It’s the 15 year anniversary since our first date, and Dawn and I get into a spat over the gingerbread decorating event planned by the Girl Scout troop at a local school. I ask, what do we do while they’re decorating the gingerbread houses? Stand there and watch?
I’m one of about four men, surrounded by nine year old girls and their moms. There’s nowhere to stand without being in the way so I recede to the back. Across the room, three moms are demonstrating how to get the icing to come out of the conical shaped bag, and by the way they’re rolling and coaxing it in their hands, it makes me think of something else.
There’s an older girl dressed like an elf who looks like she’s from a Tolkien film, may actually be one: felt hat, felt shoes, unusually long fingers and nose though, early stages of Marfan syndrome. Another woman from the cast of Land of the Lost, Chaka, with a long sloping forehead and a mouthful of teeth, hopping between the tables. The organizer is wearing a necklace of Christmas lights that blink, getting more bags of wipes.
Kavya, one of Lily’s friends, is balling the icing in her hands and giving the others high 5’s while her mom sits in the corner trying to understand her smart phone. Others are licking the icing off their hands, which is good at flu season.
I think about walking home, but it’s roughly 10 miles and I don’t have a flashlight. People in the suburbs wouldn’t see you on the road. I could sit in the car, but I’d look like a dick. I send a text to my friend Be Glad You’re A Jew, then tell Dawn I’m going outside.
The wind has kicked up and we’re on a ridge overlooking the Cascades to the east, a full moon coming in and out of focus behind the clouds. The sound of something metallic clanking on the playground, ominous with the dead leaves rattling in the trees.
It is an exceptionally exceptional part of town, a development for the ultra rich, and this is their school. An expanse of land stretching from the track fields to the foothills. The clanking is a chain slapping against a pole, and the Girl Scout organizer appears at once from the shadows with her blinking necklace to confront me, a lone bearded man on the playground after dark with a flannel coat and upturned collar, surely touching himself or sneaking a flask, could be a terrorist. She has the strength of the Girl Scouts behind her.
It’s a lot quieter out here, even with the wind!
And we make small talk, she sniffs me out, breaks down some cardboard boxes and runs back inside to the children.
I warm the car and brood in the dark as the wind continues and they’re coming out of the school now, leaning sideways, reindeer antlers askew, clutching their bags of gingerbread houses and hot cocoas. I am a stone-faced leering golem imagining the car carried off by the wind, the elf girl in my rear view mirror with fingers like a sea creature, could be good or bad, a pooka, here or not here.
The girls get in and say dad, why did you come if you didn’t feel like it? And Dawn explains later that’s not what she was upset about, it was something else. We stay up until midnight, fall asleep on the couch, telling stories only we can remember.