Start with The Ten Plagues of the Martin Vlasits Seder (The first three…), then proceed to The Ten Plagues of the Martin Vlasits Seder (…the middle three…), then come back.
7. The Plague of Frogs: 7:15pm
Despite being unceremoniously tossed across my back, jostled down a flight of stairs and flopped onto the sidewalk, he hits the ground trotting and now, following the brief delay storming the home of our dear neighbors, Martin embarks on his campus circuit. I turn on the iPod listening to Marc Maron‘s podcast and moving just fast enough to keep him in sight.
Going up the sidewalk we pass 135 chalk drawings of the 44 Presidents, 47 Vice-Presidents and 44 First Ladies (James Buchanan never married, but his niece Harriet Lane served as his First Lady.)
The circuit is going well when we get to the library. This is almost always the trickiest part. Two weeks earlier when Sasha, Martin and I returned from one of these trips Jen asked how it went I said, “From the time I found Martin in ‘the men’ with his pants around his ankles and a trail of feces reaching back to the door, things went absolutely perfect.” (I was not being sarcastic, actually. I honestly felt quite lucky that: 1) His stool was quite firm. 2) He let me wipe his legs down with soapy wet paper towels 3) The trash can had spare plastic bags in the bottom of it in which I was able to quarantine Martin’s underwear and the paper towels 4) No one burst into the bathroom to find me on all fours sweatily scrubbing the tile grout with paper towels and my son watching me pantsless in the stall doorway and 5) Sasha did not panic when left alone with the United States puzzle for five minutes while I cleaned up the bathroom.)
This time though Martin is fine until he notices that the table of four college students nearest the door has a tray of five cupcakes. He says, “I think I should like to have a cupcake. (Borrowing the phrasing from a book, of course. Probably Winnie the Pooh or something.)” He stands and points his middle finger at the table (not an obscene gesture, just the way he points). I say, “Martin, the cupcakes belong to the young men and the young woman. You may not have them unless they offer them to you.” He replies, “But they HAVE to offer them to me, but they are NOT offering them to me.” I scoop up the dinosaurs he had been playing with and put them back while I try to draw his attention away from the cupcakes. It doesn’t work. He’s getting louder again. I scoop him up.
“Put me down. I can walk. (This phrase from an Amelia Bedilia book.)” I get him to the elevator. He likes the elevator and it’s the next stop on the circuit, so when the doors open and I put him down he doesn’t run out. We’ve made it to the next stage.
8. The Plague of Flies: 7:40pm
The rest of the circuit passes hitchlessly. He goes from station to station with me following close enough to intercede if necessary, but no intercession is necessary. I am feeling a little relieved as we come back down the sidewalk past the former denizens of the White House. Perhaps I can get him into bed in reasonably short order and this tumultuous evening can be over.
Oddly though, he doesn’t go through the garage door as he usually does. Instead he stays on the sidewalk and continues past our house, to the corner and turns down the block.
Me: Martin. Where are you going?
Good God. How long is this evening going to drag on? When I reach the corner, I see that he has cut through the yard and around to the back door. I’m still annoyed, but glad he’s gone back into the house. I follow him in, taking my time.
I head into the kitchen to get a drink and find the counter next to the sink flooded, water dripping onto the floor and two rivulets are making their way across the kitchen and under the refridgerator.
Me: Martin! What on earth?! Why did you poor water on the counter? What… what the… what…?
Him (coming back into the room from his sister’s bedroom, one of his arms is drenched from the shoulder down.): Papa. Don’t shout. You should not shout.
Me (reaching for a dishtowel to begin my second major Martin cleanup of the evening): Martin. What is this? Did you do this on purpose? Or was it an accident? Was it on purpose? Yes-on purpose or no-on accident. (I have no idea if I will get an answer to this question. Mostly, I am saying it to teach Martin that this is something to wonder about in moments such as this.)
Him: It was on purpose.
Me: What? Why? Why did you pour the water?
Him: I don’t know.
I am furious. I feel worried that I’ll say the horrible things I am thinking if I open mouth, so I work quietly sopping up the water.
The dishtowel has gotten dirty from being used to clean under fridge. I move to the sink and lift the handle on the faucet to rinse it off. Water jets across the kitchen, catching me on the stomach and re-drenching the counter I have just mopped up. The auxiliary faucet, a sort of sprayer unit contraption, is shooting water everywhere. I snatch at it to make it stop and discover that its handle is stuck in the on position.
Of course, this solves the mystery of the water on the floor. The mystery that I had not realized was mysterious. Martin had, like me, innocently turned on the faucet only to be greeted by a violent outpouring of unexpected water. To make matters worse for him, this was followed moments later by a violent outpouring of unexpected vituperations.
Martin wanders back into his sister’s room. I think about apologizing to him, but I can’t figure out a way to phrase it so he’ll understand what I mean. I go to the basement to get some more towels and pass the steam cleaner. I work on my apology speech some more. I find that I want to say that I’m sorry, but I also want to explain to him that the reason I made the mistake is because he is impossible to talk to, impossible to reason with, impossible to live with, impossible to be alive with. I find that I feel sure that offering a real apology won’t make him feel better and that offering the apology that I want to offer will make me feel much worse.