Want Crayons (Toddler Art?)

The kid has started coloring on the walls.

We’ll start with the metaphorical.

He’s caught another stomach bug – his third, or his second and a half, depending on how you quantify the two weeks of pain we endured at Casa de Pav back in January.  How he keeps catching this evil is beyond me, but he doesn’t catch it halfway – it starts out of nowhere with a big, dramatic vomiting spell (I could tell about the time I was in Wal-Mart with the sprout at 7 AM and he erupted in a fountain of cottage cheese and peach slices shutting down an aisle and requiring me to make a pit stop through the toddlers’ clothing section which I was not planning on making and then carrying him home wrapped in my hoodie and his clothing in a garbage bag, but I won’t, I MEAN OOPS).  Then he moves on to blowing out his diapers and literally pooping the rainbow for a few nights.  We’re on night two.

I feel for the poor kid.  He’s had a rough weekend as far as toddlers go, for whom every day which does not see your every whimsical desire fulfilled to the fullest possible extent.  In short, every day is a rough day.  But the weekend has been a bad one, by dint of a couple of things.

First, the barfing.  That’s never fun; it scares the haberdashery out of him every time, and it would be better if you could comfort him but the only thing that really comforts him is being held and, well, eww.  He hasn’t developed the decency to bend at the waist while he’s blowing chunks (a skill which, like so many others we take for granted as adults, is apparently NOT second nature after all) so he likes to walk around while he’s spewing, really maximizing the ratio of affected area versus possible area.  Of course his clothes get caught in the crossfire (just made myself laugh out loud and gag a little simultaneously, a pretty unique feeling), so holding and hugging him is low on the list following one of these sessions.  Also, his last vomit fountain was bright pink; fluorescent, almost.  The only saving grace is that it happened out of the house (in grandma and grandpa’s house.  Sorry about that.)

Second, the poops.  I won’t go into too much detail here for the benefit of those of you reading this who do not have (and have not had) young kids whose poops you have to clean up.  I will just say that his entire, uh, undercarriage is raw and painful to even look at, so I can only imagine the discomfort the sprout is in.  Honestly, picturing it mentally to try to write about it is giving me the haberdasheryfied heebie-jeebies.  We’ll just stop here.  ORANGE POOPS GREEN POOPS OATMEAL-COLORED POOPS OH MY stopping now.

Third, I tried to do a nice thing for him on this weekend of horrible weather and horrible sickness.  To be fair, I didn’t really know how sick he was at the time, so it’s sadder for me now.  I tried to take him to the mall for happy running-free unfettered playground magical wonderland time (see my previous post on toddler heaven) and the goldfinger playground was closed for some random publicity stunt in the food court.  Foolishness.  Knowing the tantrums and blowups that can result from a small thing like, oh, I don’t know, not being allowed to dig through the trash and pull out the salmonella-infested chicken-trimmings which would of course cause him to DIE IMMEDIATELY (this thought process on the behalf of parents is REAL), I’m sure I don’t have to hyperbolize to accurately represent to you the overwhelming ways in which happiness completely and utterly failed to ensue when I had spent the entire morning talking up “Playground?  Bear (we call him Bear) wants to go to the playground?” and then had to tell him, within sight of the Holy Land itself, that it was closed and he couldn’t play.  In fact I won’t try to describe it.  I’ll just let your imagination fill your ears with his heartbroken cries.

SO, a difficult weekend to be a two-year old in the Casa de Pav.  But now, we can return to the literal.

I finally remembered that I’ve been meaning to start tracking his growth here in the house in a concrete and measurable way that my wife and I can look back on in a few years and say, “aww, he was, in fact, that tiny once,” so I rounded up the sprout and a crayon and I drew a line on the wall over his head.  You know the drill.

What I forgot to remember is that every moment in a toddler’s life is a moment in which the toddler is learning things about the way the world works.  Whether the thing he is learning is the thing you’re trying to teach is, of course, a thing you can laugh about later.  What I wanted him to learn was that we can make a permanent mark on the world around us, that we can leave landmarks to the future from the long-forgotten past, that even when he gets bigger, we will still have proof that he was once tiny, helpless, adorable.  In retrospect, I see that perhaps those concepts were and are a bit abstract for a brain that has trouble understanding that the trash can is a thing that should be stayed away from, even though it’s a lesson we’ve tried to teach, oh, I don’t know, maybe thirty times last night alone.  (Can you tell that the kid playing in the trash is a fargoing ISSUE in our house?)

What he learned, on the other hand, is that crayons can make pretty, colored markings on walls JUST LIKE THEY DO ON PAPER.

So in short order, this happened:


What can I say. It’s hard to take it away from him when he’s feeling so pitiful.  We’re pretty much resolved to the fact that if we ever want to move we’re just going to have to burn the house to the ground.  What harm are a few more marks on the wall?

The Acid Orphan

This is my second bite at the apple for Chuck’s 5 random words challenge.  If anything, it teaches me that I should trust my instincts.  This title occurred to me immediately, and I shied away from it initially, but it just wouldn’t go away.  I realized, as soon as I gave it serious consideration, that it meshes perfectly with another novel idea that I’ve had; maybe the next one I’ll write after I’m finished with AI.

