Day 93: Leapier tiger, draggin’ dragon.

“They lay in bed

Naked under the light of

Stars distant and dead, ” the novelist texted me.

Bit of a non-sequitur, that, I thought to myself.

Because, insofar as we had been texting about anything, we’d been texting about March hares.

I definitely don’t remember that line from Alice, I thought to myself.

Although it did sound like the kind of cryptic statement that might have emanated from the caterpillar after a particularly long draw on the hookah.

Crikey, I thought. Is this how novelists sext? By coming over all unbearable-lightness-of-being?

Because I’m really not sure that I can pull that off, I thought to myself. I’m too flippin’ flippant. Maybe if I were Czech. With really high cheekbones. And an air of beautiful melancholy. And very long legs. And a bowler hat. [1] And my name were Karolína. No, Agáta. I could totally do it if my name were Agáta.

Still, I tried my best to think solemn, vaguely Nietzschean thoughts and replied as unsnarkily as I possibly could.

“Were they sleeping?” I typed without even smirking. OK, maybe a tiny bit.

“Who knows?” he replied instantly.

That made me laugh out loud.

First of all because that’s totally what the caterpillar would have said, and likewise without missing a beat. And secondly because I suddenly realized that we were reprising, in our exchange, a narrative dynamic that I had experienced only the night before with the younger, only in that exchange the roles had been reversed; she was the narratee, and I was the narrator.

It was the final made-up story of the night. It concerned a fight between a lion and a tiger. It was quite the talk of the town. All the animals were terribly excited. The suspense was immense. Which of these two magnificent beasts would be the victor?

Here the younger interrupted eagerly.

“I bet the tiger will win, Mom. Because lions are stronger but tigers are leapier. Who do you think will win, Mom?”

I started laughing, partly because I was very tired and slightly hysterical, partly because of the comparative adjective leapier, and partly at the thought that for her the story was already written. The victor had already triumphed. The loser was already vanquished and had skulked away with his tail between his legs.

Her question made me think about the oddness of the fact even we grown-ups enter into a fiction attuned to the likelihood of x happening, as opposed to y. (Indeed, I proved as much the very next day when I texted the novelist, “were they sleeping?”) Her question made me think of Jesse Molesworth’s book about the rise of the novel and the simultaneous rise of gambling in the eighteenth century; and it made me think, further, about how both gambling and novels exploit our conviction that we can pick a winner, not caring to admit to ourselves that the deck is always stacked against both reader and player; the author, or the house, always wins.

So far as the younger was concerned, then, it was a fair bet, because I had no hand in the story’s outcome.

I refused to make a bet and continued telling the story. She got excited when I finally got to the night of the big fight …. And then she looked a little nervous as I recounted how, at first, the lion seemed to have the upper hand. She couldn’t help but interrupt again.

“But I still bet the tiger is going to win. Do you bet he’s going to win too, Mom?”

This time, I relented.

“Yes,” I said truthfully. “Yes, my money’s also on the tiger.”

“What money?” she asked, confused.

“Oh, it’s just an expression,” I said. “I just mean I also think that the tiger will win.”

I finished telling the story, and, you’ll never guess, dear readers, but the tiger did in fact win, triumphing at the last possible minute with a virtuosic act of leapiness.

The younger was jubilant. So was I. You know, I’m kind of like the tiger, I thought to myself. You know, leapier than your average cat. I was even born in 1974, year of the tiger. Oh yeah, the leapy tiger is so my spirit animal, I thought to myself, smugly.

***

This morning I awakened to my daughter’s dulcet tones uttering the following sweet refrain:

“Mo–om. I’m do-one!”

In the context of yelling for me to wipe her bum, the younger stretches out the words “Mom” and “done” so that each has two syllables.

I had been sound asleep.

I was slightly hungover.

I groaned loudly.

It was not the kind of noise you would associate with one of nature’s leapier creatures.

It was a drawn-out, guttural kind of sound.

Euuuuuuuuuughhhhhhhhhh … Nooooooooooooooooooooooo …

[Pause during which I hoped she might forget she required my presence]

Now more insistently: “Mo-ommmmm!”

“Euuuuuuuuuughhhhhhhhhh … But that means I have to drag myself out of bed.”

“Drag yourself!” yelled the elder, laughing, from the other room.

“Yeah, drag yourself!” yelled the younger.

“Euuuuuuuuuughhhhhhhhhh … ’

“Drag yourself! Drag yourself! Drag yourself! Drag yourself!”

They chanted these words gleefully in unison, one voice coming from the bathroom, one from the sitting room.

“All right, all right,” I muttered with a very bad grace.

“Drag yourself! Drag yourself! Drag yourself!” the chanting continued.

“I’m draggin’ myself, I’m draggin’ myself, I’m draggin’ myself,” I chanted back in a monotone, as I hoisted myself in a distinctly unleapy fashion from my prone position.

“I’m draggin’ …. I’m a-draggin’,” I continued as I picked my way through the snotty tissues and half empty glasses of water and power cords strewn across the bedroom floor.

I stepped into the bathroom.

“I’m a-draggin’ … I’m a dragon! Hah!” I said aloud, breaking into helpless giggles at my own joke while my daughter stared at me, unamused, with an expression remarkable for its air of regal hauteur given that she was sitting, naked, on the loo.

Notes

[1] No, not in a John Cleese kind of way, in a Sally Bowles kind of way. Good God, what is wrong with you people?

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