So talk turns, as often does, to neighbor children who may or may not be a bad influence on my darling perfect little angels. But this time, it is not The Husband and I discussing our children’s entire futures see-sawing between either President or inmate #8730295, it is Tall and Short.
“Mommy, I don’t think we should have Davis over again,” says Short earnestly, “because he says bad words.”
This is news to me. We have known Davis forever, and that kid is the Stepford child of the block: polite, helpful, happy, and well-mannered. If anyone is being swayed here, Short himself might be the corruptor instead of the corruptee.
“Don’t be silly,” I say dismissively, “I’m very good friends with his mom and I know she would never allow Davis to use a bad word.”
“It’s true, Mom,” interjects Tall for the first time, “I heard him.”
Curiosity is getting the better of me. “What word?”
Short looks at me, then back at his brother. “The ‘S’ word.”
Yikes. I guess I was wrong about this Davis kid. We never say the ‘S’ word in our family, so if my two sons heard it, then definitely it had to be—
“Shut up? Was that the ‘S’ word?” The synapses in my antique brain are finally connecting that Davis might have said a less bad bad word.
“No,” whispers Short, “not that ‘S’ word, the other one.” He puts his little hands over his lips, as if he is willing the horrible aberration to stay way in the back of his mouth.
Well, it was a good try. It could have been shut up. It looks like we will have to ban Davis after all. One day the ‘S’ word, the next day, the ‘F’ word. No, thank you, bratty Davis, I do not need to take chances like that around my precious children. Should I call Davis’s mother? Isn’t it only fair to let her know why her name is being forever deleted from my cell phone?
Another synapse in my brain sparks and fizzles, like a leftover firework on the 5th of July. Maybe Davis said “ship,” as in boat! Maybe my (slightly deaf? should I get their hearing checked out?) kids misinterpreted sweet little Davis talking about water transportation vehicles like barges and ferries and boats and ships. Aha, this had to be it!
“Tall, uh, just to confirm, uh, which ‘S’ word was it exactly that Davis said?”
“You’re going to be mad, Mom,” he shakes his blond head, hair still wet from swimming lessons. “I don’t really want to be a tattle-tale.”
“It’s okay, you can tell me,” I nod at him helpfully.
“All right, I'll just whisper it to you then.” He walks over to me, and leans his sunburnt face close to mine. I can feel his warm breath on my cheek, like a friendly puppy. He carefully cups his hand around my ear.
Which is how I feel right now.