Flash in the Pan
A Quarterly Posting at Tiny Lights
by Ray Scanlon
One evening at bedtime, Dad runs downstairs cradling one of his newborn twin daughters. He trips as he nears the bottom, the baby explodes out of his arms, thuds to the oak floor, and skids, strangely silent, across the living room. Obligingly, mother and grandmother wail and scream. As the practical joke dawns on me, I--grandfather--join Dad's laughter. It is of course a swaddled life-size doll, and both girls are upstairs safe in their cribs.
If you think humor is a universally applicable coping mechanism, you're not a sleep-deprived woman who's been caring for newborn twins and their two-year-old brother. Only the two men on the scene find this prank at all funny. Naturally, Dad does. He's the man who successfully simulates a brake or steering failure for the benefit of his aged and trusting mother every time he drives her to her cardiology appointments, the same man who gives phony $10,000 winning lottery tickets to his in-laws for Christmas. They, too, are not amused. And today, ten years later, his son is becoming adept at using fake blood capsules to traumatize Grammy.
These days there is still, sometimes, sleep-related drama, but it's in the mornings. The girls cry and thrash amongst the covers unless it's Grammy who wakes them. I can't prove anything, but I think they can sense differences in what the waker considers acceptable humor.
One morning I successfully wake them. Maybe they're getting enough sleep, maybe their brain wiring has changed. It's a grueling pleasure: gentle shoulder touches, softest voice, repeatedly telling the girls it's time to get up. For a male of the engineering persuasion, whose conversations even with willing participants tend to the monosyllabic, it's a major challenge keeping up constant chatter with no feedback whatsoever--until the girls finally yank the covers over their heads. But now I have them. They're awake, they know I know, and I question them until they can't resist responding. I ask when they went to bed. A hand shoots out from under the covers; fingers flash me the hours and minutes, which I willfully misread. Finally they crack and speak.
The dam broken, the girls are voluble. I inquire about their progress through You Can't Eat Your Chicken Pox, Amber Brown, the book still lying on the bed from when they were reading to each other last night. I learn how many chapters they did, how many more to go, what two or three books they'll read next, and much else. One girl suddenly starts speaking in falsetto; her sister gets into the act with a faux bass, and cracks her knuckles, wrists, ankles, shoulders, and neck. Finally they decide it's time to get dressed, and I'm dismissed. This payoff to the fraught post-birth weeks of no sleep and living with zombies blindsides me: I say good deal.
Ray Scanlon lives in Massachusetts. Everything else about him is none of your business, but if you asked him he'd probably tell you. His web site is
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