Lately Shaymus and I are doing this thing where I call him Mister Shaymus and he calls me Mrs. Auntie. "Mister Shaymus" cracks him up every time. Then he squints suspiciously at me and says You don't know my name DO YOU. And I say Oh of course I do. And he says What is it then? And I say George Washington! or Juanita! or Shaymuskrat! By this point it has got us both tickled, though I understand the paralyzing hilarity may not translate well in this medium.

Over lima beans and mac and cheese and fish that Shaymus Does Not Like Because It Might Have BONES and I could DIE, I am sad for a minute, over something unrelated and selfish. Not a big deal, just thinking. Shaymus clears his throat all dramatic, he learned that from me, ahehehehhrrrm!

I look up and he has got both thumbs pulling his nose up into a pig snout, and his ears pushed forward like, well, like stupid-looking ears. He grins and squirts mac and cheese and lima beans through the gaps in his teeth, oh gross, it squelches and I burst out laughing and choke a little and cough and laugh and laugh and he knows he is the funniest ever.

Was that good? he wants to know.

Yeah, yeah that was a pretty good one.

Ok. Cause you looked like crying and I wanted to fix it.

Later. He is almost five and Highly Advanced For His Age but still can't spell for shit. Which is really getting old. He is writing a story about a pumpkin which is great except he can't spell ANY of the words that go in it. How do you spell Was, he wants to know. How do you spell Scary.

Shaymus, I say. Spell it however you want to spell it. You figure it out. Don't ask me any more. Make it up. We'll know what you mean. I am trying to read the PAPER SHAYMUS.

How do you spell Auntie is Mean. He laughs, he thinks I'm silly and he is a LAUGH RIOT.

I spell the words for him, watching him take the time to get every letter Just Right. I spell Garden and Monster and Full Moon and Very Sharp Teeth. With every word I slump forward until my mouth is smooshed crooked on the kitchen table and my words are muffled. I drool a little. Shaymus shoves my head to the side, What are you Doing???

Shaymus, I gasp, I can't . . . spell . . . any more . . .

You're kidding, he says. Right? It is the "right" that lets me know I've got him. He knows I am full of crap but he always sort of believes me anyway.

It's like . . . Kryptonite . . . Shaymus PLEASE . . . don't make me spell . . . any more. gasp, gasp. Oh, yes, I am good at this.

He is delighted. Spell, spell, um, spell JACK O LANTERN!

Shaymus no! . . . I . . . can't . . . it will be my . . . gasp choke . . . undoing!

He makes me spell it. I stretch it out to about five minutes. He loves it. The best part is when I slide off my chair on the E, summon him weakly to my side on the R, and whisper a tortured, cracked N into his delighted ear. Tell your mom . . . I love her . . . Shaymus . . . you're . . a good . . . boy . . . And it's over, I am dead on the linoleum and he is crowing and tickling my feet, he knows that always brings me back to life.

That was a good one, he says. Can we have popsicles now?

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