Tuesday, June 26, 2007


We find Quinn and Consort walking through the mall on a sock-and-underwear run. Suddenly, veering sharply in from the food court is a pack of teenage girls, each holding a drink and a snack. They cross in front of Consort and Quinn who pokes Consort in the ribs.

QUINN: Do you see those girls?


QUINN: Do me a favor: look at their butts.


QUINN: Look at their butts.


QUINN: I have a theory. Look at their butts.


QUINN: I’m not asking you to grab them. I’m asking you to look at their butts in the name of science, and then talk about them with me.

CONSORT: I’m in no position to discuss the butts of adolescent girls, and certainly not with you. Maybe I should have mentioned this earlier but I thought it was, y'know, understood.

I was not angling to get Consort popped on a morals charge. I needed corroboration of what I was seeing. There were six girls, all about fifteen. They were Latina, Anglo, Asian and mixtures of all three. None appeared biologically related. The difference in height between the shortest and the tallest was six inches, easily. And yet they all had exactly the same build. From chin to the mid-section, they were fat. I would have said “from chin to waist” but none of them had a waist.

Beefy arms led to pudgy shoulders which drifted down into flesh poking over bra straps.

Plump, absent-minded fingers tugged snug shirts down over bellies which might allude to a worrisome trend -- teenage mothers traveling in packs -- if it weren’t for how each belly was protruding not just in front but on the sides and a bit in the back as well.

The top half of each of these mall aficionadas resembled nothing so much as a...Cinnabon.

And yet their butts were completely flat. I’m not talking enviably small and firm, as would befit girls at their physical and metabolic peak; I’m talking super-size pancake. You’d expect to see these backsides in Boca Raton being worn by women who reacll the Korean War, not girls who weren’t born at the time of Desert Storm. They tossed their Iced Blended cups into the nearest trashcan and raced into Forever 21. Consort, relieved at having been spared what would have been an exquisitely painful conversation possibly ending in Quinn asking icily So you think my upper arms look like theirs…? bolted for Nordstrom’s loving embrace. I trailed behind, gazing closely at the people who passed.

It takes nothing more than binocular vision to see that Americans are growing fatter by the year. However, on a slightly related topic, our clothes sizes are growing smaller. Clothing companies sensing, correctly, that requiring a larger size makes some women cranky and less inclined to buy a seventh blue shirt, humor us by cutting sizes more generously. This marketing ploy even has a term: Vanity Sizing. I can tell you in the last ten years, I have gone down three sizes without losing a pound. In certain stores, I now find my size in the children's department but in vintage wear, I’m a size eight.

I work out pretty regularly, so I need plenty of workout clothing. Because I am cheap, I will not pay sixty dollars for workout pants. Sure, they might be cut better than the twenty-dollar pants I get in the kid’s section at Mervyn’s, but they aren’t cut three times better nor do they render the Cross-Trainer three times more interesting. I buy my cheap pants and, until lately, I’ve been puzzled. I’d get the children's size 18-20 only to find I had about eight extra inches of fabric around my waist, so I’d move down to the 14-16. Still loose around the waist, I’d try on the 10-12, where they would fit around the waist, but the pants would end mid-calf, which offended even my vestigal sense of vanity. So I’d go back to the 14-16s and wash them in hot water until I could cross-train without holding my pants up with shipping tape. But, I would wonder as I sweated and tugged, who were these people for whom these pants were cut?

Now I knew.

They were cut for Cinnabon-bodies. They were cut for these children I was seeing at the mall, and continued to see everywhere I looked for days afterwards. Children as young as five with overhanging bellies and flat butts. Children usually holding some kind of processed food. Let the record show, I’m not moaning about how our kids shouldn’t be eating fast food; every parent needs to make that decision for their own family. And many of the children I saw were with parents who, I’m guessing, were living the complicated life of the working poor where children have to be fed cheaply. But I have lived in Los Angeles my entire life, and have certainly seen a few working-poor families in my day, and I couldn’t recall this particular shape in human beings until a few years ago. On a hunch, I Googled “Abdominal fat” and “Trans-fats” and came up with this:

She (The scientist) fed one group of monkeys a diet where 8% of their daily calories came from trans-fats and another 27% came from other fats. This is comparable to people who eat a lot of fried food, says Kavanagh. A different group of monkeys was fed the same diet, but the trans-fats were substituted for mono-unsaturated fats, found in olive oil, for example.
Both groups ate the same total calories, which were carefully metered to be just enough for subsistence...

