“Mom!!” It was a two-syllable use of my name, accompanied by a serious-sounding wail.
I glanced up from the table, which I was polishing with Murphy’s Almond Oil spray.
Ben came tumbling around the entrance to the kitchen via the center hallway. As usual, he appeared disheveled. His pants were too short. His hair was all over the place. But he wasn’t, as I noted when I took him in with that practiced sort of inspection that takes all moms about ten milliseconds, in any real pain.
“Mo—oooooom!” He rubbed his belly for emphasis, “Maddie hit me really hard in the stomach and it hurts.”
I nodded, taking in the scent of the spray, which mixed in a comforting way with the vinegar Travis used to make Mrs. Rogers salad dressing (which is really just an excuse to add ketchup to a totally unsuspecting dish). In a level voice, I asked, “Why did she hit you?”
He bounced on his feet, explaining things as much visually as with language. “She said I was annoying her, and then I did this,” he paused to show something with his arms, “And that I wouldn’t stop singing, and so she hit me.”
I finished the section of the table I was working on and then nodded in his direction.
Without further discussion, he raced off, and less than two seconds later, he bellowed from the bottom of the stairs, “Maddie! Mom said I could hit you back! So that’s what I’m comin’ to do!”
I chuckled, and with my voice still cracking from the effects of bronchitis, called up after him, “Did not!”