The lots in my neighborhood are irregularly shaped, due in part to the fact that some of them abut a winding river to the south. As a result, I have one neighbor to my west, a second to my east, and a third whose land lies behind my eastern-most neighbor. The third neighbor’s driveway runs out to a street perpendicular to ours, around the corner.
Here’s the result: If my neighbor’s elementary-aged kids get off the school bus at their designated stop, they must walk a couple hundred yards just to get to their own street, and another couple hundred yards to get to their house. Or they could get off at my daughter’s stop, right in front of our house, and get the proprietor (me) to allow them to cut through our back yard, out the rear gate and into their own back yard.
The latter involves much less walking, and as I make it a point to be home for my daughter’s arrival from school, I’m happy to have the neighbor kids take a safe shortcut home. I usually walk them back to the gate, mostly to make sure the gate is shut after they pass through.
A couple of days ago only the youngest neighbor girl got off the bus. She’s small for a first grader, and seemed tired from a hot day at school. I chatted with her as I usually do, asking how the day went and whether the weather was sufficient that they got an outdoor recess.
“You know what happened one time?” she asked as we walked through the grass. “One time…”
I glanced over. She was looking at her feet as she walked. “You know one time?…”
I glanced over again. She looked up at me with round blue and very sincere little-girl eyes. “One time…,” she stammered again.
“One time corn came out of my bottom.”
A part of my brain seemed to shut down at that moment. I willed myself not to stop dead or utter some exclamation. I heard myself ask, “Did you have corn for dinner?”
“Uh-huh,” she replied.
And then, mercifully, so very mercifully, we were at the gate and she was gone.