...After six years on the diet, the trans-fat-fed monkeys had gained 7.2% of their body weight, compared to just 1.8% in the unsaturated group. CT scans also revealed that the trans-fat monkeys carried 30% more abdominal fat, which is risk factor for diabetes and heart disease.

I’d feel smug about noticing this correlation if the article weren’t a year old, which means everyone else knew about this fat belly/trans fat thing but me. Well, I was busy last year. I was probably eating something. Or driving. Or driving while eating something.

But what's with the flat butt? Nothing came of Googling “Trans fat” and “Flat butt”. [Actually, several links did come up, but they were clearly geared towards a unique, discrete and particularly unsettling clientele.] So I’m going to take my limited knowledge of science and physiology and leap into the deep end of the “Uninformed Speculation” pool. The butt is comprised of three major muscles: the gluteus maximus, gluteus minimus and gluteus medius. If you don’t work muscles, they become flaccid. If you are carrying about 30% more abdominal weight, you’re going to be less inclined to exercise unless forced to, because it will be uncomfortable. Our kids are already running around less at school and at home than ever before in American history and when you add in the disincentive of discomfort, those are three muscles which aren’t likely to be used.

Also, look again at the article I quoted. Note the phrase “Both groups ate the same total calories, which were carefully metered to be just enough for subsistence”. It’s possible some of these kids, overweight though they may be, are malnourished. Caloric intake isn’t the same thing as nutritional intake. If their diet is fat-rich but nutrition-poor, -- a reasonable description of most fast food -- their bodies assign the precious and limited nutrients to the most critical systems, such as the brain and vital organs, and let the less-important systems lag. Muscle tone in the butt isn’t essential, it’s just kind of nice.

By the way, don’t think buying foods with the “Zero grams of trans-fat!” sticker blazing at you will keep you in the clear. Our government has created a loophole wherein anything under a gram of trans-fat per portion doesn’t count; portion size being the big hole in the loop. If you eat enough processed food with “Zero grams of trans-fat!” you can unknowingly eat many grams of trans-fats every day.

Keep those drawstring pants handy.

Monday, June 18, 2007

In difference.

I don’t think the universe wants to keep thwapping me between the eyes in order to teach me a lesson. I just think the universe has learned the subtle message is lost on me; a hard head-flick is the only thing I seem to register.

A few years ago, I was lazing around in my hospital bed, enjoying the fruits of the narco-pharmacology industry when a nurse came in wheeling a cart. On the cart was the eight hour-old reason I was being given all the painkillers private healthcare can buy. The glorious infant was placed in my arms and while she had lunch I basked in her utter perfection. I marveled at her toes. I reveled in her whorls of hair. I examined her ID bracelet like it had been printed by Dürer.

“Look!” I said in wonder to Consort, who was cat-napping in a ludicrously small chair. “They gave her an A-plus. Our daughter is an A-plus baby!”

Consort, wincing, unfolded himself from the chair and hobbled over. He looked at her ID bracelet and kissed my head.

“Quinn,” he said delicately. “I think that’s her blood type.”

“I’m not A-positive,” I spluttered.

“I am,” Consort explained. “It seems she got my blood type,” he added, with just the slightest tinge of paternal pride.

I knew that, but it still struck me as so…unbelievable. This little creature who had lived inside of me, puffed up my feet and put color in my cheeks, this pixie who had demanded en utero that I drive fifteen miles away to get her freshly-made tortillas, had been circulating her own, entirely different blood. In a metaphorical sense she had been keeping her own checking account. In the most physical sense we were two separate people. This was undeniable.

I didn’t deny it. I do, however, continue to be surprised by it.

