Check on Vinnie. He’s Up to Something.

26

Vinnie’s Mom and Dad sit on the sofa watching a Netflix romantic comedy. Vinnie’s mom touches Vinnie’s dad’s arm, “This is a good movie. Thanks for choosing it. You usually go for those weird sci fi movies or thrillers. I can’t stand them.”

“You’ve had a rough day. Besides, I like romantic comedies,” says Vinnie’s dad who hasn’t paid a bit of attention to the movie. 

“Vinnie’s been very quiet. Why don’t you check up on him. He’s up to something,” says Vinnie’s mom.

“He’s fine. I told him to make an outline of his science fair project before doing anything. Let’s enjoy the movie. What could go wrong?” asks Vinnie’s dad.

Vinnie’s mom snuggles closer to Vinnie’s dad. “Thanks, Dear.”

Blam, boom, bang the rapid sounds of explosions come from the kitchen followed by, “Wow, that was awesome. Now, we’ll try the turkey hotdogs.”

Vinnie’s mom presses pause on the remote. She looks at Vinnie’s dad, “What could go wrong? Is that what you said? I am not going to clean up . . .”

Boom, bam, boom, three more explosions occur nearly simultaneously. Vinnie says, “Rupert, did you see that? The turkey hotdogs almost knocked the door off the microwave. You and Dexter can lick the turkey hotdogs off the walls.”

“Oh no. You’ve got to stop him. The kitchen must be a disaster. I am not cleaning it. The smell. I can smell the hotdogs in here. We need to air out the house. I won’t be able to sleep tonight unless the house is aired out.”

“Vinnie are you okay,” hollers his dad.

“You’re missing the greatest experiment ever, Dad. Hold on. I’m putting the tofu hotdogs in the microwave.”

The microwave door slams shut. Vinnie’s mom and dad hear a beeping sound indicating the microwave is starting. Vinnie’s mom says, “Are you going to sit here and do nothing?”

“Un huh. I don’t want to get hot dog waste all over my new Nike’s,” says Vinnie’s dad.

“You belong in third grade with Vinnie,” says Vinnie’s mom.

Before Vinnie’s dad can answer, three more rapid explosions happen. 

“That was the best one yet. They only lasted 20 seconds. Can I lift Dexter and stick his head in the microwave. He wants to clean it up,” asks Vinnie.

“Say something,” says Vinnie’s mom to Vinnie’s dad.

“Okay. Vinnie, do you know what makes the hotdogs explode? Make a guess.”

“I didn’t want you to turn this into a lesson. I don’t want him to accidentally microwave Dexter,” says Vinnie’s mom.

“Are you guys hungry? I can scrap some hot dogs off the kitchen counter before I put Dexter on the counter. Let me check my notebook, Dad. I made notes before I started. Dexter, here, lick this page. Thanks, Buddy.”

“How will I live through this?” asks Vinnie’s mom.

“What did you discover, Vinnie?” asks Vinnie’s dad.

“The first thing I learned, Dad, was Dexter likes all the hotdogs. Everything looks really clean. Dexter licked out the microwave, the countertop, the floor, and the wall on the opposite side of the kitchen from the microwave.”

“I am not going into that kitchen until you disinfect it,” says Vinnie’s mom squeezing the breath out of the remote.

“Dad, did you know the hotdogs with the most water and sodium exploded first? This a great finding. I’m going to do this experiment again tomorrow. Can Joey come over and watch the hotdogs explode?”

“No. Get ready for bed,” calls Vinnie’s mom.

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Vinnie Tells the Class to Hold the Applause

22

Vinnie’s mom momentarily closes her eyes and prays a Hail Mary. She opens her eyes, looks at Vinnie who’s holding the nearly empty bowl of almond avocado within reach of Dexter. Dexter, apparently, thinks almond avocado pudding is a snack to tide him over for the next five minutes. 

“Vincent, I did not make the pudding for Dexter,” says Vinnie’s mom wishing after she said it she used a more gentle tone.

