A. Joy

Jackie Pick Boys

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In the derby of the school pick up-line, my twins spot my I-refuse-to-acknowledge-it-is-a minivan. Victorious in escaping the atomic bombardment of dozens of their classmates, they tumble into the car. The backseat is awhirl with noise and feet and big eyes. As one, they ask for water, backpacks, television time, help buckling the seat belt that was buckled three second ago, bathroom breaks, and Daddy. I grind my teeth, check the rearview mirror, and brace for the demolition derby that is the escape from the parking lot. Parents have turned the dual-lane pickup system into a stampede of cars seventeen across. Everyone is scanning for their opportunity to dart. Some rebellious adults have parked their cars and launch acrobatically over the SUVs to get to the kids. I expect by the end of the year someone will begin awarding points for performing a layout tsukahara with a full twist over a Jeep Cherokee.

I drive out of the pick-up line, steering with my knees while deflecting backpacks, thermoses, art projects, permission slips, and dried pineapple bits. The principal waves me off with the skill of a NASCAR official. I'm not departing fast enough, and there is an angry, torch-wielding mob forming behind me.

As their bodies so often do, the boys' words tumble over each other. It's their version of morbidity and mortality meetings, letting me know that in the seven hours since I've seen them the world continued to be imperfect. From what I gather, elbows were scraped, lunches had soggy elements, someone cried, recess was fun, and art smocks were scratchy.

Ultimately, all the words race to their inevitable conclusion.


Did you bring us a snack?

Of course. I am Mama. Once I gave birth to you, my body produced milk and small bags of Goldfish crackers. It's how our species survived lean times.

The noise stops as they see what I've unearthed from the rubble of my purse: two fun-sized Almond Joy bars, the final treats from goodie bags from one of the seemingly endless birthday parties this past month. I am convinced, although have no proof yet, that some of their friends are in an accelerated growth program. I swear Tyler just had another birthday four months ago, and Asher is already blotting a styptic pencil on his shaving nicks as he runs to make it to the first grade reading rug before the final morning bell rings. I appreciate parents trying to give their kids every advantage, but Asher creams my kids in Duck Duck Goose. Every time.

I put the bars in the fridge to firm up. “How long?” they ask. Five minutes. They run to get the timer, which they don't seem to trust, as they cross-reference it with three other clocks in the house as well as what they seem to think is my internal world clock. There is counting down, jumping, fidgeting, and not particularly gentle prodding for me to retrieve the booty from its temporary throne next to the hummus and some questionable green onions. With fanfare (I'm singing the Olympic Theme Song), I cut the bars in half and present one to each upturned smile.

The first bite is perfectly rodential. Miniscule. They get only chocolate and are encouraged. The next bite, a scrape of front teeth against candy, exhumes coconut: chewy, sweet, polarizing. They manage to look both horrified and quizzically at me. I tell them to spit it out into the garbage.

“Can I have a plum? Can I have a banana?” Measured words, slow and disappointed, hoping I would not insist on finishing what they started. They ask several seconds after they've actually reached for and touched every plum and each banana. I nod. They ask again, having not turned their heads from the fruit bowl. They ask again and again, words corrugated from years of not completing each other's sentences, as expected from twins, but from competing and complementing each other until one (the loser) cries because the other (the victor) said the same thing, only faster and louder and using more words.  

Finally, mouths already full of plums and/or bananas, they turn to and see me nodding. They run to the backyard, land of t-ball and small hills and the occasional rabbit and absolutely no coconut. They squeal and battle over foul lines and turns, and they laugh over body noises, intentional and otherwise.

I watch them tussle, sinking my teeth into two beautifully, perfectly chilled Almond Joy bars, fun-sized with small tooth-shaped scratches on the edges.

As planned.


About the Author

Jackie Pick

Jackie Pick is a former teacher who is now writing her way through what she nervously identifies as her "second adolescence." Her work can be found in the HerStory Project's Anthology: So Glad They Told Me (Spring, 2016), Multiples Illuminated (Spring, 2016), and on ScaryMommy.com. Jackie is the co-creator and co-writer of the upcoming short film Bacon Wrapped Dates, and she occasionally performs sketch and musical comedy in Chicago. When she's not in one of her three children's school pick-up lanes, she can be found on apologizing for not updating her .

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January 2016 – Story
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