A small, furious tornado
blew into the house, screaming. The door slammed, the glass rattling in the frame.
the door!” Hutch shouted, trying to catch the files he’d been working on before they could be blown off the kitchen
table. He had a horrifying vision of the whole pile ending up on the floor, and
the entire day’s work undone.
The tornado stopped, and
was revealed to be a five year old boy. His face was red, and his fists were
Hutch dove after several
carbon copies, and banged his elbow on the table leg. “I don’t know
how many times I’ve told you not to slam that door! Are you planning to
pay me for it when it breaks?”
Jack’s face crumpled. “It’s Micaela’s fault!”
He couldn’t believe
the boy actually thought he could blame this one on Starsky’s daughter, who was nowhere in sight. “You’re the one who slammed the door!”
With a wail of frustration,
Jack bolted down the hall to his room. And then he slammed that door, as well.
Hutch slapped his hands
down on the table and pushed his chair back, prepared to give his wayward son a piece of his mind. A very large and painful piece, applied to his rear end.
Starsky didn’t answer
immediately. His chin was resting on the heel of his hand, and he had a half-asleep
expression that Hutch knew too well to underestimate. It was a look Starsky only
got when he thought his partner was flipping out for no good reason.
him a million times not to slam that door,” said Hutch, defensively. “He’s
got to learn…”
Jack started howling dramatically
from behind his bedroom door, and Hutch winced, feeling his stress levels ratchet up another notch.
even a little curious why he’s so upset?” asked Starsky.
“Of course I am! But he can’t go slamming doors every time he has a fight with Micaela!”
Starsky, slowly. “It’s my opinion that dealing with the root of the
problem might be somewhat more, ah, efficacious, than just yelling at the kid.”
Hutch blinked, startled. Then, feeling his anger drain away, he grinned.
“Build your Word Power, right?” It was remarkable how Starsky
always knew exactly what to say to defuse things.
Starsky tipped his head
in acknowledgement. “Efficacious is a very good word, and I plan to use
it lots.” He paused. “And
right now what you are doing is not at all efficacious. It’s like…
counter-efficacious. Or something. Go
talk to him.”
Hutch started to turn,
and then stopped, grimacing. “Right now?” The howls from the bedroom seemed to be increasing in volume.
Starsky. “I suppose you could leave him in there until Dawn gets home,
and let her deal with it.”
For a moment Hutch thought
he might actually be serious, because that didn’t sound like such a bad idea at all.
But then Starsky crumpled up the form he’d been filling out incorrectly and threw it at him.
“Get in there, you
big turkey!” ordered Starsky.
Hutch groaned and rubbed
his face with both hands. But Starsky was right.
So, reluctantly acknowledging the inevitability of it all, he walked down the hall to his son’s room.
Jack was lying on his bed
with his face buried in his pillow. When Hutch sat down on the end of the bed,
Jack tried to kick him.
Tamping down firmly on
his irritation, Hutch caught one flailing foot, and pulled the sneaker off of it. Then
he captured the second and disposed of that sneaker as well.
“I’m not going
to let you kick me,” said Hutch, with what he thought was remarkable restraint.
But Jack just buried his
face again, and howled even harder. Then he tried to pound his forehead on the
wooden headboard of the bed. Hutch pulled him back down onto the pillow. He even did it gently.
For awhile Hutch tried
rubbing his rump, but then the boy started kicking him again. His yowls had a
buzz-saw quality to them that cut right through his head. His temples felt like
they were throbbing.
Hutch stood. Maybe if he came back later…? But Starsky was out there,
and Hutch didn’t feel like admitting defeat yet. Indecisively, he looked
around the room.
The problem was that not
only was listening to a tantrum painful, it was also very tedious. Hutch, for
lack of anything else to do, pulled a copy of “Goodnight Moon” off the shelf and began flipping through it, looking
at the pictures.
Miraculously, Jack stopped
crying. Hutch glanced up to see the boy looking back at him, his hair sweaty
and his eyes swollen.
Jack pushed himself up
until he was sitting. “Why are you reading?”
for you to tell me what’s wrong,” said Hutch. The speed with which
Jack could go from complete hysteria to apparent calm never failed to astonish him.
He wondered if the entire tantrum had been faked, but the tears on Jack’s face were convincingly authentic.
