TWIP Vol. 6 Issue 06

In this issue:

  • Arlan(20) Writes about birthdays
  • Caleb(3) Writes about Deidre
  • Evan(10) Writes about his garden
  • Owen(6) Writes about the Summer Reading Program

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Many Happy Returns
By Arlan

At our house birthdays only come 14 times a year—and never when you need them, like January and February. You get the most birthdays when you need them least. Yes, in our case all those birthdays are of family members, which is a lot of family birthdays; but it is hardly enough birthdays to contain the birthday excitement.

There are certain Purdyville birthday traditions which are not strictly followed, but generally expected. One is that Grandma and Grandpa Purdy will come for birthdays. Another is blowing up balloons and keeping them out of the kitchen so Mom is buffered from the shock of their popping. Another is singing the Happy Birthday song in as many torturous ways as possible, all at once of course, which is probably a happy resignation to the degree of musical talent thus far evident in our family but could be just a twisted sense of humor. Some gifts are also obligatory; you would not lose money betting that at least one of the assorted packages contained home-made, ah, “bookmarks,’ and at least one other package will hold certificates redeemable for the substitutionary undertaking of a chore or, increasingly, the production of a treat.

Those are some of the traditions. There are others. On birthdays, we break out straws and drink in style; we deck the walls with signs of best wishes and family jokes and graffiti. Sometimes the graffiti gets on the gift-wrap, too, although lately that has given way to the refined decorative art of Talitha, one of the extraordinary sisters. Titi might also bear the blame for the latest tradition, but that depends on how you define it. It could be my fault, too, or somebody else whom history has forgotten.

This latest trend bears roots back to the very purpose of gift-wrapping itself. You wrap a gift so the gift itself will not be immediately apparent. Thus, if you have a person skilled in the art of package espionage, who can deduce the contents of a package with reasonable accuracy knowing only the giver of the gift and the wishlist of the recipient—to wit, the self-same dectective—gift wrap becomes inadequate. Counter-measures must be taken.

We first turned to rocks. What this indicates anthropologically about the primitive roots of our Purdyville society I cannot say; but I do know that unless very carefully secured, a rock is not a good counter-espionage device. I have seen through a great number of them, and cannot recall any success using them myself.

Sometime early on in the history of arcane packagery, humor became equally important as mystery. Thus you saw boxes stuffed with coal, rather than sytrofoam peanuts; or very small gifts in very large packages. Somehow I became known as the foremost perpetrator of such mischief. I don´t remember if there was in fact any even to warrant this association; but if there were, it would probably be something akin to my last great masterpiece.

The actual gift was the result of some amount of work, and I felt it was worthy of dramatic presentation. The victim—professional jargon for recipient—was my sister Cadie. I was short on time and not sure I could devise a worthy package of my prize until I hit on a brilliant idea; I put the gift in the bottom of a shoebox and laid on top of it a pair of sneakers long since deceased. If you had seen the look on Cadie´s face when she lifted the lid. . .

But I must remind you, that particular masterstroke is recent history. The retaliation for something I presumably did has been going on since well before then. One Christmas I got a gift from a relative concealed within so many layers of boxes and wrappers that it took a considerable amount of time to get through it all—and that trial was posed by a relative who had never suffered under my hand before. My reputation precedes me, and exceeds me.

I make mention of that event because I was the only one so blessed with such a shy present that year, and it indicates how the general tradition of nonstandard gift-wrapping has developed a definite focus on me. My most recent birthday has established that fact beyond doubt, I think, but to explain it, I must refer back to another birthday party.

I dislike snakes in general, but I cannot stand a snake by surprise. What do you think my siblings did, then, but procure a rubber snake for my birthday? And how do you imagine they wrapped it? Just laid it out straight and rolled it up in paper? That would be impossible. The snake came coiled up, and when it was stretched and relaxed it tended to writhe in an eerily snake-like fashion. So they put it in a box, tied it on a string, cut a hole in the box, and wrote on the outside that the present was to be obtained by pulling the string. Thus pulling the snake out. Stretchily. So when the pulling stopped, the writhing began.

A classic moment in Purdy history, I think.

