Chapter 3: Poop | In the Prehistoric exhibit, Friday and River are looking at mammoth feces when another strange woman approaches them.
Chapter 3: Poop
As we get closer to the Prehistoric exhibit, I have that sensation you get when you know you’re entering a large crowd. The dinosaurs are really popular, especially among little kids like River. And, not to stereotype, but yeah, little boys especially. Once we walk through the entrance, the space bubble around me has shrunk from a few feet to a few inches.
I’m about to ask River where he wants to go, but he beats me with an answer. “Look, Friday! There’s a T-Rex!”
“Yeah!” I exclaim. I don’t know why, but he always acts like it’s his first time here. I guess it’s good for our “normal family” disguise, so I usually play along. “Let’s go!”
We push through the crowd (it’s not as hard as it sounds, because we’re going with the flow of T-Rex-seers) and wait for our turn. About five minutes later, the group in front of us moves on, and we step forward. “Whoa…” mumbles River. “Read the sign, read the sign!”
I can practically read it with my eyes closed by now, the two-paragraph, sixty-three-word sign about Tyrannosaurus Rex. But I say, “No. You read it to me, River.”
River’s been learning to read for a while. You probably haven’t considered this before, but a museum is a great place to learn to read. He struggles through it, and I have to help him a few times, but we’re both proud when we finish. We move on to the display case full of mammoth poop.
A fidgety woman, maybe in her early thirties, is standing next to us, staring at the feces. She gulps and turns to us. Oh, no, I think. Not this again.
“Er…” she says in a significant British accent, fiddling with her wedding ring. “Mm…could you– could– could you…”
I wait patiently and blink a few times.
She shuts her hazel eyes framed by thin red glasses tightly. “Can you help me read this?” she asks in a whisper so quiet I can barely hear her.
I raise my eyebrows, surprised. No one older than me (besides my parents, when they were challenging me like I just did to River) has ever asked me to help them read someone. I try not to show my shock too much, because she has already turned beet red. “Uh…yeah.”
“I can read it! I’m a great reader!” exclaims River. The woman buries her head in her hands and murmurs something. I sigh. Of course, he was just trying to help, but it backfired yet again.
Now I’m not quite sure what to do. Should I comfort this woman, since she’s very obviously embarrassed from the fact that a five-year-old is a better reader than her. After an awkward moment or two, I read her the fun facts.
As soon as I finish and look back at her, she starts hyperventilating and swallowing excessively. “I’m so sorry,” she says like she’s about to cry.
I don’t know why she is, but she keeps repeating it. “So, so sorry…”
“Don’t be,” I tell her nicely.
She keeps repeating it and looks like she might faint. She gasps abruptly and looks at me with huge eyes. Then she runs away (or, rather, squeezes between humans away).
River looks at me. “Did she forget how to read? I thought I will be able to read when I’m big!”
I’m silent for a moment, processing what just happened, before I reply. “Don’t worry. You will.”
“Then what was the deal with her?”
I take a deep breath. “Well…maybe she…maybe she was never taught how to read.”
He cocks his head. “What do you mean? Doesn’t she have a Mama and a Baba to teach her?”
I sigh. “Well, some people–um–never mind.” I don’t want to be guilty of getting the wrong idea into his head.
I check my watch, hoping to change the subject. It’s 4:55. We meet my parents at the entrance at six, a half-hour before Vaughan Museum closes. “Come on, River, it’s time to go meet Mama and Baba,” I white-lie. “Let’s go.”
“Okay,” he says. As we swim upstream to the lobby, River turns back and waves with his little hand. “Bye, T-Rex.”