C: Daddy, I don’t want to ride my bike again today. D: Why not, Cory? Don’t you want to make sure that you haven’t forgotten how to do it? C (motioning for Daddy to lower himself): Secret!
Daddy lowers his ear to her face.
C: My bum hurts.
D (laughing): Okay, Cory. We won’t ride long.
Fisher pushes the envelop both speed- and maneuvering-wise, Cory moves from the bike taking her wherever it seems to want to go to riding the bike in an intended direction, Daddy cuts the booster session short, and everyone scores ice cream. Mission accomplished.
It is a little maddening that balance can be such a struggle to find, but once found, can feel so easy, so natural. Daddy and the twins make a plan: by week’s end, they will find it…and be bicyclists.
Day One. Out in front of the house, Daddy runs along behind Fisher for 15 minutes, bent over, steadying the bike when necessary, before, BAM, balance! He’s off to the races, up and down the street, hampered only by the slight downward tilt of the street on either side and by too-frequent passing cars. “Daddy, how many cars does there have to be?” Daddy switches to bent-over running with Cory, who is at first determined but then slightly frustrated. She switches to her scooter, but keeps eying Fisher whizzing by.
Day Two. On the huge paved portion of their grade school parking lot, Daddy runs alongside and bent over Cory for 20 minutes, never taking a hand off the bike seat, at her request. She’s definitely warier of the speed necessary to achieve balance.
D: Cory, trust me, when you finally find the right balance, it’ll happen so quickly and you’ll just know it. You’ll wonder why you couldn’t feel it before. Just keep trying.
C (smiling hesitantly): Okay, Daddy. But, please don’t let go, okay?
D: I have to let you go. If I don’t, you will never be able to balance yourself without me.
C: Not yet, okay?
D: Let’s go.
For the next 20 minutes, Daddy gets her started but then starts taking the hand off the seat, still running along. Her smiles grow. With so much open space and so few cars, Fisher is a madman, zipping all over. Daddy stops running along side her after he gets her going. She has struck balance gold, once Daddy gives her that initial speed.
D (back legitimately needing a break): Fisher, can you show Cory how to get her own speed going?
F: Oh, sure, Daddy!
He bikes over to her and narrates as he demonstrates: “Cory! Cory! You just put one foot on this pedal and then super quick push the other pedal, and…” She works at it for another half hour before she is zipping, well not quite zipping, wobbling around the parking lot on her own. He encourages her, pedaling along behind her all over the parking lot. It’s hot. Every five minutes, one or both stops, all red-face smiles, “Daddy, I need some water.” Daddy sits in the shade for the rest of the time, watching them both through a little mist in the eye. Must have been sweat. It was hot.
Day Three. Today will cement the prior days’ confidence. Then, ice cream, of course. What else? It’s a long journey from four wheels to two, and there should be ice cream waiting at its end.
The rainy day dinner in Provincetown is a seafood paella of sorts: lobster, mussels, scallops, fish, etc. (and some chicken) over a big bed of rice. The lobsters are live when purchased, and hearing that the twins have never seen lobsters live, Aunt Cheryl declares, “Well, we can make them do circus tricks!”
Just before the serious cooking beings, she demonstrates. She puts them head down and strokes their bodies/tails. Apparently, this head rush position lulls them into a sleep or stupor, and they stand like that. For minutes. Heads down, tails up. Fisher and Cory are fascinated. They are oog-ed out by them, but are definitely fascinated. Cory won’t leave the safety of the armchair, high above the floor where their performance space.
F: Are you going to put them back in the water?
Um…well, they are going in water, but not back in *that* water, per se. After they wake back up, Fisher is coaxed down and eventually touches one, very quickly and from behind. The hard exoskeleton thing takes some explaining. They come out of the big cooking pot all bright red and ready for…disassembly? Mutilation? Mayhem? Cracking. Fisher approaches the bowl that they are cooling in, reaching up to touch one of their backs again.
F (still fascinated): Daddy, are you going to eat those lobsters now?
D: I won’t be, no, but everyone else will be.
F: Why not?
D: I don’t like the taste of lobster.
F (having never eaten lobster): I don’t either.
He stares. It is the first time that they have seen an animal served on a plate crawling around live just minutes before. And he seems to get it: the plants and animals that people eat basically die to become food. Cory is elsewhere, probably better off distracted by other things. It’s hard enough to get her to eat protein as it is. Thinking about how urban and suburban life leads to a mystery about where food actually comes from, Daddy imagines many future “origins of food” conversations.
At dinner, they stick to the chicken. It’s more familiar, the earlier circus didn’t include a chicken pecking out Chopsticks on a keyboard, and they don’t yet get that a chicken in a pen becomes a chicken on the plate.
After climbing out of the street fair dragon’s belly, Fisher wants to dizzy it up some more and Cory wants nothing less. Papa takes her to go get a beer (for him, not her), while Daddy and Fisher head over to the spinning swings. Upon their return…
C (one hand covering the other forearm): Daddy, guess what Papa got me?
