The Tale of the Pepper Trail
by Marla McDaniel
Dedication: To the Two Brothers with Love
Once upon a time there were two brothers. The older brother was almost 5 and the younger brother was almost 2. The two little boys lived with their mommy and daddy in a red brick house set way back from the road. One day when the mommy wasn't watching, the older little boy said to the younger little boy, "I have a great idea. Let's make mommy insane today, want to?" The little brother, who loved playing with his big brother just clapped his hands and said "yeah." He didn't have many words, but "yeah" was one of his favorites.
So while mommy was elsewhere in the house for a minute (not on facebook, not checking email, not on the phone--probably taking a much needed pee break, or maybe folding laundry, or taking out the diapers)--the boys started in on their idea.
They waited for just the right moment. The mommy turned on a Thomas movie and gave out a snack and ran upstairs to pull together some things for the boys' Vacation Bible School while the movie worked it magic. Meanwhile, the older brother got down from his chair, pulled the step stool out of the pantry, dragged it to the counter and climbed up on the counter. Looking back at the little brother snugly strapped into the high chair, the older brother winked. He opened the corner cabinet above the counter that held all of mommy's baking supplies. Quick as a wink he pulled out the big tub of sugar, the large refill canister of pepper, the baking powder, the cocoa powder, the canister of grits, the canister of bread crumbs, and the can of coconut. Putting all these things on the counter he quickly scooted down and ran back and forth to his room until everything was in place.
After the movie, the mommy came back downstairs unstrapped the little one from the high chair and asked if the boys wanted to play outside. "Yeah" cried the little boy. "Sure" said the older boy. So the mommy went out to play with the boys completely unaware that a trick was brewing in the older brother's bedroom. After a while, the phone rang. A good friend was calling and the mommy chatted for a long time. She learned her lesson (or so she thought) previously about phone calls and didn't let the boys out of her sight for more than a minute or two at a time.
Once back inside the mommy indulgently sat on the love seat and watched the boys jump, climb, and otherwise destroy her couch in the living room. It was already beyond repair anyway and she didn't have the energy to harp anymore about not jumping on the living room furniture.
A few minutes later the boys laughing ran around to the older boy's bedroom. The mommy sighed with relief. They were safe in there. The boys couldn't really mess it up. She had taken away all the crayons, markers, pens, pencils, chalk, and any other potential writing utensils.
All of a sudden it was just too quiet in the house. The mommy went to investigate.
Upon entering the room the mommy found the two little boys happily at play. The youngest was driving cars in six inches of black pepper powder poured out on the carpet in the shape of a road. The older child was giggling as he jumped around and splashed his hands in the bread crumbs, cocoa and grits. The beanbag in the corner had a fine layer of cocoa powder on it. Underneath the beanbag was a large pile of grits. And on the wall were newly formed letters drawn in cocoa powder.
The mommy, being known for her screaming ability was utterly speechless. She managed to hold it together long enough to scoop up the toddler and carry him to his crib. A fine whispering sound followed them as pepper poured out of the creases of his shorts, diaper, and shoes. Placing him not so gently in the crib, she scolded him and told him to stay there indefinitely. Turning off the light and slamming the door behind her, she turned her attention to the older brother. He, smartly, was covering his behind and cowering in the corner up to his ankles in a mixed concoction of finely grained particles.
"Go to the closet. Get the vacuum cleaner and come back." she said softly, but terribly. The little boy ran terrified because his mothers eyes were glowing like Buzz Lightyear's red laser beam that shoots from the arm of his space suit. The boy returned dragging the vacuum cleaner behind him and banging into the wall repeatedly. He stood silently as his mother plugged it in. She turned and said, "Fix this mess. Now."
The little boy got to vacuuming. But he was too little to manage the attachment on the vacuum cleaner. So his mother took the attachment off and handed the hose back to him. The boy went back to work. It was odd, but he seemed to delight in the opportunity to be of help to his mother. He chatted about his work and how well he was helping clean up. All of a sudden the vacuum cleaner died.
Upon inspection the mother realized that the bag was full of small tiny granules from the floor. Wordlessly she left the room, got a new vacuum cleaner bag, changed the bag and gave the hose back to the little boy again.
