Copyright C.N. Faust 2013
It was silent on the way home. Neil didn’t like quiet drives, but the car radio was busted and Cherry wasn’t being talkative today. Usually she would be chattering about her latest macaroni masterpiece or who stole her crayons. Her crayons were stolen pretty often. Neil had a hunch that she was just ditching them as soon as they lost the points.
Home was fifteen minutes away. He had to come up with some way to fill up the void.
“So, Cherry Berry,” he said, tossing her an easy smile. “I don’t feel like cooking tonight. How about a little McDonald’s?” as soon as he said it, he cringed inwardly. “You know, because they have…milk and apple slices and stuff.” He was a terrible father.
“No, thanks,” Cherry sighed.
“Oh?” Neil was relieved. For a minute all he could picture were those shiny, terrifying nails clacking together in disapproval. “Then what are you up for? We can go anywhere you want.”
“I think I just wanna go home,” she said, picking at the flaking fake leather on her door handle.
“Are you sure?” he prodded, hoping to get something out of her. “You’ve been acting kind of downy-dumps, kiddo, are you sure nothing is wrong?”
Cherry slumped in her seat. “I don’t want to eat dinner.”
“No?” Neil stole a moment to look at her. “Why not? It’s five o’ clock already. Usually you like a little something by now.”
“I don’t want to eat anymore,” she said, decidedly.
“Are you sick?” he asked.
She shook her head.
“Are you not hungry?” he guessed again.
“Emmy Clarkson called me fat,” she muttered.
Neil’s mouth fell open. Women were catty twits, even in preschool.
“Wait, wait.” He said. “Emmy called you fat?”
Cherry nodded, looking away.
“The same Emmy who got in trouble for eating Twinkies in class?”
“She said I looked like a big fat monkey,” Cherry sniffled.
“She probably just said that to make herself feel better, Cherry Berry,” Neil said, insulted on behalf of his daughter. “Next time she says something like that to you, just tell her she looks like Kirstie Alley plus a doughnut. Then pack up your chips and go home.”
“Huh?” Cherry looked up at him, confused. Neil sighed.
“Never mind, kiddo. If she calls you a monkey again, you march right over to the phone and call your daddy. I know how to take care of these things.”
“Yeah?” Cherry brightened a little. “Will you tell her that’s she’s fatter than a big fat monkey? You could tell her she’s fatter than a whale!”
“Probably, that sounds like me,” Neil couldn’t help but smile a little.