Sometimes I let the agent I’m querying know who my literary heroes are. Only ‘sometimes’ as my query letters tend to change. Evolve? Products of endless, restless experimentation…On Roald Dahl’s birthday I was thinking: I always forget to put Roald Dahl down as an influence. I remember Joan Aiken, Zilpha Keatley Snyder, Philip Pullman. I was thinking (as I made a vegetable smoothie for my Kindergartner, hiding the green color with organic blueberries): I greatly dislike that I forget to put down Roald Dahl. I was thinking (as I poured the smoothie into a BPA free travel cup, stuck in a stainless steel straw and carted it to the minivan): I will not forget!
And then the minivan wouldn’t start. And I thought: Bloody effing f***-all hell in Hades.
My son’s elementary school is very strict about retrieving your child on time. If you are 5 minutes late, your child is walked by the teacher to the office, where your child will wait as the office phones to find out where the hell you are. No child wants to have a parent pick them up late, the principal told us parents at Parent Orientation Night and the mood in the auditorium became frantic for a time as the principal stared us down without blinking, our 1950’s wooden auditorium seats creaking into an embarrassing chorus as we shifted in our frozen smiles, not one of us wanting her to think we were going to be that parent.
The car won’t start, I screamed into my cell phone. I’ll call the cab, you call the school, my husband responded, his own panic risen. I’ll notify the teacher to walk him to the office, the office lady informed me in a calm, neutral tone that could have meant understanding or disdain, I had no idea. My husband phoned again, shouting: Cab. There! 10 minutes. Wait, I screamed, do I have the backup carseat, or do you? No, no, no, I have it, he shouted and disconnected, calling back immediately to say, I’ll call you back.
The backup carseat takes 2 seconds to install in a car. Our son’s everyday carseat, however, is a behemoth with specific strap configurations and exact cinchings and anchors and takes about 20 minutes to secure to a seat. Taking it out of the minivan is not a problem. Transferring it to a cab, under pressure?
I’m on the freeway, my husband shouted. Cab canceled. I’ll pick you up. No, don’t, I screamed. That will add 10 minutes! You call the school, I’ll keep driving, he shouted and disconnected. That’s fine, the office lady told me and possibly she was on the verge of being irritated, but then again–maybe not. If you wouldn’t mind telling him that Dadda is coming? I requested feebly. Of course, she said. I returned inside the house, poured myself a shotglass of vegetable smoothie, downed it as I paced the living room and stared out windows, thinking bits like: Surely we’re not the only parents this has ever happened to? Thinking: Why don’t we have neighbors whose cars we can borrow in emergencies? Thinking: My husband sure rose to the occasion. Thinking: I think I have a crush on my man. Thinking: Did the dog get breakfast?
I’ve got him, my husband said calmly and with a dash of triumph. Is he okay? I asked, trying to match his tone. Have we damaged him? Nah. He was flipping through a book when I got there and wouldn’t let us leave until he finished ‘reading’, my husband reported. What book? I asked, laughing. Huh? I don’t know. You know. The one with the peach.