"Finish," was all she said.
The mother sighed and took the full vacuum cleaner bag to the kitchen. As she pushed the foot pedal to open the trashcan, she saw it. Dropping the bag in the trash, she bent for a closer look. On her brand-newly painted kitchen wall above the trashcan was an autograph "OwenMcD". She rubbed her eyes.
"There must be some mistake," she thought. The child just received the punishment of a lifetime last week for drawing on every wall in the playroom and the bedroom. Had she not spent an afternoon with him scrubbing his very own walls with a Mr. Clean magic eraser? Large black Os had been written across the wall in his bedroom and on the carpet. Shaking her head, the mommy looked for the offending ink pen and found it on the floor under the cabinet.
"How did it get there?" She really thought she had removed every writing utensil in the house.
Slowly she walked to the older son's room. "Come out here."
"Did you write this?" she asked, barely concealing her anger.
"Oh yes." said the older son matter-of-factly.
"Why?" she spit out.
"Because I wanted to." he said defiantly, raising his chin a bit.
"I don't understand. I know that you know that we don't write on the walls." said the mommy breathing heavily to keep a lid on it and her arms locked behind her own back.
"Well, but ..." the little boy began to falter.
"Don't you but mamma me." said the mommy, a little louder this time.
"I just..."the little boy began to squirm and the hands shot to his bottom again.
"What are you doing that for? I'm not going to spank you. What's the point?" the mommy raised her voice again.
"You take this pencil eraser and you make that disappear. If it doesn't come off my brand new kitchen wall, you owe me three thousand dollars. And you better hope I don't tell your daddy. He will end you." the mommy said loudly, but without yelling. Casually she walked away.
The young child got to erasing. Lucky for him it all came off. He would live another day.
"I think you better go to your room and stay there," the mommy said when he finished.
"For how long?" he asked petulantly.
"For as long as it takes. Do not speak. Do not call me. Do not even let me know you are alive in there," said the mommy without moving from her watchful post by the sink.
The little boy ran for his life.
Meanwhile the younger son had been crying the entire time. The decibel level was reaching epic proportions when the mommy returned.
"Dry it up!" the mommy shouted as she entered the room. Immediately the small boy stopped crying. The occasional whimper escaped while the mother stood there trying to keep it together.
"You may get down, but you will stay in this room," she said in a more controlled tone. The mommy picked up the little boy and set him down. She handed him a book, his truck, and the blanket from the crib.
"Do not come out of this room," said the mommy. She turned and closed the door.
The little boy had been growing and learning and figuring things out of late. He was quite capable of opening the door. In fact he had been practicing on that pantry door for a long time. The mommy however had found him out and placed a call to the daddy for a lock for the pantry door. Undeterred he began working on all the other doors in the house. Over the next hour, the little boy opened his bedroom door and peaked out at the mommy at least 30 times. She was too good. Every single time she seemed to be right there.
"You close that door." she would say and he would close it back. The poor little boy thought he would never get to leave that room. Meanwhile he was wondering what had happened to his older brother. They always played together. This separate room thing was no fun.
Presently the daddy came home. He and the mommy weren't speaking. He had called on the way home and it had not been a pleasant phone call. Full of remorse for his unkindness and total lack of understanding (after all he has an office full of assistants to help him keep an eye on things), he apologized gracefully to the mommy. She accepted his apology rather un-gracefully and turned back to the stove. Silently, the daddy went to the bedroom to deal with the older son.
The mommy quietly put the toddler back in the high chair and dished up the dinner she had been trying to make for the last two hours. It was a silent meal for the three of them. The older son was wailing in his room because he was being denied dinner with the family and yet another stay in his room. After dinner, the mommy--still not speaking to anyone--quietly cleaned up the kitchen. When she was finished, the mommy opened the refrigerator, took out two Michelob Ultras, grabbed her purse and keys, left a note for the daddy, got in her car and drove to her bookclub.
All's well that ends well. The little boys miraculously recovered after an evening with daddy. The mommy miraculously recovered her ability to speak with the father. After a few beers and a few hours of moral support from her friends, the mommy's eyes and voice returned to their natural state. Everyone slept through the night in the red brick house set far from the road. The next morning the sunshine came, and all was right with the world.