Bedtime for bigots

Ever been stuck with your elders? Your extreme elders? Like great-grandpa and great-grandma?

More and more people these days provide care for their parents, grandparents or other aged friends or relatives, some of whom are, well — there’s no way to sugarcoat this — selfish pigs mired in bigoted opinions from years ago.

They revel in sharing them, loudly. That’s especially grating when, not being a 1 percenter, you get home after a long, hard day at work. You need them to just shut up, right?

So, whaddyagonna do? I have a solution. It’s called politically incorrect bedtime stories for bigots. Try one of these. They’ll help you lull these crotchety oldsters into smug, satiated slumber. They’ll be out for hours.

You’ll be able to sneak out to the den to smoke some pot, head to the bar to listen to the latest Beatles tribute band or meet up with your buddies going to the party down the street.

Get gramps or grammy comfy, feed em a tablespoon of bourbon and speak in a soothing voice, like Charlton Heston in Ben Hur. Here’s an example:

Once upon a time, after winning all the wars and building the industrial complex, the Greatest Generation finally got a well-deserved rest. But tension remained, a new unease. a new threat.

In the mountains rising from the quiet retirement beaches … in the woods behind the RV parks … in the kitchens of the all-you-can-eat buffets, a great evil festered. Many thought it dead years ago.

But they were wrong as a translator who needs hearing aids. The threat was back. Young people, likely infected by Communist sympathizers, were spreading crazy, dangerous ideas again: Mind-altering drugs, protest, resistance, peace instead of war and Free Love 2.0 — even between people of the same sex!!!

Well, this simply would not fly. It had to be stopped. The Greatest Generation remained great but, man, after all those years, everyone was just plain tuckered out. They needed a champion.

Enter a brash new character, super-rich, super-cocky and super-angry. Yes, an American hero. Donald Trump, known for his success in business and with pretty women, would fix everything.

Word spread quickly, like when Viagra was invented.  Everyone paid attention, ignoring even The Price is Right.

Trump mocked Obama. Trump tossed people out of his rallies he didn’t like, no matter if they were black. One bit of popular lore had Trump himself grabbing three protesters by the dreadlocks, and, in a super-Judo move, spinning them in the air so fast their handmade signs blurred into a pinwheel. And guess what color it was? Yup, red, white and blue!

Everyone cheered and coughed, and spit out phlegm.

Trump was braver than a one-legged ass kicker. He ridiculed uppity lesbians, weak-hearted peaceniks and a disabled guy cocky enough to think he could be a reporter.

This president-to-be even had the balls to brag about his, well, balls — and other nether regions. “I guarantee you there’s no problem. I guarantee.”

He was the greatest, promising the greatest. He was the cat’s pajamas and the kit and caboodle, with hair that never turned gray.

His only weakness, and this certainly could be forgiven in a man with such a high calling, was a penchant for exaggeration. Sure, he told a whopper or two, but he lied with good intent: to befuddle the liberals.

And befuddle them he did.

All the way to the Office of President of United States of America, with the overwhelming voter support from those old, weary warriors from the Greatest Generation.

Once in power,  he got rid of all the dirty Mexicans, cowed the Europeans, called on men to be men, for women to be sexy. He put a coal mine in every backyard.

Millions now pay homage. Every night, even as adult children sing themselves to sleep.

Hush you seniors, time to relax.

Trump’s gonna cut your income tax.

And if that tax cut is too small,

Trump’s gonna build you a shopping mall.

And if that mall should fall apart,

Trump’s gonna buy you a new golf cart.

And if that cart don’t run no more,

Trump’s gonna start a brand new war.

And if that war just can’t be won,

Trump will  start another one.

And if that war kills too many people,

Trump will build you a new church steeple.

And if that steeple comes tumbling down,

You’ll still be the greatest generation in town.

Using deadly force with a cloak of secrecy — in America

Did you know that some American lawmen can kill in the line of duty and keep their names secret?

These men — or women — can use deadly force and not face any publicity. They can take a life anonymously.

That’s true, even in this age of high scrutiny of police shootings. Even as groups like Black Lives Matter demand more accountability. Even as many in this country push to publicize not only the names of officers who use deadly force but also their images, especially dashcam and copcam video that is often generated when shootings occur.
So why the special treatment for some officers of the law?

They’re federal employees, that’s why. Different laws and policies apply to them.

