Little Ben was playing hide and seek with his mother.
Only, someone forgot to tell his mom that they were playing!
So there he sat, crouched behind a bush in his backyard… stifling his chocolate-kissed giggles with a chocolate-smeared hand, enjoying his own brand of fun.
I could hear his mom yell for him. Sweetly at first,“Bay-hen! Oh Baynnn! Yoo hoo! Benjieee!”
And then with increasing irritation, “Ben?? Where ARE you?"
"BENJAMIN WHITTAKER! You come here this instant young man!”
I looked down again and sure enough, there he was, the smirking cherub with his tarnished halo hiding the two little red horns behind. Smirking, that is, until he chanced to look up and catch sight of me leaning from my balcony, watching him with the undisguised interest of a chronic voyeur.
His startled eyes widened.
He put a shushing finger against his lips. I gave a nod of complete compliance. And our pact was signed. I would stay quiet and in return, I could watch the fun unfold.
I went inside for a few minutes, figuring that I might as well grab some of my favorite mini-chocolate chip cookies for the continuation of the live entertainment. When I went back a little later, he was still at it.
This time his fingers were stuck up his nose as far as they would go. Even from where I stood I could see the tiny mounds of nose-flesh pop up and down like markers indicating the invasion of his finger.
Then, even as I watched, he slowly fished out his ‘catch’ and, in the universal symbol of kids across the world, promptly put it into his mouth. I trust the taste was not unpleasant because he looked up at me with a radiant smile.
To my credit I waited for a few seconds and managed to muster an answering grin before I dashed inside to dump my grape jelly down the drain.
Bad choice! I knew I should have stuck to popcorn.
I was slowly losing patience. What was wrong with his mom? Didn’t she understand I had work to do? Why couldn’t she find him quickly and get it over with already! Huh? Honestly! This was even worse than the time I followed Chrissy’s cat around, convinced that it was an alien disguised as a feline fiend.
Then Kelly called and for a while we were lost in earth-shattering discussions on what she ought to wear the next day and why she likes to match her lipstick to her dress. After ten minutes of that scintillating conversation, I was ready for Ben again. Snot and all.
So I cut Kelly off (which she’s not forgiven me for yet) and went outside to see Act I, Scene III of 'The Ben'. But it was intermission time. The tyke was curled up in a ball sound asleep. The credits had rolled.
I went downstairs and tried to wake him up. He brushed me away like I was some particularly annoying insect. So much for that idea!
So I carried him – chocolate, dribbling snot, and all – to his front door.
Knock! Knock! Knock!
“I believe this belongs to you,” I said, thrusting out my grubby bundle, when his mom opened the door.
I could see the relief in her eyes as she stretched her arms out for him.
“Oh thank you!” She cried, “I was just about to call for help. The naughty boy!”
I was in her good books for a few days, and it was great to play Wonder Woman… until she came to know that I had been in on the game the whole time. Ben, that bratty tattletale, had sold me out for a plate of cookies and glass of milk. Hmmpfffh!
And I thought I was worth a slice of chocolate cake at the very least. Darn! Will my psyche ever recover from this life-altering slight? I need my shrink!