Daughter resembles me not at all, I am thrilled to say; as far as I am concerned, the sequences of my DNA which affects appearance and allergies should end with me. Daughter is not mother: I got it. And yet when Daughter was small, I kept trying navy-blue dresses on her because I love navy-blue and it comes as close to flattering on me as any color will. On Daughter, with her wildly different skin tones, it doesn’t work. It simply doesn’t work. Yet every single time I would try a navy-blue dress on her, I would think, “Well, that’s odd. Must not be a true navy.”

Yes, that’s the problem: there is a mysterious shortage of true navy-blue dye in the world. The problem couldn’t be that I am an idiot.

It doesn’t stop there. There are books I adored in my childhood which Daughter could take or leave. Being as she is an enthusiastic reader, and being as when it comes to how one spends ones literary time I ardently believe in Chacon a son gout, you’d think I’d just be happy she reads and leave it alone.

Yeah. It’s pretty to think so.

In fact, every six months or so I’ll come strolling into a room where she’s reading and say a little too casually “So…reading, huh? I’ll do some reading as well. Can I join you? Why, I seem to have two books to read. Can’t exactly read two books at once, can I? Say, would you like this copy of ‘Wind in the Willows’? You sure? How about the book on tape, which I just found in my pocket? No? Suit yourself. Let me just sit down here on the couch and….wait a minute, look what I just found under the cushion. Your unread copy of ‘The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe’!”

Unwatched, my dignity dies quietly in the corner, behind the Aslan sock puppet I’ve made from scratch for just such a spontaneous moment.

It’s not as if we are complete enigmas to one another, a sitcom match-up of defrocked Jesuit priest and thawed Yeti. [Hands off, members of the Writer’s Guild. The idea’s mine!]. She loves Mexican food almost as much as I do. We watch “That’s Entertainment” together with pleasure. We both think pulling over the car to meet a pug walking down the sidewalk is a good use of time. But underneath it all, I must never forget that she and I are different. Because I do keep forgetting it, the universe has to keep head-thwapping me.

Last week, Daughter’s class participated in the upper-school’s graduation. Daughter was terribly excited about this. Daughter immediately started agitating for lipstick and heels. Being as she is not a runner-up for Miss Southern California Teeny Temptress, I vetoed the idea out of hand but did offer what I must say was a brilliant counter-proposal: we could use a curling iron on her hair. Gleefully, she accepted.

And now, a word from my hair:


I have the kind of shape-challenged hair that hairdressers speak of to one another in whispers around campfires.

“Did you hear the time Quinn’s hair straightened out a perm? A perm!”

“I hear her hair can straighten your hair just by looking at it…”

“AUGH! The….straightness! It burns!”

So, straight. And not thick enough to have that whole “One quarter Iroquois on my mother’s side, one eighth Chinese from dad” exotic thing; just redefining the industry standard for straight hair straight. I have more experience with hot rollers and curling irons than your average drag queen. I am all too familiar with starting to curl the right side as I watch the left side unspiral in the mirror.

Daughter watched me locate the curling iron, hopping from foot to foot in excitement. “Can we curl my hair tonight? You know, like a rehearsal?” she asked, nearly hiccupping from anticipation.

I started to say no, and then thought, Eh, why not? I need the practice working on a small wiggling model. I agreed. She squealed. The curling iron was plugged in. It less than twenty minutes, I’d created my very own small Breck Girl, all tumbling waves and bouncy flips. I doubt, however, most of the women who worked for the Breck shampoo company heard their hairstylists shrieking “STOP TOUCHING YOUR HAIR!” In my defense, I knew from painful experience that our kind of hair takes any digital contact as an excuse to uncurl even faster. I sprayed lightly, and stepped back to admire the hairdo. I then sent her to bed, kissing her good-night and waving a fond farewell to my follicular handiwork.

The next morning, I heard her feet hit the ground and run across the room where, from years of maternal echo-location, I knew she was checking her hair in the mirror. I braced myself for the moan of disappointment.

“My hair’s still curly!” she yelled in delight.

I shook my head to clear the fog. What? Couldn’t be. This was wishful thinking, like the time she was convinced the cat was pointing out American Girl dresses it wanted to wear. Daughter flew into my room and posed at the door, smiling and tossing her curly hair. Her hair which, I must add, remained sweetly curled the rest of the day through a long and sweaty graduation ceremony.

Okay. Not my hair.