My reaction must have been too good, because this year they went for new records. There was such an air of defiant excitement and daring in the air that I had to start guessing what my presents were. I have been trying to avoid that, because as I intimated before, my guessing tends to be too astute, and ruin all suspense. But they threw down the gauntlet.

One present was contained within a huge box, originally used to ship a computer monitor. I immediately wrote that off as a bluff, and all but dismissed the hints that such a box was required for the item within. Most curious was the way the presents were being spoken of, an odd twist on the possessive—“Evan´s’—that said something more than who the present was from. All or most of the presents were of one type. It was, I thought, an inference which would unravel the whole plot. And it almost did. One of the presents I could positively identify as having been constructed of paper machè wrapped over a balloon. I was sure of that because I once made a helmet using just such a method.

Helmet, I thought. Aha. Recently Lachlan and I made several suits of cardboard “armor’ (the exoskeleton of a gigantic robot, if you want the technical specification) for Evan, the many suits ensuring that more than one boy could get in on the action; and also recently, Titi made dramatic capes for all the little boys. At the time there was much jesting about who else needed a superhero cape, myself being one of the foremost candidates.

The pieces all added up. I was going to get some six-year-old´s fantasy for my twentieth birthday; some fantastical construct equal to my ego. My disappointment was only in that I had, once again, guessed ahead of time. My suspicions were confirmed when traces of paper-machè were evident on the edge of the table, fugitives from a clean up that was doubtless intended to purge all hints of my surprise. It is lonely being brilliant.

It is even more lonely when you think you are more brilliant than you really are. No one can deny me one thing: I was right about the balloon and paper machè. But it wasn´t a helmet; it was the head of a monster, an alien, the trophy from an imaginary hunting trip—playing the role of a piggy bank. Another box revealed an alligator, teeth on display and birds perched on the back, which flipped up to admit pencils. There was also a giraffe-esque pencil holder in a riotous medley of post-modern-abstractionist colors. There was a frog, who didn´t serve any purpose in parti
cular but got along quite well with my growing menagerie. At this point I shot a decidedly uncertain look at the massive box so recently dismissed as a red herring. What could be waiting within?

It retrospect, it seems wholly self-evident that my siblings, in their sudden fit of taxidermology, would not neglect the Tyrannus Nocturnus, that is to say, your common under-the-bed type of monster (of which we doubtless have plenty). It was a domestic nightmare, the beast that roams about at night consuming all those things you can´t find the next day. At its heart, it was a trash can. The utilitarian volume was comparable to a coffee can, but from this modest receptacle a huge monster had grown, complete with pot belly, spiked tail, and three eyes. His massive jaws made throwing something out a very final proposition indeed.

Another present turned out to be, under its tough, two-inch thick shell of reinforced wrapping paper, a hazy gelatinous ball, in which two lizards floated. Squeezing the ball caused all the liquid within to abruptly shift to one side, stretching the skin to transparency and magnifying the creatures within. The effect was of the lizards suddenly leaping out at you and clearly recalled the reptilian ambush of bygone birthdays. The lizards, though quite artificial, did appear to become animate if the ball was squeezed rhythmically.

Clearly, every effort was being made to test the limits of my endurance of the gross, the odd, and the startling. Please keep this in mind when I ask what kind of idiot would, under those conditions, stick his hand through the hole in the top of the last box to pull out the last present? I thought it entirely likely that I would be bitten by something; if not an actual beast, than at least something contrived to simulate biting. Or else it might be that mucousal substance that had turned up at other kids´ birthdays (only then, properly contained). Any sensible person would have turned the box upside down and shaken it, or attempted to open the box from any angle other than the one proscribed. Being me, I stuck my hand in.

It had died.
Whatever it was in there, I decided, it had been dead and preserved in some substance that kept the flesh in a permanent state of artificial half-rottedness, horribly soft but not naturally decayed, persevered by black science in its original whole.

It wound up being something totally artificial, of course, but nevertheless, if you ever start wondering what it will be like when the undead frogs arise to take over the world: I can show you.

