The Fifth in the Seven Days of Timmy’s Snow White
Wednesday came with lots of rain and with thunderstorms that blew in and stormed around and then would leave suddenly, letting the sun through briefly before storming back in, blowing, banging and shooting lightning, with rain tumbling and slicing across and around as if in a mad carnival.
Timmy rose late. Came downstairs with an old brown sweatshirt of his brother’s, outgrown, stretched out of shape, lagging around him. He’d pulled his own green ski cap on and right down over his ears. His eyes were heavy and he yawned and sighed. Gaps are catching, his Dad always said. He called yawns that. The Gaps. Said when he was a kid in class with Mr. Bitterold, who wore light green shirts with dark green ties and tweed suits year round, the kids would pick a day and at the signal of a dropped pencil would start The Gaps going. A kid would yawn and then another and then another. They used to count how many it would take before Mr. Bitterold yawned. They didn’t stop then, either. Off and on, all through the day, at certain times, they’d do it again.
This morning Timmy had his whole family gaping. Yawning. After a bit, he could stop and watch them set each other off. He kept his eyes half-lidded so they didn’t notice he was watching and trying not to giggle. It was the same on the way to school, the same in the car and in the shops and the post office and at the bank. Timmy yawned, widely, hugely, even helplessly. It sometimes happens that if you yawn, another yawn will follow. And if another follows that, then you’ve given yourself The Gaps. Until you put your head out a window or wash your face with cold water or give yourself a slap, you may keeping on yawning.
And so, this was a day that went very slowly for Timmy’s Mom. Yawning became as annoying as it was hard to escape. Every time she thought she was well over it and on her way to do something, like polish Timmy’s Dad’s shoes or wash the kitchen windows, Timmy would wander in, his green ski cap pulled way down, his eyelids almost closing his eyes, the long brown sweatshirt swaddling him, and he’d peer up at her from under heavy lids, and - yawn. And yawn. And then they’d both yawn.
Timmy’s Mom was not going to comment. She wasn’t going to ask him to stop. She wasn’t going to feel his forehead or take his temperature. She wasn’t going to ask him if he was okay. She bit her lips, set her stoic New England spirit firmly in place, and bulled her way through the hours. Finishing the kitchen windows, inside and out.
Going outside in those brief spells between spurts of rain and thunder was, to use a Timmy word, stoopid. But it served to get her outside. And to wake her up. Coming back in, shaking off raindrops she’d not escaped, she could see Timmy waiting and without prompting would yawn. So she made herself busy, checking cupboards and refrigerator and recipes, planning dinner based on what she had on hand.
When she had to take Timmy to pick up his brother, his brother also caught the gaps, not three blocks from the school. After which the car was filled with open mouths and tearing eyes. Yawns. She couldn’t wait to be out of it. Once inside the house, she sent Timmy up to his room to “take a nap.” She didn’t mention yawns nor did she allow any arguments. -- And when Timmy’s Mom took your arm and led you to the stairs, you didn’t fuss or argue. You went.
Timmy’s brother raced upstairs to change and was back down again as soon as he could manage it. Then he’d hung out in the dining room, doing school work and watching the stormy weather. While his Mom skittered around in the kitchen making pots and lids clink and clank. It was nice, being inside when it was storming outside. Even better when he began to smell food cooking. He hoped Timmy’d fall asleep and stay upstairs until dinner was ready. He didn’t feel so sleepy and hadn’t needed to yawn for quite a while. He went out to the kitchen to get some milk. His mother caught his eye and they grinned at each other. She mimed a yawn and he mimed throwing something at her and they laughed. When Timmy’s Dad got home he looked a question at Timmy’s mother after he’d kissed her hello and hugged Timmy’s brother, and she’d sent a look towards the upstairs and he’d hugged her again.
Dinner was quiet. Some yawning, despite grim intentions not to. No one caught the gaps, anyway. Even Timmy didn’t yawn after the main part of dinner was over and his Mom brought in a peaches-and-roasted walnuts upsidedown cake. With real whipped cream. After dinner, Timmy had helped carry some dishes - the small ones - and the silverware to the kitchen for his brother. Then he’d played cards with himself until bedtime, when he told his dad he’d only like “Goodnight Moon” and his Dad had said only if he could keep himself from yawning, and Timmy had shrugged.
When his Dad got back downstairs, he told Timmy’s Mom he thought maybe Timmy’s Thing was over. She’d looked at him and raised her eyebrows. She said she hoped so, but she wasn’t planning on it. She was oh, so right.