That morning, while Daughter pranced about the house tossing her seemingly eternal curls, the universe grabbed me by the upper arm, leaned in to me and thwapped me between the eyes. “Listen, genius”, the universe (who sounded quite a bit like Denis Leary) said, “She’s. Not. You! I don’t know how many times I’m going to have to hit you, but she’s a different person than you are. She’s going to succeed and fail at different things than you. You can try to think up every single way she could get hurt in this world and plan an end-run around each one and it won’t matter because she’s got a different path...”

Not my blood.

“…The only thing you can do”, the universe continued, “Is to teach her to be a kind and honorable version of the person she is going to be. It’s not your hair, and it’s not your blood, and it’s not your life. You can either learn this now, when it’s only about hair and hobbies, or you can wait until she’s an adult and makes choices that break your heart and confuse the hell out of you because you wouldn’t have made those choices and you still haven’t figured out that she…isn’t...you! Got it?”

Not my life.

“Yes,” I said curtly, rubbing the spot where the universe kept trying to get my attention, “Anything else I should know?”

“Yes. Hand me the navy-blue dress you planned on her wearing today. I don’t feel like coming back in an hour.”

Monday, June 11, 2007

Lather. Rinse. Repeat.

Monogram Momma tagged me; I was enjoined to write a few random and possibly embarrassing facts about myself. I don’t plan to respond to tags all that often, but this one challenged me, as I couldn’t remember any random or embarrassing fact about me which hadn’t already merited its own blog.

[Actually, I know a few, but since my mother and my daughter both exist upon this earth, they will remain deeply closeted.]

I puzzled for weeks. Something stupid and random Quinn trivia which was no more scandalous than PG-13? I had almost given up when, over the weekend, I got into the car and turned on the ignition. The iPod snapped into wakefulness and I thought, Oh, there it is.

Random fact about Quinn: I write while I drive. This isn’t as dangerous as it sounds, but it might possibly break a minor law regarding noise pollution.

I have written for pleasure if not profit my entire life. After multiple decades of trial and error, I have found that it goes like this:

1. I think of an idea. Sometimes, nothing more than a sentence.
2. I wait patiently. The sentence sits in my head, exerting a weak gravitational pull. Somewhere between three hours and seven weeks later, I have a paragraph. The paragraph, being comprised of sentences, exerts a slightly stronger gravitational pull.
3. Somewhere between three hours and seven weeks later, I have the thing written in my head. This is the first draft. I then write it down and start pinching and kicking it vigorously until the sight of it makes me both pleased and utterly bored. This is the final draft.

The first draft isn’t conceived on the page, it’s conceived in my head and, like all human conceptions, it requires mood music and the back-seat of a car. Well, the front seat, but definitely music. Since I got my driver’s license, I have honed my writing while driving and listening to music. My writing muse is picky; the music I listen to cannot be music which is new to me, because then my brain gets distracted trying to figure out what the next rhyming word is going to be. Actually, what my muse really wants is the same song on repeat for extended periods of time. This creates within me some sort of alpha wave state in which I can decide definitively whether the word “Gecko” is funnier than “Squirrel”.

There are all sorts of CDs of music dedicated towards creating the alpha state in the creative mind. Classical, new-age, World Music, the alpha-options are myriad. My brain sneers at those. As Woody Allen once said, the heart wants what it wants.

For the two months, my creative heart has wanted “Don’t Pull Your Love” by Hamilton, Joe Frank, and Reynolds.

Don’t know the song? You lucky bastard. It’s a lite country-rock ditty from the early 70’s with a horn section and some of the most deathless lyrics heard since the cake was left out in the rain in MacArthur Park. Let me submit just a tempting morsel of awful:

You say you're gonna leave
Gonna take that big white bird
Gonna fly right out of here
Without a single word
Don't you know you'll break my heart
When I watch you close that door?
'Cause I know I won't see you anymore

I want to take that big white bird myself and fly away from this song, but I can’t if I ever want to write something again. If I put the kibosh on whatever song my creative brain finds pleasing, my creative brain punishes me with silence. I am merely a tool through which it can type and, it appears, hit the “Repeat” button on the iPod. And how grateful am I for iTunes? Without the ability to buy a single song for less than a dollar, I would have had to buy “The Best of Hamilton, Joe Frank and Reynolds” tape which, coincidentally, would also have cost me less than a dollar. But with the whole tape I might have accidentally heard the song “Daisy Mae” which I have not heard but saw on the iTunes page. The title sounds just ghastly enough to be the kind of thing my brain would really like and demand and no one wants that.

