I’ve been reading Beth bedtime stories. I have her strip naked and I put her in her night collar, then she climbs into bed and snuggles up to me and puts her head on my chest. I balance my iPad on my belly and read her a short children’s book.
I’ve been reading her stories from storyberries.com—not linking because I don’t think they’d want to know some 40-something age players were using them, but if you’re a Little (or you’re in love with one), you might enjoy their site. The other night we read “Thuli, Special And The Secret”.
Page One. A crayon and watercolor sketch of an old woman. She sits on the stoop sorting something amorphous and yellow, perhaps wheat or cornmeal, in a flat pan on her lap.
I start with my best Narrator Voice. “Thuli stays with her grandmother and their cow, Special, in the village. Her parents work in the city.”
I hold up the picture and do Far-Away Voices. “Bye Mom, bye Dad!” “Bye Thuli, be good for grandma!” I slide the iPad closer so Beth can see the old woman. I do my best Old Woman Sorting An Undefined Blob Of Yellow Stuff In A Pan Voice. “doot-dee doot dee doo,” I say in a creaky voice.
I turn the page. (By which I mean I scroll up on the iPad.)
Page Two. A picture with no text. A small girl holds up a tuft of grass for a cow to sniff. Obviously this is Thuli and their cow, Special.
Okay, wait a moment; what kind of name is “Special” for a cow? I… hmm. I don’t have time to think about it, I have to do the story. I do my Little Girl Voice. “Hi Special, here is some grass! Nom nom nom! Yummy yummy!” Why does the girl have to entice the cow to eat? Is the cow really that—gotta keep moving. I turn the iPad a little so Thuli moves away and Special moves closer. There’s nothing for it, I guess; I’m out of time. I put on my best Mad Cow Voice.
“MOOOOOOOOERP! HERPADERP MOOOOOOOERP! HI MY NAME IS SPECIAL AND I’M A HELICOPTER—”
“BAD DADDY!” Beth shrieks. “You’re not supposed to—”
“MOOOOOOOERPADERP,” goes Special.
“MOOOO–” my own laughter cuts me off; I am laughing so hard I can’t breathe.
“Daddy, that’s not in the story!” Beth protests. “Bad Daddy!” She’s laughing, too, and she’s mad that she’s laughing, because it’s undermining her point.
With effort I get my laughter under control. “I know, I know,” I finally say, placating my outraged Little. “But it’s not my fault, Baby. I’m not the one who”—my voice slides up a register as I lose it again—”wrote a story about a mad cow—”
“Daddy!” she protests, but I am lost again in belly-shaking laughter.
“This is not a very nice story at all—”
“I mean, the poor thing isn’t that bright to begin with—”
“—she’s got enough troubles already—”
“No no no no NO!”
“—who would even write this—”
“Bad Daddy! Bad Daddy! Bad Daddy!”
“—Baby Girl, Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease is a very serious matter—”
“BAD DADDY! BAD DADDY! BAD DADDY!”
I have tears streaming from my eyes. It takes me a good two or three minutes to get it together. I apologize and stop doing the Mad Cow Voice. Beth forgives me and we resume the story.
But “Bad Daddy” is now part of our lexicon. I would call it Bratting if I didn’t deserve it so much. And I’d put a stop to it if it didn’t make both of us laugh so hard.
I leave out the hamburger joke I was planning later on in the story. Poor Special’s had enough.
(Also because CJD is contagious.)