U.S. Marshals often work side by side with local police but have more privacy protections than their partners in blue. The marshals can, and have, used deadly force and kept their names from newspapers, Web accounts and TV.

How? They rely on an exemption in the federal Freedom of Information Act, and a Marshals policy protecting those who use deadly force.

Nah, can’t be true, you say. Gotta be another urban myth, a liberal exaggeration.

Nope. I’ve seen this policy in action. I tried for months when I was a journalist to get the name of two deputy marshals who, along with county deputies, shot to death a 23-year-old, gun-wielding man in Missouri in 2009. I fought, with the newspaper’s help, for disclosure of the names by filing Freedom of Information requests and by writing about the secrecy.

Bizarrely, the names would have been quickly released had the shooters been county deputies or city police. Local police departments usually have policies that call for release of the names, based on a theory that full disclosure helps the public understand the reasons behind the use of deadly force.

Full disclosure can end speculation and rumor-mongering.
Any kind of secrecy can mask error, in my opinion.
The first roadblock we ran into in 2009 was a directive from the United States Marshals Service under the category “Shooting Incidents.”
It says: “The names of USMS personnel involved in a shooting are NEVER to be released to the news media at the district/field office level.” The capital letters for emphasis are contained in the directive. It goes on to say marshals’ names are released to local or county investigating agencies “with the understanding that they cannot release the names to the news media.”

That might seem reasonable if the goal of the Marshals Service was to release the names through marshals channels. That wasn’t the case, though. After first holding up the directive to block release, the marshals service then pointed to an exemption in the federal Freedom of Information Act, or FOIA.
That privacy exemption basically allows the government to close records that could create “an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy.” In this case, the government acted in line with a theory that still exists today in the marshals service.
The agency believes that when marshals do their jobs and do them well, they should not be subjected to publicity.
Of course, the crux of that thinking relies on the assumption that publicity is bad for the officer. The argument could be made, as is often done when lawmen and women receive awards, that their actions in the line of duty are heroic and deserve to be praised, publicly.
The secrecy also raises this nagging question: How can the public or news media monitor the conduct of deputy marshals if they don’t know their work history, their previous use of force or even their names.

As I mentioned, the case I watched was from 2009. I checked back with the marshals service late this month (March 2017) and was told there has been no change in policy or the directive to keep names secret.
The service still considers it sound to argue that, even though most police agencies release names of officers involved in shootings, the marshals deserve more protection.

Why should we relinquish our marshals’ rights simply because local and city police have not worked hard enough to protect theirs? That’s a tenet the marshals hold to tightly.

In the Missouri case, I have to admit that we did not fight all the way to the top to try to get the names. We were delayed by red tape, our readers expressed no outrage at the secrecy and we gave up after months of being stymied. We could have sued.

We might have won, but there are no guarantees. When a suit is filed, the marshals service has to convince a court that the need for privacy outweighs the public interest in names.
I should stress that we made our request before the wave of highly publicized controversial police shootings of recent years.

One official with the Reporters Committee for the Freedom of the Press believes the heightened public interest in police shootings — exhibited profoundly after the killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri — could work against any Marshals’ argument for continued secrecy. The greater public interest could help sway a judge in today’s climate to release marshals names.

I couldn’t find any recent case to determine if the names of deputy marshals have surfaced in shootings that took place after 2009.

Unfortunately, I have to guess in our country of heavily armed civilians that a shooting will happen soon. And, unless marshals are found to have acted badly, or are prosecuted, their names will remain secret.

Unless someone fights in court to have them released.

Meanwhile, the names of local officers continue to be released and they seem to handle it well, especially when facts and circumstances support their use of deadly force.

In the case I watched, we still have no idea if the officers involved had shot anyone previously or since. That seems like bad policy in the land of the free, and the home of the brave.

Are these courageous public servants really afraid that publicity will harm them? Or, is the marshals service sticking to a policy that’s out of touch with progressive law enforcement in today’s America?

Bubba and the beach

“How about ‘Bubba goes to the beach?’ ” I asked.

My granddaughter Mimsy and her two sleepover friends looked at me skeptically. Their faces showed they hoped for a bedtime story with more pizzazz, some magic maybe. I was taken aback, maybe even a little insulted.

I thought they would be excited to hear the next story about “Bubba,” the nickname for Mimsy’s mom when she was a chunky baby. Maybe the two “Bubba” stories already told had been enough.

