Tuesday, June 19, 2007
Outnumbered by the Enemy
“Dean, do you smell it?”
Stupid question, actually. He doesn't smell things. I don't know if this is an individual characteristic or an inherent property of the male species. His sniffer just tunes out anything but the smells of hops, Taco Bell, and a particular brand of shampoo I used back when we first got together. When I reflect on it, all five of his senses have a high capacity filter that would put a water maker to shame. He hears only what he wants to hear, sees what interests him, and tastes cinnamon and vanilla when I try to sneak them into pancake batter. So “No,” was a foregone conclusion.
“Aeron?” I ask.
I hear a quick, “Maybe,” as my six-year-old daughter ducks under Dr C's arm and disappears into the port hull. Aeron outgrew the tremendous fun of Opposite Day and has moved on to Maybe Day. Maybe means yes-but-I-know-saying-yes-might-get-me-into-trouble. I lean down into the port side and say in my most firm mommy voice, “What do I smell?”
Eight–year-old ingénue Mera smiles sweetly, “Sea urchin.”
Sea urchin. Dead sea urchin, presumably. If it's on the boat, it's dead. “And does the sea urchin have a name?” I ask.
Right. “And does the sea urchin have a home?” You can tell I've done this before.
In fact, I do this daily now that we live on a boat. My eldest Jaime has a passionate desire to be a vet, volunteers for a pet store, and spends all her free time prowling the tide line. Aeron is a magpie crossed with a pack rat and stuffed into a small box full of pink shiny satin and bright bobs of bacteria-encrusted coastal pebbles and shells.
But it is Mera who must be most closely and carefully observed, because she has an imagination. Aeron and Jaime just collect the stuff, play with it for a few hours, and then throw it back overboard. Mera, however, sees a world of adventure in every found object. All those lovely crab shells and pieces of driftwood, robins, eggs, dead starfish, and barnacle-encrusted rocks. Each tells a story.
So yes, Charlie the Sea Urchin has a home. He lives with Beach Babe Barbie (I swear this is Mera’s name and not mine). “He is her body guard,” Mera tells me. “He sits between Barbie and the hatch and keeps the gulls from getting in.”
Now this is actually plausible. The smell of Charlie might well keep any self-respecting sea gull from attacking the cabin. I'm thinking the fact that Beach Babe happens to be buck naked and hidden behind a history book and a box of art supplies might be a greater deterrent. My impulse is to grab Charlie and chuck it out the window, but like any good homeschool parent, I try to find a positivist, educational way to get the dead thing off the boat.
“Mera, I just don't think Charlie is cutting the mustard as a body guard.” Mera regards me seriously, nodding her head slowly. “It's my impression speaking with Mocha Bunny and Sparkelina that the gulls are getting a little cocky and Charlie is just not big enough to fight them off... long spines not withstanding.”
The thing is, my heart just isn't into it; I know I'm fighting a losing battle. The dead things outnumber me, and I've only got so many career-ruining lies in my repertoire to get them fired.