Copyright 1985, 1986 by Gregory S. Swann. All Rights Reserved. Direct inquiries to CIS I.D
Copyright 1985, 1986 by Gregory S. Swann. All Rights Reserved.
Direct inquiries to CIS I.D. 75115,1341.
Marla the Adorable
By Ramblin' Gamblin' Willie
"Marla!," Daddy Longlegs implored. "Marlababy! Look, baby!
Listen to daddy!" He began to sing, "Oh, it rained so hard the day I left, the
weather was so-- What, baby? What was the weather? What was the weather,
The child, of course, ignored him. There is =some= justice in the
world. Marla the Adorable sat in full serenity and authority upon her
"She's just being contrary," said Mother Hen, a fastidious woman
with the twin disadvantages of stray hair and poor muscle coordination: the
result was visually disquieting. "Keep after her. She'll get it! =Won't= you,
babikins? =Won't= you? Huh? Huh? Look at Mommy! =Won't= you?"
That Marla, she's sturdy over the rough spots. Her eyes swept the
room in delightful dignity and dignified delight, enfolding, enveloping,
embracing the wonders within her view. She missed nothing in her collection
of perceptions, reaping the grains of sight and sound and smell with the
joyous solemnity of a scientist in a laboratory or an astronaut on a
spacewalk... The sense of wonder in being alive that so many people
'forget to remember' from childhood...
Here's the whole story: I was a few bucks ahead and decided to
splurge on a full, sit-down meal. I guess splurge might mean a different
thing to you than it does to me: I went to Steak-Out, a name I hope Marla's
parents never entreat her to explain.
I was nearly finished with my meal when Marla's varlets occupied the
table next to mine, in her name. Longlegs, a tall, almost emaciated man
with a pock-marked face, wheeled the wooden high-chair over and Mother Hen
secured the wriggling child inside. Marla, who must be about five, was
striking in a red snowsuit and boots. She threw all of her muscles into
every motion, and the wild blur of her shiny brown bangs was fixed in space
by the beacon of ready eagerness in her eyes.
"I still say she's too big for the highchair," Longlegs had said. To
which Hen replied: "It keeps her from getting into things."
The attempted singalong didn't start until later, but I confess that
the Varlets are not easy to sit by, even when they're not trying to pressure
their child into concluding that the weather can be both wet and dry at
the same time. Perhaps simply =because= the child wanted nothing more than to
observe and reflect, they insisted on forcing her to converse. Is it the
babies who are attention starved...?
And, though I'll deny no glory to a man with an itinerary, it only
has to 'rain so hard' so many times before I'm ready to pick up and head
for Arizona... I confess that I let it annoy me, the grating of the mindless
repetition of a preventable evil, like the drip of a faucet or a leaking
roof... After a while it got to me. No excuses: like Popeye, 'I can takes
just so much and I can't takes na' more!'
"Come on, Marla?!?," Longlegs pleaded. "It rained so hard the day I
left, the weather was so--what is it, baby?! What's the =answer=? Tell daddy,
Marla! What was the weather?!?"
Marla interrupted her inspections for the briefest instant.
"If it's raining it's raining," she said serenely and, I think, most
becomingly. She resumed her supervision as though nothing had happened.
"No, baby!," said Mother Hen. "You know that's not right! It's dry!
The answer is dry! =How many times do you have to be told!!="
What follows is the root of my few troubles: I said: "Not many more...
Keep it up, and you'll be there before you know it."
"Huh?," Hen started, more surprised than anything else. "Be
"Where you're headed. You'll have a daughter who's afraid to say
that it isn't dry when it's raining. Who's afraid to treat anything that
you say as what it means, for fear that you might be making it all up. Another
year or two and you'll be there, good and plenty, and no turning back."
"Just exactly what are you driving at, mister?!?," Longlegs
"That you're teaching your daughter to be stupid. She doesn't know
how to be stupid yet--she's too ignorant for that. But in a year or
two you'll have her all trained up, right and proper."
"I don't know what you =mean=!," Hen clucked.
"Can't take it straight, huh? Few can... I can put it another way
by saying you two are doing a very good job at what is called childrearing in
America today. Like that any better?"
Mother Hen looked demure. Daddy Longlegs shifted nervously in his
I shut out the two Varlets and turned my full attention upon
glorious, imperious Marla. I said: "When it's raining it's raining."
"=I= know =that=!"
"Oh, yeah? =How= do you know it?"
"Hmph!," she said adorably. "Because I =see= it raining!"
"That's right. Because you =see= it raining. Not because somebody else
said so, right?"
"You're a smart person. Did you know that?"
She giggled delightfully. "I guess so..."
"Not just 'guess so': you =are= a smart person. You know why?"
"Because you know that when you =see= it raining, it's stupid to say
"And it's stupid to let anybody push you into =acting= like it's dry,
"=That's= why you're a smart person. Are you interested in =staying=
"Well," I said gravely, "the thing you have to remember always is
that the only way to =prove= you are right is to prove it so you can see
it. So you can understand it in here." I pointed to her kissable forehead. "If
somebody tells you something that just can't be--call 'em an idiot!"
She laughed charmingly. "I like you, mister. You're fun!"
"You're fun, too! We can have fun together because we're both smart."
"Do you think you'll remember how to stay smart?"
"You'll make it! I'm sure of it. And your brain will grow as your body
grows, each day stronger and more sure. And one day I'll swing back
through town and give you a long, slow wolf whistle--" I whistled
and she giggled. "--as the most beautiful woman of all: the woman
with a beautiful brain. Do you think you'd like that?"
"Okay, lady. You be good. And remember: to be good, you have to be
"Ahh...," said Daddy Longlegs, his face a mask of knowing confusion,
"'but children are apt to forget to remember, with up so floating many
"Some are..., some are," I replied. "But others remember never to
forget... And everybody's gotta take a side..."
"Dad," Marla said in the authority of certainty, the
genius-child monarch in the kingdom of fact, "you're an idiot!"
Special Thanks to Gary McGath!
E-Mail Fredric L. Rice / The Skeptic Tank