Circus camp II

Gamma: Hello?
Mig: Hi there. You called me earlier?
Gamma: You on your lunch break?
Mig: I was. I was in the basement so I missed your call. What’s up? Everything okay?
Gamma: Fine. We’re going swimming. Lunch was good. Hang on a minute. Two seconds. Don’t hang up. [whispering] Can I tell him? Okay? Oh, dad?
Mig: Yes, honey?
Gamma: A boy who slept in my circus wagon in the group before us had lice so they’re checking us. I might have lice.
Mig: …
Mig: Okay, honey.
Gamma: You can comb them out, right? So no big deal?
Mig: No big deal. They comb right out. Have fun swimming.
Gamma: There’s a public pool right next to the camp.
Mig: I saw it when we dropped you off. It looked very inviting. Have fun! Gotta go!
Gamma: Me too. Bye!

Circus camp

On the weekend Gamma went to camp. It is located in a picturesque area of the country about an hour and a half north of here between the prison and the high-security mental hospital for the criminally insane.

Actually, I was just kidding about the location. It is in a nice area, but there are castles etc., and no hospitals or prisons. There might be, but I didn’t see any.

You never know.

She will sleep in a circus wagon with other girls. There are two dozen kids in all, and they have circus tents as well and will learn to juggle and ride unicycles.

The day after she was dropped off, she called us in the afternoon (we gave her a mobile phone to call us in emergencies or when she got homesick) to tell us they couldn’t go swimming in the nearby river because everything was burning down, and also their wagon had been burglarized and although she lost nothing a mobile phone was stolen from someone else.

But the fire department was on its way as were the police.

Later, she called to say they had gone swimming after all after the fire was extinguished and had eaten sausages.

Alpha spoke to the folks who run the camp and they said it was not arson, someone had a bonfire nearby and sparks had set bushes on fire and they put it out before the fire truck got there.

Later in the evening she called us to say everything was okay and she was homesick, a little.

At night Gamma called us again, begging, screaming and crying at us to come immediately and bring her home because they had seen a strange man sneaking around their circus wagon. This was at about 11 at night. Also they had eaten risotto for dinner. And she had learned a little unicycle riding. But would probably juggle scarves in the show on Friday.

I called her back a few minutes later and the teachers were inspecting the circus camp and she was with them. She was much calmer. She gave the phone to the teacher and he tried very hard to calm me down. The kids have had an exciting day, he said, calmly. There was a fire and beep-beep-beep the phone went dead.

The phone went dead, I told my wife. I didn’t bother calling back. I imagined the kids all fine, snuggled in their beds, and the teacher simply walking with Gamma’s phone into a spot out of transmission range, and not, say, a crazy man with a bloody prosthetic hook.

This morning Gamma called to say she had slept well, and would work on unicycle again today.

Physical therapy at the fun house

On my eighth visit, standing there in my shorts, I finally say to the physical therapist (suspecting her answer will be “no”), “could there possibly be something wrong with your mirror? Because I look about twenty pounds fatter in it than in my mirror at home.”
Instead, she answers, “Yes, it hangs funny because it’s so wide.”
Yes! I shout, inside my head. High five! shouts my inner Borat.
She tells me my lower abdominal muscles are uncoordinated.
Why should they be any different than the rest of me, I say.
Or maybe I just think it.

The Burning of the Zombie’s Hut

Nephew (10): You call that a castle? That’s not a castle. I don’t know what that is. That’s a mansion. That’s a big house. Now Helm’s Deep, that was a castle. The race of the Elves is the biggest in Middle Earth. You call those weapons? Those are crossbows! Where are the longbows? Longbows are much cooler than crossbows. Pwoing! Pwoing! Pwoing! Now, if you had a million elves in this castle with longbows, no one could take it. They could defend it forever. Except maybe against fifty cals. Fifty cals, man. Pfkfkfkfkfkfkfkf! Pfkfkfkfkfkfkfkfk! Whatcha doin?

Uncle: [Typing on laptop.] Working.

Newphew: Cool. What’re those?

Uncle: Er, zombies.

Newphew: Cool. How do you shoot them?

Uncle: You move around with the arrow keys and shoot with the space bar.

Newphew: Look at all that blood.

Uncle: Yes, well. Lego blood.

Nephew: What’re those?

Uncle: Devils. You must watch out for those, they shoot fireballs at you.

Aunt: Aha.

Uncle: The more zombies you kill, the better weapons you get. Exploding barrels are pretty good. You build a wall of those and kill a lot at once. The rail gun can kill a whole line at once, too. Personally, I like the cluster grenades the best. From a purely aesthetic point of view.

Nephew: Kewl!

Cousin (18): [Plays The Burning of the Piper's Hut on Irish harp] [To cousin] C’mere and I’ll teach you how to play it.

Nephew: Okay. [Leaves zombies for harp]

Cousin: [Shows him where the fingers go] Like this.

Nephew: [listens with profound concentration] [plink-plink, plinky-plinky-plink-plink]

Cousin: Exactly

Nephew: [half hour later] [plays first three measures] [broad grin]

Aunt: Dude! I just heard a hedgehog in the back yard. Come look!

Nephew: [dashes outside]


A fly navigates the rim of my coffee cup mug. The mug is half-full and the rim is stained with some dried coffee and there is a fleck of granola the fly is after. I wave away the fly and wipe the rim and have a sip.

The rim is stained with coffee again and the fly comes back. Another fly hoovers the inside surface of my cereal bowl, which looks empty to me but not to the fly which is going after bits of various antique cereals AS BIG AS ITS HEAD.

Then the first fly disappears from the rim of the coffee mug and I wonder whether there was always only one fly, except I saw them flying together in oddball fly formation, just a minute ago.

Then I finish my coffee and run upstairs and get dressed because I have to drive my daughter to work.

Well, run. Walk. Tiptoe. Other people are sleeping.

Well, I was going to, but then she comes into the kitchen and says she is riding her bike. I pour more coffee.

10 year-old boy test

How ten year-old boy are you?

  • Can you fly for 12 hours without sleeping?

  • Can you go another half day, or longer, without sleeping (or even whining) after arrival?
  • During this long day, can you also ride a borrowed bike for miles?
  • And do backflips on a trampoline for ten minutes without stopping?
  • And ride the bike some more, on a bmx course?
  • And the next day go climbing for hours on cables and zip lines on a climbing course?
  • When you visit a castle, are your only complaints that they have no elven longbows in the armory and that it is a renaissance castle and therefore doesn’t resemble Helm’s Deep enough?
  • When your cousin gets carsick beside you in the van, are you nice to her about it, and ask, instead, only, WHAT SMELLS LIKE A DEAD RAT?
  • When your relatives take you and your dad to see the ruins of a different, medieval castle are you all Now THAT’S More Like It as you climb the rocky, steep, slippery approach making longbow sounds, speaking of enemy hordes and Tolkein races as you explore the dungeon and examine the view of the valley below and the defenses and orcs and elves and arrow slits and demonstrating how metaphor can be used to gain traction on a flood of new information?
  • Are you ready to go back to the bmx course again today as soon as you wake up, but maybe not the trampoline since your cousin terrified your aunt and uncle by spraining her back when she ill-advisedly tried an unsupervised backflip and got taken to the hospital late at night?

If you can answer Yes to all of these questions, then you are a ten year-old boy*

*Which leads me to conclude that I was never a ten year-old boy. Not yet, anyway. There’s always hope, I guess.