Once you’ve switched the ON button on a goofball, you better know where the OFF button is. If you don’t, you might not be able to get your goofball to reel it in. Trust me. I’ve been there!
Cypress, otherwise known as Pepper Doodle, hasn’t been quiet for more than a moment since she became a kid.
She’s always talking. It’s not such a bad thing–she maxed her social skills within a day and a half!
Living in a household of eight, she’s always got someone around to talk with.
Her big brother J.P. enjoys her jokes, even if he can see the punch-line a mile off, and Sugar never tires of the sound of her great grand-niece’s laughter.
Given a choice, though, Cypress will single out Alder. She’ll talk with her artistic uncle for hours on end.
“What was it like when you were a kid, sprouty-tree uncle? I bet you didn’t have computers, huh? No Arithmetic Attack for you, right? You and Mom probably built your own abacus out of pine cones and rocks!”
“What have you been smoking, half-pint? You think we’re dinosaurs crawling through the swamps? Your mom and I grew up with Arithmetic Attack. We lived for it. Heck, we invented it.”
When they aren’t verbally sparring, Alder and his niece talk about art, music, literature, family history, and cartoons. And sometimes, fruit cake. Right now, all the adults love fruit cake–so golden, moist, and fruity–and the kids hate it.
“I’m just saying that fruit belongs in a bowl, not in a cake! Cake’s supposed to be all cakey! Like chocolate. Now chocolate belongs in a cake. No nuts. No dried apricots. Yuck. No pineapple. Gross. Just chocolate. With maybe marshmallows on top. So it’s, you know, a cake! Not a brick!”
“Are you nuts?” Alder replied. “Your great aunt Sugar’s fruitcake is the definition of heaven! Such mouth appeal! All those textures–crispy almonds, chewy golden raisins, crumbly cake! Those complex layers of flavor! Sweet, bitter, spicy! And what about the vanilla overtones?”
“Yuck. Me and J.P. want spinach frittatas first, and then we’re eating brownies. Hold the nuts!”
Sometimes, they talk about more serious matters, like the Park Boys.
“What are they like?” Alder asked. “Tell me all about your generation’s park boys.”
“I only know two of them,” Cypress answered, “Wade and Jade! It’s like a super-hero cartoon show. It’s the Wade and Jade Hour! Are you feeling trapped? Are you in danger of losing your seniority? No fret! Wade and Jade to the rescue!”
“I hung out with Jade. He’s like all serious! We had this contest where I could make him smile. I lost! I like that. Not many people can stay serious with me,” Cypress said. “J.P. made friends with Wade this afternoon. He told him all about his super-game strategy for Arithmetic Attack.”
“I don’t know about you two sharing all the family skilling secrets,” Alder said.
“Nah, it’s cool, Uncle!” Cypress insisted. “Think about it. You want a world where everybody’s all ‘Duh. Two plus two’? Or do you want a world where everybody’s like, ‘The square root of seven times the round root of hexibilliion equals the time of lunch time’?”
“You’ve got a point,” Alder had to admit. “I guess I would choose an educated world anytime. So tell me more about these park boys. What about the third one, and what are their traits?”
“J.P.’s friends with all of them!” Cypress said. “Anderson’s the third one. So Jade and Anderson are geeks, and Wade is gloomy.”
“So generation 9 is the G generation?” Alder asked.
“Yuppers,” said Cypress. “Genius, goofball, geek, geek, gloomy. I like it because the letter ‘g’ is just a 9 moved down half a step!”
“You know,” Alder said, “Sometimes, it just so happens that the park boys wind up being more than family friends. Your grandpa is a park boy, and so was your great grandpa!”
“I know!” replied Cypress. “I met Park Boy Clarence at the park, and he said, ‘Did you come to meet the park boys? One of them might grow up to be your husband!’ And I said, ‘Wait! Are you talking to me?'”
“Stranger things have happened,” said Alder. “Wasn’t that one of the park boys sitting with us at supper? He seemed to be hanging on your every word!”
Wade may have been hanging on Cypress’s every word, but right now, Cypress only has eyes for her uncle.
“I’ve made up my mind!” she cried. “If I have to get married–and that’s a big IF–I’m gonna marry an artist! Like you! I want to marry somebody who can paint all the things! Like, ‘Wow! Is that a real mountain or is that your painting?'”
“Not everybody can become a painter,” Alder said. “It takes more than just appreciating beauty. It takes having an eye. It takes intelligence. It takes an understanding of form and function. And most of all, it takes inspiration!”
“Do you know what I did today?” Cypress asked him.
“What did you do, Pepper Doodle?”
“I made a best friend.”
“Oh? Already? Was it Wade or Jade? And are you part of the tv show now?”
“No, silly!” Cypress replied. “It wasn’t Wade. And it wasn’t Jade. And I’m not nor will I ever be part of a tv show. Want to know who my best friend that I made today is?”
“Sure,” replied Alder.
“It’s you!” said Cypress. “You’re my best friend!”
“Listen,” said Cypress. “I got a joke for you. It’s really funny. What did the unicorn say when she became friends with another unicorn? ‘What we got in common is that we both got a single point!’ Get it?”
“Uh, it’s not really funny. But I’m laughing anyway!”
I never would have guessed that Cypress would choose Alder as her favorite person, the one to become her best friend forever, the one to talk with while she plays Arithmetic Attack, the one whose stories she likes best.
But I think maybe this little girl knew that at Cradle Rock, there was one loner, without a lot of pals in the world, who would benefit most from having a new best friend.