I Call Popcorn!

by jkatejohnston

Dear Max,

Enzo watching football with Teresa: “I’m making up the greatest team ever. The Wyoming Rexos—Tyrannosaurus. Kill ’em Rexos! Rexo-Dynamic!”

Later Enzo is creeping around on the floor under a green fleece blanket. Teresa: “If they keep showing pizza commercials I’m going to have to eat Enzo.”

Enzo: “It’s more tempting because I look more like a giant piece of broccoli. But if I move—boogers.”


Enzo and his pals are always trying to get first dibs by calling out, “I call shotgun!” or whatever it is they want. (Not that kids even ride shotgun anymore because of the airbags.) But there aren’t that many things that there are just one of, so it’s come to mean just, I want something! So Enzo and Cuixtli watching a movie the other night called out:

“I call popcorn!”

“I call popcorn!”


I think I’ve written before about how Enzo used to call us Mama-Kate and Mama-Teresa, then mom, then Kate and Teresa, then Dude. And now it’s “Yo! Johnston! Yo! Zepeda!”


I wrote a bunch of notes at work yesterday that seemed terribly important at the time. And all about writing, which now seems pretty unpromising. Well, we’ll see.

When I wrote about Cuixtli being just as funny and whole and odd and representative as Enzo—why representative? And what about odd and representative? How can it be both?

It has to do with, when I write about Enzo, he’s himself and he’s also Boy, the State of Boyness, Boy Indivisible Now and Forever. And Teresa and I are ourselves and we’re also—what are we?—Woman-Mom-Muddling-Along. Same with anything you write. It’s a side-effect of ink on paper, there’s always that doubleness. You don’t have to generalize; it’s built in, part of the authority of the written word—the only kind of authority I have any use for.

All this probably has something to do with why almost everyone feels self-conscious about writing. The more decent-minded you are the more likely you are to feel, who am I to say what Life is like? Who am I to make the world? Or they sense the importance of the occasion and try to sound important and it doesn’t end well.

And that doubleness is probably why almost everyone hates being written about, even with great affection and close accuracy. People want to be themselves. They don’t want to represent anything. They don’t want to be a type. And even in the closest portrait, the part of writing that’s general is all the author’s and get out of the way.

Teresa has never minded being written about. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that she makes portraits too.

The kind of authority I’m talking about—it’s a lot easier to say what it isn’t than what it is. It isn’t having a lot of opinions. It isn’t making every subject, especially children and animals, into an extension of your ego. That’s where cute animal art and kids-say-the-darndest-things writing comes from. May it burn.