I have about twenty or thirty children. I forget. One of them tended to say things that made a person question his hearing. I’m 100% positive that it was probably one of the boys.

When the kid was a toddler his pediatrician told me that as soon as he entered school, the teachers would be demanding I put him on Ritalin. He was never on Ritalin, though. That doctor was wrong. He was not at all hyperactive. He was just strange. There isn’t a pill for strange. Well, at least one that works. Besides, there is much to be learned from children. I saw no reason to drug the quirkiness out of him.

He simply lived on a different planet. Ask his siblings, if you know any of them. I forget who they are, but there are so many that there may well be one sitting right next to you.

He couldn’t stay seated. He always stood at the dinner table. This used to drive Victor crazy. Victor is my husband. There’s only one of him, so I remember him. Plus, he’s still here at home, so he’s sort of underfoot all the time, if you know what I mean. Victor spent most of every meal trying to get this kid to stay seated. For some reason it really bothered Victor that one of his kids stood while eating his dinner. The other kids were happy to have their dad’s attention elsewhere. They could feed, for instance, their Brussel sprouts to the dogs under the table with impunity.

The kid always did what he was told, though. He was sensitive and obedient. He would be standing and Victor would say to sit down. He was always surprised to find himself standing, and always sat right down. But then he would slowly start to rise out of his seat until he was standing again. Victor never stopped trying, but it never did work. The kid’s body had a mind of its own and simply preferred a standing position. (He also only stood at his desk at school, but that is a whole other kettle of fish.)

Even though I can’t quite place his name, I have specific scenes that remain in my memory of him. Once he stuck his fingers under my nose and asked:

Why is it that when you handle a centipede, your fingers smell like this?

I knew that there had to be a whole vignette there, but, since “Batman Forever” was about to begin, I just wiped off my upper lip with some spit and a Kleenex and said it was because that is just how they smell. There just wasn’t time to find out the necessary background information from him and people don’t like it when you talk in a movie theater.

I once asked him why he wanted me to read to him from one book, if he were already reading to himself from another one.

Why? I can listen to both stories at the same time. Why would you want to limit me like this?

It was a good question. I felt very bad. I certainly didn’t want to limit him. His arguments were watertight. Two books at a time it was.

There’s an intriguing question that still niggles at me. Perhaps one of you knows the answer.

Are there any flammable body secretions?

I have to say that that one stumped me. Does blood burn? Mucus? I was pretty sure that urine wouldn’t burn, so I told him that much. I do wish I had asked why he wanted to know, though. I really wish I had. I think he was planning something interesting. I still sort of want to know if you packed enough mucus in a jar and you lit a fuse to it, could you use it as a Molotov cocktail?

You should really listen to your kids. Their questions can make you think in anomalous directions; leading to peculiar spots in your mind you may never have visited before. The only drawback is that sometimes you get stuck inside those unfamiliar places and can’t find your way out.

Could someone turn a light on for me?

TAGS: , , , , ,

IRENE ZION has been married to the same curmudgeon for 40 years. She has 5 children, none of whom sufficiently appreciates her. The one you probably know is Lenore, who frequently gives her mother hives. Irene paints oil portraits and makes her own frames. She has been described as an outsider artist. Most of her paintings creep people out, especially her family. She finds this to be greatly satisfying. She writes non-fiction for TNB and loves every minute of it. She is writing fiction now too, but is too chicken to show it to anyone. She has two golden retrievers who will inherit anything of worth she leaves behind. Her kids will delight in dividing up her famous cork collection and her notorious stockpile of bubble wrap.

142 responses to “The Kid from Mercury”

  1. Ronlyn Domingue says:

    Are there any flammable body secretions? Depends on what you are drinking at the time, son.

    Gosh, it’s been a long time since I was around a quirky kid. Thanks for sharing a story about this one.

    • Irene Zion says:


      He was six or seven when he wanted to know this.
      Still wish I new his plans!

      • Ursula says:

        This has to be one of your strangest stories yet. Combustible body fluids, what an advanced kid to ask that question. What does one answer? Reading while being read to, what a great idea. Was he/she able to remember anything at all of all that. Now I am curious which of your 10 – 20 children was this advanced.

        • Irene Zion says:


          He remembers EVERYTHING.

          Max licked this boy’s face totally clean when he was a newborn.

          Now you know, eh?