D: Did you get a tattoo?
C (smiling and lifting her hand): Look!
D: Oh, my gosh, Cory, that’s beautiful!
C: It’s a unicorn.
D: A unicorn? Let me see that. (Inspecting.) Oh, yah, I see the horn, but…Cory!
D: I don’t think that’s a unicorn. Do you know what I think it is?
D: Well, I thought it was a dragon, until you pointed out the horn. A dragon with one horn is so rare. Do you know that creature is called?
C: What, Daddy?
D: A dragunicorn! There have only been a few dragunicorns ever born.
C: But, dragons aren’t alive.
D: Well, no, not here, but in Witchy Land…
F (hearing “Witchy Land”) : Daddy, what did you say?
D: Look at Cory’s arm. She has a dragunicorn on it!
F: What’s that?
D: It’s when a dragon and a unicorn have a baby. The baby is a dragunicorn. It’s only happened a few times in all of Witchy Land history.
C: Daddy, that girl just put a piece of paper over my arm, and then she asked me what color to make the head part, and I said “blue” because that’s my favorite color.
D: Blue unicorns are beautiful. And blue dragunicorns are triple dog rare!
C: And then she asked me what color I wanted for the hair part. And do you know what I said?
C: Green! I said green because that’s your favorite color.
D: You did? Cory, that’s so nice. Thank you. It’s a beautiful dragunicorn.
D: Have I ever told you the story about the last dragunicorn born in Witchy Land?
C: No, but Daddy…
D: Do you want me to some time?
C: But, Daddy, it’s not a dragunicorn. It’s a unicorn. It has blue and green because those are our favorite colors.
That night, Papa helps Cory protect the tattoo through a shower, which she proudly explains to Daddy at bedtime, just before Fisher and Cory fight over whether it’s a unicorn or a dragunicorn. Seeing how desperately Cory wants her tattoo to have no dragon in it, and feeling guilty for being “too much” by having introduced the idea that it might be something other than a unicorn, Daddy sides with Cory and then adds a “thank you” for the “favorite colors unicorn” to the other things he whispers in her ear before leaving their room…
…and in Fisher’s ear, he adds a request that Fisher remind Daddy to tell him about the last dragunicorn born in Witchy Land.
While Cory is brushing her teeth the next morning…
F (whispering in Daddy’s ear): Daddy, can you tell me about that er, eh, uh…uh, er, eh…thing on Cory’s tattoo?
D (whispering back): Oh, yah! But, not now, Fisher, we don’t have time. Ima tell you that story, but we don’t have time right now. Shhhh! Here comes Cory!
He plays it cool. So does Daddy. Inside, the wheels are turning to pull together The Last Dragunicorn story…
Just don’t tell Cory. It’s a unicorn. Of her and Daddy’s favorite colors. That’s all it is. And that’s plenty.
Fisher comes out of their room about half hour after bedtime, hands to mouth, crying.D (getting up): Fisher?
F (through sobs): Daddy, I throwed up!
D (as he’s heading back into his room): No, Fisher, come to the bathroom!
F (sobbing over a pile of vomit): See, Daddy, I throwed up right here.
D (hand on his back, trying to move him gently): Fisher, that’s okay. I’ll clean that up. Don’t worry, but right now…
Then was not the time for gentleness. Fisher vomits twice as much as he did before, all of it forming a bigger patch on the floor. He’s crying. Daddy waits for him to be done with this round before picking him up and carrying him to the toilet.
D: Fisher, it’s okay. Everyone throws up sometimes. Your tummy did not like something. That’s for sure. Can you stay right here by the toilet, and if you have to throw up again, you can throw up into the toilet, okay?
F (crying): Okay.
Daddy spends the next half hour stripping beds and scrubbing carpet in a bedroom that smells horrendous. Fisher spends the next hour or so working the rest of the offending food out of his system, this time into the toilet. Cory spends half that time, stating over and over, “Daddy, that smell is making me feel like I have to throw up” and the other half making sure that Fisher is not going to be sleeping in her bed that night.
The next day, she has a fever that bounces around 100, and Fisher is afraid of food. They stay home, sleeping and watching movies all day, but by the Los Altos street fair on Saturday, both feel better, Fisher enough to ride all the rides, Cory enough to believe that she can at least manage the spinning dragons. She can’t. After waiting in line for 45 minutes, a few turns of the wheel drain all color out of her. Daddy stops Fisher from turning the dragon any further, while Papa wraps an arm around Cory. Later…
C: Daddy, it’s not a good idea to spin around in that dragon’s belly after you just had a 100 fever, right?
D: That’s right, Cory.
C: Fisher could do it because he just threw up. But I had a fever, so…
D: Yah, you were like bad food in that dragon’s belly, Cory!
C: If we kept on spinning, that dragon might have throwed me up out of his belly, right?
D: Right! And who wants to be dragon vomit?
C: Yuck. Does dragon vomit smell like Fisher’s vomit?
C: Eeeeeew…not me! I don’t want to be dragon vomit!