Vinnie still holding the bowl down while Dexter swirls his tongue around whatever almond avocado molecules still exist, smiling, looks up at his mom and says, “We both like it, Mom. That’s great, right?”

Vinnie’s mom thinks, I cannot stay upset with him. I want to be upset, but I can’t. She says, “Let’s not talk about the pudding, what happened at school, today?”

“You didn’t promise you won’t be mad at me,” says Vinnie picking up a piece of apple.

“Yes, I promise. Because I promise, doesn’t mean we won’t talk about it,” says Vinnie’s mom. She thinks her psychologist will be happy to hear how she responded to Vinnie. 

“Where do you want me start, Mom? Do you want me to start as soon as I got in the classroom. Or, do you want me to only talk about the science project?” asks Vinnie.

Vinnie’s mom takes a deep breath. She’s imagining the email she’s going to get from Mrs. Navis. She secretly hopes she doesn’t have to meet with Mrs. Navis, the principal, and counselor again. 

“How many times did you get sent to the office?” Vinnie’s mom asks.

“Only once, Mom. But, it wasn’t for behavior. It was to get some supplies for Mrs. Navis. I think she wanted to get me out of the classroom for a little while.”

“That’s good news,” says Vinnie’s mom leaving out the ‘I think.’

“Let’s talk about the science project and what you told the class,” says Vinnie’s mom preparing herself for the worst.

“First, Mom, you might get an email from Mrs. Navis because I told Joey to capture a rattlesnake and train it for his science project.”

“Oh dear, why did you do that? You know rattlesnakes are poisonous?” says Vinnie’s mom with a raised level of alarm in her voice.

“I was going to help Joey, Mom. I thought we could catch a garden snake and use magic markers to make it look like a rattlesnake. Mrs Navis freaked out. I think she’s afraid of snakes,” says Vinnie feeding Dexter the last piece of apple with peanut butter. 

Dexter believes humans eat strange food, but if it’s chewable it’s good for beagles.

“What about your project, Vinnie?” asks his mom afraid to find out more about Vinnie’s school day.

“When it was my turn, Mom, I walked to the front of the class. Everybody else talked about their science project from their desks. Mrs. Navis told me to go back to my seat. I said I need to be in front of the class so everyone would hear me. She told me to go ahead and not to take too much time.”

“It seems like you handled it okay. What did you tell the class?”

“Can I stand up to show you how I did it?”

Vinnie’s mom feels like a big rock dropped into the pit of her stomach. She says, “Okay.”

Vinnie hops down from breakfast bar stool. Dexter, deftly moves out of the way. Vinnie steps away from the breakfast bar. Vinnie’s mom swivels on her stool and faces Vinnie.

Vinnie stretches both arms over his head, his palms facing his mom, “No applause, please. No applause, please.”

Vinnie’s mom forces herself not to laugh.

Vinnie says, “That’s as far as I got before I got sent to time out. Mrs. Navis sent me to time out because the whole class was laughing. I wasn’t laughing.”

The email arrival sound goes off on Vinnie’s mom’s laptop. 

“Vinnie says, “That’s probably Mrs. Navis’s email. Can I go to Joey’s house for an hour. I’ll do my homework when I come back, promise.”

Vinnie’s mom nods and says, “One hour, not a second more.”

Vinnie’s mom twists around to the breakfast bar and slides her laptop in front of her. She opens the email app and stares at an email from Mrs. Navis.

“Mom, Promise You Won’t Get Mad”

21

Vinnie makes a diving leap onto the bed, his arms outstretched and grabbing hold of Rupert as he flops onto his belly on the bed. Vinnie stares at Rupert and says, “I stopped you from scoring a touchdown, Rupert. I win.”

Rupert, as usual, smiles at Vinnie. His deep brown glass eyes sparkle from the sunlight streaming through the bedroom windows.

“How was your day, Buddy? Mine was boring. Who goes first, you or me?” asks Vinnie.

Vinnie uses Rupert’s falsetto voice and says, “Bro, why don’t you go first. You probably don’t want to hear how Dexter and I captured a super bad criminal. Then we put spy cameras all around Mrs. Navis yard. Then we went to Oswalds and got a big cone of ice cream.”