What’s strange about all this is what I keep finding in the back of the linen closet which is my memory. I had no idea I held a hidden fondness for “Don’t Pull Your Love”. Perhaps I heard it once or twice while waiting to have my teeth cleaned, but I’ve also heard “Sunshine of Your Love” and “Muskrat Love” in the same dentist’s office, and my creative process requires neither. This affection puzzles me almost as much as it unsettles me. The previous writing-song hits at least made some sense.

The song “It’s Raining Men” said to the world, “Hi, I grew up in a primarily homosexual neighborhood and have fond memories of hearing this song echo around the canyons in the early 80’s. On a related topic, I can recite whole minutes of the movie ‘Auntie Mame’, verbatim.”

“I Want You Back” meant “I am of the demographic who remembers when Michael Jackson had no relationship with Children’s Protective Services”.

“Can the Circle be Unbroken” and “Cry” proclaimed “I’m morbid. I also appreciate strong female singing voices. Being morbid.”

“Somebody to Love”, “Son of a Preacher Man” and “Got to Be Real” just confirmed I grew up in a gay neighborhood.

All of these songs could be, and were, played for weeks on end while I wrote in my head, and I didn’t felt no shame at all to let the world know that, yes, I had such songs in my possession. I let my freak flag fly high, even reciting the entire spoken-word opening to “It’s Raining Men” at stop lights, waving in a friendly manner to other drivers who were transfixed by my imitation of Martha Wash, an obese gospel-trained black singer.

But this “Don’t Pull Your Love” business is a distressing trend. A K-Tel, multi-pack, “Easy Listenin’ of the 70’s” trend. I’m grateful for the support this song has given me while writing about fifteen-thousand words, but I still don’t want to be seen in public with it, and I think I’m not the only one mortified by the never-ending aural houseguest. I was listening to the song for easily the fifteenth time this morning when the song abruptly stopped. I tapped the iPod, but it didn’t go back on. Logical people might suggest the machine was out of power; I choose to believe it had fainted in disgust.

The only thing I can do it wait it out. Some day, may it be soon, my brain will turn up its nose at the opening notes of “Don’t Pull Your Love” and insist on…something new. Something, we can only dream, which won’t reflect so badly on me. I’d just like to be able to open my car windows again.

Monday, June 04, 2007

The lost traveller.

When I was a child, my father travelled for work and when he travelled, he would go to Europe or Japan for buying trips, which would last for three weeks at a time. What I remember of these times were going to pick him up at the airport, strangely lovely presents from Japan, and him falling asleep from jet lag at the dinner table for a couple of nights after each trip. What my mother remembers is chaos. My father’s absence had the most extraordinary affect upon our lives. All anarchy waited until he left town. Septic tanks would implode. I would contract something both obscure and serious. The cat would get hit by a car. The 1972 earthquake? My father was in Italy. Watts riots? Tokyo.

It was as if, all evidence to the contrary, my mother was the substitute teacher in our lives, and life was determined to see how much she could tolerate before running, screaming, from the room. I used to think it was some protective force my father exerted. This week, I have come to think it was some turbulent horsepower that my mother generated and that, along with my alto voice and my disdain for puns, I might have inherited it.

Consort left for South Korea on Monday, for a technology conference. Apparently, when one thinks “Technology”, one simply must think “South Korea”. Twenty hours later, he called to say that South Korea was very clean and to say that he missed us already. He worried about us. I laughed. Perhaps I even laughed gaily. Silly, sweet man to worry. We were fine!

Wednesday morning, Daughter leapt into my bedroom in glee. Her tooth had fallen out. I was pleased for her, but not surprised. This tooth had been on a longer retirement tour than Cher. We were two weeks away from having it pulled, because it simply isn’t done to be wiggly for five months without actually leaving. We tucked the tooth into the Tooth Fairy pillow and continued in our normal frantic yet shambling way.

