The Boy, almost four, stood playing at his train table as The Girl, almost two, walked into the room.
Utilizing what must be the instinct that keeps cage fighters alive, he knew where she was before he saw her. She was heading right for him, feigning innocence by pretending to talk with her grandparents on a Spider-Man cell phone.
The Boy’s shoulders tensed.
“Gigi, PopPop. Cookie, cookie,” The Girl said, then giggled, explaining into Spider-Man’s face her morning adventure in which she’d found a plate of cookies in the kitchen before anyone else had gotten out of bed.
But everyone in the room knew what she was up to. Mom, Dad, her big brother, and anyone watching on Google Earth – by which I mean everyone.
To outside viewers – have you ever been on Google Earth? It’s spooky – it wasn’t that The Girl’s plan was transparent or that her motives were suspect. But everyone in the room had seen this scenario play out more times than we’d seen the Elmo video that makes me want to drive my car into a lake.
She was going to approach her brother’s toys in exactly the way that would throw him into an Incredible Hulk-like rage, grab a toy, scream and run out of the room.
If this little girl were a super villain, her name would be The Antagonizer.
Commissioner Gordon: The Antagonizer has struck again.
The Batman (hissing): I’ll bring her to justice.
Commissioner Gordon: She took your Bob the Builder action figure and dropped it in the toilet.
The Batman (weeping openly as he punches a hole in the drywall): I do this alone. It just got personal.
“Gigi, cookie, PopPop, Bob Builder, yeah, yeah, yeah,” she sang into the play phone as she approached The Boy, music from “High Plains Drifter” running through my head.
Then it happened.
She grabbed a train off the track, screamed in a way that made me happy we don’t have pets, and started to run out of the room. The Boy stopped her by making a fist and knocking her to the floor.
Yeah, her mother and I saw the punch coming. Yeah, we could have stepped in before it happened, but what’s the kid going to learn?
“Don’t hit your sister,” bounced through the living room followed quickly by “don’t tease your brother.”
Tears came, tears went, a few mumbled exchanges of “I’m sorry” were barely audible, and we all hoped life would be better in the Offutt house because of it.
Of course, much like we all knew the event was going to happen, we also all knew “I’m sorry” carried as much sincerity as a UN resolution, which is none at all.
Five minutes later it all happened again.
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 at amazon.com, barnesandnoble.com or tsup.truman.edu. Visit Jason’s Web site, www.jasonoffutt.com, for his other books.