“Wow. I wish I stayed home with you and Dexter. You and Dexter always have the best days. First things first, I got to make up a great story for Mom. If she hears I was in time out three times she will get seriously upset. Keep your paws crossed Mrs. Navis doesn’t send her an email. The worst thing, Mrs. Navis told me I couldn’t do the science project I wanted to do. I didn’t know what I was going to do until Doctor Cashman read the announcements. . . .”

From somewhere outside Vinnie’s bedroom, “Vinnie, your snack’s ready for you. I’m waiting. Leave Rupert alone. You can tell him about your day after you tell me.”

Vinnie stares at Rupert, “Buddy, Mom must have a hidden camera in here. I want you to find it. I don’t understand how she knows everything I’m doing when she can’t see me. Is there a camera in one of your eyes?

“No, Bro, I’d never let Mom spy on you, Dexter, and me,” says Rupert.

“Thanks, Buddy. I knew I could trust you. I’ll be back as soon as I can.”

Vinnie gives Rupert an extra squeeze. He hops off the bed. Dexter, who was half asleep on the floor next to Vinnie’s bed sees Vinnie heading for the door. Dexter thinks Vinnie must be heading to the beagle food court. He’s up and walking alongside Vinnie toward the kitchen, his expectations growing with each step toward the kitchen.

Vinnie climbs onto a stool at the breakfast bar. His mom fixed a plate of sliced honey crisp apples with peanut butter on each slice. Vinnie eyes a bowl filled with green stuff. He says, “What’s that? It looks like slime or worse.”

Vinnie’s mom says, “It’s good for you. Try it. You’ll ask me to make it everyday for you.”

“I don’t want to try it, Mom. I might throw up.”

“Vincent, try it.”

“What is it?

“Its almond and avocado pudding,” says Vinnie’s mom proudly.

Vinnie puts his two hands on his stomach and bends over and pretends to gag. 

“Vincent, you will not leave the breakfast bar or eat dinner until you try it,” says Vinnie’s mom.

“Okay, Mom. I’ll try it, but only a little spoonful. I think Dexter might like it better than me, Mom. Can I see if he likes it? I’ll eat whatever Dexter doesn’t want to eat. I promise, Mom,” says Vinnie.

“Nice try, Vinnie. It’s not going to work. We both know Dexter will eat it and then lick the bowl,” says Vinnie’s mom.

“That was the plan, Mom,” says Vinnie picking up the spoon his mom placed next to his plate and dipping the tip of it into the almond avocado pudding.

Vinnie closes his eyes and pinches his nose with the forefinger and thumb of his left hand. He uses his right hand to bring the spoon to his mouth. The spoon bumps into his lips and sealed mouth.

“Vincent.”

Vinnie opens his mouth, takes a gulp of air and holds his breath as he puts the spoon into his mouth. Vinnie closes his mouth around the spoon, he opens his eyes, and says, “It’s pretty good, Mom. It could use a little chocolate.” 

“Now tell me what you told Mrs. Navis and the class about your science project,” says Vinnie’s mom.

“Promise you won’t get mad?”

Vinnie Punks His Mom

20

Vinnie’s mom sits perfectly still in a Lotus position on her yoga mat. The yoga master’s hypnotic voice streaming from FitTV puts Vinnie’s mom in a highly relaxed state. Suddenly, she’s startled. Her heart rate jumps from 47 to 110 in seconds. She swings her head toward the front door.

“Mom, Mom, Mom, I’m home. I’m home. I’m home,” screams Vinnie.

Dexter comes racing in from Vinnie’s bedroom, barking as if he won the dog lottery and has free barbecue for life. Dexter slides to a stop on the tile floor sticking a perfect landing at Vinnie’s feet.

Vinnie’s mom is on her feet, “Vinnie, why are you home early? You’re not supposed to home for 15 more minutes. I always prepare a snack for you and wait for you. Did anything go wrong at school?” Vinnie’s mom has the irrational thought the principal sent Vinnie home from school and forgot to call her.

