The Psychologist Said, “Vinnie is Going Through a Stage”


In the infinite space between the beginning of 20 Questions and awareness the game started, Vinnie’s mom recalls her family singing songs they all knew and how they laughed when they made up words. She wonders for a millisecond if it might work with Vinnie and decides against it. Vinnie will either sing in Rupert’s falsetto voice or howl like a dog and tell her it’s Dexter. Singing is out. 

What are you thinking, Dear? asks Vinnie’s dad.

“Oh, uh, what I will do when it’s my turn. You know I’m going to win,” says Vinnie’s mom careful not to bring the singing thought up in case Vinnie wants to go with it. 

Vinnie jumps in, “Don’t be too sure, Mom. Rupert and Dexter want to play.”

Vinnie’s mom turns toward the rear seat, “Vincent, Rupert and Dexter can watch, they cannot play this game.”

Vinnie’s dad grabs hold of the steering wheel with both hands. He takes a deep breath and releases it slowly hoping it will stem an anxiety he feels rising within him.

Vinnie says, “That’s not fair, Mom. You’re jealous of Rupert because he’s smarter than you.”

Vinnie’s mom feels the overwhelming urge to say, “Rupert is a stuffed grizzly bear. He cannot think. He cannot talk. He’s made of cotton, glass eyes, and plastic toenails.” The psychologist told her that it’s appropriate and healthy for Vinnie to fantasize, assuring her Vinnie will outgrow the stage. Following the psychologist’s advice, Vinnie’s mom says, “I admit Rupert is a genius. It won’t be fair to have him in the game. He’ll win each round.”

Vinnie’s mom feels a sense of pride in how well she handled this delicate situation. 

Vinnie’s says, “It’s too late, Mom. I already passed my turn to Rupert. He’s going first. Right, Rupert?”

Vinnie holds Rupert up to face him. He shakes Rupert’s head affirmatively and answers in Rupert’s falsetto voice, “I’m ready to play.” 

Vinnie turns Rupert around to face front. Vinnie’s Mom says, “Dear, say something. Help me here.”

Vinnie’s dad says, “Rupert are you thinking of something living?”

Vinnie’s mom says, “I’ll show Rupert who’s the smartest.”

Vinnie’s dad says, “It’s only a game.”

Rupert says, “Game on. It could be living and it could be dead.”

Vinnie’s dad says, “Oh, oh.”

Vinnie’s mom says, “Vincent, something is either living or it’s not living. Now, which is it?” 

Rupert answers, “Mom, it’s my question, not Vinnie’s question.”

“I am not your mother, you dumb grizzly bear,” the thought rushes quickly through Vinnie’s mother’s mind. She says, “Excuse me, Rupert. Can you explain what you mean when you say ‘it could be living or it could be dead?’

Vinnie turns Rupert around to face him. Vinnie’s mouth moves but no sounds come from it. Periodically, Rupert shakes his head. Vinnie turns Rupert around to face front. Rupert says, “It’s living most of the time, but sometimes it’s dead. That’s one question. You only have nineteen more.”

Vinnie’s dad says, “Is it grass?”

“No, eighteen questions.”

“Dear, no wild guesses. Let’s ask more questions,” says Vinnie’s mom.

“I thought it was a good guess,” says Vinnie’s dad.

“It was the worse guess ever, Dad,” says Vinnie.

“Why was it the worse guess ever?” asks Vinnie’s dad.

“Seventeen questions,” says Rupert.

“How much further to the hotel, Dear,” says Vinnie’s mom.

From the rear seat in a falsetto voice, “Sixteen questions.”


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