-Daddy… ¡The plants! –Margaret exclaimed.
The contemplative curmudgeon turned Kentucky fried apoplectic. His eyes reddened and his arteries hardened. His starched shirt stiffened and went silent.
-¡They grabbed Charlie! –Margaret said.
-I just wanted my shirt back –Charlie said in a trembling voice.
The siblings looked to their dad – the man who helped bring them into this world – for guidance, for wisdom, for clarity. But all they got was the 3-mile stare of a man who’d lost his humanity years ago.
Finally, the old dirtbag spoke:
-¿Are they o… ¿Are you okay?
-Yes –Charlie said as slowly and deliberately as you can deliver a one-syllable word.
Again, the two looked to their dad for a timely and logical explanation of shirt-stealing, child-molesting plants with hands in the bathroom.
Margaret held Charlie’s hand as their four eyes poured into their dad’s, trying to find the light switch.
-I am very… deceitful –The good doctor affirmed their suspicions-. ¿Did I say “deceitful”? I meant disappointed.
-But we can get you help, Dad –Margaret mistakenly malapropism’d-. You can go to Arizona and… you know, ¿get a document notarized?
-I am very disappointed –Mr. … uh, Dr. Berger said slowly- in you two.
-I’m sorry –Margaret started the round of excuses-. We didn’t know you were growing murderous, humanoid…
-Yeah –Charlie interrupted her sister before she got them fed to the plants-. And… we didn’t smoke any of your plants, I swear.
-Very disappointed –Their father repeated robotically.
-We’re sorry, Daddy.
Dr. Berger held out his pinky ring for the children to kiss.
-I just thank God that your mother is getting documents notarized and wasn’t around to witness this.
Charlie looked up from kissing Dr. Berger’s ring.
-¿Does she ever kiss your pinky ring? –He asked and Margaret kneed him in the thigh.
-No, no, of course not, Charlie –Margaret murmured-. That would be… gross.
But Charlie was on a roll.
-¿Has she ever been in the bathroom?
Again, Margaret kneed him in the thigh.
They followed their father in silence as he led them to the kitchen. He took a bag of flour and poured it all over the kitchen counter. He fingered the flour until he had drawn a word:
D i E
Dr. Berger watched their looks of terror and, satisfied, smeared the flour with his hand so that the word disappeared. His robotic stare and his not-so-subtle terrorism had their effect.
On everyone except Charlie:
-So, Dad, ¿what’s up with the plants?