Growing up, one of my all-time favorite books was The Great Brain. The book’s cover featured the novel’s protagonist, The Great Brain, a smug-looking boy of about eleven, arms crossed one over the other, assuming the expression of one well-familiar with his uncanny intelligence.
Though the book was written by John D. Fitzgerald, I was under the impression that the author was F. Scott Fitzgerald; that I was reading a book by the author of The Great Gatsby. Soon enough, I knew, I would graduate to bigger, thicker tomes while my classmates were left behind with Nancy Drew and the Trixie Belden Mysteries.
In The Great Brain, I thought I had found myself.
In school, I fancied myself rather intelligent, way past the level of my classmates, except, perhaps for Lori, who always trumped me in state capitals and Around the World, a game we played to prove our prowess at the multiplication tables. But eventually, Lori moved away, to take advantage of a better school district, and once again, I considered myself the Great Brain. Indeed, I stole the personality for myself. I was the Great Brain.
But time or fate or nature or God—call it what you will—has a way of lending truth to the situation. Sometimes it happens gently and slowly; sometimes in a great awakening crash. Personally, I take my dose of humility (or is it humiliation?) two tablespoons, twice a day. And over the years, this twice daily dosing has convinced me: I am no Great Brain.
* * *
Since retiring, Destructo, our six month old, fifty-five pound, former service-dog-in-training German shepherd has found a new calling: eating. Destructo could eat five meals a day and still be left unsated, staring at that hamburger upon your plate, licking his chops.
Well, I wouldn’t give Destructo my hamburger, but I would play Tug of War with him. As I write this, I find that Tug of War is an odd name. Wouldn’t War of Tug be more fitting? But call it what you will, just yesterday, we were engaged in the game with a six-inch piece of thick rope, knotted several times in the middle and at either end to provide a place suitable for grabbing with the teeth, or in my case, the hand.
You should never play either Tug of War or War of Tug with a big, strong, puppy especially one like Destructo, because eventually that puppy will become distracted, in this case by something resembling food—a bug crawling along the floor…a tumbleweed of his own dog hair rolling past…perhaps an invisible speck of a crumb that sends his wet, black nose ‘atwitching. That puppy will release his end of the rope, nails skittering on the floor, in hot pursuit of that bug. And that hard, solid, knotted end will come flying toward you; come flying in fast towards your right eye.
You will have perhaps a smidgen of common sense reminding you to close that eye, just in time. But you will feel the thump and see a circle of white upon impact and wonder whether your precious eye, that tiny, fluid-filled eye that fills your brain with images of beauty, will be able to withstand it. You will sit there for a moment, one-eyed, trying to regain your dignity before realizing that no one in your family even had the decency to witness your war with the rope.
You will ask your husband, through Cyclops tears, whether your eye has started to blacken. You will go upstairs to remove your contact lens before your eye swells completely shut. You will recall the words of your optometrist when you took your son to his last eye appointment:
“With eyes this nearsighted, you have to be careful about retinal detachment. Watch him around contact sports.”
You will remember the doctor’s final words; his pat upon your shoulder; his laugh. “You should watch, too, but we don’t need to worry about you and contact sports.”
You will suppose that Tug of War could be considered a contact sport when one side lets go.
You will spend the rest of the evening watching for telltale flashing lights, wondering how to explain the bruised eye on the morrow.
You will rue the day you ever considered yourself The Great Brain.
And you will promise yourself that next time, you will give the dog the hamburger.
* * *
Destructo and I have called a truce in our War of Tug. Perhaps the rope is the real winner here. Or maybe the pet store that sold it to me.
This afternoon, as thunder raged and lightning flashed outside the window and the dogs snuggled up close to comfort themselves (or, perhaps, search for food), I curled up on the couch, closed my left eye, eased my right eye shut and took a nap to sleep off the sinus headache rattling about in my skull.
It was probably the brainiest thing I’ve done all week.
Note: This posting was written in response to this week's Indie Ink Challenge: Amy LaBonte challenged me with "The Great Brain Robbery" and I challenged Bewildered Bug with "but memory is a slippery thing..."
Labels: Growing up, Indie Ink