Lines of communication

I can admit it now. It was one of my more stupid brilliant ideas, but what's the point in having children unless you can exploit them occasionally? I mean to say, what useful purpose do children have on this planet anyway? Bring back the days of chimney sweeps I say. It's not as if I was asking that much, in the great scheme of things.

Simple enough, I thought. Here we are, in Jolly old San Jose as the temperatures start to soar into the 80's, ready to bake my garden to a crisp. In America, many homeowners have the benefits of a sprinkler system, as a precautionary measure. We do too, but it doesn't work. It has not worked for approximately 3 years.

I determine that a fact finding commission should commence. Where exactly is the system broken? The control panel is in the farthest back corner of the back garden. The sprinkler system, and I use the term guardedly, theoretically extends to the front garden. Having spent several hours flicking the switch on the control panel and then legging it to the front garden to check where the eruptions fountain 40 feet in the air, only to run back to the control panel to flick the switch again off, I am worn out, wet and none the wiser.

I devise a cunning plan, one of many over the years. I will utilize the small people. They will form a line, spread over the distance from the back garden, to the front. Each child will positioned at ‘shouting/hearing’ distance from the other, whereupon all shall become clear. We will attempt “communication.”

I outline the plan together with appropriate visual aides to assist comprehension. The first stumbling block is the 'outside' factor. A weeping, wailing and gnashing of teeth ensues, followed shortly thereafter by a stampede to the furthest hidden recesses of the house.

I retrieve a sack of M&M's kept for the sole purpose of bribery in the face of adversity, if not aversions. I commence the exercise of rounding them up, once again appreciative of my natural sheepdog instincts. Forget Bo Peep, it was the dog who did the work.

I operate in the mode of Hansel and Gretel, verbalizing dire warnings of imminent melting of chocolate. Thusly, they are all extracted from the confines of the house, out into the great wilds of the outdoors. Whilst I'm tempted to lock the door behind me, I resist, which is just as well as I have to return for additional supplies of baseball hats, sun glasses, galoshes and a few talismen, to ward off the evils of sunshine, texture and heat.

I dither as to which child should be positioned where? I need to keep one as far away from the possibility of water droplets as possible. It's probably best to put the typically developing one, with full powers of speech and minimal phobias nearest the water, further away from me. I'll keep the most non-verbal nearest me. It sounds like it ought to work. What have I missed?

I flinch for a moment and then dive behind the wall to the control box to flick on the switch. I wait. I listen. I can hear water, lots of water. No words are winging their way towards me from any direction.

I run at the speed of light to the front garden where the fountains erupt in every direction, flooding the garden and the street. There are no children anywhere. I force open the gate which is always sticking, which is good as an extra security measure. I look up and down the road. Nothing. At least there isn't any traffic either. Where are they? There is “no fence high enough” nor enough “locks and bolts” to keep them in, to keep them safe and now I’ve just permitted everyone to escape! I check my neighbours in case they've sought diplomatic immunity. No-one is home. It is the middle of the afternoon. I notice that the line of M & M's and the bag are gone. Someone has stolen my children, all of them! I remind myself that junior would never permit anyone to lay a hand on him. Someone must have lured him with the M & M's! I rush to the back garden in case they're hiding under a gooseberry bush, even though we don't have any, gooseberry bushes that is to say. I remind myself that only one of them is capable of hiding. The silence is erie, I am not used to silence, silence is definitely bad news. Is it time to phone the police? I skid into the house which is also silent apart from the thwat, thwat, thwat sound of my soggy socks on the floorboards.

As I lift the phone and wait for the dialing tone I hear a little…….rustle…….a giggle. Phone in hand, I am hot in pursuit. Silence. I stand poised, ears pricked, cloths drip. I adopt “prowl mode,” my favourite because I'm so good at it and have lots of practice. I remove the socks to reduce squelching. My eldest daughter's bedroom door in shut. I open it without a tremour. A double duvet is heaped in the middle of the room. Movement. Life. I hold the edge and whip it off magician style to reveal three squealing chocolate covered children.

Would that we were all so lucky and could avoid “faults on the line.”

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