Little Edgar came home from school wanting to do something to help Little Rose. The “little” thing was something they’d picked up from a classmate’s mother who’d visited the school to talk about Personal Empowerment. She felt that no child should be slighted by being called “little” or “junior” or any other diminutive. There’d been an electronic letter sent to parents about this, summarizing the Empowerment session. To make sure she understood correctly what diminutive meant, Mandy had looked up the word. The kids who’d heard this talk were six. They were barely toilet-trained. That, anyway, was Little Edgar’s father Dick’s take on such nonsense. He said if he had any money, he’d get his son out of that school and send him to private school, to which Mandy said, “Hah!” He already knew what diminutive meant because years ago he’d gotten through two years of college at FSU. Right now, in the weeks leading up to Christmas, Dick was trying to either go bankrupt or avoid going bankrupt; an old friend, a lawyer in town, was advising him.
Oh, the boys thought it was so funny to start calling each other “little.” The girls paid no attention to what the boys were doing, did not answer to their new names, and, to Mandy’s way of thinking, seemed more like teenagers. Well, not the first graders, but the fifth graders, who wore not only bras but Spanx. It was a big thing to put on the longest Spanx you could under whatever you were wearing—and if it showed below the hem, so much the better.
Mandy worked for a dentist in town, Dr. Kim. She’d wanted to study massage, but she’d gotten a scholarship to train as a dental hygienist. It was how she’d met Dick, the week after his girlfriend walked out on him and Little Edgar. She’d started to think of him now as Little Edgar, because the name brought him such pleasure. The “little” concept was like the new dirty word. It brought instant giggling. It seemed socked in, like the humidity of the past week.
What, exactly, did Little Edgar want to do for Little Rose? Mandy sat on Little Edgar’s futon and asked. Was it going to be something romantic, like giving her flowers? Noooooo. Well, was it that he wanted to (whisper) kiss her, maybe? Ugh, noooooo, he did not want to do that.
“Find a place for Little Rose to live,” he said. “Because her grandma’s boat has a leak and it’s sinking.”
“What do you mean, her boat?” She’d met the grandmother: a battle-ax in a spandex workout getup that revealed her deep, wrinkled cleavage. The woman wore a visor, wraparound sunglasses, and bright pink lipstick and nail polish.
“Her grandma’s on a boat off Stock Island. The boat’s sinking, and Little Rose will drown.”
“Edgar, let Mandy eat her dinner,” Dick said to his son. “It’s six thirty. What are you doing in bed anyway?”
“I have a headache,” Little Edgar said.
“I would, too, if I went to that school,” Dick said. “If you hadn’t eaten so much peanut butter on banana slices, you could have dinner with us, Edgar. Think about that.”
“Little Edgar,” Edgar giggled. He’d been named for his mother’s father, whom he’d never met. Now his mother was gone, and he was stuck with an old man’s name.