“I got kicked out of school, Mom.”

“You didn’t! My God, Vincent, what did you do?” says Vinnie’s Mom.

“Punked yah, Mom. You are too easy,” says Vinnie stooping down and hugging Dexter. 

“Don’t scare me like that ever again, Vinnie. Promise? Why are you home early?” says Vinnie’s mom. 

“Mrs. Johnson was sick and couldn’t drive the bus. The sub bus driver drove us home backward,” says Vinnie opening his backpack and sticking his arm into it. 

Dexter, unlike Vinnie, lives in the present moment and focuses with laser like attention on any possibility of food. 

Vinnie pulls out a half of bologna sandwich and holds it above Dexter’s head. Dexter knows the drill. He sits on his haunches, stares at Vinnie, and waits for a command.

Vinnie says, “Sit.” Vinnie starts laughing and looks at his mom. “I punked Dexter. He’s already sitting.” 

Dexter’s confused. He’s never gone into a sit position from a sitting position. His feeble beagle brain feels as if it will explode. Dexter thinks Vinnie’s confused. Dexter helps Vinnie out by sticking out his left paw. 

Vinnie doubles up in laughter. He gives Dexter the half sandwich. Dexter doesn’t understand what he did, but he’ll try to remember it. He consumes the bologna sandwich in three point eight seconds. 

“Vincent, the driver did not drive backward, now why are you home early?” asks Vinnie’s mom. She feels as confused as Dexter.

“I mean the bus driver drove the bus backward, Mom. He let the first kids off who are usually the last kids off. Mulberry Street is usually the last stop. That’s why I’m home early.”

“Oh, I understand, I think. Where did you get that disgusting, unhealthy sandwich? I hope you didn’t eat it the other half,” says Vinnie’s mom.

“Larry gave it to me, Mom. His mom makes him two sandwiches. Larry only could eat one. He gave one half sandwich to Joey and the other half to me. I took my half home for Dexter. That was smart, right, Mom?”

“I’m sure Dexter appreciated it. Tell me all about school. Did you get to talk about your science project?” says Vinnie’s mom as she rolled up her yoga mat.

“Later, Mom. I got to see Rupert. He knows I’m home,” says Vinnie stepping past his mom and heading toward his bedroom.

“Vincent, did you forget something?” 

Vinnie stops, turns around and looks at his mom, “Nope. I got my backpack. Thanks for asking, Mom.”

“Vincent, you know what I’m talking about. Come here, now,” orders Vinnie’s mom.

“Do I have to, Mom? If Joey and Larry knew I had to hug you every day when I come home from school they’d give me the business all year.”

“I want a hug.”

“Okay, but no kiss.”

Vinnie’s mom stoops down and holds out her arms to catch Vinnie. He runs to her and jumps into them. She kisses him on the top of his head.

He looks at her, “Thanks, Mom.”

Vinnie’s mom holds Vinnie at arms length, “Vinnie, after you put your backpack up, I’ll have a snack ready for you at the table. I want to hear what you told the class about your science project.”

“You sure, Mom? It will be boring,” says Vinnie trying to escape his mom’s grasp.

“I’m sure, now run along.”

Vinnie Says, “Does It Mean It’s Okay Since You Didn’t Say No?

19 

Mrs. Navis bends over her desk, she looks at her laptop for excused absences. Her first thoughts contain a central figure rising out of the depths of her subconscious He’s never sick. He has perfect attendance. He runs down the hallway and into the classroom. He doesn’t sit still for a moment. I need a pay raise. If I told student teachers about him they’d choose another field.

A screaming voice interrupts Mrs. Navis’s rambling thoughts, “Mrs. Navis, Mrs. Navis, Mrs. Navis, I’ve got the best idea for a science fair project, Rupert said you’ll love it. Can I tell everyone as soon as Doctor Cashman does the announcements?”

Mrs. Navis takes a deep breath and thinks, I’m stuck in a loop with him. Every day is the same as the day before. He comes in excited about something, anything. I don’t even know who this Rupert is he continually talks about. He must be an old uncle. 

