After a lovely stroll on Parliament Hill and a nice, if not epic, visit to the stray-cat sanctuary (there were but two lazy felines lying about), Oliver and I broke off from Craig and Georgia and headed to the Byward Market to purchase the makings of a seafood dinner.
I carted the young prince there in the stroller, enjoying the breeze and the sights on a very mild March afternoon, knowing how much O does like himself a fish store. He loves lobsters in particular, and creatures of the sea are generally pretty fascinating to him.
We get to the store invigorated from our fresh air, feelings of stroller entitlement (him), and walk (me). All is good in the world. We are full of vim, bantering back and forth like excited little budgies, bopping from one fish display to the next.
Then something happens. I know not what. The fail-safe lobsters fail to excite him. My perky questions about tried-and-true shrimp or mussels for dinner meet with monotone rejections. Meanwhile, he is sidling up to the grossest fridges in the joint: the salt cod pieces of cardboard, the mummified remains of some crazed sardine, the glassy-eyed monster carcasses some people must know somehow how to cook.
“O! C’mere!” I say. “Scampi! Like a cross between a lobster and a shrimp!”
“No sanks, mom.” (We’re working on “-th” sounds.)
“Oliver! Don’t run your mouth along that rim! That’s horrid! There are germs!”
“Fish!” says Oliver, clinging to the bin of horrors and possibly extending further his tongue.
“Okay, I gotta pay for the halibut. C’mere!”
He looks at me, then takes his index finger and caresses the red snapper’s immensely dead eye. “Fish,” he says, in a baby voice.
My card is in the swiper-thing. I walk over and march him to the stroller by the front door.
“Fish,” he now cries.
“Oliver, mom doesn’t know how to cook that kind of fish. No idea. No fish. Not that kind of fish.”
“Fish, fish, fish.” Now there’s sobbing.
Out we go. I have one more thing to pick up for dinner, for the treat we decided to make together: tortilla chips for nachos. It’s two stores down.
“FISH! FISH! FISH!,” Oliver screams.
“Oliver, that’s enough. Ee-NOUGH,” I say, totally exasperated.
Into the store, a one-minute operation. Oliver is losing his mind, babbling about fishes. Just then, an attractive, expertly blonded, perfectly stylish woman in her early-thirties begins hovering about the stroller parked about a metre away from me so I can get the deal done.
“Where is mommy?” she asks inconsolable Oliver.
He points to the bad woman: me.
She looks at me.
“Uh, he’s really crying,” she says.
“Yup,” I say.
Then she does sign language for crying, taking her hands and brushing them from her eyes down her cheeks.
“Yup,” I say again. “He’s crying. He’s upset about fish.”
She looks at me like I’m insane.
I pay my $5.40 for the corn chips. She abandons her vigil by the stroller, satisfied the child may now have at least a mother, if a sub-par version. She heads off to her pedicure. Or manicure. Or eyebrow-threading.
I want to punch her. I really do.
Oliver says sorry in the car. We make nachos. We burn them. We go to sleep pretty soon after. In his bed. Entwined.