In all my adventures, whether on steep, craggy slopes home to mountain goats or in remote endurance challenges through bear country, I have never encountered anything as fierce as an angry 5-year-old.
On this particular day, I had two of them in my office. And they were fightin’ mad.
Like most other responsible adults, when I’m not traipsing about the outdoors, I have to work a day job. I have spent much of my life strategizing how to do as little of this as possible, primarily by tax-deducting things like fishing poles (sage advice from Rich Landers) and knitting beanies made from cat hair I’ve collected around the house.
Perhaps fittingly, my other career focuses on saving people with vegetables. Lucky for them, not vegetables I actually grow.
On this particular day, someone had brought in a set of twins for food allergy testing – which is a trendy way to determine that yes, indeed, the thing that is making you feel sick is actually making you feel sick. It requires a pin-prick droplet of blood to be sent to a lab.
The 3-foot children burst into my office and demanded first and foremost that I provide snacks because they were starving. They began the negotiating process early, as if they knew I depended on at least a modicum of compliance. This was not their first time, and I guessed their dentist probably has to refill the prize bin after a visit from the pair.
I shelled out typical nutritionist fair: cashews, a dried fruit bar and received expected looks of disappointment. I really need to improve my bribe candy selection.
“Do you live here? Does your dog live here? Is this all the food you have? I want a drink. Can I have a different glass?” they chimed at me in rapid-fire twin-speak, a communication method to which only parents of twins have built a safe tolerance. Everyone else just hangs on for dear life.
While the kids explored every inch of the office, I laid out the kit to collect a sample, spreading things out on a sterile sheet in an organized fashion that somehow informed them the real business would start soon. Then, I made the crucial mistake of setting out a Band-Aid.
“What’s that?!” they cried in unison. “Why do you need a Band-Aid?!”
Before I could respond, the entire clinic had filled with symphony of high-pitched wailing not dissimilar from a pack of injured coyotes. In unison, the two tiny bodies melted into a pile of hysterics even as they clambered together onto the table.
“My blood is good blood!” one cried.
“I can eat EVERYTHING!” the other shouted at me.
“What if we discover you are just allergic to broccoli?” I attempted.
“NooooOOOoooo!!!!!” they sobbed. “Not broccoli!” as if their very livelihood depended on cruciferous vegetables.
Years ago, another such 5-year-old had been in my office and negotiated her own trip to Disneyland in return for what her parents referred to as “good behavior” for the approximately .0018 seconds it takes to collect a sample. As I leaned over her kneecap and suggested she take a deep breath, she whispered, “I’m gonna kill you for this.”
I still look over my shoulder when I cross the parking lot on dark nights.
These same children are usually covered in scrapes and bruises and willing to tell me about their latest bike crash or broken limb. They might be missing teeth and fingernails, but they are not about ready to donate a fingertip for a pinprick.
And who can blame them? At 5 years old, the possibility of a life of nut-based ice cream is traumatizing.
The real service I offer is not the testing. It is that I am the front man for parents to blame when the results come in. There are entire school districts of children waiting to mob me, probably with bags full of stones and Halloween candy they can no longer eat.
As I finished, the twins were bemoaning milkshakes they would never drink and the maiming of their digits. They sobbed their way through my clinic, cries echoing off the walls. They watched each other like stage musicians, their tearful crescendo reaching synchronized decibel levels frowned upon in city limits.
Mom smiled down lovingly at them as she promised to take them straight away for something called a mocha-choco-latte-shake. Feeling as though I had narrowly escaped certain disaster, I watched the kids wail down the hall and across the parking lot.
Just as the crying stopped, and I sighed with relief that perhaps they would be OK after all, I am pretty sure I saw them turn around and draw a finger across their throats in my general direction.
Ammi Midstokke can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
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