I'd like to think I'm not one of those women who, once she has a child, can only talk about her kid(s). Because I'm not. If anything I bring him up only in passing. But I do tend to tell what have been labeled as "Dude Tales," and they are almost always guaranteed a laugh or a "wow, he used that word?" And people are constantly telling me that I need to "write that down." So, here I am, writing it down. I hope it amuses you, at the very least.
The Dude and I have some of our best talks while he's in the bathtub. Granted, the bath invariably starts out with me sitting on the closed toilet seat, reading either Entertainment Weekly or whatever novel I'm plodding through at the moment. Last night was no different, with The Dude splashing and jabbering to himself as the tub filled up. Then, inevitably, came the questions:
"Mommy, what do zombies eat?"
"Hmm?" Turns page in On Beauty.
"Mom! What do zombies eat?"
"They eat human brains, honey."
"Because they don't have brains of their own, so they need human ones. See, they're not completely dead, but they're not all the way alive either. They're pretty empty inside, and they need to feast on the energy of other people to survive. Some people call them zombies, some call them politicians." I shrug. "Same thing."
A bit of splashing, some muttering about a shark "plunging to the deepest depths of the deep dark sea." I put my fingertip in my book and say, "Honey, you know zombies aren't real, right?"
"Zombies. They're not real. They're like the people in your shows, the superheroes or whatever."
"Yes. The same type of thing. There really aren't zombies. Just, you know, so you know."
"But they don't eat human brains?"
"Oh no, they do."
He nods slowly, cocking his head to the side and squinting, a gesture I find disturbingly familiar. "Oh. Okay."
I return to my book and am completely enthralled with Kiki and Jerome's mother/son relationship when I hear: "Mom, did I ever tell you about the time I shot the zombie?"
"Mmm-mmm," I answer, reluctant.
"Shot a zombie, right, I'm with you." I tuck my bookmark against the spine, sighing, and say, "What did you shoot him with?"
To see that round little almost four-year old face say, "With a gun," is almost as disturbing as the story that is about to spill from his imagination.
"Oh, I see. What kind of gun?"
"A laser gun, of course. It's the only kind that will stop a brain-eating zombie."
"Of course. How could I be so stupid."
"I don't know."
"You're welcome. This happened a long time ago, before you." Many things happened to The Dude before me, apparently.
"Oh? And how did you get the gun?"
"At the gun store."
"Who did you buy it from?"
"The gun man."
"He sold it to you? How'd you pay for it?"
"With money, Mom."
"Of course. And he didn't think you were a bit young for a laser gun?"
"Well," I can always tell he's about to get the story ball rolling when the hands raise, palms up, "he didn't ask me how old I was, and I didn't tell him. He just sold it to me, so I was like, whatever."
"Mm hmm. And where was I?"
"Mom, I don't know where you are all the time."
"Right. Fair enough. And where were you living again, at this point?"
"At the old house."
"With Baby J, of course."
"Yes, of course. So, you bought the laser gun, and then what?"
"Then I went to Burger King. But they were all out of the Transformer toys."
"Yes, it was. So," hands up, dripping, palms and fingertips wrinkling, "I went back to our house? And Baby J was fixing supper? And I went back downstairs and was getting ready to do the laundry and that's when I heard it."
"Oh my. Heard what?"
"Heard the scuffling sound."
"Then what'd you do?"
"I turned around," swirls in the bath, water sloshing up, "and there it was...."
I gasp, hands to my mouth.
He nods sagely. "The zombie." His back straightens, eyes widen. "So I jumped up!" Jumps up in the bathtub and I instinctively lean forward, one palm out, to steady him. "And that zombie turned and looked at me, and I said HEY ZOMBIE!" He stomps one little foot, water splashy soapy, spraying my hands.
"Oh! And then what happened?"
"And then? Then I shot him in the head! And he didn't have any brains, he just had dust or something. And I said HEY YOU ZOMBIE!" One tiny index finger pointing at the tiled shower ceiling. "You need to get on outta here!" He plops back down into the bathwater, picks up a plastic octopus, studies it. "And you know what that zombie did?" He trains his eyes on me, beneath lowered lashes.
I feel myself leaning forward. "What?" I whisper.
"That zombie," he drops the octopus, never breaking eye contact with me, and lowers his voice. "That zombie walked on out into the field out there and disappeared."
He smirks, sits back, smug.
I sit back as well. "Wait. Into the field?"
He nods, points toward the window on the far wall which overlooks our backyard and the 24-acre field beyond it. "Yep, right out there into that field and he's never been seen again."
I nod, too, gazing out the window. "Hmm. Just one problem."
"You said this all happened before me."
"It did! It was before you, you weren't there."
"Right. At the old house."
"Yeah! And I..." I glance over at him, see his face drop. "I...Oh."
I smile. I can't help myself. "The field is here, at the new house."
He smacks the surface of the now cold, almost scummy water. "Yeah."
"You have to stay consistent with your story-telling." I toss my book down, stand, grab his impossibly soft horsey towel and move toward the bathtub. "But it was a nice try."
He stands, head down. "Thanks, Mom."
Was it wrong of me to shoot down my child's zombie story with laser-like precision? Perhaps. But if he's going to craft such stories before he is four years old, with the compelling magnetism that he has to draw in and keep the listener's interest, by God I'm going to ride his ass to make sure he tells the best stories he can right from the beginning.