The other day Jackson made his friend Anna cry. He was getting bossy with her, he didn't want to share his snack, he told her she needed to get her own bowl of nasty wheat-free corn-puff cakes dusted with white cheddar powder, and she burst into tears. Her mom took her home, and I called the next morning to make sure they didn't hate us, and a few hours later we were all at the kiddie pool, our Northern European shoulders blistering in the sun while our feet slowly hypothermiated and our toes broke off and floated away like little black novelty ice cubes in the unheated punchbowl of Los Banos public pool.
And then, by God, Jackson did it again. He took something away from Anna and wouldn't give it back, but bless her heart, she held it together and just went to sit on her towel and put her head in her mom's lap. And I said, What was that about? And Jackson said, Nothing! and pouted for a couple of beats, and then I watched him get up and walk over to Anna's towel and sit down in front of her. She kind of scootched around so he could only see the side of her face. At this point I broke away to do a quick scan of the pool because some big kids were playing with Jackson's ball and they kept glancing over at me to see if I was keeping track of them, and I kept giving them the steely eyeball, through my Lew Wassermanesque sunglasses, an eyeball that said, Yeah, right, you think we're all going to forget about our special floaty dolphin ball with the cute flippers and let you just take it home? Fat fucking chance. And then Anna's mom thwapped me on the leg and pointed at our kids, and they were hugging. And then they got up and they were all, Okay, you guys, you can quit staring at us, we know we just did the cutest thing in the universe by not talking about what happened, by not using our goddamned words but instead simply reaching out and allowing touch to heal our small rift, so you two can just shut up about it, okay? We're going to go pretend to swim now.
And they did.