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by Julie Wornan

Mariella pushed away her dish of ice cream so decisively that Mommy was just able to catch it before it fell.

“Bugsy,” Mariella explained.

Mommy and Daddy looked at each other. They were trying to understand.

“She seems to think there are bugs in the ice cream,” Mommy suggested.

Daddy tasted a spoonful of the rich creamy desert. “Mmmm,” he said, but his brow wrinkled. “There are crunchy little things in it. What do you suppose...?”

Mommy looked at the label on the box. “Meringue,” she said. “Vanilla ice cream with bits of meringue.”

“Well, if Mariella won’t eat it, down she goes.” Daddy lifted his chubby toddler from the high chair and watched her scamper away.

“Kids say the darndest things,” mused Daddy. “Do you remember the other night, she said something like “terriss” and then we heard of the terrorist attack in West Waziristan?”

“A coincidence,” said Mommy. “I think she meant ‘terrace’. Like, we should eat supper out on the terrace, or something.”

Mariella tried to make it simple for them. “Dio,” she explained. Then she went to stand in the ’dio corner. It was the far corner of the playroom, where she could hear her radio when it came on. It was her own ’dio, and it told her many interesting things. Which she tried to tell her parents. But grownups have such a hard time understanding the simplest things.

Although she called it “’dio,” it was more like television because pictures went with it, usually. It told her things that were happening today. Or sometimes yesterday, or sometimes tomorrow. Sometimes, by trying hard, she could make it go backward or forward.

Now she made it go back to the scene about the ice cream. A man and a woman were standing in a huge room full of machines. There was a long tube going along the ceiling, and from the end of the tube, white creamy goo was pouring out into a big tub. The woman, who was wearing white clothes, tasted the goo with a spoon.

“Good grief. It’s crunchy!” she said.

“What the...!” said the man. “Is it the cockroaches we saw, do you think?”

“Has to be,” said the woman. “They were in the sugar and everything. Had to get into the mix.”

“A ton of ice cream ruined,” moaned the man. “We’ll both lose our jobs, you know that.”

“No need,” said the woman. She grinned and winked the way Daddy did when there was a secret between them. “We’ll just change the label.”

“Change the...?”

“Meringue. We’ll put ‘meringue’ in the ingredients. The crunchy bits are meringue. Get it?”

The man laughed and the woman laughed and the picture began to fade out. Lately, the ’dio faded more quickly than it used to. Mariella was afraid it might go away altogether by the time she learned to speak like Mommy and Daddy so that they would understand her. A pity. Why did grownups have to be so thick?

Copyright © 2011 by Julie Wornan

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