Clara was buried under a pile of newspapers in a fully reclined chair in the living room. I was trying to ignore her as I read something on my phone across the room. However, the task of ignoring the child was nearly impossible as she appeared to be kicking sheets of local news into the air with her feet, like some kind of cat, and then was punching at them as they drift back down onto her face.
I found myself wishing that I had thrown out the newspaper when I found it lying inexplicably in our driveway the day before. But the last time I was caught doing that I was firmly reminded by my wife of the value of unwanted newspapers now that we have Guinea Pigs in the house.
As Clara chortled to herself and flailed four appendages at the Sports section, I had to ponder exactly which Guinea Pigs my wife had been referring to.
A hand slipped out from the newsprint cocoon and grabbed a fresh sheet to add to the pile and then there was a small gasp and her head popped out, like a squirrel that just woke up in a pile of fall leaves. “Oh!” she said, “Would you look at that! I found something YOU might be interested in.”
I lowered my phone and watched as she ungracefully began tearing a hole in the sheet of paper.
“Okay, what are you doing?” I asked.
But all I got in reply was a coy grin and a flutter of eyelashes that didn’t even come close to explaining why she was now cutting out a small section of the newspaper using her teeth. I put my phone down and braced myself for whatever nonsense was coming. It was like I could hear the waterfall somewhere upstream before my canoe even rounded the corner.
Sure enough, it was there, and it came rushing up at me as she finally finished her psychotic paper snowflake and scampered across the room to thrust it into my face.
“What is this?” I asked her recoiling into the couch and squinting at her waving hand.
“It’s a coupon.”
I took it and held it steady enough for me to finally read.
It was an advertisement for a large bottle of Jack Daniels.
“Why did you give me this?”
She laughed and dove back into her pile of newspapers. “I was looking for things we might need, and I found that.”
“Why would I need this?” I was bewildered. Maybe she thought it was maple syrup. I had been given a large brown bottle of maple syrup for Christmas and it had been a pretty big deal. “Like, is this for putting on pancakes or something?”
She exploded into ridiculous laughter and rolled out of the chair onto the floor, mummifying herself newspaper on the way down. “Why would we put it on pancakes? It’s for us to share. In the evenings. You know, for fun.”
“Clara, this is Jack Daniel’s.”
She stared up at me from the floor.
She turned her head slightly like a confused dog.
“Like, you know, for cowboys to drink when they walk into a saloon.”
She furrowed her brow and shook her head in confusion.
“Alcohol, Clara. This is alcohol. We don’t drink alcohol.”
She looked disgusted, but not at the idea of alcohol; clearly, the target of her disgust was me. As if she just remembered that I was an alien that she was forced to try to communicate with and sometimes it was just too much effort. She slowly stood up and crossed the room. She reached out with both of her hands and took the roughly torn piece of paper. Without breaking eye contact with me she carefully rotated it in a circle and placed it back into my fingers. “This coupon is for icecream, Dad.”
I looked back down. Sure enough, on the opposite side of the page was a picture of a carton of ice cream. Of course, this advertisement was so mangled that you couldn’t even see that it was a carton of ice cream, and the price had been completely lost in the process, probably eaten by the pair of human scissors that was standing in front of me, gloating.
“Okay. Alright.” I said, “It’s for icecream. But you realize of course that this isn’t even a coupon. It’s just an advertisement that is telling us the price. Or it was until you chewed it in half. We don’t actually need to cut this out and keep it. It’s fine to just nod your head and say, ‘Oh, interesting… ice cream is on sale.'”
She stared at me a few seconds longer and then said in a bored stoic voice, “Oh. Interesting.” and then she pointed at the advertisement. “Ice cream is on sale.”
“Right,” I said. “It usually is.”
She turned and walked back to her pile of newspapers. “I’ll let you know if I find any more coupons for ice cream.”
I sighed, “You do that. Thanks…” I turned the paper over again and considered the possibility of buying a horse and becoming a cowboy.