Mimsy asked: “Isn’t the beach boring to a baby? Especially one that can’t even crawl yet? We don’t want to hear about her just scooching around.”

“Can she get swallowed by a whale?”

I shushed her, and told them to relax and settle in, to just listen.

Once upon a time, a baby was swallowed by a whale … but the whale had to burp. Bubba came flying right out and landed on the beach, where she just scooched around bored for hours and hours and …

“You’re teasing, Grandpa,” Mimsy shouted with pretend anger, giggling.

“OK, OK.”

Once upon a time, I took Bubba to the beach on a foggy, windy day. I should have known better.

I should have listened to the weatherman. But it had been so sunny inland, where we had started our drive. Besides, Bubba’s big brother Luke really wanted to try out his new snorkel.

We found ourselves set up in a spot close enough for me to watch Luke but far enough away for Bubba to lounge on her blankie, playing with her soft squeaky rattle, watching the seagulls swoop out of the fog and dive, fighting for whatever scraps of french fries or chips they could find.

Bubba smiled at a big gull as he hovered nearby, scouting out her rattle. She gave a belly laugh when he swooped down to grab a black, sea-soaked stick, thinking it was food.

I positioned myself between the two kids, my head swiveling like I was watching a ping pong match: Luke in the low water, Bubba on the blankie. Luke floating on his belly. Bubba trying to reach the bag of taco chips.

I went over to grab one of those chips just as a swell of water hit Luke. He was a good swimmer then but I hustled toward him, just in case, tossing the bag of chips near Bubba’s feet. I didn’t see it spill tacos in a line all the way to her belly.

Luke surfaced, coughing, and I ran to him, worried.

Bubba, chips within reach now, turned to her left and grabbed a tiny handful. The big seagulls squawked to his buddies that he had food within sight. Five circled, but pulled back when a big wave hit the shore, pushing the sea close to all the blankets nearby.

A Cabbage Patch Doll, it’s round head bobbing like a balloon in air, washed out to the ocean. Bubba thought it was a …

Mimsy couldn’t stay quiet. “What the heck is a Cabbage Patch Doll? Vegetables?”

“It’s a kind of doll that was very popular back in the 1980s. People collected them. One time, so many people went at the same time to buy them, that a big … wait. Never mind. That’s a story for another day.”

Mimsy’s friend Sh’E’Qual asked loudly? “What happened to Bubba? Did she really have to fight a whale?

“Sh-sh-sh Sh’Equal.” Once I had learned how to actually say her name (she equal) I loved saying it. Her mom and dad wanted her to know she could do anything a boy could do. I started trying to think of a plot of a story with her as the star, so I could say her name a bunch of times.

“Grandpa! The story!” Mimsy said, seeing I was staring at the nightlight on the wall.

“Oh yeah, back to Bubba.”

Well, as you might expect, I was scared for Luke more than worried about Bubba, knowing we had placed our stuff further away from the water than the other blankets. Still, the waves kept coming, knocking Luke down before he could adjust his snorkel.

I helped him to his feet, and we both got slammed by the next wave, sending us sprawling.

The gulls circled Bubba now, at least 10 of them, with one grabbing a taco chip as big as a small fish and swooping away with it. Water chased away almost everyone who had been sitting near us.

Bubba saw that Cabbage Patch Doll roll back up to the sand, waterlogged and covered in seaweed.

She grabbed some taco chips in both fists, and pushed both them behind her back. She looked like she had run into some bad Missouri police officers who thought they had to handcuff a baby.

“Whaa-aat? I thought you said police were the good guys, Grandpa?” Mimsy said, accusingly.

“Yeah, yeah, you’re right. Forget that. Let’s replace that with ‘Bubba looked like she was playing that game where you try to guess what hand someone is holding the quarter in.’ ”

“Who cares about a quarter? How about a dollar?” Sh’E’Qual said.

“Never mind. Never mind. Don’t you wanna know what happens next?”

Mimsy’s third friend, her nickname was Nellie, put her hands up to the mouths of the other two girls. “Whoa,” Nellie said.

I continued.

Waves rushing. Birds circling. Me helping Luke to try to get back to Bubba. The Cabbage Patch Doll sucked back out to sea. A fat lady running away and sliding backward over a sand dune into a sandcastle.

Luke got so worried he ran faster than me toward his baby sister.