“Mrs. Navis, Mrs. Navis, Mrs. Navis, did you hear me? Want me to ask you again? Or, does it mean okay since you didn’t say no? When my mom or dad doesn’t say no I think it’s okay. So, it’s okay. I can’t wait until the announcements are over. I never listen to them anyways. Joey doesn’t either. Why doesn’t Doctor Cashman stop making announcements since no one pays attention? Are you okay, Mrs. Navis?”

“Vincent, sit down. Pay attention to the announcements. They are important. Science is after lunch, that’s when we’ll talk about the science projects.”

“Can I go first, Mrs. Navis. No, I better go last because if I go first, it will make everyone else feel so bad because their projects will be so lame. But if I go last, everyone will give up because they know mine will be the best. Maybe I better be the only one who talks about their science project. This is a great idea, right, Mrs. Navis?

“Vincent, please sit down. Everyone will have a chance to tell what they plan to do for the science fair. Please take out your math homework and review it. Make sure it is correct.”

“It’s perfect, Mrs. Navis. I’m really good at math,” says Vinnie glancing over at Mrs. Navis’s laptop. “Mrs. Navis does the school let you have Facebook on the school computer? I thought school computers are only supposed to be for school work. Don’t worry I won’t tell Doctor Cashman on you. Watch out, you can’t trust Sara.”

“Vincent, for the last time, sit down. Not another word. Go,” orders Mrs. Navis pointing to Vinnie’s seat in the middle of the third row.

Vinnie, in slow motion, draws his forefinger and thumb across his lips as if he is closing a zipper. He turns around and sees Joey. “Hi Joey, did you catch a rattlesnake last night?”

Joey, who sits in the last seat in the fourth row says, “No, but my dad and me set a trap for one. When we catch it, I’m going to train it for my science project.”

Mrs. Navis jerks her head up from her laptop, “What did you say, Joseph?”

“I was telling Vinnie what I am going to do for my science project.”

“Did you say you were going to catch a rattlesnake and train it?” asks Mrs. Navis.

“Yes, Mrs. Navis. It’s a great idea, right?”

Mrs. Navis may be aging faster because of Vinnie but her brain still travels at the speed of light. Joey’s words, ‘It’s a great idea, right,’ sound exactly like Vincent’s words. Mrs. Navis says, “Where did you get the idea to catch a rattlesnake, Joseph?”

Joey says, “Larry, and Vinnie and me all live on the same street. We were playing basketball after school and we started talking about science projects. I can’t tell you what Vinnie’s going to do because he swore me and Larry to a blood oath if we told. …”

Mrs. Navis interrupts Joey, “What exactly is a blood oath?”

“If we break the blood oath we have to drink a quart of blood without stopping. I only had to do it once. Larry had to do it twice.”

Mrs. Navis’s legs feel wobbly, she sits in the chair behind her desk. “Did you actually drink blood, Joseph?”

Vinnie interrupts, “It is really cherry Kool Aide, Mrs. Navis. We pretend it’s blood.”

Sara, who sits in front of Vinnie, blurts, “Gross.”

“Children quiet,” says Mrs. Navis pressing her hands flat against the top of her desk. “Joseph, who told you to catch a rattlesnake.”

“I was stuck for a good idea and Vinnie helped me.”

“Oh, dear God.”

“Mom, Why Can’t I Have Pepperoni Pizza for Breakfast?”

18

The next morning, Vinnie is sitting at the breakfast bar eating yogurt, blueberries and Life cereal. Each time he scoops yogurt, he dips his spoonful of yogurt into the blueberries and then the  cereal. Dexter lies at Vinnie’s feet cleaning up whatever doesn’t fit into Vinnie’s mouth. Dexter follows the beagle species motto, if it falls off the table, it’s good to eat.

Vinnie waits until he has a mouth full of food before he speaks to his mom. “Mom, why can’t I have pepperoni pizza for breakfast like Joey?”

Vinnie’s mom can interpret speaking with a mouthful language. She says, “Vinnie, how many times have I told you not to speak with food in your mouth? Chew it, swallow it, and then speak. Is that so hard?”