I have already noticed my enthusiasm for balloons and straws decline as I slip into geezerly old age, but the thing I fear most about my next birthday is not the sags, the wrinkles, the lack of sufficient breath to extinguish the candles; it is the presents. What did I ever do to deserve this?–AJP

Comments, questions? Write to Arlan at

All About Deirdre
By Caleb (age 3)

Deirdre’s very funny. Whenever I laugh, Deirdre laughs. Um, sometimes she pretends to run away from me and then runs back. ‘Cause she thinks it’s fun. She just plays with me pretty much. Deirdre runs after me and she tries to find me. And I hide again when she finds me. And Deirdre brings some toy soldiers to me and I get out the toys for her. And sometimes Deirdre gets out the toys herself. And sometimes she just plays with herself. She just makes some kinds of "Rah" noises because she pretends monsters are attacking. Deirdre’s my best friend. And that’s why I play with her a lot, and that’s why she gives me hugs a lot. I like the way she plays on the computer. But one thing I don’t like, is she can’t play Lego Racers in multiplayer. Most of the time Deirdre just sits in the computer game chair with me and just watches while I’m playing the computer game, like SimTunes, Lego Racers, and Re-Volt…(racing games). She’s been screaming while she’s happy, she goes "ah!" when she’s grinning. It’s good if she’s screaming when she’s happy. It’s basically good when she’s pretending Jo-Jo’s crying. Well, it’s basically good, Deirdre thinks it’s good. Jo-Jo’s just Deirdre’s baby doll. Deirdre likes to put Jo-Jo to bed. But now I want to talk about what Deirdre does with her rabbit. Deirdre likes to change her rabbit’s diaper! It doesn’t have a diaper in real-true life. She calls Jo-Jo "Go-Go". I think it’s silly! Deirdre tries to swing on the swingset with me. –CCP

Comments, questions? Write to Caleb at

The following article was originally written 7/13/03–Ed.

Botanical Gardens
By Evan

Recently Owen and I made a pretend Baby Chick Botanical Garden. Originally we weren’t even going to make a botanical garden; originally what we were doing was playing a game where I was a big fat baby chick and Owen was trying to make me be not so fat. First Owen made me play tetherball, which was "Exercise-Ball" in our game. Every time one of us won, I lost 75 calories. And Owen was trying to make me lose 775 calories. After I won about 5 times, Owen made me ride my bike which was sort of like an exercise bike. First I got on it, and I said, "You can’t make me do it!" and Owen prodded me with a little stick to try to make me ride. I swerved around so Owen couldn’t prod me and then I stalled out. Then Owen started catching up to me and prodding me and I drove around slowly. After a while, I said, "175 calories are all gone now!" And then Owen got a good idea. He picked a really sweet honey flower and ran away. I started chasing after him really fast to get the honey flower, while Owen called, "Try to get the honey flower!" After I came up the driveway after chasing after Owen, I announced that 275 calories were gone because I’d went around the house so fast! I started to catch up with Owen and then I jumped off my bike and snatched up the flower and ate it. Owen just laughed. Besides, it only gave me 50 calories. And after that, Owen told me to get off my bike and we played a little bit more of Exercise-Ball until I turned into a very good-working, not fat, strong baby chick. And then I started to lean down and eat some honey-flowers, but Owen said, "Hey, you can’t eat those!" So then I waited till Owen was looking away and doing something else, and I started to lean down to eat some honey flowers! And then Owen turned around and put the things he was collecting in a container, and he saw me just about to eat it. Owen couldn’t understand how to teach me not to eat sweet things, so I gave him some advice. I told him that he should tell me some good things to eat and tell me that I could eat the sweet things only sometimes, so Owen did that.