  2. Love it, Irene.

    Farts are flammable, but I don’t know that they are in the category of secretions of which you speak.

    And two stories at once. I can’t even listen to music when I write, that is truly remarkable.

    • Irene Zion says:

      He didn’t get it from me, Megan,
      Victor can read and watch TV, so I guess it stems from him.
      I need absolute quiet for everything, although if I’m REALLY inside a book I can’t hear anything or anyone around me. That really miffs Victor when he’s trying to talk to me and I don’t actually know he’s there.

  3. ksw says:

    michael jackson’s hair oil

  4. Quenby Moone says:

    Did you steal my kid?

    Seriously, I just saw him this morning, so I know he’s around here somewhere. But maybe…

    Lovely portrait of the wacky kid. I know because I have one of my own. I appreciate it immensely! And your bio is great. I’m curious about what constitutes a “famous cork collection;” the possibilities are tantalizing!

    • Irene Zion says:

      Oh Quenby, my cork collection is without peer. Since wine makers are starting to use fake corks and even twist tops now, it’s going to become more and more valuable!

      Nope, I looked everywhere. Your kid isn’t here, unless he’s really good at hiding.

      • Anon says:

        Ugh – please don’t remind me about the anti-cork migration. I’ve had to abandon one of my favorite Toscanas on principle after they switched to… [shudder]… a screw cap.

        Excellent piece and makes me wonder what I have in store for myself. My four-year-old already comes up with some winners and it doesn’t sound like the condition mellows with age.

        • Irene Zion says:


          I’m going to be rich! I know it. Then my kids will stop making fun of my collections.
          Screw caps are supposed to work well, but they just look and feel so wrong!

          Oh there’s lots in store for you.
          I promise.

        • Anon says:

          “Screw caps are supposed to work well….” Exactly. To me, this is like saying, “Sex is for procreation.” It is not an inaccurate statement but there is so much more to be said for the experience beyond the pure functionality.

        • Irene Zion says:

          I completely agree, Anon,
          That’s why I’ve been saving them.

          We drove through Portugal once and my husband could not get me back in the car every time I saw an actual cork tree. They are so wildly beautiful!

        • Erika Rae says:

          My husband has me save every cork because when he was a kid and wanted to do a project involving cork, there never were any. We have Costco sized cashew containers in our garage full of corks.

          Elia (age 6) asked me a while back if skunks have belly buttons. She also wants to know when I am going to take her to New York so she can be bitten by a special kind of red and blue spider so that she can have super powers. You know, like climbing walls and throwing webs. She then asked me what super power I wanted to have. I told her “invisibility.” She studied me for a moment before softening and putting a hand on my shoulder. “Mom,” she says, “You can’t be invisible.” “Why not?” I ask. “Because people can’t be invisible. It’s not possible.”

        • Erika Rae says:

          I should probably mention that the reason that his parents never had corks was because they believed drinking was a sin, so they never drank wine. We are so busted when those containers are discovered.

        • Anon says:

          Erika, your daughter sounds adorable. I love it when they look at us grownups like we’re completely retarded and in need of patient understanding.

        • Irene Zion says:

          Erika Rae,

          I’m afraid I have to tell you that I have garbage bags full of corks. I should mention that I myself have not had the pleasure of drinking all these bottles of wine. My friends save them for me. Also I get them at restaurants and when I was on the boat recently I made good friends with the sommelier, so she saved the corks from lots of tables for me. I would never put them i the garage, though. Too damp. They are climate controlled.

          The skunk question is an easy one. Every mammal has a belly button. I’d stay out of NY, though. we don’t want Elia seeking out any kind of spiders. Some of them go beyond icky right to dangerous. We had the brown recluse in Illinois. Every time any kid saw a spider, I was terrified we had poisonous spiders in the house.

          It’s really interesting that the super powers she covets are just as impossible as the one you do, and yet she somehow knew yours was bogus. It was kind, how she told you. She’s a nice kid.

          I totally agree with Anon. He/she is good at seeing the sweet in kids. I officially really like him/her.

        • Anon says:

          “He” is officially flattered and honored, Madam. And the feeling is mutual.

        • Irene Zion says:


  5. George says:

    Maybe it was not that “He was just strange.” Instead, he just listened to a different drummer. Eveyone who thinks outside the box is strange, but without them we would never progress.

  6. Jude says:

    “But then he would slowly start to rise out of his seat until he was standing again.” Nice visual Irene. Dinner time at your house sounds like a cracker!

