The living room was quiet. Normally, quiet is good, unless you have children then you know the house may explode at any moment.
The silence worried me because our three-year-old boy was in the living room with his one-year-old sister. When the Boy and the Baby are alone in the same room and neither one is screaming, either all is well or she’s unconscious.
Following Dad Dictums No. 12 (expect the worst) and 13 (the kids are always out to get you), I leaned into the room slowly, like a hit man. The Boy stood over his train set making “choo-choo” noises. And the Baby was … the Baby was gone.
No, wait. She wasn’t gone; she was on the move. And, since she’s at the zombie stage of walking, “on the move” wasn’t all that fast.
The Baby looked around to make sure she was unwatched and toddled into the kitchen holding a toy cell phone and sunglasses. Hmm, I wonder if she’s been watching “The OC” again?
I listened as she padded across the linoleum with little feet we can’t keep socks on, followed by a soft thud. The Baby came out of the kitchen a few seconds later with no cell phone – and no sunglasses.
“What were you doing?” I asked, stepping into the room. She looked up, squealed like ET running from Drew Barrymore, and scampered away.
There are four universal truths when it comes to young children:
1) As a parent, you’ll eventually accept snot as part of your wardrobe.
2) Although you swear your three-year-old can recite the Gettysburg Address backward, when you put him on the phone with Grandma he stares vacantly into space.
3) Your one-year-old only waves bye-bye after visitors have driven home.
4) The kitchen trash can is the pagan god of babies.
I picked up my daughter, stepped into the kitchen and lifted the trash can lid. Yes, there were her toy phone, sunglasses and my favorite hat sitting atop a pile of salmonella surprise.
She giggled because she’d gotten away with another drop and dash.
Why, I wondered, is my daughter obsessed with the kitchen trash can when there are so many of her brother’s toys to chew on? Do babies like the smell of coffee grounds and eggshells? Does the bin have its own gravitational pull? Or is it the +1 Trash Can of Summoning I found playing Dungeons and Dragons back in college?
“Honey,” I said, shaking my finger at the plastic bin. “You know you’re not supposed to touch that.”
She said, “Pffft,” and took off toward her brother’s toys.
Sure, I’ll hear screaming soon, but at least I’ll know she’s not in the trash can … or unconscious.
Copyright 2008 by Jason Offutt
Jason’s book of ghost stories, “Haunted Missouri: A Ghostly Guide to the Show-Me State’s Most Spirited Spots,” is available from amazon.com, barnesandnoble.com or tsup.truman.edu. Visit Jason’s Web site, www.jasonoffutt.com, for his other books.