Lords and ladies of the blog (I've always wanted to begin a post that way), I am the mother of a 4th grader...What? This doesn't shock you? It should. It shocks the living hell out of me. This means that every year since Claire has been in the the first grade, my family has been under the yearly threat of The Flying Screaming Monkey.
You see, every fall Mimosa Park Elementary participates in a dessert sale and every Mimosa student is encouraged to run out there and sell an assortment of cookies, cheesecakes and brownies. After three years of Claire (and last year Emma) participating in the sale, we have decided to bow out this time. Why would we turn down sweets, and pretty darn good ones in fact? Let's set aside the fact that every single grown up I know (man and woman alike) is trying to lose weight, and every single kid I know already has so much candy left over from Halloween that the desserts are just more logs on the fire. The bad part about the sale is that if they do well they win odd prizes that break a day later like a jumbo pen that vibrates wildly at the push of a button, as if it's been jammed into an electrical socket. And the worst part of the sale is that if they do VERY well (and with the blood sugar problem in my family they usually do) is that they win The Flying Screaming Monkey. Dude, that's its actual name.
Claire won it in the first grade. I remember that afternoon as if it just happened, I mean as if instead of spending the last fifteen minutes writing about The Flying Screaming Monkey, I just actually experienced the afternoon of The Flying Screaming Monkey. But I digress...I knew that the monkey was a prize in the sales drive, but I just thought it was some obnoxious little thing that made "oo! oo! aa! aa!" noises. The afternoon that Claire brought it home, she got off the bus and ran to me across the lawn. She was crying, shaking, and mumbling something about the monkey in her school bag.
"What's the matter?" I asked, thinking I'd heard her wrong.
"Get it off! Get it off!" she hollered, afraid to move or touch the school bag herself.
And just in case you might think that I'm exagerrating her dramatic reaction, I refer you to any one of my readers who have known Claire since she was a baby. She IS drama.
I took off her school bag and again asked her what was wrong.
"The Flying Screaming Monkee's in there!" she yelled. "Don't open it!"
"Why? It's just a stuffed animal, right?"
I raised a hand to unzip the bag.
"NOOOOOOOO!!" she yelled, darting back. "No, Momma! It screams! It screams!"
"Claire, you're screaming. Is it louder than that?"
"Well, can I see it?"
"Do you want it out of your school bag?"
"Then I have to unzip it."
I rolled my eyes. "Well, what do you want me to do with it?"
"Throw it away!"
"Your WHOLE SCHOOL BAG?"
"Claire, you're being unreasonable."
I opened the front door and walked inside.
"Don't bring it in the house, Momma!" she hollered.
"NOOOOO! Momma, nooo!"
I left the school bag outside the door and brought Claire inside, even though at the time I was more inclined to bring in the Flying Screaming Monkey and leave the Screaming Claire on the lawn. Besides, I wanted to see and hear this thing that caused so much panic. I mean, how terrifying could it be? I tried to distract her so I could sneak outside take a peak, but my daughter even at six was mind numbindly stubborn. She stood in the front room, shivering and glancing out the window as if afraid that the thing would unzip the bag and fly screaming into the house.
She was still trying to convince me to throw the bag away when Chris came home from work. I explained the problem, and Chris put a hand to his chin.
"Have you seen it?" he asked.
"No. She's terrified."
"That's what the name implies."
"How does it fly?"
"I don't know."
He smiled devilishly and whispered, "Let's see it."
"Chris, she's scared."
"We'll take it in the back yard where she can't hear it."
"NO! NO! It screams!" Claire screamed.
Chris has never been a quiet whisperer.
"It'll be in the way back of the yard," Chris told her.
"Just stay inside. You won't hear it, I promise."
Now this is the part where our gender difference as parents kicks in. Whereas I relented in the face of Claire's horror, Chris grabbed the school bag, said, "Claire, you're being ridiculous," and went into the backyard. I followed, fussing at him along the way.
"I just want to see it."
"But Claire's scared."
"She's overreacting. You know you want to see it too."
Claire, of course, terrified but probably wanting to see it too, walked outside. For those of you who have never been to my house, my backyard is pretty big. It's a long way from the back of the house to the end of the yard, and we stood behind the wall of firewood so that Claire wouldn't have to see Chris unzip the bag.
When he pulled the monkee out of Claire's school bag, I immediately agreed with Chris. Claire had to be overreacting. It was a small brown monkee with a long skinny arms, like two wet spaghetti noodles hanging at its side. It wore a white scarf and had sweet, shiny brown eyes peeking out behind aviator goggles.
"How does it scream?" I asked, unable to imagine that the cute little thing could make any sound other than a baby's coo.
"How does it fly?" Chris asked. He fished inside the bag.
Claire was standing across the yard, sobbing.
"Claire, it's ok!" I reassured her. "It's cute."
"NO!" she exclaimed, hands over her ears.
"Ah ha!" Chris stood up with a sheet of paper in his hands. "Directions. It works like a sling shot. You pull the monkee back and let go."
"Is that when it screams?" I asked.
"According to this," he said, tapping on the directions.
I don't remember the exact mechanics of the Flying Screaming Monkee. I don't remember if Chris pulled the monkee's body back while holding the arms with the other and letting go or what. I just remember the scream. Chris stretched the monkee and that fucking thing screamed as if Chris had reached inside it and unraveled its intestines. It screamed, Chris, Claire and I screamed, Chris let go and the monkee's arms popped off of its body. The monkee's head and torso flew screeching across the yard on its first and final flight. Chris dropped the long, fuzzy arms dangling from his hand and Claire ran into the house, beside herself with terror.
No amount of cookies were worth the trauma of that afternoon. In the years that followed we made sure that Claire sold just enough desserts to win the vibrating pen and not The Flying Screaming Monkee. This year, our friends and families fattened from previous sales, Claire and Emma did not participate at all. No to say that there hasn't been any screaming in the house. But no dismembered monkees.