We shouldn’t have worried. Bubba had a plan.

Those hungry sea gulls had tried so hard to get to those taco chips in her hands that they dug and dug at the blankie until they saw they had to clamp onto it with their strong beaks. Then, they flapped their giant wings as hard as they could.

Away went Bubba flying in the blanket, just far enough off the ground to miss the sand dunes and to be set down up the beach, gently, away from the water. She looked like Aladdin on his carpet.

Bubba just belly laughed at me and her brother, pulling those fists from behind her back and tossing the chips to her hungry friends, the birds.

Luke laid down to give her a hug. He asked if he could try to get the gulls to take him on a ride.

Still worried but amazed, I checked the baby for injuries. She smiled so big I knew she wasn’t hurt.

Luke ran back to the surf to rescue the Cabbage Patch Doll.

Bubba pointed to the fat lady. She had started to sing.

And that, as you know, means the story is over.

“Huh?” Mimsy asked.

Bubba and the bouncy house

“Grandpa, you pro-m-m-m-m-is-sed!”

“OK. OK. If you all get into your beds, I’ll start the story. But, remember, I’m old. If you talk while I’m trying to …”

“Wait. Wait. It’s a baby story, right?” Mimsy shouted, and her two sleepover girlfriends nodded in agreement. “And my momma is in it, as the baby. Remember, her nickname was Bubba.”

Interrupted before I could start, I was still proud. Apparently, the first “Bubba” bedtime story had made an impression. Mimsy liked it enough to talk about it with her friends.

“OK. OK,” I said. “Do you remember the name of the last story? It was Bubba’s Special Backyard Spot.”

“I know. I know,” Mimsy said. “She was called Bubba cuz she was chubby, and she helped save the bunnies. Will she save someone again tonight?”

“Shh, remember, no interrupting. You and your friends will have to just listen. Let me get started. How many times do I gotta tell you that I am really old. And, I’m getting older by the millisecond here … OK, ready…”

Once upon a time, when Bubba was just a baby, I took her and her big brother to a party at a rich boy’s house.

That boy’s family had so much money they gave him very expensive parties, even when the occasion wasn’t that special. He got a party for being out of school for the summer, a party for going back to school in the fall, a party because he had been good when company came, a party after he was bad when company came but promised to be good.

He even got a party for too much time passing without his parents giving him a party.

Mimsy couldn’t hold back. “How much time? A month? A year? A week?”


This particular party for the rich kid was called ‘A-month-should-not- go- by- without- a- party-party.’

“Does that answer your question Miss Mimsy,” I asked, and she stared at me with a smile, then mock anger. She put her finger to her lips and said in a sing-songy voice, “Shh. Someone is interrupting.”

I continued.

These were not just little parties either. The rich boy’s parents owned a big house with a big yard and they always had something exciting at their parties. One time it was a pony to ride; another time it was a superhero in costume. Once, they even had real clowns who could do magic!

This time, though, it was even better. They had a giant bounce house, and a bouncy slide!

In unison, Mimsy and her friends could not help but whisper “Wow.”

Well, as  you might expect, many of the bigger kids at the party, including Bubba’s big brother Luke, loved that bounce house, and could not get enough of the slide. It took a full hour before they took a break from bouncing to gobble up some cake and drink some juice.

I decided Bubba, who was too little to play with the rougher, larger kids, should get a chance to at least see what it was like inside that house, maybe scooch around while everyone else was busy. She was too young to crawl, I knew, or even roll over, but she would like the bright colors and the smooth plastic floor.

I was right. She smiled as I rocked the floor under her and she giggled when I pulled her around by her legs. I stopped so she could feel the walls, near one of the corners.

As Bubba explored that sun-warmed wall, I heard the rich boy talking angrily. Then he was shouting, then crying out, like a small dog trying to get out the door to bite the mailman.

‘Luke drank out of my soda cup,’ the rich boy wailed. “It has Luke germs now.” Luke shouted back, “I did not you big wimp. Stop your blubbering.’

I poked my head out of the bounce house, and I shouted for Luke to come to me. He turned to walk away the rich boy and his tantrum, but that boy continued his yelling, at Luke’s back.

‘You did, you dumb stupidhead. You stupid dumbhead. I’m going to give you some paybacks.’ Taller and older than Luke, the boy ran at him from behind. I called out for Luke to turn around but it was too late.