    Does he still do it?

    • Irene Zion says:

      I’m not really sure, Jude,
      he acts like that at Thanksgiving, but day-to-day we’ll have to ask his long-suffering wife.

  7. Mary says:

    What great memories. You always make me think and remember things. Like how for much of high school I somehow got away with not sitting in desks. I would just … get out of my desk and sit on the floor, and when teachers asked why, I said, “My desk is uncomfortable,” and as long as I wasn’t being a pain, they didn’t care. From there, I could scoot surrptitiously around the classroom enjoying different views. Sometimes, I sat near the front and faced my classmates and just watched them. Your son sounds like one who probably enjoys a lot of different perspectives.

  8. Zara Potts says:

    I think one of your kids just moved to NZ. I’m going to go and have coffee with him and then we are going out to look for centipedes.
    This is so charming, Irene. I wish I’d been a quirky kid.

  9. Frank (& Sally) says:

    Did he start doing this when very young? Might you call him an ‘early riser’…?

    And speaking of getting a rise … or not, as the case may very well have been, out of this so very interesting child. How do I put this…

    Uh, Irene? What happened, you know, like when he had to take a crap…?

    I seem to remember admonishments in some joke’s bathroom, somewhere: “Our aim is to keep this place clean. Gentlemen, you aim will help. Ladies, please stay seated during the entire performance. And please, no job is complete until the paperwork is done. Thank You.”

    Did your toilet, akin to Dave Bary’s, but for altogether different reasons (at least I sure hope they were different reasons!) have, or need, a seat belt?

    One of your twenty or thirty kids…

    Remember “The Naked City”? I suppose you have at leat (at LEAST!) twenty or thirty stories. And we are all awaiting them.

    • Irene Zion says:

      HA! Frank (& Sally),

      No, he was fastidious in every way, including his toileting.

      (That was a good pun there at the beginning. I didn’t miss it.)

  10. I definitely get caught up in my kid’s questions. She’s moved on the the next portion of her constant monologue and I’m still pondering why the stuffed hippo can’t drive the car.

  11. Ben says:

    Ok, a little background is needed here.

    Our house in Champaign had a dog yard attached to the garage. Opening the door to the yard from the garage there was a pile of (still inexplicable) decaying bricks.

    Within these bricks was a treasure trove of insects. A seemingly infinite amount. All different kinds. It was awesome.

    Those bricks and those bugs had a smell unlike anything else on earth. Sadly we will never know why that is, because my mom failed to investigate. (In fairness, she had probably been drinking.)

    • Irene Zion says:

      That’s where they were!
      Parents didn’t investigate piles of deteriorating bricks.
      Had I known there were homesteading insects there, I would have donned some good thick gloves and moved them outside.

      Honestly, I would have investigated the centipede odor question, but the questions kept coming like fast balls 24/7! I had trouble keeping up. Plus, there were all those other kids everywhere wanting things at the same time.

    • Lenore says:

      seriously…why DID we have that pile of decaying bricks?

  12. Amy says:

    This is what I have to look forward to? I thought I had it made already and my daughter is only 21 months old. She’s a smart kid (aren’t they all), maybe the next one will be my quirky one.

    • Irene Zion says:


      She may just not be voicing her quirkiness yet.

      Lots of kids keep things tucked up inside for later use.

      Be on the lookout!

  13. Melissa (Irene's Friend) says:

    Irene, I have one child like that. He used to eat his meals walking around the kitchen table. Quirky too, I guess there is one in every bunch. He takes after me I guess.


  14. Reno Romero says:

    megan is right. farts. i’ve personally seen this trick go down albeit many years ago. but i still think the body works the same. ha! that whole centipede passage is heelarious. they do stick. it’s probably to ward off their enemies or something. well, irene, i’m off to vegas for a couple of days but we’ll catch up again. bye.


  15. Irene Zion says:

    But Reno and Megan,

    Farts are effluvium.
    He specifically asked about bodily secretions.
    Those are horses of entirely different colors.

    (Don’t take too much money to Vegas, Reno.)

  16. Lenore says:

    ben is super cool. i would argue that you do not have 20-30 children, however.

  17. Kids rock. (Unless you’re Kid Rock…oh – bad humor)
    Ben sounds a little like our Dominick who once asked me if the wind has nipples.
    Does it?
    You thought about it for a second right?

