Last night I was about a third of the way through The Book with No Pictures when I heard a brrrap behind me and to my right, as if Bea had shuffled a deck of cards. She yowled. I looked up from B.J. Novak’s instant classic, which is usually the only book Cora will tolerate at bedtime anymore, and saw blood.
“What did you do?” I asked. She held up her bashed fingernail and I determined she wasn’t hospital-level injured, so I kept asking.
“What did you do? Did you stick your finger in the fan? Why did you do that?”
I tossed the book on their nightstand, scooped Bea up, and headed downstairs. Cora was right on my heels.
“Gina,” I said as I rounded the corner into the living room.
Gina slid on her socks from the hall into the kitchen like Tom Cruise in Risky Business. Her eyes were huge.
“She’s okay,” I said, “but she’s bleeding all over the place. I think she stuck her finger in the fan.” We headed to the bathroom.
“I thought you guys were kidding around at first,” Gina said, “but then I heard you call my name and I was like ‘omigod.'”
Bea squirmed and boohooed in my arms. I laid her across the sink. Gina had gotten a wet washcloth while we spoke and started cleaning the blood off Bea and me.
“I didn’t see her but it made the sound,” I said. “You know, like when you stick something in a fan.”
“We’re going to have to put it under the faucet, Bea,” Gina said.
“Noooooo,” Bea said.
I took her hand and ran it under the tap. She continued to complain but didn’t struggle. Her finger had already stopped bleeding, and I could see it had come from a small slice at the tip.
“Yeah,” I said, “I know that sound from when I was a kid, we were always sticking shit into fans.”
“Bea, you don’t stick your finger into fans or it will chop it off and you will go to the hospital,” Cora said.
Gina applied antibiotic ointment to Bea’s finger and folded a big adhesive bandage, which was shaped like a cupcake, over it. The novelty dressing was a bit floppy, so she grabbed some medical tape, wrapped it around once, and tore it off.
“There,” she said. She wiped Bea’s tears with the damp cloth and searched us for any remaining blood.
“Thank you,” I said.
Bea still in my arms, Cora and I trudged back upstairs. I put Bea down in her bed and grabbed The Book with No Pictures with the intent of picking up where I’d left off. I sat down beside Cora and opened it to the part where I’m a robot monkey.
“Hat Back,” Bea said. “Hat Back.”
“Okay, okay, let me finish this first and I’ll read it,” I said. I cruised through the remaining twenty pages in record time and got up to put the book back in my office. It’s autographed and technically Gina’s, since I got it for her along with signed copies of The Bassoon King by Rainn Wilson and Why Not Me? by Mindy Kaling as a Dunder-Mifflin themed Christmas gift, so I don’t want the kids to wreck it.
I retrieved I Want My Hat Back from its home in Bea’s bed and performed it with all the gusto I could muster after the previous ordeal.
When I finished, I placed the grimy, jacketless thing back into Bea’s bed.
“Hat Back,” she said. “Twinkle Little Star.”
I bent down over her bed rail and sang “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” while I finger-combed her hair, still damp from their bath. She breathed deeply and sniffled.
“I love you,” I said, and I stood and turned around to attend to Cora’s bedtime requests.
“I want the Mary Poppins good-night song,” Cora said.
“Twinkle Little Star,” said Bea.
“Uh,” I said, “Okay Bea.” I turned back around and began my encore.
“Why does Bea get two songs?” Cora asked in the pause after the first line.
“Because she’s hurt,” I said, and kept singing.
By the time I’d finished, Bea was out. I turned back toward Cora and sat on her bed.
“Mary Poppins,” she said.
I sang “Stay Awake” and only had to make up about half the lyrics. She didn’t notice, or at least she didn’t mind.
“Another song,” she said.
“Okay,” I said, and did “White Christmas,” which is normally her first and only request. Sometimes I phone it in, but yesterday I committed. She was out or well on her way by the time I had finished crooning my heart out. I kissed her on the head and quietly left the room.
Bathtime, storytime, blood offering to the fan gods and all, they were in bed and resting by 8:30 pm. I silently hoped they wouldn’t get me up at 6 am, but we all know hope is a mistake.
It ended up being 6:45 am, by the way. Tired and chronically yawning, but grateful, I made it to Cora and Bea’s respective schools and work on time. Bea’s little bandage was still hanging on for dear life when I dropped her off at day care. I can’t think too much about her standing there in the middle of that room while her supervisor vacuumed, so loud.
Bandaged Bea with a big head of hair, moderately tangled, and pink jelly shoes she can put on herself. Oh Bea. We’re only little once.