"Bee! Bee!"

Jane and Alice are running as fast as they can around the corner of the house. Their eyes are lit up with terror.

"We saw a bee!" yells Jane. She is shaking with fear. "It tried to sting us!"

"Calm down," I say. "Bees don't want to hurt us. If we're nice and quiet, they'll always leave us alone."

They don't look convinced. They repeat their "Bee! Bee!" retreat several times that day.


After supper. I'm clearing the dishes from the picnic table. 

A bumble bee flies up from the garden below the deck. It lands immediately on the lady slippers in the vase on the table.

The bee knows just what to do. She finds the opening at the bottom of the flower and crawls inside. 

What an amazing creature. The complex social world of bees is fascinating. I think about how I've wanted for the last few years to start keeping bees. Maybe this is the year...

The bee emerges from the blossom. Her wings begin to buzz as she takes off.

She flies straight at my face. Her giant stinger points down. It looks.... stingy.

I leap down six steps in one bound and keep running.

"Bee! Bee!" 

Not our money

"We're going to the truck to get our tools," says Doug to the woman, as casual as can be. I wince in embarrassment, knowing what's coming next. "If you have anything hidden in your ducts, now would be a good time to move it."

It is the summer after my second year of college. I'm working for a heating and cooling company. Doug is the journeyman who I work with. Mostly, we install new ductwork into houses. Some days, like today, we fix ducts that were installed 20 or 30 years ago.

"Why do you always say that?" I say to Doug. We're back at the truck, and I am loading my arms with a stack of five-inch pipes. "Who hides stuff in their ducts?"

"Loads of people," he replies. "Maybe not these people. Maybe not the people tomorrow. Someday, we'll be in some person's house who does, and you'd better be sure you're not the one who gets blamed when their long-lost, long-forgotten wad of cash goes missing."

I scoff.

"Who would forget about a wad of cash?"

"Shaddup. Get a move on."

We haul our gear to the basement and get to work. I start pulling the grates from the end of the ducts; Doug starts lifting ceiling tiles to expose the ducts themselves. 

Three tiles in...

"Oh, crap."

I turn around. Doug is two steps up on a step ladder, looking down. I follow his eyes to the ground and see the biggest wad of cash I've ever seen.

We stare at it in silence. The bill on the outside of the wad is a very old fifty. Several of the inner bills fell out when they landed: each is a hundred-dollar bill. The wad is about two-and-a-half inches thick. It is coated in dust.

"That is old cash," says Doug, finally.

"Uh huh," I say.

"It's probably been there since the 70s."

I nod. "Yup." 

"No one knows this money is here."


"Except us," says Doug.

We stare.

"The down payment of a house," says Doug.

"My entire student debt," I say.

He sighs.

"Come with me."

We march upstairs and find the lady of the house.

"Can you come with us for a minute?" he asks.

"Sure," she says. She is puzzled.

We walk downstairs. Doug points his finger at the money.

"This just fell from the ceiling tiles." His hand is as close to the cash as it can be without actually touching it.

Her eyes flare. She is more amused than surprised.

"Did it now?"

She picks up the money and (I am not making this up) shoves it into her bra.

"I bet he forgot about that twenty years ago," she smirks. "Thanks for your honesty, boys. I'm going shopping."

She walks back upstairs, grabs her keys, and leaves the house.

"Close your mouth," says Doug.

He steps back on his ladder and pushes aside the next tile in the ceiling.

A lesson learned

Saturday afternoon. Jane has been sent to her room.

Near the end of her time out, Erin goes in to have a chat. She is just wrapping up.

Erin:  ...Okay, Jane?

Jane: Okay.

Sometime during their talk, Jane laid back on the bed. Her breathing quieted down. She lay very calm.

Erin is impressed. Not long ago, Janey would have been so agitated by whatever event got her sent to her room, she'd never calm down, and never really listen to what we had to say. Is this evidence our little girl is maturing?

Jane: Know why I laid down like this? It's so the monsters think I'm dead and go away.

Active reader

Erin sits across from Henry as he reads his book. He is, apparently, enjoying it.

His eyes go wide. His brow furrows. He gasps. His right hand lets go of the book so his can flap his arm. He sighs. He smiles.

He notices his mother staring at him.

Henry: What?

Erin: Nothing. I just never realized how much fun it could be watching someone else read.

Sweet insubordination

Supper is ready. I am in the kitchen.

Me: Supper! Wash your hands and come to the table!

Two sets of tiny feet scurry to the bathroom. That means one set is still in the living room.

Me: Henry! Let's go. Suppertime.

Henry: In a minute.

Me: No. Now. It's supper.

Henry: No, Dad. I'm not coming yet.

Me: Cornbread -- it's suppertime. Go wash your hands.

Henry: No.

Oooooo, I'm mad. I stomp toward the living room. I see Erin is on her way, too. 

Me: Henry....

Erin: Henry....

We stride into the room: a lean, mean parenting unit. 

Henry lays on the couch. He is clutching a novel.

Henry: Just two more pages! Pleeeeeease? It's just getting to the good part!

Saying "granola"

Early morning. Alice and I are the only ones awake. I'm pouring bowls of granola. She's still rubbing her eyes.

Alice: We having a nice bowl of gran-golga.

Me: Granola.

Alice: Gra-doggle-olga.

Me: Gra-

Alice: Gra-

Me: -nola

Alice: -nola.

Me: Granola.

Alice: Gra-nola!

Me: Right!

Alice: With milk.

We eat a bit.

Me: Y'know, my mummy used to make granola for us when I was little.

Alice: And now... you are big.

Me: And you are little.

She takes a bite, chews, swallows.

Alice: Granola.

Paper money, part one

Here's a story my dad told us last week when we were visiting.

"I was, oh, maybe seven or eight. And I must have been feeling pretty bold because I said to my mum, 'Mum, I've never had any paper money, you know.' And she looked at me and said, 'Is that right?'

"And do you know what she did? She walked to her purse and took out her wallet. She didn't pull out a one-dollar bill. She didn't pull out a two-dollar bill. She pulled out a five-dollar bill. I was stunned.

"So I said to her, 'This is all mine?' She said yes. And I said, 'Can I spend it on whatever I want?' She said yes.

"Six months later, I walked into McVitty's store in Leamington and bought the ball glove that I would use all through grade school. It cost four dollars and ninety-five cents. No tax. I don't know what I did with the nickel."

A moment passes.

Mum: I never knew that story before.

Dad sits back.

Dad: Now you do.

Kitteny soft, for those who go for that sort of thing

We're speeding along the highway from Moncton to the Confederation Bridge. We pass a large industrial building on our right.

Henry: What's that?

Me: That's where they make Royale Bathroom Tissue. Toilet paper.

Henry: Why do they have a picture of a white kitten on the building?

Me: I guess because they want you to think their toilet paper is as white, soft, and fluffy as a kitten.

He thinks a moment.

Henry: I don't think I'd like to wipe myself with a cat.