This House is on Fire

by gillis

Mondays are notoriously busy in this house, and sometimes it can feel like an ugly way to start the work week. After school staff or committee meetings are followed up by either a sports practice or play rehearsal drop off/pick up, which in turn is followed by a dance class run up to the other side of the county. When all of this is said and done, it’s time to get home and start the feeding and grooming schedule for the evening. Some weeks my husband is home on a Monday and he will make a lovely dinner while all the running around takes place. It’s a wonderful thing to come home to a nice dinner, and this was the case yesterday.

Our son, August, was busy at the kitchen/bathroom table creating vehicles for his Lego creations when Greta and I came home from her dance class. He told us that there would be a big surprise with dinner. He had set our places in the dining room and there was a game, a puzzle of sorts to figure out which seat belonged to each of us. My husband and I made eye contact as he was chopping vegetables and he smiled and shrugged as if to say, “Hey, it kept him out of my hair and he wasn’t, for once, plotting world domination.”

I set my things down, went upstairs to get out of my tights and into my pajamas, and promptly forgot about the dinner game to come. When I came down the stairs, I was directed into the dining room. From the looks of it, the puzzle to solve was invisible. There were placemats with plates, napkins, and silverware set up in pretty normal patterns. Each seat had a glass filled with water at it, although not all of the glasses were the same. Aha! I thought I had cracked the code. We had to find our seat based on the drinking glasses! I went straight for the shorter, wider glass thinking that was me because my son has mentioned my height to weight ratio before in unfavorable terms, and it seemed like a logical symbol. I was quickly steered away from that seat and into one that was the farthest away from the one my son claimed. I hadn’t noticed that there was a large gap between the place I was to sit and all of the other seats. I looked over at my husband who was carrying in a plate full of roasted vegetables and we exchanged glances and smirks.

As we all sat down, August told us to pull off small paper tags he had taped to the sides of the tablecloth, these were our place cards. The front of each place card was colored in black, the reverse side had a picture on it. These were the puzzles. Finally it was starting to make sense. We all turned them over. Greta was the first one to figure hers out.

“Is it a man with a fedora walking with a turtle who also has a fedora on using a cane?” she asked.

“Yes,” he replied. How specific and interesting I thought.

Next was my husband who correctly guessed that his picture involved a castle and guards wearing hats.

August then showed us his picture of an elaborate pirate scene on a boat.

I was still stumped about my picture back in the nosebleed section of the dining room table. There were no figures on it whatsoever. No people, animals, or discernible structures, just an area of red marker and an area of black marker. I was reminded to guess.

“A Star Wars space ship?”

“No, there’s not even a vehicle on it,” he said, sounding incredulous that I could have made such a colossal mistake.

“A castle.”

“Nope. Guess again.” Now his tone was triumphant.

I looked at it again. Some red marker above some black marker. That was it. Was it a close up of a superhero costume? A ladybug? It felt like a test, everyone else’s made sense. Even I could see the turtle’s hat and cane. This was like a Rorschach test, given by a five year old, and I was failing miserably.

“Doyou give up?” he asked, gleefully.

“Yes,” I said with resignation.

“It’s a house on fire,” he chirped.

At least the food was good.

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