And then we did some other stuff, and this is how it wound up turning into a botanical garden. Owen and I were going up to the woodchip pile. All the toys and everything were jumbled in a big pile and there were tools laying around. I picked up the rake, and I got onto the red pool. I waved my rake in the air, and said, "It’s going to rain!" in my baby chick voice, and Owen started saying it too. The air was misty with a cool breeze with lots of dark, stormy cloud moving in. It really felt like it was going to rain, with trees rustling like they do when it’s about to rain. (Although it didn’t actually rain.) After scuttling around the red pool and chanting, "It’s going to rain! It’s going to rain!" Owen asked if he could be a baby chick too, and I said yes he could. Us two, the two baby chicks, liked it when it was going to rain, so we chanted it very happily! And then we organized the stuff up and we raked paths. To make it more like
a botanical garden, I raked paths, and got bamboo, and put them in big buckets with rocks to support them. The next day I brought pot gardens and other little plants I had put in the other day. When Collin saw it, and I told him it was my botanical garden, he said something like, "A couple bamboo sticks and a lot of woodchips!" But the best part for me was how I imagined it!

Here’s what you’d see if you came to my Botanical Garden the way that I imagine it:

Let’s say you’re in a cart with a horse pulling it along. You’re going along a dirt road with streams running alongside it. You keep on going until you see a big mound of woodchips with a path going up it. You can hear the sound of really loud rushing water as you go up the woodchip mound. Once you’re almost at the top of the hill you are stopped by a monkey who tells you to pay one coin for admission, and he tells you to put your horse to one side of him, where all the other animals are, next to the hay. And he also points to a deep cave where you put your cart which has a path leading to it. There’s an arced wooden sign above you that says "Baby Chick Botanical Garden". The sign is covered with moss and vines and is drippy with water–it’s always cool and breezy there, and there’s always a lot of fog because of the ponds and because the temperature’s always right for it.

You come up the path, and then you turn off to one side, and there’s a big pool with a path going all around it. (This is a pool for bathing in. All the animals and birds that live there drink and bathe in it.) You keep on rolling along the path, pulling your cart to the cave the monkey showed you, and when you look back on the path you see that there’s a old rock passageway in the air, with water rushing across it. It had vines dangling off it, and the water had been running in it constantly so it was really waterworn. It’s attached to the sign, with two wooden posts and the monkey’s stand helping hold it up. When you first came up, you heard really loud rushing water, but you couldn’t see it because the sign was hiding it.

When you get to the cave, you put your cart in there. It’s slightly dark, but there’s a couple of candles hanging from the ceiling, and there’s lots of other carts there, too. The cave is dim and echoey with the sound of water dripping and you can hear the huge rushing of water rushing over the cave. You walk out back onto the woodchip path, and you keep on walking for a little ways until you get to two other pools. There’s 3 pools: one for drinking out of, one for saving, and one for bathing in. And there’s a path that goes in between the pools into a grove of exotic fruit trees. So you keep on going, and you get to a fun slide. It’s a huge slide that goes very quick, with a tree growing up next to it. You climb up the fun slide and you look around.

To the north, you see a tall and pointy, crumbly rock, like a mountain except not as big, with water rushing down either side. One side of the water going down the mountain races off to the the rock passageway, flows over the cave, and splashes into both the drinking and saving pool. The other side of the water runs parallel to the stone wall that covers the whole Botanical Garden, and does a slight arc over the path, rushing off into the air, and then falls into the bathing pool with lots of splashing. You notice that there’s holes in the bottom of each pool and water going into them. (The holes in the bottom of each pool goes into a tube up into the crusty hill, and the water comes up either side, but you can’t see the tubes.) Next to the crumbly mountain, there’s a tool holder and two wheelbarrows that hold fertilizer water guns.

Now you slide down the fun slide, whizzing very fast, and land with a bump on woodchips. You walk along, the only way you can go, until you get to some pot gardens with some extraordinary flowers, and sunflowers and sundrops are growing up along the stone wall. The wall is like a castle wall except lower down–they’re all very big rocks, and it’s almost like they’re glued together. And you look up, and you realize you’re right next to the big crumbly mountain. And you follow the path along, until you get to the grove of trees, looking at all the weird kind of trees, with weird kinds of fruits you’ve never seen before. And you hear all sorts of weird birds that are very loud and echoey, and you see a hummingbird go to one of the blossoms on one of the trees. You come to a bi-i-ig tree that’s been grafted so that it has all the fruits you can possibly cram on it! It has a lot of green and red fruits, and it has lots of other fruits on it.