Wednesday night, Daughter and I got home from her usual assortment of after-school activities, and rolled into the garage. Absently, I glanced over at the cage where my small houseguests were located and saw three enthusiastic lumps, crawling over each over to get my attention and their dinner. A chill went through me; we had four kittens. I didn’t see the one which, when clean, resembled a fuzzy orange tennis ball. The only one who answered to his name. The favorite of our family.

Out loud I said, “Oh, no”, and stopped the car. Daughter, who had been reading, said “Oh no, what?” and undid her seatbelt, prepared to fly out of the car, to the kittens. I said sharply, “STAY IN THE CAR”, and ran to her side, where the cage was. The three other kittens were at the door, pawing at me. The orange one was lying on the ground, eyes half-open, body absolutely, weirdly, flat. I started to panic. He had been fine four hours before and now he was dead? I watched him for a few seconds, and saw no breath; he had to be dead. Daughter was getting out of the car, screaming “What’s happening?”. Before I could block her view, she saw him and shrieked. She ran into the yard, sobbing.

I stood there. I had no idea what to do. If he’s dead, my brain calmly informed me, you have to bury him. But in order to find out if he’s dead, I have to touch him and I don’t want to do that, my brain wailed back. At the very least, get the other kittens out of there, my brain rejoined. Happy to have something to do, I moved them into their carrying case. At that moment, the kitten drew in a dreadful, ragged breath. I waited ten seconds, but it wasn’t followed by anything. Okay, I thought, he’s died. I have no idea why he’s died, and my daughter is hysterical and Consort is across the international date line, but at least I know one thing for certain. Now I can go find Daughter and comfort her.

The kitten drew in another rattling breath.

A note to my neighbors. What you heard last Wednesday was the first time I have ever sworn at my daughter. But you have to understand, I had a dying kitten wrapped in a towel and a Daughter who was frozen in sorrow and shock in the corner of the yard and I wasn’t doing all that well myself and I couldn’t get her to move and I certainly couldn’t go anywhere without her and her father was currently enjoying the best hospitality South Korea has to offer and somehow the screamed phrase “HE’S NOT DEAD, GET IN THE DAMN CAR!” came out of my mouth. I apologized profusely to her, and I do appreciate all the messages you left on the answering machine, asking after Consort’s health.

The local vet was already closed for the night. The second one had been technically closed for two minutes, but something about me slamming my entire body against their locked door while screaming “HELP!” over and over caused them to rethink their business hours. He was rushed to the back, and we waited. We ended up waiting forty-five minutes. Daughter was incoherent when we first arrived but as time passed, she started to calm down. First, she consoled herself by reading Cat Fancier magazine. Then, she got to pet a couple of elderly pugs who were going home after a little out-patient surgery. By the time the vet came out to tell me he was stabilized and needed to be moved to the veterinary ER, she was very nearly calm.

She was so calm, in fact, that I started to worry. Yes, we had gotten him to the vet, but I was losing hope for him, and frightened about what this would do to her. This kitten had been her baby, the one she favored above all the others.The trip from the vet to the pet ER was only about fifteen minutes, but he was clearly fading away again. His eyes were opening and closing, but his pupils were dilated and his head was jerking around. I drove and held him wrapped in blankets, alternately praying he not die in the car, and praying that this would all end. I said gently, “Kiddo, he’s breathing, but not well. We’re going to do everything we can, but he might not make it.”

From the back of the car, I heard her say “I don’t want to know”.

Being as I was driving on the freeway while trying to comfort a dying kitten, I couldn’t look back to check her expression, but you’re going to have to take my word for it. She knew exactly what was going on. She had enough presence of mind to know how much she could stand, and his death wasn’t bearable. I nodded in agreement, and cut quickly into the offramp for the ER.

The ER vet whisked him away, and we waited another half-hour. Finally, the vet called us into an exam room. The vet began, “He’s being having seizures since he got here…“

I held up a finger to the vet and turned to Daughter, handing her the book she had been reading while we waited. “Sweetie, can you go wait in the waiting room? I’ll be out in a minute.”

