Toxic Waste

Milly is a careful, cautious and conservative child, always on the watch for anything out of the ordinary. She's always questioning, searching, wondering, skeptical, investigative. Have I given you enough adjectives to get the drift? Good. I had no more to give. Honestly.

Milly has been like this almost from Day One. Of course, when she was first born, all we knew about her was that she had an awesome scowl, could poop out really weird black stuff (yeah, I know, it's meconium, but I DIDN'T know that back THEN), she had these amazing, baggy knees, and she looked just like Yoda. Soon enough, however, we realized who we were dealing with. This bald child with a black soft silk tuft on top of her head was inquisitive, always wanting to know more. By the age of 2 months, she was already listening intently while Mr. Handsome read to her from his macro-economics text (he was in the first year of his lifelong PhD program). If she could speak at that age, I just know she would have been asking him questions like, "Why do you keep mispronouncing words, Daddy?" or "Daddy, what are difference equations and linear dynamic models really about?"

Milly is forever aware of her surroundings, of what her brother Dennis is up to at any given nanosecond, and of where I hide my numerous bags of candy, chocolate, and potato chips (I need constant sustenance for a dire health issue).

So, it was no surprise to me the other day when she came into the living room where I was sitting, and said, in all seriousness, "Mommy, I think there's carbon monoxide coming from the pipes in the bathroom."

Now, I'm not one to get all dramatic and berserk over a possible gas leak in the house. I do think about the possibility of a gas leak the odd time, usually when I am sitting on the couch, staring off into space, and drooling into the palm of my upturned hand. I do understand safety issues in the home, and I am aware of them. But I don't spend my days ruminating about the possibilities of the furnace leaking gas into the house, or of water coming in under the doors from a flooding toilet. No, I'm usually too busy worrying about things like, 'Will anyone notice that Dennis didn't wear underwear again today?' or 'How do I get rid of those nasty nostril hairs once and for all?' or 'How many more weeks can the sheet on our bed last before I really need to start thinking about washing it?'

However, when Milly mentions something, is concerned or perturbed, you'd better listen because more often than not, she's on to something. She's a very smart girl, very detail-oriented, and did I mention she's smart? As well, she's MUCH more aware than anyone else in this godforsaken household. She notices things like the lack of any food in the refrigerator, the rotting odour coming from the potato cupboard (oh! it's the potatoes! they're rotting!), and when Dennis has put the spatula somewhere other than where its home is (like, in the corner, under the microwave, or in the dog bowl).

So, Milly mentions the noxious smell, a worried look on her cute teenaged, angst-ridden face.

"I don't know what it is, Mommy, but I've looked everywhere. I think it may be coming from the pipes in the bathroom. Should we call the fire department? The gas department? Isn't it dangerous? I think it might be toxic!"

First, I look to see if she is actually serious, since Milly is known to have a very mature and great sense of humour. Then, when I realize she is serious, I take a deep breath, trying hard not to die from embarrassment and laughter. I know what she's talking about, and it's not dangerous. Well, it won't kill you, at any rate. It might cause you to lose consciousness for several minutes, and your appetite for longer, but it won't kill you.

I decide to tell her.

"Oh, it's toxic all right," I say. "Toxic waste."

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