You continue along the path, heading south, and you come to a clearing, which is like a huge sandbox, with huge mounds of different kinds of soil. This is the place where the Botanical Garden stores all their manure and their fertilizer. You look to the corner, toward the northeast, and you see a shed and pygmy goats eating weeds that were pulled up. The people that take care of the Botanical Garden dump all their weeds where the goats are, and they eat them up, and when they digest them they turn it into manure.

That’s all the things that you’d see if you were in my Botanical Garden! In real true life, these were the things I used: For the trees that were in the garden, I put bamboo in a bucket and I put heavy rocks in a bucket to make sure they wouldn’t fall over. And for the ponds, I took kiddie pools and placed them in the places I wanted to. And our slide was for the fun slide at one end of it, and I brought up tools for the tool rack. And towards the sandbox there was bamboo growing up, and those were the grove of trees, and I pretended the sandbox was a mound of different manures, where goats were, just like I said before. And the funny thing about it was I actually made it on a woodchip pile! And I even got a tourist, her name was Cadie! (Really truly it was just Cadie, she came with a camera, but she wasn’t taking pictures of us, just of clouds.) And she and the other kids ran around the pool, which was the path around the bathing pond in my imaginary one, and slid down the fun slide and bonked her head on the tools because she was too tall! And she said, "You bonk your head on this!" and I said, "Not us shorties!"

I really like my Baby Chick Botanical Garden, and I had a lot of fun with it! The way I imagined it was really good! (I wish I could go to a real Botanical Garden sometime!) –ESP

Comments, questions? Write to Evan at

The following article was also written sometime in August–Ed.

Summer Reading Program
By Owen

When we go to the library, they have a Summer Reading Program. When you read 5 books, they give you a free book, and they do programs to watch.

One program there was a guy with a helicopter hat thing on him, and there was black things over a peanut butter and jelly jar to hide them. It was a magic show. (But the peanut butter and jelly weren’t in the same jar.) And also, what happened, is, he all suddenly made the peanut butter to turn to where the jelly was kept, and the jelly to turn where the peanut butter was kept, somehow. I liked it pretty much. Also, there was a big box with a doggy inside it, and the doggy liked kissing him! And he could jump through hoops! And he pretended they were flaming hoops. (It was just one hoop, though.) Also, there was a coloring book, and we thought there was 3 coloring books and three children, and the children were going wild! And one child kept picking up a balloon that she wasn’t supposed to! She was screwing up the show, and it was kind of funny. My dad thought it was funny, too. And also what he did, is we thought whoever was in the middle had the already colored-in coloring book. But then, when
we saw that one, the one guy in the middle didn’t have that already colored in book! And it kept on changing who got the already-colored in book! Evan said really truly all of them are colored in, just not in all one part. It’s so cool! And there was a 3-D pretend TV, and the dog all-suddenly jumped out of it when he opened it up. When the people did a drawing, Caleb won a flashlight! Caleb said he felt happy. We always write our names on a piece of paper in the first place, so when they pick out a name they get a prize! They always do a drawing at the end.

A different program was a music one. The first music that he did, I liked pretty much. He had little things, and there was big things that he whacked on that would make noises. And there would be a guy that would play on a guitar, too. And there would be a guy playing on a piano, I think. One song that he was playing was, it was "Shame, shame, shame, the Johnson boys, they raised from the ashes" or something like that. And then I remember the beautiful girl part, that I think was the face of the beautiful girl made them free, I think I heard that. Justy said it was actually, "The side[sight] of a pretty girl made them afraid." ‘Cause Evey said they were afraid to get married. They were scared of their own shadow. I didn’t really think it was a too good song, but one song it was really hard to follow along with. [For one version of the lyrics see]

The first program was juggling, and he juggled flaming torches! I didn’t think the flame was really real, but it might’ve been. Justin said it was real. Collin said the guy kept pretending it was fake flame, but it wasn’t. He pretended to juggle behind his back, but he really truly didn’t! And then he really truly did.

I always like going to the programs pretty much. I like them because they do silly things. I liked the magic show one the best. It was really cool!–OTP

Comments, questions? Write to Owen at