Two girls came bursting through the door and giggled their way up the steps and across the room toward where I was sitting. First the little one was in the lead, but she quickly turned and pushed her older sister to be in front of her. Then the older sister said, “No no no,” and pulled the younger one back around by her shoulders. The little girl was only there for a moment before she ducked her head and darted beneath her big sister’s arms and was then pushing her across the room from behind. They moved towards me in this way, spinning around each other like heads and tails on a flipped coin and finally landed in front of me, Clara side up.

I folded my hands in my lap and took a deep breath. “Hello, girls.” Lydia’s tiny pigtailed head peeked around her sister’s waist and then disappeared with a giggle when she saw me look at her. “What are you guys working on in the garage?”

“Oh, we are just…” Clara waved a hand in the air and trailed off, “You know…”

“Uh huh…” I said, and waited.

“So, Dad,” she said, obviously still trying to formulate the speech in her head. There was another burst of laughter behind her back, and it was silenced by a quick swat of the older girl’s hand and a shushing noise. “Okay. Dad. So. We are working on a project in the garage.”

“A very important project!” emphasized a pair of invisible pigtails.

“Right,” Clara went on, “A very /important/ project. And we were wondering if you would let us, um, use your phone for a few minutes.”

“Why?”

“Why?” she squeaked back to me, as if she were surprised by this question. “Oh, well, huh, well, we want your phone because… we would like to look up pictures of toilets.” And at this, she was somehow able to keep a straight face but her sister promptly collapsed onto the living room floor in a fit of laughter.

“I’m sorry,” I said patiently. “What in the world are you talking about? Why do you need to look at toilets on my phone?”

Clara looked at the ceiling and considered this, as if there were many reasons and she was trying to think of the best one. “Well, okay, good question. Um, we want your phone so we can look at toilets because we are making a toilet in the garage and we want to be sure that it looks right.”

Lydia was melting into the carpet.

“Guys… what in the world are you even talking about? What are you doing in my garage?”

Clara shrugged, “Just working on some things. Normal stuff. Making a cardboard toilet.”

I caught my head in my hands before it fell onto the floor next to Lydia. “No no no no no no. No. That is not ‘Normal Stuff’. That is the exact opposite of ‘Normal Stuff’. What is going on?”

“We’re just making a cardboard toilet, alright? Out of some boxes we found in the garage. And we need to make sure it is the right shape. That’s all. We just want to see some toilets. Can I just have your phone for a few minutes so I can make sure the toilets on the internet are the same as what we have in the garage?”

I sighed. “No. Not at all. Never. And here’s why. Because first off, no. Never.” I counted off on my fingers. “Second, why? Why are you making a cardboard toilet? This is why homeschoolers are made fun of. Three, I do not want the word “Toilet pictures” in my search history. Okay? Both the FBI AND Amazon would have no idea what to do with that. It would put me in a weirdo database and get me terrible advertisements for the rest fo eternity. Four, We have toilets in our house that you could look at. Maybe I should have shown you them sooner? You walked past one of them on your way here just now. Five… No. Anything I can do to prevent you from building a toilet in my garage I will do. Because I do not want a cardboard toilet in my garage.”

Lydia was in hysterics and she appeared to be trying to roll under the couch at this point, but Clara was still holding it together enough to nod thoughtfully and frown in consideration at each of my points. “Okay. Yes, I understand. Alright. That makes sense,” she said. And then a few seconds after I was done talking she raised a finger and said, “Okay, but…”

“Are you serious? How could you have a counter-argument for this? There is no sane reason for any of this to be happening. I’m not giving you my phone so you can make a cardboard toilet. The end.”

She huffed in frustration and turned to pick her sister up off the floor. “Come on Lydia. He’s not going to let us use it.” And they headed off down the steps they had just recently fumbled there way up. I watched as the two of them stopped at the bottom of the stairs and peered into the bathroom as if it were an art exhibit that they had only just realized was there. Clara tapped a finger on her chin and I heard her hum to her sister. “Hmm… Okay… alright… I see it now… It’s basically just a box with a hole cut into the top of it.” And the two of them quickly turned and scurried out the door to the garage.

After they were gone I slowly turned to the side and looked at Gideon. He had been sitting across the room this whole time watching the conversation in a sort of stunned silence. I gave him an apologetic frown. “I’m so sorry that you have to grow up with such strange sisters,” I said quietly.

He just wiggled his shoulders up and down. “No, it’s fine,” he said. “They are not that strange really. Just normal.”

“Yeah? You think?”

“Yeah.” He stood up and slowly walked across the room only to turn and jerk a lanky arm over his shoulder, “I’m going to go check out that toilet thing now, alright dad?”

I leaned my head back onto my chair and closed my eyes. “Yeah, alright. You do that. But, tell Mario and Luigi that they have to clean up whatever mess they make in my garage.”