“Baby, it’s time to get up,” Camille said.
“Okay,” Richie mumbled with his face buried in his pillow.
“Come on, sweet pea. You’re going to be late and I can’t drive you to school,” Camille returned to Richie’s doorway to say. After a few moments, she returned. “Richard, I am not feeling well and I don’t have time for this.” Camille peered into the darkness and saw something wasn’t right.
“I’m up,” Richie said with his eyes closed. He knew when his mom was hovering.
“No, I have to get up. Today, the carnival is coming to school.”
Camille flicks the light switch on.
Richie squints and bats away the brightness of the room. “What’s wrong,” he asked his mom.
“You’re not going to school,” she said.
“But you always make me go to school,” Richie said, brushing the hair from his eyes.
“Not when you have chickenpox,” she replied. Richie flashed a frown in disbelief. He got up and walked over to his mirror. “Richie, don’t look at it.” Richie’s eyes saw his reflection and his skin was peppered with pink dots over his body. His mouth dropped in shock. This couldn’t be real.
“Don’t touch it,” Camille said.
“But it’s itchy.”
“I know,” she said with a sigh.
“And the carnival is today,” Richie continued.
“You’re not going to anywhere except this room.”
“Camille,” Sam said, entering the room. “I’m going to be late. I’ll talk to you later. Richie… woah.”
“You don’t have to say it like that, dad,” Richie said with a pout.
“Chickenpox eh? I remember when I had chicken pox,” he said, bending down to his eye level.
“Dad, I’m trying to get to school today. The carnival is in town,” Richie said.
“Oh no… No. You’re staying home,” Sam said to him as simple as could be.
“But I have to go.” Richie’s finger absentmindedly went to scratch his nose.
“Don’t scratch it,” Sam and Camille said in unison.
“Do you want me to stay,” Sam asked Camille.
“No. It’s fine,” Camille said, rubbing her eye socket softly.
“Somebody has to take care of Richie,” Sam reasoned.
“Are you okay? You don’t look well.”
“I’m a little rundown, Sam,” Camille responded in agitation.
“Hey,” Richie piped up. “You guys are talking about me like I’m not even here.”
“No. Listen. Okay,” Richie began his presentation. “I’ve been waiting all year for this carnival and I’m not gonna let this chickenpox stop me.”
“Richie, I understand,” Sam started. “However, you are contagious and I don’t think your school or your friends would appreciate if you gave them what you have.”
Richie then became desperate as his breath became shallow. “Well, maybe if you wrap me in towels like a mummy and I have a gas mask like those quarantine movies,” Richie theorized.
“Maybe you can put me in a plastic bubble,” Richie tried again.
“No! You guys! This is important to me,” Richie cried. “Next year I’ll be going to junior high. And I’ll never get to experience this again. Please. Is there any way you can let me go please? Please?”
Sam knelt on one knee and meditated on his son’s thoughts. “Richie, we’re not letting you go. I’m sorry. Now I know what you’re thinking-”
Richie stood up with a sour frown. “You don’t know what I’m thinking! You are the worst! I don’t care anymore!”
“Give him a minute to cool down,” Sam said as he watched his son stomp out of his bedroom.
“But Sam…” Camille tried.
“Go lie down. I’m calling out so I can take care of you guys. Come on. We need a reset day anyway. Plus it’s the weekend. By the time Richie comes off this thing then we should be able to make it up to him somehow.”
“But this is a memory now. A bad one.”
“And that’s life, Camille. Good memories filled with bad ones. Come on. Go rest. I’ll figure it out.”
Sam rose to his feet and entered the upstairs kitchenette for calamine lotion and spoon. His mind hopped on all the different things he could say to his son to make him come around.
“Hey Richie,” Sam said softly as he rapped his knuckle on the bathroom door. “Are you there buddy? Open up. Come on. I know you’re upset. When I was a kid, I wanted to go to the farm and my dad said no. It hurt… Richie?”
Sam could hear the quick ruffling behind the door and the muffled words, “you can’t make me—”
“Richie,” Sam roared.
