Dr. Jones, my little girl who's in first grade, was so happy when I picked her up from school last night. She'd taken her hair out; it dwarfed her body, hanging in these huge, spastic curls all around her face and torso. She practically bounced into the truck, then smiled kindly at her twelve-year-old sister. "Hippie, I wanted to see you!"
The Hippie smiled back, and I thought momentarily how much they'd look alike if The Hippie had staticky brown hair instead of straight blonde.
"Would you like to go to the gas station?" Dr. Jones said in her high, sweet voice. "I have some money, and I'd really like to buy you something."
"Well, sure." The Hippie seemed genuinely moved until a strange thought must have come to her. She paused before turning quizzically to her little sister. As they stared at each other in the back seat, I felt as if watching one of those westerns, where two gunslingers meet at high noon, and have a freakin showdown. I could almost smell the dust swirling around, feel the adrenaline of life on the edge, taste the scent of horses who were ready to ride into the sunset...
My kids--who apparently had entered a stare-off in the car, and were completely oblivious to my daydream--those kids remained quiet for an eternity. All I heard was the clunking of my engine, which has surprisingly good rhythm, 250,000 miles, and a mind all its own.
"I thought you were broke," The Hippie finally said to her sister. "Where...did you get the money."
"Oh, this?" Dr. Jones pulled a five-dollar bill from her fluffy pink backpack. She held the money in her chubby hands, like Gollum fondling the ring of doom. "This is the money I stole from you. So that's why I want to buy you something with it, since it used to be yours and everything."
"Ummm, what?!" The Hippie's eyes widened, and her eyebrows ascended so high, I thought she'd gotten an electric shock. "Dr. Jones, rule number one: you should never steal. Rule number two: if you do steal, you should never tell anyone--especially the person you've stolen from."
"I don't get it," Dr. Jones smiled, super sweetly.
"You've done it all wrong. That's all I'm saying. Stealing is all wrong."
"But rule number two, if I hadn't told you, THAT would be better?"
"Yes--I mean..." The Hippie paled. "No." Then she looked at my reflection in the rearview mirror and held up her hands like she didn't know what to do.
"I might have stolen your money, and I might have watched you look for it for a really long time, but at least I told you about it. That WAS pretty great of me," Dr. Jones said.
"Ahh! I want my money back!"
Dr. Jones tapped me on the shoulder. "Mama?"
"Yeah. It's her money," I said. "Stealing is wrong. You really need to give it back."
"Okay." Dr. Jones conceded, and slower than a receding hairline, handed the money to her sister. "Glad. THAT'S. Over...," Dr. Jones said. "Anyway, Hippie, since you have cash, you wanna take me to the gas station?"
"No!" The Hippie shook her head, flabbergasted.
"Why not? When I had money, I was going to take you."
Yes...and I wanted to laugh at several points during this whole interlude. Parenthood: I'd like to say I'm great at it, but today, I'd give myself an F-minus!
Until next time,