The bigger boy sent Luke sprawling on his belly on the asphalt near the garage. He rolled onto his back, holding both knees. They were bleeding.

I ran to him, but was too slow. He already had lunged and grabbed the rich boy by his ankles, growling and vowing revenge.

Bubba in the bounce house, meanwhile, decided this was the perfect time to learn to roll over. Arching her back, trying to feel for more of the wall of the bounce house, she got on to her side. Then she balanced and swayed … slowly … rocking … then to her belly!

Problem was, she was too close to the slippery corner and slid right down into the space between the floor and the walls. She was stuck, like a Sumo wrestler had her in a headlock. Her chubby cheek pressed against the hot plastic and her little right arm wedged in the seam between the floor and the wall.

She cried. She whimpered. She wriggled. Then, she thought back to the time she had to share a crib with her chubbier cousin, when he kicked her, his little round heel glancing off her cheek and coming to rest oh-so close to her mouth. She latched on with the only two teeth she had at the time.

Now, she had four teeth. So she bit hard, harder, then super-hard, shaking her head like a tiny dog who gets hold of the mailman.

The air from the big bounce house seeped out slowly at first, warming her cheeks with breath hotter than the plastic walls. The rip in the plastic spread quickly. Bubba felt a breeze from her cheeks to her chest, then a gust of air right at her plump belly. 

The air rushed around her, filling her little hoodie like a balloon.

By the time Luke and I rushed back to the door of the bounce house, a gust of air so strong  had lifted Bubba. She hung in the air, in the corner. The curved walls kept her from flying higher. She looked like a baby angel, glowing with the orange and yellow of the sun filtering through the bounce house walls, an angry fiery cherub but without the wings.

“My momma was like an astronaut, like a space man!” Mimsy shrieked, jumping up in her bed to bounce in the air. Her girlfriends followed suit.

I ssh’d them again.

“Don’t you want to know what happened next?” I asked, and they settled back into their covers.

I grabbed Bubba mid-air, just as the rich boy and his friends got to the opening of the bounce house. They gasped at seeing their first-ever flying baby. 

They forgot about the rich boy’s yelling.

He didn’t forget. ‘You broke my bounce house,’ he said to Bubba, charging toward me as I held her high.

‘You’re gonna get some paybacks…’

Luke blocked his path, staring, fuming, knees bent into the wrestling stance he learned at the YMCA. He spit at the boy’s feet.

‘Thanks so much for the fine, entertaining party,’ I said quickly, smiling and tousling the angry boy’s hair. ‘Sorry about that bounce house. Must’ve been a squirrel in there or something, or maybe a sharp toy. Who brought that plastic Batman with the grappling hook?’

‘Sorry but we have to leave. I have to get Luke home. Looks like someone caused him to hurt his knees.’

“Oh, I’d like to bite that rich boy,” said Nellie, Mimsy’s tallest girlfriend.

“Whoa, Nellie,” I said. I loved to tease her about her name. “Remember, this is just a bedtime story. All of you, listen carefully. Here is some advice from real life:

— Don’t think everyone who is rich is bad, but watch out for the spoiled rich kids.

— Don’t turn your back on someone who is mad enough to push you.

— Never leave a baby in a bounce house, or a hot car, not even for a second.

— Please, please. Don’t bite bounce houses; they taste terrible.

— Never, ever bite a rich kid. His dad is probably a lawyer.”

Bubba’s special backyard spot

Writer’s note: I’m experimenting with fiction for kids. Let me know what you think, especially if you’re under 30.

The evening that my daughter asked me for help, I had not yet had a lot of experience being a grandfather. I blame geography. Distance had kept me away from my daughter and her daughter, my granddaughter.

 Who can say no to a daughter, grown or not? She asked me to tell her little girl Mimsy, 5, a story.

  I could immediately see why I had been enlisted. Mimsy, 5, was settling into bed after a tough day. She had scraped her knee in a bad soccer game. She couldn’t sleep. This was not going to be easy.

I had told many bedtime stories to my own kids, but that had been years and years ago. I worried I lost my touch. I thought hard.

I knew Mimsy was fussy tonight. What would keep her attention?

A monster maybe?  Nah, too scary. A fantasy? Nah. Couldn’t be too complicated. Forget the big words. 

A superhero?

I tried to remember how I used to do this.

“What’ the matter, grandpa? You look lost,” Mimsy said. “Momma said you used to be good at this. Where is Momma. My knee hurts.”