“Sam,” Camille called out groggily from the other room.
“Richie! Open the door! Now!!!”
Sam’s body slammed against the surface of the bathroom door. Slam! It was secure.
“Sam? What happened,” Camille asked startled.
“I think he’s trying to hurt himself,” Sam said as he tried the doorknob once more. “I dunno.”
Slam. SLAM. SLAM!!!
Sam came tumbling in and quickly scanned the room. Bathroom towels strewn all over the floor. The toilet and sink safe. No red. Richie? Richie had opened the narrow window and wedged himself into the space. He had a towel wrapped around his waist… connected to another towel… connected to another… connected to… the base of the toilet bowl.
“I said you can’t make me stay here,” Richie declared as boldly as he could in his pajamas raising his fists in the air.
“Sam? Please,” Richie’s parents begged.
“Richie! Don’t you even think about it,” Sam said, pointing his finger at his son.
“No,” the boy screamed
Sam lunged at the window and grabbed the towel. With one hand firmly gripped around the towel, he shoved his left hand and felt Richie’s tiny hand slapping his forearm.
“Let go,” Richie said feverishly.
Camille bounced around Sam trying to grab a towel to help pull him back.
“Sam, do not let him go,” Camille said.
“Camille, go outside,” Sam said, after a quick breath.
“Richie is less than a hundred pounds. I can hold him. But if he frees himself…”
Camille’s mind went racing again. “Oh my God… Richie! Richie!!!”
Richie continued to slap his father’s hand. “Let go of me, dad. You don’t understand. I need to do this!”
Camille peeled out of the back door and stumbled to her feet, momentum pushing her to slap her palms to the siding of the house.
She pushed her hands in the air waiting for Richie to fall into her arms. She took a few steps back. She wasn’t confident she could catch him if he fell. Her mind raced in what was a suitable replacement. Trampoline wouldn’t work. Pillows meant she had to go back inside and she couldn’t take her eyes off Richie. She couldn’t uproot the bushes. But she did have a bag of cut grass. Bags actually.
“Richie! Do not move! Do not,” Camille said, pointing at her son’s dangling legs.
Camille shuffled away with her eyes glued to the window where her son was held by her husbands arm firmly.
She grabbed three bags and shuffled back and placed them directly underneath Richie. She went and repeated the same steps for all the bags she had.
“Sam! Listen to me,” Camille yelled with her hands cupped to direct her voice to Sam inside of the bathroom. “I have bags underneath, Richie. Let him go!”
“Are you sure?”
“Richie,” Sam said to his son, “you want me to let you go?”
“Yes,” Richie cried.
“Wait,” Richie said after a moment of processing. “What did you say?”
“See you later, son.”
“Wait,” Richie called back in defiance.
Sam released Richie and he plunged into the black bags. Camille immediately placed her hands on him in embrace. Sam was out there shortly afterwards.
“Lemme go,” Richie said wrestling with his parents.
“What has gotten into you?”
“You’re not listening to me,” Richie bawled.
Sam pushed his hair back. “You want to go to the carnival because it’s a once in a lifetime opportunity. And once it goes you won’t be able to experience it again. Did I hear that correctly,” Sam snapped.
“…yes,” Richie responded quietly.
“Start the car,” Sam said, gritting his teeth.
“I said start the car.”
The Robbins family got in their SUV and drove to McClarens School and waited for recess. The kids slowly trickled out and began their routine activities of tag and basketball. Sam rubbed the space underneath his bottom lip as he pondered.
“Richie, where’s the carnival,” Sam asked finally.
A moment of silence filled the space between them. “Richie? Your father asked you a question,” Camille chimed in.
“So,” Richie started uneasily, still staring out the window. “I may have gotten the dates mixed up.”
Sam and Camille turned around to see their son.
“Are you aware that you jumped out of a bathroom window on the second floor of the house because you got the dates mixed up,” Sam said calmly.
“Not on purpose. You think I wanted to jump out the window?”