Monday, April 13, 2009

Bathroom Monologue: Ping-Ponging Kids

Edmund and Isaiah were very good friends with two very prudent mothers. They ping-ponged between houses on weekdays: Edmund at Isaiah’s on Monday, Isaiah at Edmund’s on Tuesday, and so-forth, for help with homework, sharing of videogames, and eventually social discussions, and eventually covert hashish, and eventually inexplicably hilarious social discussions that you couldn’t have understood if you weren’t there and you’re sure your mom can’t smell it from under the door?

Their prudent mothers armed their sons with gifts for the opposition, and when a son spent so much time at another mother’s kitchen table, the foreign mother was determined to become opposition. So a little thing of nutmeg went from Shirley (Edmund’s mother) to Aliyah (Isaiah’s mother). Aliyah responded with a Hummel figurine, and the ping-ponging escalated from just boys to boys and goods.

The boys knew no more of what they were doing than settler children when their Puritanical parents asked them to bring the blanket grandpa died in to the Native American camp. They dumped their goods at the door and ran off for the Wii. The whole affair might have calloused over there if not for one errant pong in response to a ping.

If you asked either mother she would have told you her opposition had re-gifted the Morthful’s Chocolate Sampler, a fine box of candies retailing between $15-35, depending on how little you paid attention to where you got it. It was by the far priciest gifted ping-ponged between the children, and one Wednesday it wound up back at Aliyah’s. She became so furious that she had only one course of satisfaction: to send it back to Shirley.

But Shirley received it and had the same sense of re-gifting, with no memory of having re-gifted it herself. To even propose she had re-gifted the Morthful’s Chocolate Sampler would have brought about such a rage that nothing short of divorce and witness protection would save you.

So Shirley sent it back with a little note, saying she hoped Aliyah enjoyed the chocolates.

It returned to Shirley’s abode the next time Isaiah came over, now with a smiley face sticker on it. She loathed that smile, especially once she realized she couldn’t peel it off without leaving evidence behind. For an hour she knew the panic of a chess player caught in a gambit, until she found a bigger, orange smiley face sticker to place over the original.

It became an arms race of good will. Bigger stickers, wrapping paper and ever-lengthening, increasingly saccharine notes on how this was my favorite brand and I thought you’d like it, and everyone says you’re getting so skinny, and didn’t you know chocolate is good for stress? Neither would blink.

Aliyah was preparing a three-page letter with quotes from the Talmud, Francis Bacon and Bernard Shaw to attach to the parcel one the final day. She didn’t know it to be the final day and was printing the thing out when she went to the door to collect the sampler, only to find it missing. The boys were home, so they had to have brought it. But it wasn’t by the door, or on the kitchen table.

She found the box half an hour later, in Isaiah’s garbage can. It was opened and looted of everything but the chocolates with fruit in the middle. She could not make a move with Edmund there, but she stared waves of spanking and suspended allowance from his door for fifteen straight minutes as he tried to beat a boss monster. Neither boy turned to recognize her. The brown smear on one corner of her son’s left cheek seemed to stare back at her, emanating equal and polar opposite waves of maternal defeat and social disgrace.

She interrupted their game, not to scold but to say she’d be back in an hour. She knew what she had to do. The local Pharmacist had to have more of those samplers, and a fresh package meant fresh space upon which she could wage her war of passive attrition. Hell, maybe she’d buy two of them. See that old bag re-gift them both.

The old bag did re-gift them, attaching not a three-page scholarly note on charity, but a coupon for another sampler. Aliyah went and used the coupon, then sent all three boxes to Shirley the next day. Shirley sent them write back, done up in a basket with several layers of colored cellophane paper. Aliyah typed up a note, stuck it in the basket, and had Isaiah march it right back to Shirley’s the next day.

That night, Aliyah got a phone call from Shirley’s husband, Wilson. He thanked her profusely for all the chocolates, said they’d been a big hit at his poker game, and invited her husband to join next week.

Aliyah was stunned. When she hung up, her husband asked who that had been. She threw a chocolate at him.

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