Daddy picks the twins up from after-care to go straight to tennis, dinner to follow. Cory is on edge. Daddy can read the signs of low blood sugar. In the car, Daddy hands each a snack bar. Cory gets her favorite, chocolate chip, and Fisher gets his, oatmeal. Fisher inhales his. The chocolate on Cory’s has melted.
C: Daddy, it’s disgusting!
D (uh oh): Cory, can you try to eat it? It’s just a little bit melted because it was in the car.
C: I don’t want it! It’s disgusting!
Daddy tries to reason with her. She moves from crying to yelling in the back seat. Daddy tries to reason further. She moves from yelling to crying. Having no other food to offer her and up against the start of tennis, Daddy sternly, and unwisely, tells her to eat her snack bar or no tennis. She wipes the chocolate film off of her hand onto the back passenger-side window.
D: Cory! Don’t do that! That is not nice!
C (through tears, face red): But, it’s disgusting!
D: You are in trouble, Cory! The crazy train is pull…
C: I don’t like that choice!
D: Cory, you need to eat. You…
At the courts, tennis is about to begin. “Cory, you can’t play tennis tonight. You didn’t listen to your daddy. You didn’t eat your snack bar. So, you can’t play. You can just stay in the car.” Daddy gets out of the car and helps Fisher out and shuts the door as Cory begins to scream. Daddy starts walking away. It’s not her fault, but Daddy is done.
D: Yes, Fisher, what?
F: Can you please give my sister another chance? She will, er, uh, eh, be scared if she stays in that car by herself.
D (after a pause): Okay.
Daddy opens the child-locked back door. Cory’s screams pour out like smoke from a Cheech and Chong vehicle. “Come on, Cory.” Cory crosses her arms and comes on. But, she keeps yelling as she walks past the older kids practicing. Everyone stops to stare. “I don’t like you, Daddy! You just don’t want to be nice to me. You only want to be nice to Fisher.” Daddy holds up the half-melted, half-opened snack bar package. “Cory, if you eat this snack bar instead of using mean words, you can play tennis. If you don’t, you aren’t going to play.”
As she reluctantly eats a good portion of the snack bar, Daddy says, “Shelby, drink your juice. Drink your juice, Shelby.” She doesn’t get the reference or get it together. When the coach begins the lessons, she hides on the playground. Daddy decides in impatient disgust that the night is lost. “You are not playing tennis.” She starts yelling, “If you don’t want me to play tennis, then I am not going to play tennis EVER. I know you just want to be nice to Fisher, and you just want to be mean to me. I don’t like you, Daddy.” Fisher asks if Daddy can’t just give Cory one more chance. Daddy says no and shoos Fisher toward the courts. The other parents are all trying to act oblivious. The kids start the lesson. Cory is still screaming. Daddy picks her up and forces her to sit next to him with her back to a large redwood tree. She squirms away. Daddy picks her back up and forces her back down next to him. Too hard. Too close to the tree.
C: OW! You scratched my back, Daddy!
D: Cory, I…
C (crying out the window of the crazy train): You scratched my back on the tree, Daddy!
Unable to think of anything better to do, Daddy manhandles her away from the tennis courts toward a distant picnic table. She is screaming, “Daddy, you hurt me, Daddy!” the whole time. For the next 35 minutes, Daddy provides calm commentary on the kids’ tennis going on in the distance. Cory cycles from nonsensical hellion with venom for saliva to pitiful, desperate child with arms outstretched for a hug to pleas to play tennis delivered at the top of her voice. Daddy responds to each with commentary like, “Oh, did you see that? Louie hit a good backhand there, don’t you think?” Daddy is no longer sure he’s making choices, much less good choices.
After the lesson, several parents manage sympathetic noises while others shoot questioning glances that might be misread as judgy, if Daddy weren’t so busy considering how to buy barbiturates on the black market and use them on both himself and the crazy-train girl. Los Altos not having an obvious black market for downers, Daddy drives her home, Fisher begging the whole time on her behalf: “Daddy, can you please let my sister have dinner? If she doesn’t eat, she’s going to be so hungry in the middle of the night.” Later, “Daddy, can I please give Cory half my cookie because she needs to eat something sweet?” Still later, “Daddy, can Cory please help me with my project because I, er, uh, eh want her to.” Yes. No. Whatever. Done. Done. Done.
When changing her for bed, Daddy sees an ugly red scratch down her back from the redwood. At some point before she goes limp in her bed, Cory whimpers, arms outstretched, “Daddy, I love you so much, even when I say mean words to you, Daddy. I just love you so much.” Daddy returns the hug. There might have been a kiss, too, who knows.
Even if I dreamed that last part, the sweet collapse, I choose to believe…because a tomorrow has to happen.
(Apologies to anyone with real diabetes. It turns out Cory ate none of her lunch that day. lt’s not any wonder she had a mega-fit with all that runnin’ around and tennis nonsense…)