Vinnie’s mouth is empty. He says, “Which question do you want me to answer first, Mom?”

Vinnie’s mom glances at the digital time on the microwave and thinks, ten more minutes, I can do this. I can do this. She says, “Never mind. I have a different question. What are you going to tell Mrs. Navis today about your science fair project? This was one of your assignments.”

Vinnie quickly takes another scoop of yogurt, dabs the scoop in the blueberries and flips the scoop upside down on the cereal. He pushes it down. When he’s satisfied he has enough Life cereal clinging to the yogurt, he turns the spoon over and sticks it in his mouth.

Vinnie’s mom takes a sip of her coffee and says, “Well?”

Vinnie points an index finger to his mouth and shrugs his shoulders. Vinnie’s mom rolls her eyes. She watches Vinnie slowly and carefully chew his blend of blueberries, yogurt, and cereal. He swallows. After swallowing, Vinnie places his right hand on his throat and acts as if he’s choking. 

Vinnie’s mom says, “Are you alright?”

Vinnie nods, then barely whispers, “I need some orange juice. It’s the only thing that will unclog my throat.”

Vinnie’s mom turns and walks to the refrigerator. She opens the refrigerator door and sees the carton of orange juice. Next to the carton of orange juice is her container of Chinese takeout. She reaches for it, pulls it out of the refrigerator, opens it, and turns around, “Vincent! Don’t you dare stick food in your mouth.”

“But, Mom. Rupert told me you might get sick if you ate it. What was I to do, but give it to Dexter. Nothing makes him him sick, Mom, honest. One time I saw him eating puke …”

“Enough, Vincent. Enough. I don’t want to hear it.”

“What about your science project?”

Vinnie points to the microwave digital clock. “I don’t want to miss my bus, Mom. I better make sure my backpack has all my homework. I am going to try really hard at school today. I hope Mrs. Navis is in a better mood than she usually is.”

Vinnie hops down from the stool at the breakfast bar and turns to head toward his room.

“Vincent! Yes, Mom.”

“What are you supposed to do after breakfast?”

“Brush my teeth, Mom.”

“What else, Vincent?”

“Aah, what, Mom?”

“Come right back and clean up your area.”

“Do I have to?”

“Oh, dear God, yes, you have to.”

“Darn. I was going to tell you what I was going to do for my science project and this made it slip out of my mind.”

Vinnie takes his half eaten bowl of Life cereal, scoops out the remainder of the half eating container of yogurt and puts on the cereal. He dumps the remaining seven blueberries on the mix. Vinnie places the breakfast concoction on the floor near Dexter. Dexter doesn’t need a command to eat. He’s on it like red on tomatoes. 

Vinnie’s mom spots Dexter finishing Vinnie’s breakfast, “Vincent!’

“I can’t hear you, Mom. I’m brushing my teeth.”

“You can hear me. Do not keep feeding Dexter, he is grossly overweight.”

“It’s all muscle, Mom,” says Vinnie brushing his teeth with water. Toothpaste takes too much time for a third grade boy in a hurry.

Vinnie comes out of the bathroom, hurries to the kitchen area. He says, “Love you, Mom.”

“Love you too, Vinnie. That’s good enough. Get your backpack and hurry on the bus will be at the end of the street in three minutes,” says Vinnie’s mom.

Vinnie’s mom gives Vinnie a hug. Makes sure his backpack is on straight. She says, “Did you put your lunch bag in your backpack?” 

“Yes, Mom. I’m all set. I gotta go, Mom. Joey might be at the bus stop with an extra piece of pizza for me,” says Vinnie as he opens the door and runs out.

“Vincent!”

Vinnie turns around, “Punk yah, Mom. Ha ha.”

Vinnie Hides Two Ice Cream Sandwiches Under His Pillow

17

Vinnie’s mom is busy cleaning the living room rug praying one Hail Mary after the other. Vinnie’s dad is hiding in the study. Vinnie and Dexter make a run for the kitchen.