    We loved your card you sent to us – sure looked like 20-30 kids!

  18. Kate says:

    1. He obviously lost his ability to focus on multiple things, because now even if he is just reading the back of a cereal box he doesn’t hear when people talk to him. Madness.

    2. He occasionally asks odd questions, but more often than that asks to confirm the very weird things he believes to be true. For example, he asked me if when a woman went through menopause, her uterus fell out. For real.

    • Irene Zion says:

      Well, Kate, there’s a good reason he thought that.
      My uterus did fall out when I went through menopause.
      He learned from his environment.
      You’re probably not far along yet in medical school to know this minutiae.

      As to the first thing,
      Ben gets LOST in what he’s reading. He gets that from me. It’s not his fault. It’s genetic. He really can’t hear you. You need to tug at his sleeve and make him turn away from what he is reading and focus on your mouth. That always works with me.

  19. Richard Cox says:

    Nice piece. The centipede bit cracked me up. I assume five kids feel like 20 or 30 the way cleaning up after 3 cats feels like fifteen cats.

    When I was a kid I wanted to be just like everyone else. But now that I’m an adult, I wish I had been quirky. I wasn’t either. I was invisible enough that sometimes I wonder if any of those years really happened.

    • Irene Zion says:

      You get that he WIPED it on my upper lip, right? Doesn’t that make you shiver? No kidding?

      When I was a kid, I lived entirely in my head. I have little knowledge of what happened around me. I appeared to be a zombie, but really it was technicolor and action-packed in my head.

      (3 cats IS fifteen cats. You should count them.)

      • Richard Cox says:

        I don’t like bugs. It does make me shiver. Except it happened to you and not me, so it’s also kind of funny.

        The litter box. Exponential. It’s like they multiply in there. Ugh.

        • Irene Zion says:

          I’m not a fan of insects to begin with, Richard, but insects that have WAY too many legs are up on the top of the list of insects to be avoided.
          Two days ago I was brushing my teeth when a perfectly healthy enormous cockroach came skittering at me. His legs were so long! I swear he had a good inch and a half clearance. It was like the insect version of a jeep in the snow.
          I did my cockroach scream, which is different from every other scream, and stomped him. You would think that would have been the end of it, but NO! He lay there on his back whipping his long, long legs back and forth trying to right himself and skitter at me some more.
          That’s when I made my patented cockroach scream again and Victor came.
          He’s my hero.
          He used a 3 x 5 card to slip under his twitchy little body and carried him outside and dumped him in the bushes.
          I’m pretty sure he’s recovered by now and is recruiting an army of long-legged cockroaches to get back inside and surround me.
          Who knows what they are capable of when angered?
          Pretty sure.

  20. Marni Grossman says:

    Ben’s got to appreciate the fact that Lenore outed him as the child who wanted to know if there were any flammable body secretions…

    • Irene Zion says:

      Lenore does have a big mouth, but this time, he outed himself first, so Lenore gets a pass on this one.

      There is so much more about this particular kid.

      So much more.

  21. Irene,

    Fun as hell. I loved this. There is one daily-dose pill that works for strange, but it’s homemade from Irish Setter neck-fur and red clay. It’s a bitch to swallow, but guarantees Certified Public Accountancy within two decades.

    In Googling “flammable bodily fluids,” I came across this entry that may interest you: http://www.ehow.com/how_2062598_stock-body-fluid-cleanup-kit.html

    I’ve always simply used Kleenex. I guess I’ve been doing it wrong.


    • Irene Zion says:

      Matthew Gavin,

      I could have lived my whole life without knowing about that web site.

      My WHOLE life.

      Kleenex isn’t enough to get the smell out. It gets the fluid off, but you need a good glob of spit to wash off the smell. Water and soap would have been good too, but we were in a movie theater and the movie was about to start.

  22. Matt says:

    At least he only asked you why the centipede smelled a certain way, and not why it had a particular taste.

    I seem to recall that for a while there I had a Superman cape that I would not remove, except (reluctantly) when bathing. I never believed I could fly, but I like to pretend by climbing up on things and jumping off–including the roof of our house. This all stopped when I climbed up on a ladder, made my usual leap, and landed feet-first on a bag of nails. I quit wearing that cape so much after that.

    • Irene Zion says:


      Who keeps a bag of nails next to their house?

