My neighborhood is weird. It looks nice because there are a lot of big old houses, but a lot of the houses are broken up into apartments, so we don’t know anyone. The only person on the street we know is Peggy, who rents the apartment next door. When I first met her—after the masturbating environmentalist moved out—I thought her brains were full of caterpillars and marshmallow.
I still kind of do.
Peggy cares full-time for her grandson, Luke, who is four. We can see right into their living room, and the television is always on. She’s a single grandmother who works at home, so I know she’s doing the best she can but literally, the TV is always on.
On Friday, in preparation for my STD-ridden date night, I played hooky from work. My friend dropped off her three-year-old daughter for a few hours so she and Junior could play outside. After a few minutes I heard:
“Hiiiiiiii, Junior and Junior’s mom. Whatcha doin, Junior? Hiiiiiiiiii. I’m inside……..are you playing outside? Hiiiiiiiiiiii.”
I’m not an unfeeling asshole, at least not all the time, so I invited the boy over. He doesn’t have a yard and from what I’ve seen (yes, of him sitting on his couch), he seems like a decent kid.
So there we were.
Three kids and me.
They were like little bees on speed. They were bored with the sandbox. They were hungry. They were thirsty. This one had too many turns blowing bubbles. One had to pee. The other had to pee. They were hungry again, but not for peanut butter. This time they wanted cheese. No, not that kind of cheese. Nooooooooo! Not that kind!
Finally, I gave them some LEGO people and told them to shut it.
My friend’s daughter picked up two LEGO people and started a pretend conversation: “Do you want to go in my pool?” “No, I’m going to the store.” “Okay, well, good-bye.”
Luke looked at me and shouted, “WHAT is she doing?”
“Playing, sweetie. Do you want to—”
—“WHO is she talking to?”
“The LEGO people.”
“Why? WHY is she doing that?”
The more she made pretend chatter, the more Luke freaked out. I was starting to freak out. I knelt down and explained that she was playing make-believe. She was pretending and using her imagination. But he kept on with the “WHY is she doing that?” And he was, quite clearly, in shock.
Had nonstop TV turned his brain to caterpillars and marshmallow, too? Was it possible that a child couldn’t understand pretend play? I wanted to ask an expert, but the next available person was Chuck.
“What do you think?” I asked him.
“Wait. Pull my finger.”
Morale of the story: Stay inside, but with your shades down and your windows open. Wide open.