Vinnie stands in front of the refrigerator. He turns to Dexter and puts his forefinger in front of his mouth. Dexter understands this command. If he keeps quiet he’ll get a reward. If Dexter went to beagle college he might graduate number one in his class of beagle canines. Although he repeated doggy levels one and two to get his Good Canine Certificate. Even then, the class instructor told Vinnie’s mom it was a social promotion.

Vinnie opens the refrigerator door, he whispers to Dexter, “I think better when I’m not hungry. Promise not to tell Mom we’re eating?”

Dexter hasn’t a clue what Vinnie said. He does what all good beagles do when they stand in front of an open refrigerator door, he wags his tail and assumes a pointing position as if he were hunting. 

“Thanks, Dexter,” says Vinnie. “It looks like Mom had Chinese take out for lunch. Do you like tofu?”

Dexter wags his tail.

Vinnie empties the to go box on a dish and places the empty to go box back in the refrigerator. He closes the refrigerator door and opens the freezer door. After a few seconds, he pulls out the ice cream sandwich box. He’s only allowed to have an ice cream sandwich on Friday and Saturday nights. There are two ice cream sandwiches in the box. Vinnie takes both of them and puts the box back in the freezer. 

“Let’s go, buddy. I’ve got the goods. Now, we’ll come up with a good science project.”

Vinnie and Dexter enter Vinnie’s  bedroom. Rupert is sitting in the same spot in the middle of Vinnie’s bed smiling. 

“Hi, Rupert. Thanks for guarding the room. I don’t like anybody messing with my stuff.”

Vinnie uses his falsetto voice to speak for Rupert, “Sure thing, Bro.”

Vinnie sets the plate with the Chinese tofu and veggie meal on the floor. Dexter looks at it for point seven seconds before he begins eating as if he hadn’t eaten in a month. Vinnie fixes his pillow and gets on the bed. He places his ice cream sandwiches between his legs and reaches for Rupert. He sets Rupert down to his left. 

“I’m going to share my ice cream sandwiches with you, Bro. You can’t tell Mom.”

“My lips are zipped, Bro,” says Rupert.

Vinnie glances over the side of his bed, Dexter is on his haunches looking up at Vinnie wondering if he gets one of the ice cream sandwiches for desert.

“You probably set the world record for fast eating Chinese take out food, Dexter,” says Vinnie.

Dexter barks, hoping Vinnie will interpret this as a request for an ice cream sandwich.

Vinnie ignores Dexter’s request and says to Rupert, “Buddy, adults don’t understand kids. I’ve told Mrs. Navis and Mom about and thousand good ideas for a science project and they won’t let me do them. Now, Mom says I need to think of a question to answer and the way I answer it will be my science fair project.”

Rupert says, “All your ideas are brilliant.”

“Thanks, Rupert,” says Vinnie.

Vinnie’s mom calls out, “Vinnie, are you ready for bed. I want to come in and tuck you in.”

Vinnie glances down at his two ice cream sandwiches. He peaks over the side of his bed and sees the plate Dexter is licking even though there is nothing there to lick. He answers, “Not quite, Mom. I’ll tell you when I’m ready.”

Vinnie jumps off the bed and pushes Dexter’s plate under the bed. Dexter doesn’t understand this game. He lies down on his belly with his head pressed against Vinnie’s mattress and his beagle nose stuck under the bed. Vinnie climbs back on the bed. He looks at Rupert, “Good thing the ice cream sandwiches are frozen solid.” Vinnie sticks the ice cream sandwiches under his pillow.

He calls out, “I’m ready, Mom.”

A moment later, Vinnie’s mom knocks, then enters Vinnie’s room. She stops at the doorway. “Do I smell Chinese food?” 

“I don’t know, Mom, do you?” says Vinnie.

“Were you eating Chinese food, Vincent?”

“Mom, you know I don’t like Chinese food. Only you and Dad like it.”

“That’s true.” 

Vinnie’s mom turns and looks down the hallway toward the study and calls out, “Dear, were you into my Chinese togo box?”

“Huh?”