mrs nice guy asks Owen: how old are you? he's five. nice kid. we ask him how he likes being a big brother. he says: "i'm a big brother, but i have a bigger brother too! he's older. he's 20."
"oh," i say, like an idiot. "that is a really big brother."
Owen's mom tells us that the big brother is her husband's son from an earlier marriage. we all nod. makes sense. she gets up to push Josie on the swing.
i ask Owen, "so do you get to see your brother a lot?"
"no. he's in California."
"oh, yeah. that's far away." poor kid. he's got this big half-brother and he's so far away. that must be hard, especially when you're saddled with a smelly little sister. i would imagine being a 5-year-old boy would be a lot more fun with a much-bigger brother around. "is he in college over there?"
"i don't know."
"oh," i say. i figure perhaps this kid doesn't know what college is. i'll try another tack: "maybe he's in school or something?"
"it's pretty neat to have such a big brother," i say, stupidly. what a fucking conversational wizard you are, mr nice guy. you should teach a night class at Brooklyn College: How to Have Awkward Small Talk with Five Year Olds You Don't Know. i figure I've pretty much exhausted this line of conversation and decide to let it go."
"he's in jail!" [at this point mrs nice guy makes a noise that sounds a little like this: GHNK! which i know intimately from many personal failings to be the sound of repressed laughter.]
"uh?" i respond, checking to make sure Owen's mommy is still out of earshot. "hmm." witness how my panther-like reflexes react to unexpected conversational pitfalls: "well, so i guess your sister is swinging pretty high --- "
"he took a car! and he went to jail!"
"GNGKHG! GN!!" [thanks, mrs nice guy, that sure is helpful.]
"ah. heh. well i guess you shouldn't. um. take cars?" good advice, mr nice guy. you have definitely scared this boy straight. here's your eagle scout badge, you fucking knob.
"my dad went out there to pay a lot of money so he could get out of jail!" fuck. please somebody make him stop.
"heh heh. you don't say?" i'm squeezing my brides hand and desperately attempting to derail this kid's train of thought. "ahem. hmm. wow it sure is hot today."
"yeah, but he's still in california. MY TURN TO SWING."
and he bolted. happy. well-adjusted. unfazed.
kids are awesome.