Seems ages have passed……

“Boo, can you get me the Kleenex from the back please?”

I waited, my eyes on the road. The kid who lives in my house and me were whizzing along the Bord du Lac. It was Sunday morning and all was right with the world. What can I say? Driving with the river breeze on my face, cash in my pocket, slightly tipsy from the CPR I had done on those two Artois sisters, 5% v/v. And a cuddly kid by my side.

Guess he didn’t hear my request. “Boo, can you get me the Kleenex from the back please?” I repeated, never taking my eyes off the road. The Bord du Lac is a narrow curving boulevard that hugs Olivier and we were doing around ninety. At that speed you don’t want to drive into those bone-chilling waters.

Olivier? Olivier->Lawrence Olivier->St Lawrence River. Names by association. You’re looking at an association genius. The kid and I play associations off each other all the time.

“Boo, you’re not listening. Get me the Kleenex from the back please,” I was exasperated. My Dad would have clipped me on the back of my head if I hadn’t responded by now. But I desisted. Times have changed. You can’t bop your kid any more these days. I turned and gave him a fleeting glance. He looked at me and laughed.

“Choochoo, you have to be specific,” he tittered, “Back could be anywhere. It could be outside, behind us, on the road. With you doing ninety, I can’t be stepping out just to get you Kleenex which must be miles behind us by now.”

I cursed. I’d forgotten we were playing a game I had invented in order to get him to be more focused and clear in his oral communication. If he told me to do something or I him, we needn’t do it till the instructions were absolutely clear. That was the game.

“Okay, get me the Kleenex from the back seat.”

“No can do, Dudeedoo,” the kid’s eyes were gleaming and he bopped up and down on his seat in delight,” the Kleenex is inside a box and I would have to get you the whole box. You didn’t ask for the whole box.”

“Okay, get me one Kleenex from the box that is on the back seat of this car,” I was defiant, pissed off as hell.

“Noity Doity, ne pas posseeble, mon père,” What do they call men who strangle their sons?

The kid was on a roll. He clarified,” Since you didn’t specify the method I’d have to use, I decided to wait for the car to stop, get off and open the back door, reach in and get the Kleenex. So unless you stop, which you can’t right now if you don’t want a ticket, I can’t fulfill your order. Hyak!”

“Okay, reach behind you, locate the box of Kleenex on the back seat, pick it up and place it on your lap. Remove one sheet from the box and hand it to me.”

“No can…” he checked himself when he saw the murderous expression on my face and hurriedly reached behind,” oh, all right all right, here.” I angrily snatched the Kleenex from his hand and turn to look at him. That’s when I noticed the bruise, an angry purple patch just behind his left ear.

“Hey, when did that happen?”

“Thursday at school.” I noted that his face had clouded. As if on cue, Bunty began a gradual deceleration and edged toward the gravel on the side of the road and coasted to a halt a few yards from the river bank. Bunty can sense stuff, I tell you. In the distance, a white sail boat passed and something shiny on its deck glittered for a moment in the reflected sunlight. I switched off the ignition.

There is nothing more painful than seeing your offspring hurt. Any sort of hurt, be it illness, accident or malice. You feel like you’ve failed him, failed to be there for him. There is a rage that builds up, an anger that transcends everything else. You would kill, if a weapon were to be placed in your hands.

It all came out in a flood of tears.

From the time his new school year began early September, there was this older boy in his class, who was repeating Secondaire-2, having failed his year. The boy was huge, a rookie quarterback in the school football team.

At first there were snide remarks and then it escalated. The boy would block his path, shove him to one side, step on his foot, trip him, snatch his books away from him. The kid hadn’t reacted and had tried to ignore it and get on. Until last Thursday, when his head glanced off the corner of a desk after being tripped again.

We met with the Principal. The process of inquiry at the school began. The bully and his parents were was put on notice. The physical aggression stopped but snide remarks behind the back at the cafeteria, the twisted locker latch, graffiti with marker pens on his desk, aggravations that could not be proven – those went on. There were these other kids in the background, part of a wolf-pack, egging the bully on.

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It’s almost a decade since that drive. A couple of years after that incident, the kid turned fourteen and fourteen is a sort of threshold beyond which most kids suddenly mature beyond physical harassment and go on to more subtle, psychological torments. This kid could take any amount of that and give back in kind, no problem. He has grown taller and learnt to handle such situations with ease. And just as we all do, he has put this thing behind him and moved on.

So have we, him and me, moved on to newer mind games.