“Lotus, I have to write something. What am I going to write about? I can’t think of anything.” I’m whining a little bit here. To the nine year old. You know it’s been a long day when the chain of command breaks down like this.
“Write about cherries and strawberries and ice cream.” She didn’t even have to think about it. It was as if she’d been waiting all day for me to pose that question to her.
Long slow blink. She grins, showing that ridiculously adorable mixture of adult and baby teeth.
“Oookaaaay. Sure. Cherries and strawberries and ice cream. But in what context?”
“In the context of them being delicious.” Giggling. Then more giggling.
“Right. But there should be a plot. And a message. I feel like I should start striving to have a message in my articles.”
“The plot is that a cherry princess got kidnapped by a strawberry giant from a far off land of ice cream. Delicious, flavorful vanilla ice cream. And that’s the message, too. Vanilla ice cream can be really delicious and flavorful. Like when Daddy makes it.” More giggling. It could be argued that at this point, the girl had dissolved into giggles.
Long slow blink.
“You know what? I am going to write that. Now go to sleep, and no sneaking books under the covers so I get distracted from my ice cream and strawberries to come up here and de-book you.” I kiss her goodnight.
I lumber downstairs. I type the above. I may or may not have begun to play Castleville.
The front door opens, scaring me half to death.
It’s the six year old, coming back from the neighbor boy’s birthday party. I realize I’ve entered a stage in my life when my children are out later on a Saturday night than I am.
The six year old is riled up, bouncing off the walls in a fume of sugar and social interaction. He tells me all about the party, but in disjointed, fragmented sentences that follow no clear linear narrative. I’m eating a sandwich while he speaks.
“Stop that!” I say, swatting his hand away from my sandwich. “Didn’t you eat over there?” He nods, tells me he did eat over there, and proceeds to pick at my sandwich while telling me about the burp maker his friend has downloaded on his Kindle.
Long slow blink.
“Joaquin, I need your help. I need to write something. What am I going to write about?” Shamelessly mining from the kids. I don’t care.
He shrugs, then bounds off downstairs to hang up his coat.
“Write about a battle!” I hear from the family room.
“A battle? What battle?” This is as unspecific as strawberries and cherries.
“I don’t know. A battle in the Civil War?” His voice is muffled as he wrestles his coat up onto the hook.
“But what should happen? What should the story be?” I pick at my sandwich, wishing one of the kids would streak through the house, or stick something up a nose, or do something concretely amusing I could write about.
“Well,” the boy says, leaping back up the stairs and appearing suddenly at my side, “there should definitely be explosions. And cannons. Battles have to have that to be good. But explosions and cannons that would be around in the Civil War, otherwise people will know you don’t know what you’re talking about.”
Long slow blink.
From upstairs, the girl, who has been eavesdropping, starts wailing, indignant that I’m polling a brother for more blog fodder. I assure her that I already wrote what she told me to do, and pipe down, and shut that book, I know you’re reading under the covers, I don’t even need to look at you.
“A Civil War battle. With particular attention paid to verisimilitude. Got it. But what should the message be? I really think I should start striving to have a message in my articles.”