There are certain things that drive me to the brink of insanity and they are these:
The sound of the dog licking her paws at night when I am trying to fall asleep.
The sound of cellophane crackling.
The sound of Snags playing Perfection in his bedroom at five o’clock in the morning.
That last one? Heard it this morning.
The rule is, the kid is supposed to stay IN BED, and preferably in bed ASLEEP, until 7:30 a.m. And that is the sole reason why I bought him a digital alarm clock. So there could be no mistake on the hour.
When I decided I’d heard enough, heard enough plastic pieces rattling around, heard enough small explosions as the timer ran out and the Perfection pieces flew into the air, I shakily climbed out of bed and opened his bedroom door. All the while repeating to myself, “it’s just a noise, don’t kill him. It’s just a noise, don’t kill him…”
GO.BACK.TO.BED! I nearly barked.
He looked at me mildly, said, “But Mom, I’m just playing Perfection.”
“GO.BACK.TO.BED!” I said again, perhaps a bit louder this time. “You don’t play perfection in the middle of the damn night,” I added as I turned out his bedroom light and yanked the door shut behind me.
“It’s not the DAMN NIGHT!” he cried back at me from behind his closed door.
He’s been crying a lot lately, this child of mine. I’m not sure but I think it’s the stress of first grade. Summer is over and now he can’t spend endless hours playing video games or building starships out of LEGOs. In first grade, unlike kindergarten, there are no naps. The kids have to be up and alert like the rest of us, for a full six hours straight. That kind of paying attention can wear you out, wear you down.
Snags comes home from school in the afternoons and lies upon the sofa. He watches whatever cartoon he can find on Nickolodeon, his eyes glazed over. He denies being tired even as he yawns, even as he “rests” his eyes.
And little things are getting to him. Little things are setting him off. Like yesterday, when I made him set the frog free. Snags caught a frog, or maybe it was really a small toad. I don’t know. I’m calling it a frog. He brought it home and made a home for it inside an old aquarium that he set out on our front porch. He put in some water, and some rocks and the frog. And then he more or less left him there, in the aquarium, all alone. He played with the frog sometimes, but he didn’t feed him. He dropped the frog at least half a dozen times on its head, on the pavement. I’m sure the frog, if he had the ability to think, must have wondered if he’d been captured and sent to Gitmo. There was the small room where he was kept, Snags the guard who occasionally tortured him by manhandling him and dropping him on his head, and there was the isolation. Left all alone in the aquarium, in the bright sunlight, for days on end. Five days to be exact. And then there was the starvation. I’m not sure what frogs eat but I assume they eat bugs. And no bugs were flying into the aquarium. And the frog wasn’t let out to hunt on his own. By yesterday I’d had enough and told Snags he had to set the frog free.
He went out to do so, but reluctantly. I followed him out to make sure he did as I had instructed. He told me that he’d opened the frog’s mouth and looked inside.
“HOW?” I asked.
“Want me to show you?” He said.
“Yeah,” I said, curious now.
But Snags wasn’t having any luck. The frog’s mouth wasn’t opening. In fact, the harder Snags tried to open the frog’s mouth, the harder he pressed upon the frog’s… chin? neck?, the more I feared he was going to rip open the flesh of the frog’s throat. I couldn’t bear it and so I asked Snags to stop. I yelled at Snags to STOP. Let the frog go NOW.
And Snags got upset. “YOU NEVER LIKED FROGGY!“ He screamed, tears streaming down his face. ”YOU DIDN’T LIKE HIM FROM THE MOMENT I GOT HIM,” he cried. His face was red, contorted in anger. His eyes bulged. Except for the tears I think he was a perfect picture of me, the way I felt when I heard him playing Perfection in the middle of the damn night. In the blink of an eye, the leap is made from peaceful calm to perfect insanity. Over a noise. Over Perfection. Over a frog.