Corndogs & Smelling Salts

by jkatejohnston

27 October 2014

Dear Max,

It seems like bad luck to say that my book is almost done, and anyway what’s more newsworthy is that it’s pretty fun to write, harder than I thought, and running through my head a lot of the time. I have to push past my facility (that gift/curse) and get to the real story. In the meantime, I do have a few notes:


Enzo: “What is the only venomous mammal?”

Me: “Shrew.” (I am amazed and happy that I know this.)

Enzo: “It doesn’t have to be alive today.”

Me: “An extinct venomous mammal? I give up, what is it?”

Enzo: “I can’t remember the name right now. But it’s definitely a mammal.”


Enzo [from bed]: Whistle. Whistle. Whistle.

Me [from bed]: “Are you calling me?”

Enzo: “Yes!”

Me: “Okay, here I am.”

Enzo: “Can you scratch my back? [I do.] I was speaking Dolphinese. [Makes a clicking sound] That means, Mama Kate [Whistles] That means, Get in here, you big slow poke.


Enzo on being asked to brush his teeth: “There’s such a thing as a limit. And I have reach my limit.”


Enzo, on being asked to pick up his toys, “Why do you always have to command me?”


Enzo and I went to a family camping festival at a farm. You could buy food, so we didn’t bring much of our own, but the lines were long, and the food when you finally got it was ostentatiously organic (undersalted, underfatted). Enzo, sighing, “Oh, how I wish we had a corndog this instant.”


At the farm there was a hay bale structure with deep labyrinth-like tunnels that made me very, very uneasy. Enzo, emerging, to my intense relief: “Whew! It’s one treacherous world down there. Scrapes, bruises, scratches, they’ve got ‘em all.”


On our way home from the farm, we stopped at Cache Creek right where it went dry: one last deep pool and after that just a stretch of wet mossy rocks and after that, dry creek bed. In the clear pool about seven or eight largemouth bass hung in the shadows. We had fishing poles and worms and those fluttery lures that they’re supposed to like, but it was midday and they weren’t biting. Enzo put on his trunks and mask, intending to dive in and noodle one by hand, but when he waded in, it started to seem like a bad idea, and he turned back.


Me getting dressed. I bend over to pick up my bra off the floor. “Mom, your boobs are hangin’ down.”


Playing tic tac toe on Enzo’s leg, scratching whitish X’s and O’s on his pretty brown skin. When each game is over, he spits on his hands and rubs out the board and we start over.


Enzo: “You have my fork, but I’m not complaining.”

Me: “Thanks for not complaining.”

Enzo: “Yeah, you know me. When I complain, I complain hard.”


I was reading Encyclopedia Brown and one of the characters said, “Honesty is my weakness.” I stopped reading and explained the expression at some length, using many examples, mostly food-related.

“Power is my weakness,” said Enzo. “Money and power. I just can’t resist ‘em.”


Taking his first long sip of eggnog: “Oh, the sugary goodness!”


Making pumpkin pie, smelling the ground cloves. “That’s stronger than smelling salts!”

“How do you know what smelling salts are?”

“I just learn. It’s called my smarts.”