I stopped typing and froze in the
bed office. A voice was in my house. Deep. Half whisper-in-a-frightening-tomb, half ogre-stuck-in-a-well. I set aside the laptop, rose from the bed office chair and peeked into the hall. No one. Except the voice. A stranger with a creepy voice is dying in my house, I thought, tip-toeing down the hall. In the living room, the dog snored on his bed, morning sunshine barged through windows, cheering the room, exposing the dust on the piano and yet, beyond the usual normalcy—the voice. I snatched the clunky channel changer from the TV and held it out in front of me like a castle forged sword from Game of Thrones. I stepped over the snoring dog and into the kitchen, shushing the parakeet who, upon seeing me, scuttled maniacally along his perch. Such a good bird, kiss, kiss! he insisted. Oh just such a good bird!
Something moved beneath a red dishcloth on the counter. I reached out, pinched the cloth and whisked it into the air with a little scream.
My iphone was going crazy, flashing and vibrating so intensely it moved in a slow circle.
I AM YOUR FATHER (breath, breath) LUKE! I AM YOUR FATHER
The ring tone I had assigned my dad’s phone number was doing its job.
On the way back to my
bed office, I froze again.
HEY! DID YOU HEAR ME? I SAID YOUR SISTER’S CALLING! IT’S YOUR SISTER! ARE YOU GOING TO GET THAT? HEY! IT’S YOUR SISTER CALLING!
A young boy’s voice, strong and true.
Dude with a multi-colored macaw on his arm approached me as I hunched over my poetry journal at the Starbucks with the super long veranda. “Want to say hi to my bird?” he asked. I looked up, right into the defiantly-assessing-the-world eyes of the stunning giant descendant of dinos. “Hello,” I told colorful magnificence. The macaw jutted its gorgeous head at me. “I know,” I said soothingly. “I know.” “I’m confused,” the dude said, switching the macaw to his other arm. He was a shaggy type wearing a white t-shirt stained with bird poop. “What do you know?” “Birds,” I told the dude. “Sometimes.” “Huh,” he responded and his squint moved from my eyes to my journal. “You doing the Na thing?” he asked. Oh, man. I pursed my lips. I air-kissed the macaw. It jutted its gorgeous head at me. And again. And again. And the dude moved on.
“Goodbye Radley chicken!” my son yelled at one of his friends as we walked to the minivan. “I’m not a chicken!” Radley insisted, shaking the chainlink separating the playground from the parking lot. “Why did you call Radley a chicken?” I asked my son. “Well, well, well someone called me a chicken!” my son said. “Why is anyone calling anyone else a chicken?” I pressed. “Did you like being called a chicken?” “No,” my son said. “I’m sorry.” “Don’t tell me you’re sorry, tell Radley. He’s the one you called a chicken.” “It’s not nice,” my son declared. “No, name-calling isn’t polite, or conducive to having a good time with pals, or—” “Well, well, well, Mama! I could call a toy a chicken. Then it’s okay.” “Let’s not call your toys chickens, either. Let’s not get into that habit.” “But I can call our car a chicken.” “You can say, See ya later alligator, or, In a while crocodile—you guys say that to each all the time. It’s friendly. It’s casual and fun. But actually calling someone an alligator, a crocodile, or a chicken—that changes from fun to kind of mean, if not downright snarky. Name-calling just isn’t okay. You were calling Radley a name, right?” “Yes,” my son admitted. “But Mama,” he said. “I can call a chicken a chicken!” Cue chicken squawk. Cue spirit. Cue life. Just don’t ever call Radley Boo, I thought wearily, totally ready for the nap.