Later that night Vinnie’s mom, Vinnie’s dad, Vinnie, Rupert and Dexter are in the living room watching the Secret Lives of Pets. Vinnie is sitting on the floor with his back braced against the sofa. Rupert is on his lap facing the TV. Dexter is next to him saying Beagle prayers Vinnie shares some of his popcorn with him.
“Mom, how many times have we seen this movie? I know the lines by heart. Why can’t we watch something good that only adults watch?” says Vinnie.
Vinnie’s mom sets her iPhone on her lap. She says, “You requested the movie. Don’t complain.”
Vinnie half turns his head, “That’s not right, Mom. Rupert asked you if we could watch it. You didn’t ask me or Dexter. Dexter told me he wanted to watch one of the shows you and Dad watch when you put me to bed. If the show is bad for me, why isn’t bad for you?”
Vinnie’s dad takes his attention away from his iPad and turns his attention toward Vinnie’s mom. Vinnie’s mom gives Vinnie’s dad a ‘Don’t you dare look.’ She says, “There are often words in the movie that young children shouldn’t hear. We’re only trying to protect you.”
“I already know all the bad words, Mom.”
“You do? Where did you hear them? Dad and I don’t use them. I’m sure Mrs. Mavis didn’t use them. Did she? Tell me, Vinnie. Did Mrs. Mavis ever use bad words with you?”
“I could tell she was thinking them, Mom. She didn’t say any. Sometimes Pete the custodian uses them when he accidentally spills something or hits his finger with a hammer. I learned most of the bad words from Joey’s mom and dad. Joey’s mom uses them all the time. Sometimes when she’s talking to Joey’s dad all they use are bad words. I memorized them. I made a list in my notebook so I can use them when I am officially allowed to use them. Want me tell you want they are. I think I know some bad words you don’t know.”
“No, Vincent. I don’t want to know them. I don’t want to ever hear you say them.”
“Mom, if I don’t tell you what they are, how will you know what they are? asks Vinnie.
Vinnie’s mom mutters, “I’m beginning to understand my phone call today.”
“What phone call, Mom. Who called? What did they say? Did they same some bad words you didn’t know were bad words, Mom? You should have asked Rupert, he’s smarter than you. Right, Rupert?”
Vinnie picks Rupert up. He lifts Rupert over his head so Rupert is facing Vinnie’s mom. Vinnie uses his falsetto voice for Rupert, “I was born smart, Mom. I’m too smart for Mensa.”
Vinnie’s mom turns to Vinnie’s dad. “I need some help here.”
Vinnie’s dad says, “You’re doing just fine.”
Vinnie’s mom knows this is the right moment to tell Vinnie the bad news. Then she wonders if there will ever be a good moment. She tries to change the subject, “Vinnie, what do you think of attending the science discovery camp at the university. I hear it is lots of fun.”
Vinnie sets Rupert down in the bowl of popcorn. He turns to face his mom. In turning, the popcorn and Rupert tumble over in front of Dexter. Dexter knows in this moment that a beagle’s life is the best life. He’s up on all fours consuming his gift, the spilled popcorn.
Vinnie says, “Where’d you hear that, Mom? Larry went to it last year. He said it was boring. They didn’t do any fun stuff.”
“Of course they did fun stuff, Vinnie. That’s what summer science camps are all about. Science is your favorite subject.”
“Not any more, Mom. Joey’s mom told me I’m a free spirit. What’s a free spirit, Mom? Mom, how come Joey’s mom is as skinny as you and she eats real pizza and cake and cookies.”
Vinnie’s mom says to Vinnie’s dad, “You take the free spirit question, I’ll take the food question.”
“Do I have to?” asks Vinnie’s dad.
Vinnie’s dad gets the don’t play games with me look and says, “Vinnie, what is your favorite subject?”
Vinnie lifts Rupert and turns Rupert to face Vinnie’s dad. Rupert says, “I don’t think they teach it at school.”
“Well, maybe they don’t teach it in 3rd grade, but you’ll be in 4th grade. There will be more options because you’re older,” says Vinnie’s dad puffing up like he made a great closing statement in court.
Vinnie’s mom touches Vinnie’s dad’s arm, “You think you were great, wait five seconds.”
Vinnie pulls Rupert down. “I can handle this, Buddy.” Vinnie twists and looks at his dad. “Dad, I know what I want to be when I grow up. Can I go to a summer camp that will help me be what I want to be?”
Vinnie’s mom touches Vinnie’s dad’s arm and says, “Be careful.”
Vinnie’s dad is still puffed up from his previous response. He says, “Sure.”
“You asked for it,” says Vinnie’s mom.
“Dad, I want to be a pirate.”
“Yes, Dad. I need to learn how to sail a boat, sword fight, and plunder. I’ll need a patch for my right eye and a bandana to wear on my head. Joey and Larry and me already talked about. You won’t have to pay for college since pirates don’t need school. The first thing, I’m gonna do is make Mrs. Mavis walk the plank. You’re the greatest, Dad.”
“You’re the greatest, okay,” says Vinnie’s mom to Vinnie’s dad.