Today. In the carpool.


This morning, the boys in the backseat of the minivan turned their conversational prowess to the subject of rats.

“I heard,” said the redhaired boy with an air of both authority and gravitas, “that if they are hungry enough, they will eat your face.” He let that sink in. “Your face,” he added, for emphasis.

“I heard,” my son said, “that they ate everyone on a pirate ship. Like a swarm of rats. Are there swarms of rats? I don’t know what you call a lot of rats. But they ate everyone. Pirates. Real pirates. And then they swam. ACROSS! The OCEAN! And found another pirate ship. And they ate them too. Real pirates. And I read that in a book. So it’s true.”

“Not everything in books is true,” I piped in. I don’t think they heard me.

“I heard,” said one of the blondes, “that a bunch of rats? One time? Swam all the way? To Antarctica? And they ate a penguin. Or maybe it was a penguin. Maybe it was a leopard seal. Are there leopard seals in Antarctica?”

“They couldn’t eat a leopard seal,” my son Leo said. “That is insane. Besides. Leopard seals have leo in them. So. Maybe it was a killer whale. Could rats eat a killer whale?”

“They’re called orcas,” the redhaired boy said.

Your called orcas,” said one of the blondes.

Your mom is called orcas,” said – oh god. One of them. I couldn’t tell which. In any case, I decided it was time to intervene.

“Rats are gross,” I pronounced. Because it is true.

“Well . . . ” Leo equivocated.

“There is no well. Rats are gross. They sleep on their poop and lounge in their pee. Their teeth are yellow and their feet look like aliens and their tails are too gross to be allowed. They are sneaky and evil and would eat us all if they felt like it, but they don’t have to feel like it because most of the time we are just garbage cans with legs and they get enough food from our stupid trash. Also? They eat trash. Gross.”

I might have strong feelings about rats. They may or may not haunt my dreams.

“They’re not, like, the grossest,” one of the blondes – a boy named Ozzy – said.

“Oh yes they are,” I said. there is nothing grosser.

“Well,” Oz said. “I am way grosser than rats.”

“My darling boy,” I said. “You are not anywhere near as gross as a single rat, much less a nest of rats. You are not even in the same league.”

“That sounds like a challenge,” said Oz.

I pulled the car in front of the school and the kids started tumbling out of the minivan.

“It isn’t a challenge, dear. It’s just a fact. When it comes to rats -”

“Well,” he said as he hopped out of the car. He turned to me and bowed with a flourish. “CHALLENGE ACCEPTED!”

“No. It’s just like -”

And the mob of miscreants from the barnhill minivan all started rubbing their hands and cackling with glee.

And I would like to take this opportunity to apologize to their mothers in advance. I have no idea what’s in store, but I’m pretty sure it’s going to be gross. Possibly grosser than rats.


I have been incredibly delinquent in blogging lately, and it’s silly of me, because THINGS HAVE BEEN HAPPENING! Good Things! Exciting Things! And I have much to say in the very near future. And I need to be blogging more regularly, because the fact is, it’s super fun.

I hope all of you have been well, and that your projects are going swimmingly and your families are healthy and your work is fulfilling and you are all on tracks for winning Nobel Prizes in Being Awesome. Smooches to all!



11 thoughts on “Today. In the carpool.

  1. Of course there are new things. I see you have a new book out. I look forward to reading it.
    Rats. Wild ones are not so nice, much like wild cats or wild dogs (and you know what all dogs eat). The rats you get at the pet shop bond with humans and love to be with us. They will will snuggle inside your clothes, ride on your shoulder and generally be very affectionate. Of course you have to put up with little pee and poop. But, they make wonderful pets.

    • My rat-owning neighbor has said as much. Also that they can be trained and can do cool tricks. I like cool tricks. I do not like those disgusting tails, so no rats for me.

      Now, mind you, we do own guinea pigs, which are gross and not very smart. But they have such cute little personalities, so I put up with the poop. I did something similar, once upon a time, with babies.

  2. Another nice post. Thank you. I enjoy reading about your driving to school experiences.

    I happen to like rats, but draw the line with other creatures. Ever been up close to a possum? Those things are all teeth. They’re like rats that got trapped in a mad scientist’s invention, blown up to three times the regular size, with teeth from a chainsaw. BTW, have you read China Mievile’s King Rat? I just finished it, and its every bit as gross as you can imagine. And still good. And his pied piper is PURE EVIL.

    And seriously, a week after TWB came out and NOW you post something? I knew it would be out soon, but assumed you would post something so I’d know when to buy it. Especially during that first week when such things matter. Please keep in mind some of your fans have fuzzy memories when it comes to dates and calendars and such. And the week when your book released you’re allowed to brag about it and NOBODY CARES. Really. Its a weird social media thing. There’s even evidence for it any everything. I’m sure your publisher would agree.

    Getting my copy at the local bookstore today.

    • I know right? I get an F in novelisting. Soon I shall write a post about the silence that falls on the mouths and hands of the writer with a book out. I’m only just starting to find my voice again.

      I hope you dig the book!

      • I have a potential client just up the road who has written twice to me asking for samples that they might consider me. This is probably the best retouching place in town, perhaps (no joke) the universe. I have these things laying about, examples of poor photos twisted by my hand into glorious advertising. All I need is to put a few together into a pretty package, and put a shiny bow on top. Really just a few. Over 21 years of working at a professional in advertising, and I still absolutely suck at selling myself. Go figure.

        But hey, at least there’s always something left to learn. Imagine if we ran out of things to learn. I’ll take rats over that any day.

  3. You don’t ever need to think of any book ideas, ever. Just record those kids in the back of your car.
    BTW I can’t believe that there are mothers who would allow their kids to be driven to school by a writer. What a bad influence!
    Also a candid confession. I periodically awaken during the night and throw rats from the bed. Very real, imaginary rats. It has been many years, but I never know when it will happen again. Usually during times of stress.

    • That is terrifying and fascinating!

      And seriously, these other moms are crazy to leave their kids in my crazy care. Of course, the fact that they’ve agreed to it is perhaps an indicator that it is not such an odd match after all….

What say you?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s