So, lesson learned, and fun has been had writing this one.  It’s not as dark as my others of late either, so there’s that, too.

994 words, and I could easily have kept going.



The Acid Orphan

When Terry arrived at the League, the wolves began to circle.  They always did, of course, when an Orphan arrived.  But something about Terry drew them in more than usual.  Maybe it was her tiny stature, maybe it was her too-pale skin, maybe it was the strange symbols tattooed on her wrists that she refused to explain.

Not every Orphan is an orphan.  Some of them come from loving households.  But even those have an unmistakable air of abandonment about them.    A sadness, a weariness, a mistrust cultivated from years of rejection, years of phone calls home from the principal, years of being locked away, being forced to hide, forced to pretend.  Every recruit at the League has felt it in some capacity or another — we are all a bit different — but the Orphans carry it heaviest of all; it is a part of them, etched on their heart, stamped on their soul.  You can spot it on them, smell it, like dogs smell fear.  Abandoned.  Turned out.  Unwanted.

The unspoken hierarchy of the school puts them at the bottom, where by and large they stay, outcasts even in the place that should sweep them close.  Most of them drop off the face of the earth once they pass their evaluations, choosing to live in exile or even to check out for good.  They become hermits even among the hermits; all of us are reclusive by nature, but the Orphans take it to extremes.

Funny thing, though, is that the Orphans have a way of being the strongest and smartest.  Something about working so hard for so long to suppress your Ability makes it fester and expand, an amoeba feeding on its own colony.  Exposure to the Catalyst would then cause it to flare up and spike, like a saucepot boiling over and spattering the kitchen with bits of tomato.  Accidents happen all the time at the League: a classroom will have all its windows blown out, a student will lose an eye or have a limb shattered in a routine sparring session, that kind of thing.  They always look at the Orphans first.  Unofficially, of course.

In her first month, Terry shut down the entire academic wing of the complex — all thirty classrooms — for a week.

She claimed it was an accident, and nobody doubted it.  But I saw her smirk when she came out of the council’s office.  She saw me see her and she smiled, a lock of her short, chemically-blackened hair falling across one eye.  She casually unwrapped a lollipop as she asked me, “How’s Gina doing?”

I laughed mirthlessly.  Gina had marked Terry immediately — she loved to give Orphans hell — and invited her to the roof for a “welcoming ceremony” with some of her friends.  What happened next was a story none of them were willing to tell, but all of her friends came back covered in boils and burns.  Gina had the worst of it.  Her face was unrecognizable: a riot of red, puckered skin and swelling sores.  Half her hair was gone, dissolved in a sizzling gout of Terry’s acid blood.  The runoff had oozed down through the building, chewing through cement and steel and drywall and wires.  It had been three days before they were even sure they’d cleaned it all up.  Incidentally, that was how we had all learned what Terry’s Ability was; until that day, it had been the subject of heated supposition.

Gina was out of the infirmary — I’d seen her that morning — but still pretty badly scarred and burned.  “She’s not so great,” I replied.  “I’d watch out for her if I were you.”

Terry chuckled.  “I doused her so that I don’t have to watch out for her.”

That made sense to me, so I told her as much, and that’s how I made friends with the Acid Orphan.

We walked outside, talking aimlessly.  She was more than happy to demonstrate her Ability for me, though she insisted that it was silly to call it an Ability.  It was her blood; slightly caustic before, but the Catalyst had turned it into a smoldering poison.  It didn’t harm Terry, but it burned like hellfire on the skin and it could eat through almost anything if allowed to work.  It was a liability until she learned how to weaponize it.  She took off one of the oddly spiked rings that she wore on her thumbs and handed it to me: a simple band of dark steel with a viciously curved talon of topaz in the center.  The precious stone, she explained, was one of only a few substances that could abide her blood.  The ring was too heavy for its size and the stone was wickedly sharp.  It had to be, she told me.


She grinned a mischievious grin at me and slid the ring back on her thumb, the glimmering claw turned toward the inside of her hand.  With a deft, practiced motion, not unlike a snapping of her fingers, she drew her pinky across the ring and then pressed her thumb to the blood that welled up.  Thick and dark, it looked perfectly normal, but it smelled of foxglove, almost medicinal.  When she smeared her hand in the grass, it began to smoke, the vegetation withering and then simply coming apart, the dirt beneath blackening and sizzling.

She watched the poison boiling into the earth, her eyes unblinking.  “A deeper cut means more blood, and more blood turns these,” she held up her hands, looking at me between splayed fingers, “into weapons of mass destruction.”

“Perfect,” I said.

“What?” She asked.

I could already see events unfolding in my mind.

“Could you use that to open a door?  Like, a reinforced door?”

Terry rolled her eyes.  “I can remove a door.”

“Do you want to help me with something?”

“Depends,” she said, “Will we have to break any rules?”

I wasn’t quite sure how to answer.

“Then yes,” she said.