So Number One Son has a new food fascination: Pepperidge Farm goldfish. Specifically, the pizza flavored version, which is covered in a brilliant dark orange, spice-flecked dust that makes the formerly neat (and much beloved, as a result) snack taste the way our local Mexican take-out joint smells, and leaves delightfully Renaissance-inspired Titian powder all over everything the moment you open the bag.
Now you might not suspect this - unless of course you've read any of the other posts on this blog - but the Devil has a sensitive stomach. So we have not introduced her to this gastronomic pleasure, mainly because the prospect of cleaning up flame-colored vomit does not thrill. Also, since she tends to enjoy expanding her tactile horizons by engaging in free creative expression in a variety of media (read: she likes to smear an appalling array of things all over the house when I'm not looking), I have no intention of setting her loose with something that generates residue the color of carrots, and, I'm morally certain, stains the very air. However, the Devil has Number One thoroughly beguiled. So, when I - ever so foolishly - was doing something I reckoned was infinitely more imperative than maintaining a constant state of vigilance against the Devil's mind-control games with her sibling (say, feeding the Small Boy, or earning a living, or some other ridiculous task), Number One caved in and gave her the end of the bag of fish.
Let me repeat that, in case the full implication has escaped you. He gave her... THE BAG. Not just the fish OUT of the bag, which would have been bad enough, no! He gave her the bag full of crumbs and dust and oil and several heaping handfuls of poisson d'or. I would have complimented him on his generosity, except - and this is the truly terrfying part - I DIDN'T KNOW HE HAD GIVEN IT TO HER.
Cut to the next morning.
I am aware, peripherally, of this bag of fish perched on a windowsill up out of the Devil's reach. If I considered it all, I'm sure I simply dismissed it as being a cast-off, and of no interest to her because she had never had any - but upon reflection, I'm equally sure she used the Jedi mind trick on me to make me think that.
The Devil has ways, you know.
So, secure in the knowledge that the Devil was safely confined in the Babyproof Zone, I exited the room for a moment, only to become aware of the sound of a bag crinkling, punctuated by low giggles. It took me a moment to figure out what I was hearing, and once I knew, I confess that I simply continued on my original errand resignedly, pausing only to call back over my shoulder "You're not eating those goldfish, are you? You know Mommy doesn't want you touching that bag..." because of course, we all agree this will immediately stop all illicit bag-touching activity in its tracks.
Except -wait, what? The noise actually ... stopped?
Because I have been a mother for more than one and a half seconds, the silence filled me with a deep apprehension of the type that - I can only assume - makes soon-to-be-slaughtered campers stop and look behind them at exactly the wrong moment when being pursued through the night woods by chainsaw-weilding madmen. Dreading the inevitable, I return to the living room post-haste, when what to my wondering eyes should appear, but the Devil sitting sweetly in the rocker, a small smile playing on her lips.
Her bright orange lips.
And so begins the inquisition:
"Legion, did you touch Number One's goldfish?"
Solemn headshake: No. Please note, the Devil is only 19 months old, and has already figured out she should lie about this, despite being unable to actually talk. Chilling.
"Did you eat the fish?"
Another headshake, big blue eyes peering up at me innocently from under long lashes, her little pink - and orange - bow mouth pursed in contrition: No, of course not.
Frightening. And vastly amusing, considering the state of her face, with its cheddar-based clown make-up.
"Are you sure...?"
Another headshake, but this one seems somehow tentative... and then...
Giggles. Vast, belly-jiggling, shoulder-shaking giggles, well on their way to becoming outright guffaws, stifled only by sheer force of will and desperately clenched apricot lips, out of which suddenly spews a mass - a flood, a cascade, a deluge! - of damp, sticky goldfish.
And I, in my infinite maternal wisdom, can have only one possible response - one reaction which summarizes all my experience, knowledge, and hopes for my beloved progeny: