Shaymus is sitting crosslegged on a kitchen chair, watching me hull the berries and melt chocolate chips over a low burner. Can I have a strawberry he says. I hand him one, he takes a bite, looks at it. Says, Dirt sure is crunchy. I didn't mean to give him an unwashed one but it's nice to hear his tone of voice: pure interest, not complaint.

He watches me drizzle the chocolate carefully over the berries, aligned in neat rows on wax paper. He wants one of those of course. No, I say. They have to cool in the fridge. Plus you will spoil your dinner, for once you are going to eat a decent -

I stop talking. I look at him with as much bewildered horror as he is giving me. To hell with that, Shaymus, I say. He nods.

We run upstairs change into crummy clothes and sit in the bathtub facing each other with the pot of chocolate in between us. Berries in a colander balanced on the edge of the tub. This boy is all enthusiasm, making up berry eating songs. We swirl the berries round and round learning our different styles. I like chocolate on the tip but mostly berry. tart sweet tart. He prefers to coat each berry entirely in chocolate then put the whole thing in his mouth all at once. overripe. juice running out of his grin. So we save the biggest ones for him. Now eat this one. Do you think you can? He can. Of course it is not long before one of us decides it is time for smearing chocolate down the other one's nose. And he is right, that is exactly what time it is.

Shaymus, I'm glad you did that, I say. Because, I have been meaning to tell you this for quite some time sir, you look much handsomer with chocolate in your ears. This is a bluff, I wouldn't really do it, but he squeals and claps both hands over his ears, which has the excellent messy effect I'd wanted; Gotcha. Now he has red and brown gunked in his hair and howling, howling with laughter, rocking backward and I think Jesus, what if he cracked his head on the tile, what would I say to Anna in the emergency room.

I reach behind me and turn on the shower, another shriek but I say Hush up it is Aesthetic Appreciation Time. Shaymus gives me this look like, Dude, I'm five. I say It is Quiet rain time. So lie down.

I stand up in the spray and get most of the mess off me and step out soggy onto the floor. I unhook the unhookable shower head on a hose thing and we have got a moveable raincloud. We are expecting possible showers right around your tummy, Shaymus. With a 30% chance of rain Right in your Face! His eyes are scrunched shut, he expects this sort of thing. But he still laughs and laughs. I move the rain up and down him. He shivers when it tickles. I have dripped water all over the floor. And upset the berries, they are making pink tracks down the side of the tub. When Anna gets home we will be in Trouble. We have been quiet for a minute, just the sounds of water on boy and porcelain, we are aesthetically appreciating this rain. Browned water spiraling down the drain and strawberry hulls plastered to the insides of the tub. I laugh out loud all of a sudden and my nephew, lying in the tub in a sodden stained tshirt, a strawberry stuck in the harbor of his right armpit, he just smiles.

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