      More to the point, who keeps a bag of nails next to the house of your own kid who you KNOW has been leaping off things trying to get the flying thing going with his Superman cape?

      You had someone mean in your house.

      Find out who it was and stay away from now on. There is no telling what this person is capable of!

      (Yeah, taste. REALLY glad that wasn’t the question.)

      • Matt says:

        In fairness, there were contractors around that day, installing a large new window in our front-facing living room wall. So there were nails and hammers and all sorts of other troublesome implements all over the place. It’s not like someone arbitrarily left a bag of nails around next to the ladder.

        Granted, someone probably should have taken steps to ensure that I was not running around barefoot during said construction.

        • Irene Zion says:

          your family is off the hook for the bag of nails.
          You have only yourself to blame for the barefootedness.
          All kids take off their shoes behind their parents’ backs.
          It’s a fact.
          Ben used to take off ALL his clothes and run around the neighborhood.
          I got calls from the neighbors all the time to go and catch him.
          His clothes were scattered everywhere.
          Ask my neighbors!

        • Matt says:

          Hey, I was four!

          And some of us never grow out of our “take off all our clothes and run around” phase.

        • Irene Zion says:

          So, Matt?
          If I come to your door, I should ring the bell first and not just turn the knob and walk in, eh?

        • Matt says:

          That’s probably wise, yes.

        • Irene Zion says:

          Ben was tearing around bare naked way past four. Might’ve been until he was six, as I recall.
          You’re okay.
          (But I WILL knock.)

  23. Ducky Wilson says:

    I’m going out right now to find a centipede so I can smell him.

    • Irene Zion says:

      Okay, Ducky,

      See if you can describe it REALLY well so that I never have to get so close I can sniff it’s odor.


  24. Mark Rotunda says:

    Excellent story Irene. I remember the brick pile but not the insects inside it…I feel like I missed out now.

    • Irene Zion says:

      Thanks, Mark,

      When you build a house you never have the exact number of bricks on hand. You can’t run out, right? So there were some left over. We PAID for those bricks. We figured we might need them one day and they’d match perfectly.

  25. This post scared me. But I still loved it!

  26. Irene Zion says:

    and thanks, NL.

  27. josie says:

    You know how people are always asking “who was the first persn to come up with that, to eat that, to figure that out?” I always say, ‘It was a kid.’ Cuz they think, say, and try things that keep us on our toes. Scary little creatures. God bless their gross little minds.

  28. Irene Zion says:

    Darn, Josie!

    That is an astute insight! I believe you are probably right!

  29. jmblaine says:

    I heard a
    that TNB 3.0
    was almost
    Irene’s Strange Children

    we gather

  30. Ben says:

    Uh oh! I think our grand kids are doomed!

    My children all stood when they ate. As a matter of fact this was a huge issue at lunchtime at school. It never really bothered me, but ask Kate or Dave about it sometime, Mom to the rescue! Maybe by the time they have kids Victor will be too busy trying to get your attention that he will not notice the kids standing at the table.

    Kate memorized and recited books from the time she was 18 months old, but she did not read and listen at once, that’s a great talent. When Kate was 3 she wanted to know why we spelled her name K-A-T-I-E and not K-T, why she needed more than one gift at Christmas and as she got a year or two older she wanted to know why she couldn’t read in the shower, by Junior High she vowed to read all the Banned Books. She always knew how to get her own way with other kids when she was little too, for a tiny little girl she was one tough kid, good thing she outgrew that.

    Can you say trouble?

    • trish swanson says:

      I have no idea why it says this comment was from Ben, he must have used my computer last on this site and left his name and e-mail in the provided boxes, oops! I should be more careful next time.

    • Irene Zion says:


      On your side too?
      We’ll have to be watching to make sure they are treated correctly at school.
      Victor has totally mellowed out now. His grandchildren can do NOTHING that isn’t a sign of precocity and utter brilliance. No worries there.
      I could tell that wasn’t Ben, Trish. It wasn’t hard.
      I love that Kate resolved to read all the banned books. It is exquisitely Kate!
      (And Trish, she could have read in the shower if you had searched for rubber books….)

    • Irene Zion says:

      For some reason I didn’t hear your first paragraph when I read it!
      Did they sit at their desks in class? That made the most trouble for Ben. No one ever cared if he stood at lunch for some reason.

