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2004-12-27 - 11:26 a.m.

There may be nothing in this wide world as ominous as the bending finger of a grinning five-year-old girl. I cannot bear innocence, as it was my idea to start a poke fight, she merely answered back in reply. The thing one must realize, trying to lay back on a couch at a family gathering, just past Christmas morning, when all the rugrats are jazzed on presents, and holiday colored peanut M&M’s, is that poke fights, tickle fights, pillow fights, these are all terribly contagious. So while it might begin as a duel between you and your blond haired pixie of a cousin, all of her kin, many of whom operate at a much high velocity, are more than likely to join in on the destruction. In these moments, beset upon by five waist high devils, you will not know whether to giggle with delight in such a manner as does not befit your twenty four years, or shudder with absolute and total terror.

It doesn’t help when you’re wearing your new, bright and shiny Christmas shoes that look nice enough, but seem to have only as much bend to them as a bar of wrought iron. My escape plan dwindled under the pain of stabbing tongues, and toddlers clinging to my ankles.

The buzzing locust storm of children grows, and then splits into two factions, one continuing the Chinese poke torture on me, the other group feasted on my eldest nephew. At the ripe age of twelve, his voice just dropped to eerie Barry White like depths, he towers over the rest of his generation, their chosen patriarch. The King. At this particular moment, though, the King is curled into a fetal position, groaning lightly as his youngers hungrily prod at his tummy. Meanwhile, I’m trying to placate the situation with my James Lipton impression.

“Look, now we’re having a truce. Now, be calm everyone. I’ll get the finger foods. We’ll have some tea, and calmly discuss western trade. Ow! Look, now, we’re upstanding civilized beings, and I don’t quite think we need to amuse ourselves with…Ow! Oh, that’s it! It’s going down!”

I dished out individual ticklings, pulling one particular toe-head off the King, and threw him over my shoulder. I carried my little bundle around, until I found his father. Dad simply took him from my arms, still holding him upside down and dipping him into empty buckets. After eight individual pinkie swears, the truce was declared, and thanks to the pies being brought out, it was upheld. You can’t tickle someone when you’re eating pie…I’ve always said that.

The insanity relocated to the dining room, the King and I, sat quietly one more time, sipping on bottles of Root Beer from Foxon Park, a local bottler who jacks up the sugar, and goes easy on the carbonation.

“You alive?”

“Yeah, Uncle.”

“Another Christmas survived.”


I held out my bottle and we clinked necks. In five of six years he’ll show up at my door in Brooklyn with a blond with an Italian accent, asking if I know any clubs that don’t card, his cousins tailing just slightly behind. In ten years, he’ll stand a little unsteady when he has his first shot of whiskey with my father and me. In fifteen, I’ll be slapping his back at his bachelor party, asking if he’ll be wearing his old sneakers with flames on the side to the wedding.

There’s still time for all that. For now, the King has pie.

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