“Give me a minute, just getting revved up,” I said.

I decided to tell her a story about her own momma, when she was little, when she was a baby. She had soft chunky rolls, especially on her bottom and thighs, so we called her Bubba.

“OK, Mimsy, I have one. It’s called  ‘Bubba in the yard.’  I think you’ll like it.”

“Is it going to be long, Granpa? I really need momma. Did she tell you I got hurt at soccer?”

“Shh. I’m telling a story. You’ll like it. I promise.
Uh-ho, now I was in for it. The pressure was on.

Once upon a time, your momma was a chubby baby.

And she loved the yard, even before she could crawl or talk.

 Scooching around on her yellow-and-white blankie, she cooed and giggled. She seemed to be talking to the trees that swayed overhead,  the soft grass that tickled her toes at her blankie’s edge, or the scarlet cardinals who sometimes landed close by.

She hardly ever cried when she played out there. It seemed to be her special spot, protected by the old, bent maple tree, not far from the swing set.

“Grandpa, I don’t have a swing set,” Mimsy interrupted. “Why don’t I have a swing set. Momma had a–”

I just stared at her, my finger to my lips. She pouted and pulled down the blanket to inspect the bandage on her knee.

Like I was saying.

Bubba loved that spot in the backyard, especially the shadows dancing over her blankie from the sun breaking through that maple tree.

Before setting her on the blankie, though, I paused. A rabbit ran from the wheelbarrow nearby. It was propped on the trunk of the oak tree, not far from the maple. Bubba must’ve seen her too. She shrieked and stared. I tried to figure out where the animal had run to.

We both looked for a few seconds and gave up. I laid her down and sat nearby, on the grass, reading. Bubba’s momma, your grandma Lynn. pulled weeds in the garden but she stopped when she saw us. She ran over to grab her baby’s toes and kiss her round cheeks.

She always did that.

“I miss grandma. Where is she?” Mimsy asked, sitting up in bed.

“She couldn’t visit this time but she can’t wait to see you, Mimsy. But, did I mention how she loves to hear me tell stories. Everybody loves my stories. They never, ever, ever interrupt.”

Mimsy, a precocious 5-year-old, rolled her eyes, pretended to zip her lip and throw away the key. I continued.

Lynn told me she needed to mow the grass on the side of house. She said she’d stay clear of us but would do the rest of the yard later. She grabbed the big machine with the loud motor and sharp blades from the shed. As she rolled it past Bubba and me, planning to start cutting out front, the baby shrieked again, this time in anger.

As Lynn disappeared around the lilac bush, Bubba cried, loud and louder. Then louder yet.

She probably missed grandma. Like I do,” Mimsy said, folding her arms on her chest and feigning anger. I just stared her back into silence and continued.

I didn’t know why Bubba was crying. This was her special spot. I picked her up, checked her diaper and gave her a hug and a bounce. Lynn heard her from all the way out front. She left the lawnmower there and rushed back. ‘Wassamatter Bubba?’ she asked, as she calmed the baby with her voice and some hugs.

Everything was fine for a few minutes. But, once Lynn headed back to the front yard and started the loud mower, Bubba restarted her tantrum.

 She yelped. She crinkled up her eyes in either pain or anger. She held her breath.

Perplexed, I tried all my tricks: funny faces, juggling some acorns, motorboating her soft belly and, as a last resort, my specialty: I lay down on my back and balanced her in the air on my knees.

“Nothing worked …”

I paused for effect. Now, Mimsy was listening intently, grimacing while she tried to figure out what was wrong with the baby. She had an idea. She couldn’t stay quiet: “A bug bit her, I’ll bet. Or, did she get poked by a thorn?”

“Um, excuse me. That’s why it’s called a story. You have to listen to it to hear what happens,” I said, faking irritation as I did the zip-the-lip motion.

 I stood and picked Bubba back up. I thought of calling to Lynn but I knew she wouldn’t hear over the mower. Bubba would not calm down.  Worried now, I carried Bubba back out to momma, and my wife stopped the lawnmower to take hold of her wriggling, sobbing 6-month-old. Again, Bubba quieted, and Lynn gave me a look that said: ‘Can’t you take care of a kid for 10 minutes?’

Lynn walked back with us to the blanket as Bubba  whimpered. My wife asked if she could have been bitten by a bug or stuck by a thorn.

