We were in the kitchen when it started. It usually started when we were all together in a way that didn’t allow for an immediate exit—in the car, in the bathroom brushing your teeth, in the kitchen preparing dinner or doing the dishes. It would begin slowly and grow exponentially until my mind felt like Munch’s painting of the Scream. This time I was setting the table for dinner.
“Did you know that hippo milk is pink?” Emma said.
I made the mistake of acknowledging the statement. Layce shot me a look. I’d forgotten the cardinal rule—do not engage the trivia train.
“Did you know there was this guy down south that they called the Phantom Barber and he would break into people’s houses and cut their hair at night. We had this guy here who was the Phantom Pooper. He’d go all over town and dump a load in the fast food restaurants so people wouldn’t go have lunch anymore and he wouldn’t have to wait in line at any of the places. Did you see that sock in the street in front of our house? It’s not any of ours. I was looking at the tulips when I saw it. Did you know the tulips have bloomed?”
She broke into song. It was the refrain of a song from Alice in Wonderland that concerned flowers. That done, she continued her monologue.
“Did you know that the can opener was invented 42 years after the can was invented? How did they open cans? Do you remember that time you (Layce) cut your finger on the can lid and Saxon had to get the Band Aids and you couldn’t look at your own blood? But you looked at mine then I fell in the shower and cut my eye.” She showed her scar. I knew without a quick diversion The Map of Scars would be wheeled out. Too late. “See this one…”
“Speaking of which, will you put Band Aids on the grocery list,” I said, trying to divert her.
Unfortunately, the list was attached to the fridge by a magnet. “Did John bring this magnet home from China? Did you know in China they used to tie people down on top of a bamboo plant and the bamboo would grow right through them? Do you remember John’s eyebrows? He shaved off one half while he was fixing them and then he had to shave off the other side so it would match and then he went to China.”
I glanced over at Layce. Her eyes had glazed over.
“Did you know that the widow of the gun guy Mr. Winchester made her house have all these mazes and weird hallways so the ghosts of all the people who died by the gun couldn’t get her? That would be like the maze the church puts up on Halloween. This year for Halloween I want to be a unicorn. I could use part of my costume from last year. I have a drawing of it right here.”
There was a knock at the door. “Em, will you get that?” I said. A distraction might derail the trivia train. A stranger at the door was ideal.
“Who is it?” Layce called out as she put the pasta in pot.
“It’s a lady handing out pamphlets,” Em said.
“Why don’t you two have a chat out on the porch until dinner is ready,” I said.
“Okay,” Em said.
When the pasta was al dente, I stepped out onto the porch to retrieve Emma. She was trivia-training the poor Jehova Witness lady. The lady was catatonic. She rocked back and forth and her eyes were glanced over.
“What did you do to her?”
“I told her every bible story I knew.”
“I see. Well, tell her goodbye. Dinner is ready.”
Dinner was a quiet affair. Evidently the trivia train had run out of steam. After dinner I went to check on the lady on the porch. I was just in time to see two other Jehova Witnesses lead the catatonic lady off and into a waiting car. She was mumbling something her cohorts, “Did you know…did you know…did you know… that it was a Blue Whale that swallowed Jonah and not a…”
They haven’t been back since.
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