“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.”
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.”