Mimsy looked up at me smugly.

I told my wife that, of course, I had checked for both of those things already.

Back on the blanket, it was like a switch was thrown the other way. Bubba turned happy again. She giggled and pawed at my wife’s hand as Lynn for a fever.

After a quick hug (for the baby) and a shrug (to me), my wife told me she had to finish up the lawn.

I played patty-cake with Bubba and she was fine — until she heard her momma start the mower again.

I couldn’t figure it out. Bubba had certainly heard the mower before, even slept to its drone on at least one occasion. We were always careful to keep it far from her, realizing how it could kick up stones.

Bubba wailed, scooched and flopped on to her back, kicking her feet in anger. I tried to distract her. I pointed to a cardinal, to the maple’s branches caught by the sun; I asked her where the rabbit had gone, motioning toward the oak tree’s trunk.

 The word “rabbit” got her attention for a second, and she stopped crying. She looked for the animal but she whimpered again when she saw it was not there. I was ready to give up, take her back into the house, maybe try a walk.

I rubbed my head, trying to figure out why her favorite backyard spot had lost its magic. 

Mimsy interrupted again. “Was it bad magic? Was there a wizard? A goblin? A witch?”

I shushed her, and went on:

 Bubba stared up at me, unblinking as she cried some more. I bent to pick her up but, suddenly she went silent. It seemed like she had just gotten a very good idea. Oddly, she moved both her tiny fists to her temples and unfolded only her pointer fingers. It was like she was making little ears on the top of her head.

I held my fists to my head and stared down at Mimsy until she did the same. I made my pointer fingers dance like my pretend ears were wiggling. She giggled and followed suit as I went back to the story.

 I stood, bewildered, wondering if —

“Bewilliger? What’s that?” Mimsy asked.

“Bewildered. It means addled, perplex… nevermind. Let’s just say I stood up, wondering what the heck was going on. Now, let me finish. Don’t you wanna know what happens?”

Mimsy just nodded, sitting up in bed now to hear better.

Bubba kept her hands on her head until I knelt down closer. She had my attention so she stopped crying.

I noticed how red her chubby cheeks had gotten and wiped away a tear that was left on one. She cooed, as a gentle breeze rustled her blanket, not far from her feet. At least I thought it was a breeze. But, the blanket kept moving even when the wind stopped. I realized it was moving only in one small area, not far from Bubba’s big toe on her left foot.

Uh-oh. I gasped and scooped up the baby. I pulled up the blanket slowly, looking for a snake or mole or … who knows?

“A rat?” Mimsy shouted. “A monster?”

I ignored her.

The baby pointed to the spot, and she smiled. It wasn’t a snake. It wasn’t a mole, or a rat or any kind of monster. It was a nest! A rabbit’s nest, but the momma rabbit was nowhere nearby.

 Made from dried grass and fluffy fur, the nest sat in a shallow hole in the yard. The six newborns wriggling around looked like a brown-and-white pinwheel, with their tiny heads near the center and their legs sticking out like spokes on a bicycle.

They still had their eyes closed.

 I remembered how Bubba had crooked her fingers like bunny ears. Now she was smiling, then giggling. I set her back on the blanket and she gave a belly laugh, her little sausage toes stretched as if she was trying to reach the newborn bunnies.

 Just then, by luck, Lynn returned to check on us. She knelt to see the bunnies, too, as I told her how Bubba had made little rabbit ears with her finger. We took a photo and gently placed a white laundry basket over the nest, so Lynn could finish cutting the grass but keep those sharp, low blades from damaging the nest.

Or worse.

“Wait. Wait. Wait a minute,” Mimsy said, jumping out of bed, forgetting to favor her sore knee. “Is that true? What, was my mom? Like a baby with super powers? A Super Baby? How did she know to protect the bunnies? Did you take any video? What happened to the bunnies? Did the mom come back? Did you put it on Facebook?”

“Whoa! Whoa! Not now,” I said firmly. “Only one story a night. These take a lot out of me. I’m old.”

“If you’re good tomorrow, I’ll tell you another. Yes, yes. OK. Your mom can be in it again.”

Mimsy grabbed her biggest doll, hugged it and, as I tucked her back into bed, told me thank you for the story. She also suggested one for the next night.

“I know. I know. How about Bubba and the bullies?”

Oh boy, I thought as I shut the door, this is not gonna be easy.