it.

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They was just a couple of wide-eyed kids with a little baby they took turns holding in they lanky arms when they moved into this here house.  They scrubbed at the floors and painted  the walls and dug dirt in the gardens and tickled and rocked and sang to the Boy while he gazed at the world around him like he could stare a hole right through everything and see into its very center, sort of like he was just pretending to be a baby the whole time and trying to humor the nice folks who had brung him into this world.   After a time the Little One came along, all blonde and golden and fitting right into the world like it was easy peasy and every single thing was just a pure delight. 

            The house was full up. 

            And I don’t just mean with them family members, and their kin and friends and pets that was constantly coming and going; and I don’t mean with all the things they gathered and put in different rooms that marked their lives neither.  I mean that it was full up in the only way that can make a house into a home.

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“The Elephant in the Room,” new excerpt from novel “Pushing the River”

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The Tumbleweed lay sleeping in Madeline’s bed above when she arose at the usual early hour.  The blush was still on her cheek from the night before as she made an extra-large pot of coffee and cleaned up the last few dishes from the dinner with Auggie and Bess.  When she sat down at her favorite spot in the sun-drenched room to breathe in the scents and sounds of the morning, she opened her computer to see Marie’s name in her email inbox.  Strange that Marie would be writing from Asia, she thought.

i’m sitting in a hostel in kuala lumpur and trying to reconcile the intensity of having stood in a river with my face resting against the temple of a young elephant’s massive head and my hands lost in the playful curling of his trunk with the fact that all i can think about when i’m not engaged in an active pursuit of some kind or a conversation with someone new is that i’m a terrible person and should’ve gone to be with sierra as soon as i knew she was pregnant… that i should’ve stayed in chicago two summers ago and fought for custody and maybe sierra and my mom would both be so much better off for it… that i should’ve, should’ve, should’ve… i have not lived my life the way i’ve really needed to over the last three or four years. I love john and our marriage is something i want so desperately to protect, but i don’t know how to be fair to him and our life and also be the person i need to be to be able to live with myself. I suppose i’m asking for your advice… as a friend, as a mother-in-law, as a professional woman. I don’t know how i can go back to new york and stay there without sierra. I don’t know how john would get by without me. I spent almost the entire time i’ve been gone stressing out about how not to spend money on anything unnecessary and listening to john worry about how he has no money coming in in new york and i can’t help thinking he just wouldn’t be able to support himself without me working full time. but john is a grown man with a massive line of credit and sierra is my little sister who has no support or resources- how is this even a difficult decision? I need to be in chicago. How does a marriage like ours survive a year apart? Will i only make things worse by being in chicago? Is there any chance my mom will —  no, there’s no chance. i don’t know, i don’t know, i don’t know. i’m on the verge of a nervous breakdown all the time- i’m terrified that when i get back i’m just going to fall apart completely. i’m terrified that john needs more from me than i have to give and that i need more from him than he has to give. what do i do?

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“Pushing the River” excerpt

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From where we left off with Sierra…

             No one knew quite what to make of her when she first arrived that summer – whether they should talk to her just the same as always or treat her like the entirely different creature that she looked to be.  But other than spending sizeable amounts of time trying to straighten out and generally tame her long mane, she proved very much the same.

            At least that’s what everybody thought at first.

            She spent pretty near all day sitting on the sofa watching hour after hour of TV about movie stars.  Once in a while, she’d walk to the store a few blocks away to get herself a cold drink, or a packet of gummy bears.  Her favorite color was orange, followed by red, then yellow then green.  My lady always teased her, saying that they didn’t have different flavors at all, just different colors.  Then Sierra would make my Lady test her by giving her different colors with her eyes closed, which she could always make out, and then say Ha Ha, so there.

            It seemed like every time she’d walk to the store, she’d come back home and spend a whole lot more time on her phone.  She would sort of curl herself around it, like it was some precious, secret thing she was trying to protect,  her eyes just a couple of inches from the little screen, thumbs flying, and her lips moving every so often.

            The whole clan ended up living here that summer – my Lady, of course, the Little One, the Boy, his wife Marie, and her baby sister Sierra – before everyone except my Lady was set to scatter to the four winds come the end of August.  My Lady loves nothing so much as a house full of kin,  and she drinks up their very presence like a hungry cat with a bowl of fresh warm cream.  The place was a damn mess, what with the Boy setting up a bike fix-it shop right in the middle of the living room, and Marie cooking all sorts of the most infernal-smelling substances at all hours of the day and night, and the TV going non-stop with Sierra’s movie star channels, and the Girl practicing her fiddle.  Dear Lord, I went for an entire summer without hearing those things I look forward to all the rest of the long year – the chirp of a cricket, the breezes ruffling the leaves on the ripe trees, the sounds of little ones playing long into the evening, giving you the sense that life does go on, no matter how old and broke-down some of us may be getting.

