She's Quick

Wow! Look at that red mark on Abel's neck.

Ollie must have scratched him.


So serious as she spoke.

She's got to be messing with me, I said to myself.

Myself quietly agreed, with a faint nod.

Like gangsters in a dark alley.

Watch your step.

My eyebrows had already betrayed me.


What? She grinned. Still serious.


OK. Stop the clock.

I need to take you all back with me,

a mere 15 minutes in time.

Here's what I remember.

I had a full day, and I've been swamped lately, I was catching up on some tasks.

I had some old washing machines apart in the driveway, patching them up,

getting them ready to go.

Recycling.

My lovely Wife was making dinner, while visiting with me, in the scant down time.

The kids have worn her pretty sharp by this point of any day. They're not easy.

She's thrilled to have my help distracting them. Even for a few minutes.

They appear in the background. With Daddy in the driveway, they can run the gamut, covering the whole property.

In and out, doors left open, bugs coming in by the horde.

Ollie calls them Cugs.

We'll find the dog, just another child, wandering the driveway out front.

Her guilty face knows that she only goes out back, where the fence is.

I'm with the fat kid. He made me come out here.

She skulks back inside, ever so slowly.

It's normal around here. They never stop.

Mama shoots a few hoops, and we share our thoughts on the day.

She hides the ball when kids appear, waiting them out.

They soon vanish again, and she gets her game on

for almost two whole minutes this time.


I can't hear very well, but I can hear Ollie screaming.

He screams like a little girl.

Hearing it sounds like his brother must have pulled a big chunk of hair,

from his sensitive scalp.

It never turns out to be that bad.

Here they come. Ollie screaming, chasing Abel, shaking his tiny pointed finger.

Almost brushing the fuzzy hair on the back of little brother's head.

They are both full tilt, we heard the hoofbeats from two rooms back.

They make the kitchen lights flicker.

That can't be good.

There's been a toddler smash and grab, Abel now has one of Ollie's toys.

Rolled up and clutched tight in his little t-shirt, he's screeching with delight.


It's always a stupid car, or a stupid block.

We have hundreds of each.

Plenty for everyone.

I swear you could cut them loose in a toy store,

the lost, old fashioned toy stores

that kids used to dream about.

They will find it faster than trained dogs might.

Some handy kid math.

Three kids can smell One Last Toy from Six aisles away.

I want that one! Mine! I saw it first!

We check all of the shelves.

Mama even crawls under the display, to make sure.

Yes. It's the only one. Negotiations are pointless.

They will brawl, right in the store.

We'll end up buying it because they break it.

They'll quickly lose interest. It's broken.


Ollie won't catch him unless Abel wipes himself out.

They'll run laps around the vehicles until Ollie's face is purple

from screaming, while running in the hot sun.

He's mad as a hornet, waving tiny fists the size of broccoli sprouts.

Abel will be laughing by now, his husky little legs have saved him again.

He's smart. Just before he's about to get a broccoli sandwich, he'll repent.

With a Sowwy, Owwie, and a big grin.

He'll stop abruptly, turn, and throw the holy grail toy back at Ollie's feet.

Or at his shin, and that just starts it all over again.


Today, the chase didn't work out that way.

Mama set her basketball down, just before they came into view. She was ready.


Snap my fingers.

We go back now, to the future.


The discussion after the fact.

The red mark on his neck.

Ollie must have scratched him.

I always try to tread softly,

especially when she's at the end of a hard shift.

My eyes were still stuck. Wide open.

I couldn't help that.


The Takedown, maybe?!?

I tried to use my inside voice.

Gently. A split second.

Her nose wrinkled up. She smirked.


What? Pause. That was nothing.

More smirk, and cute wrinkles.


It was most certainly not nothing.

It was beautiful.

When they came sprinting by, Ollie was oh so close, to getting a handful of Abel.

He may catch him one day.

The bulky bully stays a step ahead even while looking back, taunting Ollie.

A dangerous game.

In a flash, just as they cleared the washers.

He was glaring back when Mama caught him by the scruff of his shirt.

Momentum slung him out straight, his feet arcing up higher than his head.

He was still laughing when he hit the ground, like a portly flounder.

This flounder is a fighter. The Flounder Pounder.

He's wiry. Wiley, even.

He clutched his stolen booty,

still wrapped in his shirt,

with both chubby fists.

Mama hit the ground, with him as a unit.

She wasn't playing.

My mind filled with images of the climactic end of a calf roping match.

The big Cowboy takes the heifer down,

in an explosion of dust, and distressed bleating.

He wraps the feet and throws his hands up, to mark his time. His best shot.

This happened. Right in my driveway.

I seent it. Pardon my grammar.

I did my best to refresh her memory.


Sweetheart, they were going wide open, and you caught them.

At the first corner.

I think you jumped over the lawnmower.

When you took him down,

If you had been wearing a cowboy hat,

it would have flown off.

I couldn't really see, with the washers, and the dust cloud,

but I definitely heard his little shirt ripping. Twice.


My eyes wide, still.

No emotion.

Surely she remembers.


Nope. Pretty sure I didn't make that mark.

His shirt ripped when I snatched him, and again when I flipped him over.

He kicks pretty hard, you gotta hold him down. He's getting strong.

His shirt probably ripped again, when I tore the car away from him.

A slight pause, then she looked right at me. Stone cold.

I think Ollie probably scratched him.

Supper's ready. Let's eat.


Ok, Sweetheart, whatever you say.


I guess Ollie could have scratched him.

Theoretically.

Supper smells pretty good. I can let this go.

My eyes blink like Morse code. It will pass.

My eyebrows are on their own.


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