Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Heart of Darkness: the Bouncy House Edition

We have a very defiant 2-year-old, which means getting her to do everyday tasks — eating the food on her plate, using the potty or going to sleep — often leads to kicking and screaming (along with the occasional biting, head butting and running from the building).

This makes life difficult, but at least it's always clear that we — the parents — are in charge. Alice knows that ultimately she has to do what we say.

But over the weekend, I got a frightening vision of what Alice would do if she had the power.

At Saturday's Halloween festival, there was a bouncy house with a long line to get in. It was one of those situations where the attendant would let in a group of kids, have them bounce around for a few minutes and then kick them out so another pack of children could go inside.

After Alice took her turn in the bouncy house, the attendant ordered the kids to get out. Alice was one of the last children to totter toward the exit, when suddenly she stopped. She moved back toward the center of the floor and began bouncing again.

I yelled for her to get out, but a devious smile had crept over her face. You could almost see the tumblers falling into place in her brain: I am not leaving and you can't stop me.

The attendant couldn't make her leave, and it was awkward for an adult to crawl inside the small opening. Soon the entire crowd surrounding the bouncy house had joined me in yelling, "ALICE, GET OUT!"

She didn't care. The chanting only emboldened her. She was crazed with power, laughing and running from one end of the house to the other. Alice was the queen of this bouncy castle and we were all her subjects.

I realized that the plot of "Heart of Darkness"/"Apocalypse Now" was unfolding before our eyes.

Alice had gone insane and seized control of a bouncy compound, and now I needed to find someone to take her out.

I turned to Elliot, a highly experienced agent in both bouncy-house navigation and sister extraction.

"Elliot, you have to go in there and bring her back. Can you do it?"

He nodded solemnly and removed his Spider-Man mask. The attendant allowed him entry, and Elliot was soon crawling into the bouncy fortress. The shouting outside the encampment died away as he faced his opponent alone, the only one standing between civilization and bouncy madness.

What followed was a blur of screaming, tears and bouncing...a lot of bouncing. Elliot finally managed to drag Alice close enough to the opening for me to reach in and yank her back outside.

We all survived the experience, though I'm not sure any of us will ever be the same again. Near the end, I could almost hear Alice whispering, "The horror...the horror."