      • trish swanson says:

        Irene, for some reason they sat on their legs in class, but not when they ate lunch, for eating they stood. For this, they were punished and not allowed to play at recess, they were required to stand on the wall. Once I caught word of this, then, only my kids were not punished for standing at lunch.

  31. trish swanson says:

    Uh oh! I think our grand kids are doomed!

    My children all stood when they ate. As a matter of fact this was a huge issue at lunchtime at school. It never really bothered me, but ask Kate or Dave about it sometime, Mom to the rescue! Maybe by the time they have kids Victor will be too busy trying to get your attention that he will not notice the kids standing at the table.

    Kate memorized and recited books from the time she was 18 months old, but she did not read and listen at once, that’s a great talent. When Kate was 3 she wanted to know why we spelled her name K-A-T-I-E and not K-T, why she needed more than one gift at Christmas and as she got a year or two older she wanted to know why she couldn’t read in the shower, by Junior High she vowed to read all the Banned Books. She always knew how to get her own way with other kids when she was little too, for a tiny little girl she was one tough kid, good thing she outgrew that.

    Can you say trouble?

  32. We had a pile of decaying bricks in the backyard too. I felt sorry for kids who didn’t have them.

    • We had some of those. They were great. Just like sticks, but heavier, and you got in trouble when you hit people with them.

      • Irene Zion says:


        You NEVER fail to make me laugh.
        (Except once when you wrote that scary story, but I totally forgive you.)
        I’ll bet your parents have some whoppers to tell about you growing up!

    • Irene Zion says:

      Alright, I’m getting some backup here, all the way from Australia!
      Thanks, Simon!

      • Our backyard was a great place to play in for a kid – there were a couple of trees that were perfect for climbing, there was a big level at the bottom for playing backyard cricket, and then, of course, there was the section down the back that was always possibly filled with snakes.

        • Irene Zion says:

          We have some snakes here. So far the ones we’ve seen in our yard are pretty ones that are harmless. There are Coral Snakes and Cottonmouths here, plus some rattlesnake-type snakes. Those are pretty, but you should stay away from them for obvious reasons.

  33. Corey (Ben & Kate's friend) says:

    Am I allowed to put in a request for more Ben stories?

  34. Irene, kids are strange… Very strange. My memories from childhood extend to thinking that everyone around me was strange, but looking back I was pretty damned strange, too.

    I was laughing at the thought of Victor trying to get the poor excited kid to sit down every dinner time. Kids and cats = not much difference.

  35. Irene Zion says:

    I don’t think Victor ever enjoyed his dinner because he was always on Ben-watch. I guess he thought it would be deleterious in Ben’s social life if he couldn’t learn to sit down at least at dinner.
    He studied standing up, too, most of the time.
    Usually he was sitting while reading for pleasure, although he would tend to wander with his book from couch to chair to chair to couch, and round and round again.
    School really was a problem.
    I volunteered in his classes and made myself indispensable to the teachers so that they dare not criticize him for never sitting at his desk. It worked perfectly.

    • Tim says:

      Of course Dad enjoyed dinner! It’s like his favorite thing.

      • Irene Zion says:

        Now it is, sure, but back then all he could think about was raising you guys up safe and smart and capable in the world. It was a full-time and exhausting job.
        Of course now we know that not a single thing we did had any effect on any of you.
        We should have just enjoyed ourselves, I suppose.

  36. “There isn’t a pill for strange. Well, at least one that works.” Spit*Out*Coffee*
    I’m writing this after I clean off my keyboard, Irene. I really need to remember to not drink coffee while reading TNB posts….
    Does he still stand and eat?

    • Irene Zion says:

      He did a lot of standing at Thanksgiving, Robin, but I have to call on his beauteous wife to find out what he does now at home.
      He has always been so much fun.
      I wish I could have had ten or twenty kids, for real.
      Victor only wanted two, though, so I guess I milked that puppy for all I could get.

  37. Marcia (former next-door neighbor in Illinois and frequent visitor to Florida) says:

    Irene, since you are already interested in the flammability of body fluids, I wish you would look into spontaneous human combustion. I don’t get that at all and would like to know more but am too lazy to do any research myself.

    Also, I think I have a couple of your bricks in my garage that I borrowed for something or other. Would you like them back?

  38. Irene Zion says:

    The bricks are yours to keep, Marcia. Hardly anyone uses bricks in Miami Beach. It’s all cinder blocks and poured concrete here.