“I want someone to
play with me, because Micaela doesn’t play with me. She plays with Lilly. She plays with Jennifer. But she doesn’t
play with me,” said Jack fiercely. “It’s still like she’s
not my friend and that’s problem one.”
Oh god, thought Hutch.
There’s more than one problem?
“What’s problem two?”
“I like to do everything
and that’s still not the bestest.” Jack kicked the side of his bed
I don’t go to school. And, I don’t like the toys there and that’s
a secret, for my teacher. I only work at tables if I have to, if my teacher says.”
Hutch was puzzled. He’d thought Jack was upset about a fight with Micaela, but now suddenly the
subject seemed to have become school.
with school?” Hutch asked. At the last parent-teacher conference, Jack’s
teacher had described him as a ‘model student’ and ‘highly intelligent’. So he had assumed everything was just fine.
“I mean learning!”
exclaimed Jack. “My brain is too big to get some more things in. My brain is like this big!” He held his arms out as
wide as he could. “My brain always does wrong stuff ‘cause he likes
doing wrong stuff, cause that’s always getting me in trouble.”
Hutch frowned. This conversation was not going anywhere good. And had Jack
really just started talking about his brain as if it was another person entirely? “There’s
nothing wrong with your brain!”
“And know why I hit
myself?” said Jack, leaning forward confidentially. “Cause my brain
always does wrong things.”
hit yourself,” said Hutch. He was trying for stern, but he suspected he
was only managing confused. Hoping to get the conversation back on track, and
away from disturbing discussions of Jack’s brain, he said, “What don’t you like about school?”
“The tables always
have paper stuff and that’s boring for me. OK, that’s a secret, too.” Jack blew out a huff of air. “Only
two secrets. I only like weekends and playing with Micaela.”
And with that Jack jumped
off the bed and pulled out his Lego.
“There must be something
you like about school,” said Hutch, desperately. “What about recess? And gym?”
Jack held up a multicolored
stack of blocks and asked, “Does this look like a blood cell?”
“I thought blood
cells were usually red,” said Hutch, off balance with the apparent sudden shift in topic.
“Blood cells just love doing their job! Because
sometimes they get a break when someone doesn't get hurt,” said Jack, apparently to himself. “Or when someone hurts their feelings, they just make nice stuff for the brain. And that makes the brain happy. But not scary things. The brain's scared of scary things. That's
why the blood cells give the brain beautiful stuff.”
By the time Hutch came
back out to join Starsky at the kitchen table, he was a deeply bewildered man.
Starsky filed the paper
he was working on, and recapped his pen. “So? What’s the problem?”
Hutch sat down. “Uh… apparently my son hates his own brain, but
thinks his blood cells are just peachy-keen. And school is boring. And your daughter won’t play with him.”
Starsky nodded. “Four year old girls are evil. Was she doing the ‘everyone
likes me and no one likes you’ thing again?”
“Starsky, are you
listening to me? My son hates his own brain!” Hutch threw his hands up, helplessly. “That
can’t be healthy! What am I supposed to do about it?”
Starsky rubbed the back
of his neck and grimaced. “He’s five, Hutch. I don’t think there’s a whole lot you can do.”
Outside a car pulled into
the neighbor’s driveway. A short round man, and his equally short and round
son, climbed out.
“Well… I could
talk to his teacher,” said Hutch, doubtfully. “He was saying the
work they do is boring. Maybe I could sit in on a class, and see what it’s
Starsky, grinning. “Smart guy like you, I knew you’d think of something!”
At that moment the door
in the hall banged open, bouncing off the doorstop with a twanging sound. A small,
energetic tornado blew through the house and out the kitchen door before Hutch could react.
Papers flew everywhere,
and the kitchen door banged so hard that Hutch cringed, more than half expecting it to come right off its hinges.
“Ben’s home. I’m going to go play!” shouted the tornado, happily.
the door!” bellowed Hutch.
But his son was already
Hutch dropped his head
into his hands. “Remind me again why having a kid is a good thing, Starsky?”
Starsky laughed. “Did I mention that Becky thinks she’s pregnant again?”
hit the table. “Oh God.”
said Starsky, patting his shoulder soothingly. “Our folks survived us,
and we’ll survive them. It’s like a big circle, what goes around
Hutch rolled his head to
one side on the table and regarded Starsky seriously. “I need a piece of
blank paper and a pen.”
“I have to write
an apology to my parents.”