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            My Lady acted for all the world like every wrench set strewn across the living room floor, every pile of pots and pans, every gummy bear candy wrapper stuffed between couch cushions was a buried treasure.  She got into the habit of doing everybody’s laundry, insisting that it was just as easy to toss theirs in as long as she was doing it, and way more efficient to do full loads, besides.

            One afternoon, my Lady is taking things out of the dryer, sorting, and folding, and humming a medley of tunes from West Side Story, when she screams out, “Marie!  Marie, come here!  Marie!!

            Well, Marie cannot even imagine what catastrophe has come to pass, but she hightails it down the stairs and into the laundry room, where my Lady holds a pair of black lace panties in her hand like it was a dead rat who carried the plague.

            “Are these yours?”

            Marie laughs.  “No.  Definitely not.”

            “They aren’t Kate’s.  I buy all of her underwear, so I can tell you this for a fact.”

            Marie takes them in her hand and flips them over, revealing that the back side of the panties is laced up, top to bottom, with a shocking pink ribbon.

            “Shit.”  Says Marie.

            “Marie, we gotta get that kid on birth control.”

            “Shit.”

            “NOW.  Right now, we have to.”

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“Pushing the River” excerpt…

 

…in which Madeline tries to get a pregnant teen (Sierra) to eat…

 

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            “Hey, are you hungry?  I already ate, but what about you?  Are you starving?”

            “Um, I don’t know.”

            “Come on, sure you do.  You know if you’re hungry or not.”

            “Are you hungry, MadMad?  I guess I could eat, but only if you’re gonna eat.”

              “When was the last time you ate?”

              “Um, I don’t know.”

              “You don’t remember the last time you ate?  OK, seriously, that has never happened to me.  Not ever.  Tell me what you’ve had to eat today.”

              “Um, some cereal.  I think.  Wait.  Maybe that was yesterday.  I had some leftover macaroni and cheese.  Definitely.”

              “Is that all?  Aren’t you starving?”

              “Well, I’ll eat if you eat.”

              “OK, OK.  Tell me what you’d like to eat.”

              “I don’t know.”

              “Well, think about it.  What do you feel like eating.  Make some little pictures of food come into your head and then tell me what those pictures are.”

              “Just surprise me.  Anywhere is fine.”

              “OK, tell you what.  We’re gonna pass every single food place that there is between here and my house, so the minute you see something that looks good to you, just let me know, and we’ll pull in.”

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              “Surprise me.  You pick.  I want to be surprised.”

              “OK, there’s a McDonald’s.  Let’s just pull in there.”

              “I don’t really want anything from McDonald’s”

              “What?”

              “They don’t have anything I feel like eating.”

              “Ok, so what do you feel like eating?”

              “I don’t know.   Surprise me.”

              “I think we just tried that.”

              “I know, I know.  I’m sorry!  I won’t do it again.  Anywhere is fine.”

              “Let me just name some of the places we’re gonna pass – see if any of them strike your fancy.  Of course, there’s McDonald’s, Burger King, Subway, every different grocery store there is in the Midwest – we can always buy a bunch of stuff to take home — Pizza Hut, 31 Flavors…hey, you know those frozen things they have at Dairy Queen?  Do you know what I mean?

              “Do you mean a Blizzard?”

              “Yeah, yeah, a Blizzard.  Do you know that I’ve never had one?  I think I’m the only person in the United States of America who’s never had one.  I don’t have a policy against them, or anything, just haven’t had one.”

              “I can’t believe you’ve never had one.”

              “Do you know if we’re gonna pass a Dairy Queen on the way?  Do you want to go there?”

              “No, no, I don’t want to go there.  I just can’t believe you’ve never had one.”

              “OK, look, here’s a Subway coming up – good, healthy stuff.  You wanted me to decide and surprise you; here I go.  Subway it is.  We’ll park and go in so you can look at everything.  Let’s go.”

              “I can’t believe you’ve never had a Blizzard.”

              —

              “What?”

              —

              “Sierra, do you want to go to Dairy Queen?”

              —

              “I’m just saying.”

              —

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