Sometimes, my kids will throw bits of the world at me – tiny nuggets of information hoarded and hidden for later, possibly aggressive, use. They are like squirrels gathering acorns for the sole purpose of hurling it at my head when I least expect it. For example, here’s a conversation, in its entirety, that I had with my son this weekend.
LEO: Mom. Is Junot Díaz a writer?
ME: (stares for a long time at my son, trying to figure out how the hell he knows who Junot Díaz is) Um. Yes?
LEO: Okay. (balls up hands into little triumphant fists) I knew it!
ME: Why the sudden interest in Junot Díaz?
LEO: Do you know him?
LEO: Junot Díaz.
LEO: (looking truly sorry) Oh. That’s too bad.
And then he left the room. And I was mystified.
Five minutes later.
LEO: Did Junot Díaz write This Is How You Lose Her?
ME: How do you know who Junot Díaz even is?
LEO: (a long-suffering expression) Everyone knows who Junot Díaz is. Gosh, mom.
(Five minutes later)
LEO: Mom. Who’s your favorite writer?
ME: No idea, honey. A lot of writers are my favorite writer.
LEO: Is Junot Díaz your favorite writer?
ME: (I am absolutely going nuts at this point) What is up with your recent Junot Diaz obsession?
LEO: (ignoring me) Junot Díaz is my favorite writer. I think he should be your favorite writer too. I think you should write like Junot Díaz and then you can be more famous.
ME: Hmmm. How do you mean.
LEO: On the first page of This Is How You Lose Her, there are three swear words. Three, mom. Real swears. In a book. A real book.
ME: Who taught you to read, anyway? No more reading.
LEO: (ignoring me again) If you write like Junot Díaz, then you’ll probably get way more famous. Swears, mom. Real swears. In a book. I didn’t know it was allowed. And if you are more famous then I can have an Ipad.
ME: I see. Cogent arguments, my son. I’ll take them under advisement. And remind me to lock up the books.
LEO: You can’t lock up books mom. They’re escape artists. Everyone knows that.
Later, I was cleaning up his room and I found my copy of The Stand under the pile of hard-worn shorts and tee-shirts and socks. And The Arsonist’s Guide To Writer’s Homes in New England.
LEO: Mom. What does Arsonist mean?
ME: Someone who arranges flowers for a living.
LEO: Are you sure?
ME: It comes from the latin word arse, which means delicate flower.
LEO: I don’t think that’s right. Are you tricking me?
ME: Go to your room.
If the house catches on fire, I have only myself to blame. And also my son. Obviously, I instantly rid my house of any hint of Chuck Palahnuik from my house. And Clockwork Orange has to go. Mr. Burgess and Mr. Zola as well. And everything Russian. I can’t tell if my son is transfixed by grownuppy books because he wants to be like his parents, or if he is actually up to something.
What am I saying? This is Leo. He is clearly up to something. I must now plan for a book-free household. It is clearly my only option.
If I have more children, I am for sure not teaching them to read. And that’s final.