The Switch

“Who names their band Tool?” David asked from his perch on the back of the couch. I’d told him sixty-four times not to sit there.

“Apparently Maynard Keenan,” I said, smiling. I shooed him from the couch, which was really no worse for wear. David plopped down next to me instead. Apparently our conversation wasn’t over.

We did the dance often, the questions, the answers, and the switch. Sometimes he would ask, sometimes I would, but we would always end up where we started, at him rolling his eyes. Often the questions were easy ones, but every once in a while he threw me a curveball.

“Where do babies come from?” he asked last night. I pretended not to hear him. “Where do babies come from?” he repeated, louder. David’s ten, and can outlast a zombie in who can stare the longest without blinking.

“Well, they come from pockets in trees, like baby kangaroos in pouches,” I said. “When mommies and daddies go hiking in the forest, they can take them out and name them whatever they want. Once the babies have names, they belong to the mommies and daddies. Before they have names, they still belong to the trees.”

He pondered the idea of arboreal humanoids, but shook his head slowly after a minute.

“No. Way,” he said. “Trees are too rough. The bark would hurt the babies.”

“That’s what sap is for,” I told him. “It keeps them warm and protects them from the rough bark.”

I was obviously speaking out of my ass, but hell if I was going to tell him all the real messy bits about women, and men, and the disgusting things they do. He would learn enough about all of that in time. I was trying to keep him innocent, like I wish my parents had done with me.

“Okay,” he said. And I figured it was over. The next night he sat down on the back of the couch for the sixty-sixth time. I let it be.

“How do the trees know what color the babies are supposed to be?” he asked, head cocked to the side, like some deranged pigeon. I stifled a laugh. “Well, each tree has its own magic,” I said. “They protect the babies, but the babies don’t have any color until the mommies and daddies touch the tree. The tree gives each baby the characteristics of its soon-to-be parents.”

“Hmmm,” he said. “That sounds pretty dumb.”

“Excuse me?”

“I said that sounds pretty dumb,” he said, louder. “My friend Garrett has a mommy and daddy who are both light and he’s dark. Maybe they touched the wrong tree.”

I shooed him off the back of the couch for the sixty-seventh time, but what I really wanted was to give him a big hug. He was a lot brighter than I gave him credit for, even when put in wildly crazy situations.

“So, if babies come from trees, what’s in mommy’s belly?” he asked. I hung my head.

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