Desert Spring Break #2: The Drool Pool
We all have our own issues with the desert. For me, it is this feeling of vastness, disconnectedness, and beads of sweat running continuously down my face. For the Jawa, it is drool.
Unlike Shack, the Jawa has never been a big drooler. As an infant, he was a swaddler, even on the hottest of days, but not a drooler. He was noted for his easy-going personality, nice grasp of infant logic, and impeccable memory. For him, drooling is new, and, I am not overstating to add, the worst kind of terrifying.
There is geography involved. Three days in the Mojave desert; no drool. On his first night in the Sonoran; drool.
At first, he had no idea what it was. I put him to bed on the new, loudly purple sheets my mother had bought for the guest room (the ones on my separate air mattress were bright yellow. Hence, when I took his pillow, I had the sense of lying down for a nice rest atop an Easter Egg. How seasonal.). He lay there under the whirling ceiling fan, reading his "Star Wars Jedi Masters" book.
"My bed is all wet."
May I add now that the Jawa has never been a bed-wetter, so that particular situation never entered my mind. Since we live in an old, falling-down house, I immediately thought, "Ah, shoot. The ceiling's leaking," forgetting for a moment that not only are we in the desert, where it doesn't rain in April, but are also in my parents' circa-1986 duplex, which is in excellent condition with a roof that does not leak.
I went into the bedroom to see that next to his shoulder, directly underneath his pillow was a small, pancake-sized wet spot. "Huh," I said, amassing all of the logic and sense of a father, "I have no idea what that is."
"It's bugging me. Can you change my sheets?" I considered it for a second, if only to see what other outrageous color of sheets my mother had purchased. Cooler heads quickly prevailed, even in the desert. I stepped forward and moved his pillow down, covering the spot. Though I was still flummoxed, the problem was solved.
Two minutes later, he called me again. "Dad?"
"Now there's a spot on my pillow."
At this point you've got to wonder about the reliability of both our thought processes. If these mysterious wet spots are not coming from drool, where are they coming from? The roof is not leaking. Juice from the grape-like sheets? A hidden underground spring? Grease from the unshowered Jawa's hair?
None of the above.
"Wait a minute!" I said. "You're drooling!"
An indescribable look came over my Jawa's face. He wasn't angry or frightened so much as utterly disgusted at himself. That a strange liquid would involuntarily come out of his mouth seemed to him the most unpleasant of facts. This Jawa is no neatnick. Unlike his cousin Felix Unger (the artist formerly known as Count Burpalot), he has no problem going several days without showering, spent several months learning how to burp on command and has been known to wear the same clothes for 48 hours straight, provided those 48 hours take place away from home where Sandra Bullock and I are not there to nag him to change his clothes, doing our best to make him feel like a swamp monster for even considering that wearing the same clothes for 48 hours straight is a viable option. And yet, the drool nearly made him ill.
"Yuck," he said quietly.
"It's no big deal," I said, ineffectively. "Just flip over your pillow."
It went on. Each solution was fine for a couple of minutes, then: "Dad!"
If we were at home, it could have gone on all night. Fortunately, my mother stocks a limited number of outrageously-colored linens, so once he'd gone through both sides of his pillow, a couch pillow and a rolled up blanket, he was stuck facing the truth His solution: take the case off of his pillow and hope for the best. In this fashion he made it through the night.
Today, while absorbing the full flavor of Sun City WEST, he occasionall brought up the incident and how strange it seemed. "That was weird," he told me while changing into our swimsuits in the men's lockerroom. "I was drooling." His reputation, it seemed, was in tatters. Fortunately, it was not too much of a stigma for the friendly old guy in there with us. He offered God's blessings for us as we hit the showers.
Which reminds me that today the Jawa also met his first salty old guy. At first, every old guy we met was benignly nice, friendly and definitely willing to answer Jawa questions as they arose. While sitting in the photo lab, though, talking to another harmlessly nice guy, a true salty old guy burst through the door. "So they let you out!" said either my dad or the nice guy working at the lab, I can't remember.
The salty guy zeroed in on the Jawa, peppering him with quips about his age versus the Jawa's age, and then something about how his wife's mother thought he'd never amount to anything. I half expected him to produce a few quarters from the Jawa's ear. As a kid whose old guy world is normally populated by kindly grandparents and aging hippie burnouts, the Jawa responded by trying to remain polite while internally experiencing mild freakout. I say good on you, salty old guy. The world needs you.
Meanwhile, afternoon and most of the evening passed minus any new drool. Then, dozing while my mother and I eagerly Tivo'ed through "American Idol," the Jawa produced a small pool on a black and white striped couch pillow. "Oh no!" he shouted when I woke him up.
"What is it with you? You're a drooling machine!" I said that for two reasons. One, because he has become an actual drooling machine, "drooling machine" defined as a reliable and consistent producer of drool; two, because that's what Sandra Bullock would have said, and we've been apart from her for four days now, so I figured I'd put her back in the room, if only in a small way.
By now the Jawa had had 24 hours to adjust to the idea that he was going to drool every time he fell asleep. Though uneasy with the idea, I think I'd convinced him that it was a weird by-product of our being in the desert, and to expect it to go away once we returned to the normal, humidified world.
That was when he decided that drooling, like burping, might have some comedic value.
I put him to bed, thinking he was barely awake, went out into the family and came back to find him lying with his head in a virtual pool of drool. It was like a crime scene of drool. "No!" I said. "You're drooling even more!" He sat up, doing what I later discovered was a convincing portrayal of someone awakened from a deep sleep. "Oh, man," he said groggily.
We flipped over his pillow, me envisioning another night of pillow musical chairs. He flopped his head onto it and I turned to go.
Something made me turn back, though. There was something about his grogginess that didn't sit right. On Saturday night, on my way into bed at 11, I came into the room we were sharing to find him lying diagonally across the bed, totally wrapped up in the sheet, holding his "Star Wars" book in one hand, seemingly asleep. I was gingerly taking the book from him, feeling very paternal indeed, when he sprung up and shouted, "Almost April Fool's!" then explained his logic. Seeing that it was 11 p.m. on March 31, it was almost April Fool's day, making me eligible to be fooled. Interestingly enough, when he told the story to his cousin the following day, the time of the prank had moved up to 12:01 a.m.
Instead of leaving the room, I turned back and took a glance at the boy on the bed. His perfect little shoulders were squared to the mattress. His legs were curled up, his eyes closed, his ridiculously long eyelashes fanned out above his cheekbones.
And small bubbles of drool were being forced from his mouth onto the pillow.
"You're faking it!" I shouted. He kept the charade going for about one second more, then began laughing, his eyes still closed.
"I wasn't faking it before. This is the first time," he said, unconvincingly. "Dad, can I have another pillow?"
"I'm done with this," I said, waving my hand in what I hoped was dismissive fashion, and walked out of the room, leaving him there with his drool-covered pillow, probably thinking that a wet cheek was a small price to pay for the joy of tricking your father one more time.
As I said, the desert does strange things to people. And Jawas.