    Can people spontaneously burst into flame? I knew that stuff could, but people?
    I WILL look into that, Marcia!
    I’ll get back to you.

  39. I only have 3 children, but I don’t think any of them have ever eaten a meal seated in their entire lives. They all eat standing up or kneeling at best, though the kneeling is not Zen-kneeling but a kind of bouncy-shifty-standing-then-lowering kneeling. One of them is not even biologically related to the other two, so the uniformity of this tendency makes even less sense. Like Victor, David is constantly telling them to sit down, and it works for all of 3.5 seconds, and he never seems to learn. I have always thought there was some kind of weird dust floating in my house that made the kids unable to keep their butts in a chair. My daughters do homework standing up too. The only time they ever seem to sit down is when watching TV. Consequently, I have been less averse to TV-viewing than I ever would have anticipated, because it’s literally the only time my kids are not in motion. And that is kind of a relief.
    Now, though, I will just tell myself that we are Just Like The Zions, which is, of course, my fondest hope. This is very comforting.

    • Irene Zion says:

      Holy Moly, Gina!

      All three of your kids do this too? I would love to eat dinner at your house, just for old time’s sake. Sort of a trip back to when the kids were little and Victor and I were under the illusion that we could fix everything. If we just paid close attention, we could make them all safe from all teasing and detentions and get them into good schools and meet brilliant loving mates who made them laugh and then get jobs that were so very, very interesting that they never even came to understand why it was called “work.”

      Show this story to David. He is whistling in the wind trying to get them to sit still at dinner, plus he’s missing all the fabulous food you make and the fascinating conversations that your children are having.
      I wish you luck with this. I never did get that across to Victor.

      The kids turned out fine, regardless of their eccentricities, but Victor lost all his hair.

  40. HA! I just remembered when I was a kid and I asked my mum ‘Hey, if you could put all the power from a car into just one of its headlights, would the light reach the moon?’

    Oh, my poor mother.

    • Irene Zion says:


      That is simply wonderful. Don’t be sorry for your mother! These are the things that made being a mother so sensational. I’m positive she loved every minute of it!

  41. D.R. Haney says:

    Sorry for weighing in so late, Irene. It’s Duke, in case you don’t remember. There are an awful lot of TNB contributors, you know.

    I was a quirky kid, or so I always thought, but I don’t think my questions were nearly as imaginative as the Nameless One’s. I do know that I apparently first spoke in a near-complete sentence — “Bird in the sky,” or something like that.

    Are birds flammable? Sadly for them, as per the chicken I almost ate earlier tonight, they are.

  42. Irene Zion says:

    Hi Dukey!

    You wouldn’t be in character if you wrote at the beginning. That would be silly.
    There are a surprisingly large new group of writers, but most of the people who read and comment are the old guard, I’ve noticed. Although it does make it difficult to see if someone you like to read has posted because their life on the page is so fleeting. If you miss a couple of days, you’d never know there was a story you would have liked to read. I told Slade that I read that there was a story about rabies in the dentist’s waiting room, but by the time all my appointments and chores were done and I got to the computer again, it had disappeared, and I forgot who wrote it. I finally found it, but I was way at the end of the queue by then.
    I’ll bet you were an amazing kid! You should ask your mom about your childhood and what you were like when you next go home for a visit. Not every mom writes about their kids on the web, you know, but they all have stories nonetheless.

  43. mary shideler says:

    growing up in a log cabin on the north end of bass lake in northern minnesota, gave me the opportunity to burn my snot (usually on a kleenix) in the fireplace. my brother always wondered if snot burned. i proved it does it it gets hot enough………….

    • Irene Zion says:



      I can give him at least one answer!
      Although, do you think it was the Kleenex that was burning?
      Did you ever shoot the snot “farmer style” into the fireplace and see what happened?

  44. mary shideler says:

    yes, it was the kleenix burning. but it was FULL of snot. i do blow snot like a farmer. esp when it is cold like now in the winter. when i am near a campfire i will blow snot into it and see what happens………..

  45. Irene Zion says:


    Soon, my littlest son, we will have a partial, but totally true answer to your question.
    Mary always comes through.
    Mary is dependable.
    We will only be about 21 years late for the answer to your question!

  46. […] funnier text exchanges.  This group includes Sara, who used to eat weird things; her Mercurial son (she can’t recall which); and the dearly-departed-but-never-forgotten […]

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