I was wrestling with a difficult chapter. Whatever insight I was about to add to the mind of my convoluted character remained elusive.
These are the times when the faintest murmur of a distant television is as loud as standing on the Lady of the Mist, getting soaked by the mighty waterfall. My wife, bless her heart, can tell this mood of mine at a glance, so she knows to let me be in my own little universe that exists only in my mind, the one I struggle to convey onto the page. She knows nothing will tear me away from the keyboard. All the money in the world will not be enough!
My little girl knows no such signals, and armed with only a smirk, and her big brown eyes, she enters the studio, her little hands clasped behind her back.
She's learned not to come in and interrupt with her latest observation, request for a new stuffy, her grievances against big sister, or even to talk to me about some new Disney show, so she pads over to my right side, and stares at me, uncharacteristically patient until I acknowledge her presence.
My first instinct is to bark an order to say what's on her mind so I can get back to work, but for once, some divine censor intervenes and shuts my mouth.
She looks at the screen with interest. She's progressing rather swiftly in her reading capabilities, but she's not at a level that will enable her to read the latest romantic scene.
When I look at her, her smirk widens into a grin. Whatever intention of staring her down in lieu of a demand for the reason of the interruption flees, and I get lost in the liquid brown depth of her gaze.
"What's going on, Peanut?"
Amber tilts her head to the side and continues to stare at me.
"Yeeeeees?" I ask drawling the question because it makes her giggle.
"What are you doing, Dad?"
I smile, heeding a smart ass impulse that has brought me nothing but bruises at the hands of my wife. I've stopped teasing her like I did when we dated, but my daughters are fresh new victims. At seven, Kendra is not so easily bated. I usually get a rolling of her hazel eyes, along with a look that conveys hopelessness. Amber, only five, is still fun to tease. "I'm baking cookies," I tell her.
Amber actually licks her tiny pouters at the mere mention of her favorite goody, but then she scans the room and frowns. "You're not baking cookies."
"Very observant, kiddo. You'll make detective one day."
She starts to say something but changes her mind. "I think you're working again."
"Why do you have to work?"
"To make money so we can have stuff, you know?"
She nods, her expression contemplative.
"Did you need something?"
She shakes her head, leans closer and kisses my cheek before scampering out of the studio, her little nightgown fluttering with each step.
I take a deep breath, read over the last paragraph I wrote, and a ray of light bursts through the dark of my mind and I can add an entire sentence that I'm willing to live with. I'm about to go for a second one when I feel Amber's brown eyes on me.
"Do you need something?"
Amber is carrying a little Hello Kitty purse. She steps up to the desk and pours the contents, two nickels, one quarter, two dimes, and eight pennies.
"Here's some moneys. Can you play Spot It with me now?"
Every one of us has a price, an amount that will push us into doing the unthinkable, and my daughter just named my prize. Sixty-three cents.
"Spot it sounds perfect, Peanut," I tell her, getting up off the desk, ignoring the manuscript practically screaming at me to continue working. Amber squeals a "yay" and kneels by the, already arranged pile of round cards, which lean like a tiny Tower of Pisa. She hands me one card upside down, and counts backwards from three.
"Spider!" She takes the top card on the pile after pointing out a matching spider to the card by her little hands. I was hopelessly looking for a matching purple candle, but she's quicker than me.
"Lightning bolt!" She slides another card on her growing pile.
I'm so lousy at this game that Amber actually points a match for me just so I can claim a single victory.
"Taxi cab!" She giggles.
I get my shots in, at one point I had a run of four, before she came back and cleaned house.
After five humiliating games, I give Amber her change back, sixty-three cents, which she graciously accepts before going to bed.
Sixty-three cents in her Hello Kitty purse. That's the prize of this father. As I kiss her goodnight, I hope I gave her every penny's worth.
When I get back to the manuscript, all I can think about is the wealth of giggles I will carry with me forever. In a way, I tried to teach her the necessity of work, and in turn, she showed me there are things much more important, and even that sixty-three cents will still get you something.