The grayness inside the restaurant reminded Baby Edgar of night-night time, even though outside daytime filled every space. The baby chair he'd been given had no color. He felt lost in that dark corner. The food had been okay. Different. More fun to play with than eat.
He liked his own high chair with its sunshine-yellow tray; it sat under an overhead ball in the ceiling, like an inside sun that made Mommy's face brighter when she smiled at him.
Mommy didn't look happy either. She pretended to be, but Edgar knew the difference. One side of her mouth slid up and the other dropped down. Her lips didn't open. Edgar couldn't understand how Aunt Brook didn't know the difference between a glad Mommy and a sad one.
Maybe Edgar couldn't talk yet -- but he could read the way people acted -- better than grownups could. Aunt Brook wasn't talking to Mommy at all. She was talking at her. The difference between crawling someplace with your eyes open or shut.
One candle sat on the table where Mommy and Aunt Brook sat. Edgar reached for the bright waving color. Mommy wouldn't let him explore the dancing flame. He fussed until she pushed the wavy glow even farther away, and then put him into her soft lap.
Mommy squirmed, and Edgar never knew which way her lap would shift, especially when Aunt Brook flashed this thing on her skinny finger. It sparkled in the candle light.
The only grown-up words Baby Edgar could repeat were Mommy, Daddy, dog, and ball. But he felt the tone of things right through his striped T-shirt. He just didn't have any way to be included -- except to coo, whine, laugh, or cry.
Aunt Brook took off the shiny thing and put it on the table. "My Ralph is such a sweetheart. Too bad it won't fit your sausage finger, Sis. Try your pinky. Big Edgar never got you a rock. Hard times back then, as I remember. So sorry."
She pouted the way Edgar's bigger cousin did when he was ready to throw a tantrum. She pushed her lower lip over her top lip. It looked kind of strange. Made no sense to Edgar at all.
"No thank you," Mommy said, her voice almost as low as Daddy's, a sure sign she really wanted to smack Aunt Brook.
Baby Edgar stared at the tiny thing on the table. Rock? Daddy had read him a book about rocks. Magical kids hid under them. Edgar saw a miniature gold O-cereal circle with a shiny chip on one side, not much bigger than the white moons that dropped off when Mommy cut his toenails. Mommy wore circles like Aunt Brook's on her fingers, but they didn't shine much.
He wondered if he could pick up Aunt Brook's itty-bitty shiny rock. Maybe there was something different about it, but Mommy held him too tight.
Mommy cleared her throat and sighed. Her lap got all nervous. Baby Edgar cried. He found a pitch that hurt even his own ears, while somebody on the other side of the restaurant dropped a stack of plates, an effect that mimicked smashing every toy Edgar had ever owned at the same time. Mommy loosened her grip on him and patted his head.
"Check is paid. I think it's time we went home." Mommy grabbed Edgar's bib, and stuffed it into an empty bread bag.
Edgar leaned forward and reached while Aunt Brook argued with Mommy.
"Fine. Just give me my ring," Aunt Brook said.
"I don't have it. Didn't you pick it up after I said I didn't want to be bothered trying it on?"
"Not funny, Sis."
Edgar pulled up his knees and screamed. "Ooh, ga-a-ack." All he wanted to do was see how the shiny thing felt on his tongue. Hard. Cold. Kind of the way Aunt Brook talked. It was gone now, on the way to the sweet potatoes Mommy squashed with her nice, thick fingers.
Aunt Brook stared at Edgar's red, twisted face.
She lunged toward Edgar and screeched. "No, no, NO. He didn't."
"What are you doing?" Mommy's voice sounded like the dog's when somebody got too close to his dinner bowl. "Don't you ever touch my child." The other people in the restaurant stared. Aunt Brook sat down.
"I am going to pulverize that kid. Do you have any idea how much that ring cost?" Aunt Brook shook her fist at Edgar. He felt something bad, like a scary storm coming through his aunt's arm.
"Cost?" Mommy sounded faraway, but her heart beat so fast Edgar heard it. That scared him too much to cry. Mommy tugged at one of the round things on her finger. She had a lot of them at home. Daddy said Mommy bought the kind of jewelry you find in gum ball machines. Then she dipped her head and shoulders down a bit, and lifted the tablecloth. "Wait! On the floor, down there, what's that next to the table leg?"
Aunt Brook looked under the table. "Don't know. It's too dark. But I do see something. It's the right shape."
Mommy hurried out the door, while Aunt Brook's head disappeared under the table. Mommy hugged Edgar tight and kissed him as she ran. She looked once over her shoulder, but she didn't stop.
Edgar, feeling safe now, held tight to Mommy. He heard Aunt Brook screaming in the distance.
"Run away if you want, but I'm sending you a bill for that ring!"
"Did you buy an engagement ring for yourself?" Mommy called back.
"Why, I never ..." Aunt Brook responded.
"Glad to know you're not that desperate," Mommy called back. "Don't worry. You'll get your ring back. In nature's good time." Aunt Brook shrieked and turned around toward the other side of the restaurant's lot.
"Oh baby, what am I going to do with you," Mommy said putting Edgar into his car seat. "I am grateful my cousin has already been through this. Her daughter swallowed both her rings. It took a couple of days, but ...
"The way you look at me, sometimes I swear you understand every word. There are a small percentage of kids who have real problems after swallowing rings. Glad I don't wear hearing aids. Those tiny batteries can be downright dangerous. I'd better call your pediatrician as soon as we get home."
Edgar's eyes widened. Why is Mommy talking so much?
"That's what I mean, that look. You are having prunes for breakfast, lunch and dinner tomorrow, sweetheart, unless your pediatrician has a better idea. Yep, he's getting a call as soon as we get home. Thank goodness, the diamond is small, but it is one of the hardest substances on earth.
"Auntie will get her ring back. Eventually. I may even clean it before giving it back to her ... Maybe."
Article © Terry Petersen. All rights reserved.
Published on 2017-01-30
Image(s) © Terry Petersen. All rights reserved.