Three a.m.: The Onamotapeiac Hour
Then the whisk of our duvet being flung open as Groom garbled, “Whaat und whooo huh? Fonzi hug me? Is someone there? Someone? Did someone just vomit in the hall?”
By the end of that string of kerflabble, I had been yanked from blissful black to adrenalized alertness. If it’s mid-winter, and a splat has been heard on floorboards in the middle of the night, then vomit is (literally) afoot. Groom was already heading towards the source as I shook my brain into a semblance of sense and leapt out into the 54 degrees of House at Night. Three seconds later, I was up to speed and ready to wrangle.
I may have trouble feeding the children with regularity, but I am ever Barf’s handmaiden.
As Team Groggy Parent careened into the hallway, we encountered a shivering Girl, riveted there in the hall, staring in awe at the offering pooled around her feet. Respectfully, we all took a quiet moment to admire her artistry–a vivid palette of red and maroon and burnt sienna, all heaved so effortlessly onto the oak. Had we the fortitude, we would have let the pile dry onto the boards for a few days, carefully excised them from the surrounding floor, hung a hook on the back, and driven the whole thing down to a gallery in the tourist center of the city; properly lit, this piece could have garnered us a cool three hundred. Out-of-towners, up The Shore for the weekend, eager to purchase an example of local talent, would surely have appreciated the cachet of displaying Girl’s Pukescape in the foyer. They would have paid. Oh, yes, they would have paid.
However, Groom and I always get reactive around heaps of hurl; the art world will survive the loss. Groom threw on a shirt (hazmat suit) and began the mop-up. Even as I shouldered the strenuous shift of Girl Cuddling and Temp Taking, I managed to point out, helpfully, “You know, we have five nice things in this house. Three of them are the washcloths you’re using.”
His voice irrationally pinched for someone doing nothing more than squatting on the floor at 3 a.m., wiping up someone else’s spew, Groom replied, “They’re doing the job, and we can wash them when I’m done.”
True ‘nuf, Galahad. I suppose we could, even though those three washcloths, along with the Kitchenaid mixer and the vintage Schwinn in the garage, constituted our children’s inheritance. But wouldn’t it have been easier if we had had urp-rags at the handy upstairs, so that we never again would have to misuse the very goods that might help finance the kids’ college tuition?
Hold your answer. It may come in handy in about six paragraphs. As you strive to keep your thoughts in check, picture us wiping, rinsing, medicating, patting, tossing, and then, back in bed at last, turning for another hour and half before we could get the stench out of our nostrils long enough to cop a dozzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzze once again.
Later the next day, and I’m going to call it Thursday, Groom came home from the gym. Normally, Groomeo is not a gym fan (he’d have to be big and industrial, if he were, with a head that didn’t tire of rotating gently throughout the humid summer months), as he believes bodies in motion should traverse natural spaces and actually cover Point A, the inbetween, and eventually Point B–not so much the same six-foot treadmill belt ninety kwathajillion times. However, he’s had to concede that the pool at the gym works better for swimming than the running trails around the city do, especially after he almost lost a hand in ’03 doing the breast-stroke up a particularly rocky and steep path. Since then, all his swims are carried out in open water, which, when it’s 40 degrees below zero and all the world is ice, means the gym.
Plopping down his bag on the kitchen floor, he announced, “So, I went ahead and signed up for that ‘Couch Potato Triathlon’ they’re doing this month at the Y.”
Clearly, there was only one possible reaction: “Evil Pod Martian, I am going to tell you this once and only once: I’m going to need my real husband returned to me before dinnertime tonight–because he cooks the dinner, and I’m already feeling a might peckish. So give him back NOW, or I will squash you like a walnut between the nutcrackers that are my thighs. And don’t try to pass off yet another of your clearly-flawed clones of him. Return the one who told me the other day, when I asked if he’d ever spend an evening with fellow voters, ‘I’d go for a two hour run, but I’d never spend two hours caucusing, stuck there in a place with strangers, having to pretend I could stand them.’ That’s the man I want back, not this defective ‘I’m-a-joiner’ copy you’re trying to pawn off on me now.”
“No, really, Joce, it’s really the real me, and I did sign up. I decided it would give me some motivation to swim more, and I’ve been wanting to bike more, and all I’ll have to do as part of the ‘triathlon’ is log my miles each time I go in.”
I perked up. “Plus, I’ll bet there’s a fine reward at the end, inn’t there? Not a trophy, not a medal, not a plaque. You’re going to get saddled with your 223rd race t-shirt, aren’t you, for doing this Sofa Tater doohickie? And really, hasn’t your closet been needing yet another too-long cotton shirt with a poorly-designed graphic on the front? Weren’t you just saying the other day you’ve been needing a man blouse that prominently features a spud reclining in a La-Z-Boy?”
“Well,” he responded, “it’s not like I have to wear the dumb t-shirt. I mean, we always need rags…”
…and with those words, a blinding flash of illumination knocked us both to the linoleum, where we lay stunned, flattened, wondering why we don’t sweep more often.
Yes, we always need rags.
Especially in the mid-winter months.
When dinners involving kidney beans and tomatoes go splat in the night.
At the moment of this illumination, things suddenly got all sciencey. See, the universe is a place of exquisite elegance: in an ecological system, a need is sensed, and, providentially, something arises to meet that need. In the biological world, this mutually-benefical reciprocity is called “co-evolution.” (And, yes, that is the one thing I know about the biological sciences since the sole time I ever took biology was in the 7th grade; sure, we pinned down some worms and dissected the fetal pig and all that year, but mostly I remember the teacher, Mr. Leland, ran into some trouble for liking to cozy up to the nubile lads in the class. Me, he never gave a second glance. That’s why I hadn’t even heard the term co-evolution until last week, when Groom told me about it. That one? He glances twice, even thrice, at me, so I remain his diligent student.)
In case you need something more technical than what I gleaned from Mr. Leland and his substitute teacher, Naturalist Groom, The Wikipiddle blathers this: “In biology, co-evolution is the mutual evolutionary influence between two species. Each party in a co-evolutionary relationship exerts selective pressures on the other, thereby affecting each others’ evolution. Examples of co-evolution include pollination of Angraecoid orchids by African moths. These species co-evolve because the moths are dependent on the flowers for nectar and the flowers are dependent on the moths to spread their pollen so they can reproduce. The evolutionary process has led to deep flowers and moths with long probosci.”
Mmmmm. Long probosci. Rock it, Mr. Leland.
Oh, but, er, to refocus. Furniturial Triathlete Groom and I had been licking the tiles in the kitchen, illuminated. Even after we closed the refrigerator door, bidding adieu to the 40-watts of helpful light, the idea remained. We found ourselves crawling across an historical moment of adaptive co-evolution.
This is why we have hired a contractor to build a small glass case into the wall upstairs, just outside the kids’ room. In that case, behind the glass pane (to be broken only in the case of emergency), there will be a hook. And on the hook will dangle the Couch Potato Triathlon t-shirt, waiting to fulfill its destiny, poised to leap into the next