S is for squelching.
A squishing actually, of a perfectly innocent bystander.
"Mom, you have to see this really cool bug!" Ryan called.
I was getting them off to school, and he was outside already.
I was inside, trying to galvanize into action his dreamier younger brother who says "I can't" to anything he can do that he doesn't want to, like tying his own sneakers.
We were in the midst of one of those "you can" arguments while he was bopping a withering balloon from his birthday party around the house.
"In a minute," I called to Ryan, the older-let's-face-it-more-responsible brother.
He was out in the driveway, crouched over the spectacular bug. "He's really, really cool. You have to see him."
It was getting late, so I resorted to tying Kenny's shoes myself, but not without a lecture about now that he was seven, he needed to start taking responsibility for himself.
"Sure," he said, and ran outside, forgetting his backpack.
"Mom, you have to see this!" Ryan screeched with great exuberance. The kind I wished he showed toward his homework.
Now they were both crouching in the driveway.
But I'd already turned cranky. I grabbed Kenny's forgotten backpack and was on the verge of another lecture when I went outside to see the bug myself.
He was spectacular. A caterpillar. A beautiful shade of lavender, with handsome black Vs down his back.
And quite enormous.
I went over to a bush for a leaf to scoop him up. "We need to get him out of the driveway so he won't get run over," I said.
And as I was retracing my steps back to the bug with the leaf...I stepped on him.
He was so big, I felt it. The squish. The squelch.
He looked like road kill.
Ryan covered is face and screamed. "Nooooooo! "
He started crying, the bawling of the truly devastated, a quiet crying hiccuping.
I was stunned myself. "I didn't mean to..." I stuttered. My meager words fell meaninglessly. Dropped unheard like the faded white petals drifting down around us from the cherry blossom trees.
My son had covered his face. Ryan can be prone to dramatics, but this was no drama.
I went over to pull him to me. "I'm so sorry."
His face buried in his hands he buried into my stomach. And from deep within the buried levels, I heard his muffled scream: "You KILLED him!"
Kenny got into the car. "Yeah. That was kind a gross. I mean, he was ginormous."
Kenny clearly was consolable. Ryan wasn't. But as much as I could have stood there all day trying to console him, we couldn't be late for school again. They already had too many pink late slips for all the times I've left the lights on in the car for the battery to go dead.
"Ryan, Hon, please get in the car."
"I don't care. I'lll tell them it was your fault. We're late because you killed something!"
I began steering him by an elbow, as he wouldn't take his hands down from his face.
I had to put his seatbelt on for him.
Then it was Kenny, the younger brother, who said quietly, "It was a bug, Ryan."
It was then when Ryan finally took his hands away from his red swollen eyes. "Shut up!"
And it was time to squelch what now actually was turning into a drama. I looked at Ryan in the rearview mirror: "First we don't say shut up. Second, if you're going to get upset over a caterpillar, you should pay more attention to your gerbils who are much higher up on the food chain. And when was the last time you remembered to feed your frog?"
He stopped crying. He stared out the car window. And in a quiet, but perfectly even little whisper said: "You didn't have to step on him."
Did I wish I hadn't stepped on him? Yes. Would I pursue this topic? No.
And good thing too, because as quickly as he had been devastated, he was able to rebound, as some school friend called to him when he saw Ryan getting out of our car.
While Ryan at eight is now more apt to affect some kind of saunter, his hands deep in his pockets, he is also, thankfully, still able to forget himself and break into a skip.
He skipped down the hill to meet his friend, and I went home to hose away the squelched.
Because after school I knew what was coming: "So, mom what did you do with the bug you killed?"