I’m leaning in through the back of the car, doing up the straps on Thing 2’s car seat when I think I hear it. Not a whole, spoken word, but more of a breathe shaped by some consonants, right there in my left ear.
I swivel my head, exorcist-style, and study Thing 1 who is staring straight ahead, angelically, no less. Clean, softly-rounded features, the picture of childhood innocence. “What….did you say?” I ask.
He slowly turns to look at me, his eyes hooded, thoughtful. “I said fuck,” he tells me benignly, “but I said it very quietly because I DO that sometimes.”
“Oh you do?” I am stalling for time, filling the silent space in the car. I needn’t have bothered.
“oooOOOOOoooo, you said FUCK!” Thing 2 pipes up. “And YOU just said fuck too!” shouts Mr 5 from one row forward, eager to get some mileage out of the situation. “And anyway,” he continues, “I do actually hear you say it some other times too.”
“Well, yes, I DO say it sometimes,” Thing 2 admits, “but it’s only when I want to be an adult, because that’s a word that children shouldn’t say”. Oh the logic.
“I WHISPERED IT TO MYSELF,” Thing 1 cuts in, “but YOU,” he indicates Mr 5, “YOU call me a poo-head-face all the time!”
Mr 5 hangs his head and confesses. “I do say that, but it’s only because I’m the oldest and you won’t do what I tell you, like, you know that time when you got the biggest piece and I wanted it? I say it at THOSE times because I don’t want to say, you know, the other thing.”
I raise my eyebrows at him, stunned, but he reads my face as a question.
He unravels. “I call him a poo-head-face, but only because I know I am not allowed to tell him to fuck off”.
“ENOUGH!!!” I roar.
I glare at them all, slam the back door and sit on the ground, where they can’t see my completely inappropriate laughter.