It’s a war zone in here.
Every day I feed my child soldiers, hunker down for the shelling and hope my sanity holds out ‘til peacetime.
It all started when The Husband decided, with husbandly abandon, that our Firstborn is old enough to battle him in Call of Duty. That’s a military-inspired video game full of virtual combat and scary booms.
“But it’s so VIOLENT,” I whined.
The Husband snurked. “Really,” he said. “This from the woman who teaches Irish fight songs to children.”
I gulped. Irish fight songs feed my life’s flame.
So The Husband and Firstborn hunted each other in Call of Duty while the younger three boys watched. And learned.
I was kneading challah in the kitchen, whistling an Irish fight song when the twins tore past me wielding pistols built from Tinker Toys.
“Prghh! Prgh-prgh!” said the twins, for their pistols.
I grabbed my hair with floury hands. “WHAT is going on here?”
But the twins slid around the corner and into no-man’s land, still detonating saliva in their cheeks.
Middleborn materialized behind me, smashed between the refrigerator and an open cupboard door.
“Oh, honey – “ I began. But Middleborn’s eyes dilated and he held one finger to his lips.
Well I ain’t no snitch. I didn’t give away Middleborn’s position.
It was no use though. The twins sniffed out Middleborn’s signature musk of pencil shavings and smashed chocolate.
“PWRKKH!” said the little, feisty twin, firing a high-caliber Tinker-Toy pistol.
Middleborn crumpled to the ground.
Little-Feisty threw a small tinker structure at the big, sweet twin’s feet. Big-Sweet “died” from the blast.
“Heyyy!” protested Little-Feisty. “You weren’t supposed to die.”
“Really?” Big-Sweet’s ears slid upward on his skull as he grinned at the thought of an extra life. “I thought you hit me with a grenade!”
“It was Nova gas,” said Little-Feisty.
Big-Sweet’s smile faded; his ears slid back down.
“You have to have a seizure and become paralyzed,” said Little-Feisty with a nod.
Big-Sweet froze, convulsed, fell to the floor and stared dazedly at the ceiling.
I grabbed Little-Feisty’s chin before he could go for the kill. Tilting his plump brown face upward I saw how his cheeks glowed through sludgy black streaks.
“Is this … ash?” I asked.
He beamed like a connoisseur whose genius has finally been recognized. “Yes! This is my war paint,” he said, then he scampered back to his base.
Meanwhile, Big-Sweet and Middleborn rose from the dead, put their weapons back together and plunged into the battlefield, rifles first.
The Husband ambled into the kitchen.
“Sure is nice to see them all playing like this,” he said.
“But why are we back in this big Call of Duty phase?” I asked with a sigh. “That’s something you played, like, 10 years ago.”
Before we had a million obligations, The Husband would play Call of Duty with his friends for hours.
“And what were you doing during those hours?” he asked.
I remember that clearly. I stole a wooden rocking chair from the front porch, draped a blanket over it and placed it next to a baby crib. Then, nursing my swaddled, plump new baby, I rocked back and forth and read Herman Melville. Then Emily Brontë.
Beyond the blue curtains, which I’d cinched with old ribbons, night clouds congealed and tore. The moon fizzled against the fabric.
I moved on to John Donne, Aldous Huxley, Scott Fitzgerald, Mary Shelley: a baby on one arm, a book on the other.
Before they died, literary giants poured their essence onto pages. But I felt that every word was written for my benefit alone; that writers flung their searching tendrils onto blank pages simply to reach me, in a dark nursery with an all-knowing infant. And I cradled the hope that someday I, too, could pierce time and space, and the barriers of solitude, with a whisper.
“See?” said The Husband. “Call of Duty helped to make you who you are.” And he trotted off, whistling.