It had been a wonderful looking dinner, Benson thought to himself as the car rolled down the dark road. Chicken, squash, and a light salad. He hadn’t had lunch at work, and had been looking forward to having dinner with his wife. The kids (Robby, age five, Ben, age three, and Brooke, age one) had been put to bed, leaving Benson and Catherine alone in well-earned peace and quiet.
In hindsight, perhaps letting Robby have an apple for a bedtime snack had been a bit of a bad idea. Most children his age could be trusted to eat a piece of fruit without adult supervision. Most children (Benson hoped) had the intellectual capacity not to do what Robby had evidently thought was a good idea.
After being left alone for not even ten minutes, the little moron had come downstairs to the kitchen just as Benson was about to take a bite of squash. Catherine had asked him what was wrong, and their stupid son said thirteen simple words that Benson swore he would remember for the rest of his life.
In the aftermath of Robby’s simple statement, silence fell. Catherine successfully held back a burst of laughter. Benson just sighed, his fatherly instincts telling him that his dinner was going to be cut short.
Not wanting to risk trying to pull it out and accidentally do more damage, it was decided that he and Robby would be taking a quick trip to the hospital. Catherine stayed to keep an eye on the younger children, since they’d just seen what could happen when their eldest was left to complete a simple task (eating an apple) without supervision.
Benson looked away from the road for a second, angling the rearview mirror so he could see his idiot son in the back seat. Robby had a finger in his ear, and was twisting it around in an attempt to dislodge the offending object. “Stop it,” said Benson. “It’s already in there, don’t try and push it in any further.”
Robby pulled the finger loose, and even in the dark, Benson could tell that his son was looking embarrassed. “Sorry,” the young boy said.
There was silence for a little while. Benson focused on the road ahead of him, wondering if any of the other drivers on the road were dealing with the same problem he was.
“Dad?” Robby asked, sounding as if he was about to say something that had been bothering him for a while. “Is a tree going to grow in my ear?”
“No, Robby,” Benson answered automatically. “A tree isn’t going to grow in your ear.”
“But James told me that his friend once put a seed in his belly button, and he grew a tree,” Robby said, obviously believing that everything his cousin told him had to be true.
And then it all fell into place. James, the son of Catherine’s brother, had a well-documented habit of making things up, and Robby had a similarly well-documented habit of being a gullible moron. Clearly, James had told Robby that yarn about his friend growing a tree in his belly button, and Robby had taken it to heart. And then, lying in bed with an apple core, he had gotten the idea in his head (in far more ways than one) that he should try it out.
Which was why he had, not long afterwards, come downstairs and said:
“I have a nut in my ear and I can’t get it out.”
The receptionist, her mouth hanging slightly open, stared down at Robby, who was standing on tippy-toes to see over the front desk. She looked to Benson for confirmation. He nodded. “Apple seed, right ear. Didn’t want to risk pulling it out myself,” he elaborated. ‘I’m a good parent, I swear to god’ was left unsaid.
“I – I see,” the receptionist responded, nodding to make it seem like this was completely normal. “If you’ll just take a seat, I’ll check who’s available.”
Benson smiled at her, and guided Robby over to the waiting room chairs that were probably designed to be the exact opposite of ergonomic. No matter how much he shifted around, he simply couldn’t find any way to make himself comfortable. He amused himself by watching the receptionist speak into the phone in hushed tones, periodically looking over at them as if to make sure they were still there.
The waiting room was mostly empty, Benson noticed. Three other people were waiting, and they were all looking at Robby (who was still digging around in his ear) with barely-contained grins. The young boy, being five years old, hadn’t yet developed an ‘inside voice’, and his response to the receptionist’s statement of ‘he looks fine to me’ had been broadcasted to the entire room.
Still, Benson thought, he was glad that an apple seed stuck in an ear was the only reason they were here. It was simple, harmless. It was the sort of humorous accident that would be brought up at family dinners for years, the kind that would be used to efficiently embarrass Robby, the kind that could be used as fodder for writing assignments. A slice of humble pie that nobody would ever let him forget.
The sensation of the cushions that felt more like wooden boards made Benson remember the last time that Robby had to go to the hospital, just last year. He could still clearly remember the mélange of fear and panic that he had felt as he and Catherine rushed the screaming boy, a bloody rag pressed to his scalp, into the emergency room. He clearly remembered the look on the receptionist’s face, remembered handing his son, skull cracked from a fall in the driveway, off to a doctor. Catherine had paced back and forth until she left furrows in the waiting room carpet, while Benson had simply sat down and wallowed in quiet fear.
The drive from home to the hospital normally took fifteen minutes. On that day, it took Benson six of the longest minutes in his life.
Thankfully, Robby had been fine. The injury wasn’t as bad as the panicked minds of his parents believed it to be, and the young boy was given stitches, painkillers, and a cherry-flavored lollipop.
Benson had prayed that he would never have to go through such an event ever again.
A week later, he went through it again, after Ben had tripped while they were on a walk and hit his head against a railroad tie.
…And then a few weeks after that, when Robby and Ben accidentally dislocated baby Brooke’s arm while trying to teach her how to walk.
Social Services had, understandably, been very cross with Benson and Catherine for a while after that.
All in all, he was glad that an apple seed was the biggest thing he had to worry about.
Robby tried to get his father’s attention by pulling at his sleeve. “Dad, dad, dad,” he said urgently. Benson looked at his son, who was grinning a grin that was missing a few baby teeth, and at the hand outstretched to display something.
In the palm of Robby’s hand was an apple seed.
“I got it out,” Robby said proudly.
A bit of backstory behind this. I’m a bit ashamed to admit that this story is based off of something that actually happened to me. Yes, Robby is me. I somehow got an apple seed stuck in my ear when I was young. I wrote this story for an assignment where I was supposed to take some event that had happened to me in the past, and rewrite it in a more creative way. I chose to use this event, and changing the point of view to my dad. It’s creative non-fiction, and I later was informed that there were a few things that I got wrong.
Starting from the beginning: I was only three when it happened, and thus my little sister hadn’t been born yet. It was actually my mother who took me to the hospital (sorry, Mom!). I don’t think my cousin told me that putting an apple seed in my ear would make a tree grow there, but knowing him, I wouldn’t be surprised if he did. I do not know if I was actually given a cherry flavored lollipop, but if I had been given the choice, I probably would have gone for strawberry instead. All those accidents that happened to me and my siblings might not have happened in that order, but they did happen.
Yes, I probably was that stupid.