I was trying to find a place to set down a plate full of pizza in our family room when Clara suddenly appeared behind me. She clumsily bumped into my arm while I attempted to balance the plate in my hand and teetered back and forth on one foot while trying not to trip over the edge of a rug.
“You know,” she said casually, indifferent to my struggles, “The house would be a whole lot cleaner if Lydia and Gideon didn’t exist.”
I set my plate down on a stack of magazines and pulled up a chair, “Clara…” I pinched the bridge of my nose and took a deep breath, “Clara what are you talking about?”
She moved some coats and sat down on the couch across from me. “All of this,” she waved her hands at the floor. “It would be a lot neater if we didn’t have Lydia and Gideon living with us.”
I looked at the floor and then back at her.
She smirked, “See? That bear, those socks, the truck under mom’s chair, none of it would be here if it was just you and mom and I again. Like it was before.”
I nodded, “Sure, sure.” Then I pointed between us on the floor. “What about that then?”
She squinted at the floor, “What?”
“What do you mean, what? Those purple boots.” One of them was standing up between us, the other was laying on its side across the room. “Those sure aren’t Gideon’s boots, and I don’t think they would fit Lydia either.”
The little girl looked confused, as if she didn’t understand how any of this was relevant to her goal of returning to a three-person family. “Yes, okay, so those are my boots. But,” there was a strange twinkle in her eye at this point, “but, if Lydia and Gideon weren’t here I would have put them away by now!” With this, she bowed slightly, as if her logic was so fool proof that it warranted an applause. As if she was certain I was just seconds away from rushing up stairs and packing her brother and sister up in boxes so I could ship them back to the factory. She probably already had the note written in her head:
Enclosed you will find two faulty young children. They are nowhere near as perfect as the first version we bought several years ago and have always been very happy with. The reduction in quality over the years is very disappointing. Please, replace these two children with either a pair of 2008 models, or refund our money so we can give it to our one remaining daughter so she can spend it on candy.
We watched each other for several more seconds, each quietly waiting for the other to register our point. Finally, I gave up, “Clara,” I said plainly, “Put your boots away.”
She frowned and dropped her shoulders with a sort of defeated growl and then she picked up her boots and started to carry them up the stairs. However, at the top of the stairs there was a muffled scream and the tumbled of feet as she was suddenly pounced upon by two wild animals that had been hiding just around the corner. There was then some shouting which gradually turned into fits of giggling laughter. The next time I saw the boots they had still not made it to the closet.