I lean against the kitchen counter dipping hunks of chicken in hot sauce and watch my daughter from behind. She sleeps in her swing. Forward and backwards over and over, her little heart chambers and her living soul and her candy ears and her tired eyes: they move to the sound of the built-in babbling brook. I am ten feet away, just watching. I am madly in love.
Miles from us, Monica sits in front of some computer. People ask her stuff, I guess. And she must answer them. Phones ring/stop/ring again. Scanners crackle and squeal. People lost in the mountains, people backing up their SUVs over their toddlers, people driving into other people. Local news. She must look at the pictures I gave her for Mother's Day...of Violet. And she must wish she could be the one at home with her instead of working. She is madly in love and a little mad.
We have this plastic contraption that holds all the used diapers. Its a good invention. But when I open it there is no breathing. No inhaling and no exhaling. Even after only a day or so stuff gets ripe. I yank out the full trash bag with lungs on pause. Violet's eyes stare at me in fascination, mostly because she's looking at me standing there behind her head; she's almost looking at me upside down. Her gaze is hard as I wrestle with the bag, tie it up. I wonder if she smells anything? I hope she smells summer berries and seashore...but I don't know where that would be coming from, to be honest.
At that moment, Monica's PMS hits her in her cooter with China Town numb-chucks. She is talking to some co-workers, trying to get to the bottom of a breaking rumor and WHAM!...she gets Ninja'd in Sergeville. She must act normal though. She must eat the pain/snort the pain/party with the fucking pain. She must waltz with the devilish mood. She must tiptoe through the enemy rice paddy. The show must go on. She wishes, though,that she could touch her baby's nose right then.
I touch my baby's nose. With a Pooh hand. Not a poo-hand. A Pooh hand. Winnie the Pooh. I caress Violet's blushy cheek with Pooh's soft left fist and whisper "Hello MilkDud!" and "You Hungry Yet ButterBean?" We are getting ready to ride to the walk in the woods. The afternoon seems timeless. Who cares what time it is? What time IS it? I dunno/who cares. I grab a Diet Coke for the trip, some shitbags for the animals. Me and Violet are a couple of good timin' drinkers of summer's booze. Out into the sun we go.
Under the air-conditioning vent, Violet's Mama uses iced fingertips as she half-heartedly steers herself down Facebook Street. Nothing new. Someone yells something at someone else across the freezing newsroom. A reporter asks Monica something about a story. Monica answers and the reporters walks on and Monica turns to see her daughter staring at her from a Target frame, smiling. The day is long in these parts.
I scoop out applesauce with a green rubber spoon and get lazy and try and scoop out a whole clump at once but it ends up on Violet's fingertips and some is actually in one of her nostrils because she insists on getting involved. I dab with her bib. With a towel I have planted perfectly on the high chair tray, I dab some more. I use my pinky at her nostril but it's too fat. She giggles and snorts in a speck of applesauce. My imagination kicks in and I see Violet's adorable little brain floating through the vast dark outer space inside her noodle. Then I see the Apple Sauce Spaceship pull up like the River Bottom Nightmare Band; loud Sabbath roaring from the rolled-down windows; weed smoke climbing out alongside frightening alley cats in spikes and leather; alley cats carrying lasers. I see the apple sauce she snorted falling onto her brain and that makes me a little antsy. She keeps eating though and nothing happens so I guess I'm out of the woods there.
At her desk Monica types something and me and Violet watch her on the web cam that points at her. "There's Mama makin' that sweet hard cash, honey," I whisper in her ear. My daughter's eyes are fixed upon the screen. Probably the lit up glow. It dawns on me, for the tenth time this afternoon, that it must suck for Monica to have to work while I'm home with our baby. Hell, I know it sucks. She tells me.
We watch Mama living her life at that moment in a room across town. We watch from the couch. One of us is in the others lap. One of us is nibbling on cheese chunks. We watch as the picture refreshes itself every few seconds and in each new frame there is our Mama still sitting still in her rolling chair at that computer. Each new shot moves new people through the background but Monica barely moves at all. Busy bee stuck in the honey. I guess there's worse ways we could see her on the web cam.
Violet looks at me and I kiss her face for her Mama. But I still feel awkward and shitty. I oughta be planning for the future, right? Training to be an apprentice or burning the other candle end with classes at the community college or something. Monica says I should have some sort of five year plan.
And I do, kind of.
In five years I'm gonna be three hundred pounds wearing an Old Navy American Flag tshirt/tarp and have two more kids and ride around Wal-Mart on one of those motorized carts made for middle age behemoths with buckled knees.
So there's the goddamn plan right there.