Daughter, who has never met a request from me she didn’t cross-examine, left without a word. The vet filled me in on the inevitable end, and decisions were made.

I walked back into the waiting room, having splashed some water on my face. Daughter was petting a rat terrier. She looked up. “The dog has a sore throat, they think. But he’s still very nice.”

“Good,” I croaked. I cleared my throat. “So, the kitten is too fragile to come home with us, but the vet is going to send him to live with a family who knows how to take care of sick cats.”

She nodded.

We left, stopping by Petco on the way home for some extra formula for the other ones. Lacking any evidence of what had happened to him, I was told to assume the other kittens were sick as well, and start syringe-feeding them, to keep their strength up. We got home and I allowed Daughter to make her own dinner while I force-fed kittens. What they ate was definitely more nutritious than what she had, but I couldn’t find the energy to lobby for vegetables. She crawled into my bed to read, and we both fell asleep in my bed before nine.

The next morning, I felt her dash from my bed into her bedroom. I checked the clock; it was at least a half-hour before she usually woke up. She came back in, puzzled.

“The tooth fairy didn’t take my tooth.”

An adrenalin blast directly to the brain is more effective than a double espresso. Feigning sleepiness while hiding panic, I mumbled, “Huh…”. I then parried with “Did you ever brush your teeth last night?”

Grumbling, she went off to her bathroom. I leapt nimbly from bed and started tearing the house apart.

When Daughter’s teeth first started loosening, I had done a survey of how much the Tooth Fairy was leaving at houses these days. I was appalled to find out that the Tooth Fairy no longer dealt in coinage, but in paper bills. Fives weren’t uncommon, and I heard about the occasional ten-dollar tooth. One woman had given her child a twenty for her first tooth, but she has round-the-clock nannies and can’t easily answer the question “How many houses do you have?”, so I left her out of the statistics. After consideration, I decided the Tooth Fairy would give a Sacajawea dollar coin. My thinking was they’re gold, so they look fancy, they’ve got a girl on them, which is kind of neat and they are a buck, which is really all my Tooth Fairy wishes to spend.

Of course, this means locating Sacajawea coins on a regular basis. I cannot tell you how few stores keep these around, which means trips to the bank. It was just me and the little old ladies who have nothing better to do than argue about a four-cent discrepancy with the teller. I got twenty dollars worth of coins, and I carefully secreted them someplace Daughter won’t find them. Then, I forgot where that is.

So, now I had the length of time it takes a small girl to brush her teeth to try to find a gold coin and come up with a valid reason why the Tooth Fairy had taken the night off. I knew Consort had also secreted some away somewhere, but doubted I had enough time to dial his hotel number, let alone locate him in a conference on the future of digital radio and force him to recall something he had done four months’ ago.

She came trotting out of the bathroom. I, having just been tearing apart the linen closet, attempted to look casual. Suddenly, the muse struck me.

“Say,” I began, “I know why the Tooth Fairy didn’t take the tooth. Where did you fall asleep?”

“Uh, your bed?”

“Exactly!” I said excitedly, my eureka moment of parental lying energizing me. “She looked in there, and didn’t see the tooth pillow, and didn’t think to look in your room.”

Daughter nodded, slowly. What she actually thought was anybody’s guess.

“Go feed the cat, would you?”, I chirped gaily.

She shuffled off. I flung myself into her room, grabbed the tooth, and jammed it in my hiding place for her teeth. I then snatched a dollar bill from my wallet and put it under the pillow in my room. I yoo-hooed. She appeared in the doorway, cat-food spoon in hand. I gestured toward the pillow, indicating she should look underneath. She found the dollar bill and, looking pleased, put it into her American Girl savings bank. But for the second time in less than twenty-four hours, I had the strongest feeling Daughter knew exactly what was going on and just didn’t feel like talking about it.

Call me a coward but, after the day we had, fine by me.

P.S. It's been five days. The other kittens are okay, we think. And the vet who saw him originally did all sorts of expensive things when it turns out they should have done the kind thing right away, because there was never any hope, and they let him suffer needlessly. If anyone lives in Los Angeles, I am more than happy to tell them which animal hospital takes advantage of pet owners.