Miss Spoken catches The Boy doing a lot of things he shouldn't be doing. She imagines that most of these things are rather normal for a six year old boy. For example, she often catches him shoving Skittles up his nose even after that time she had to remove them from said nasal cavity using a pair of tweezers and a miner's cap.
On more than one occasion, she has caught him sticking his little gel-coated head into a 350 degree oven to see if his beloved pepperoni pizza was done.
He's been caught stealing; been caught hacking into the computer; been caught storing random things like Barbie heads, Hawaiian sweetbread and a parking garage full of Matchbox cars between his sheets and under his pillow.
All of these things are relatively minor, except maybe for the whole flammable head thing.
But yesterday, The Boy told Miss Spoken that his after-school program took all 6 million kids to the skatepark. And then came that delicious tune that makes small children scream and parents cringe ... the song of the ice cream truck. Who, in Miss Spoken's humble opinion, shouldn't be hawking his wares in November, but whatever ... he showed up and The Boy bought a lollipop because Lord knows that the 18 pounds of refined sugar he scored during Halloween wasn't enough.
The problem is Miss Spoken didn't give The Boy any money. So where did he get it from?
Did he find it on the playground? Answer: No
Did a teacher give it to him? Answer: No
Did (deep intake of breath) a stranger give it to him? Answer: Yes
[Insert montage of serial killers, kidnappers, duct tape and windowless vans playing on a loop in Miss Spoken's panic-soaked mind]
When further pressed on the subject (where further pressed means waving arms, yelling and repeating over and over again, "You know you are not supposed to talk to strangers!!") The Boy admitted that A Lady Stranger gave him fifteen cents but it was okay because, "she didn't kill me."
Miss Spoken closes her eyes. She shakes another pill into her sweaty palm, places her mouth comfortably around the Franzia spout and opens the valve. She then proceeds, yet again, to tell The Boy and Boss Lady all about stranger awareness and how to be safe. She is serious. And scared. Because she can totally see her kids being lured by stories of lost puppies and the promise of cotton candy unicorns.
Miss Spoken fondly remembers her own childhood which was appropriately riddled with fear. Like the time her mother ran into the liquor store for a pack of Benson & Hedges Menthol and left Miss Spoken and Miss Led in the Pinto alone. A man began to approach the car but when her mom came out of the store he stopped, smiled, gave Miss Spoken a wave, turned on his heels and walked away.
Miss Spoken grew up looking at the face of Adam Walsh who stared back at her from every street light in San Francisco. She played in Golden Gate Park where they discovered nude bodies stuffed inside cement-sealed barrels. Later she would read about the horrors committed by Leonard Lake and Charles Ng and learned that some of the victims were from her neighborhood. And when the Night Stalker crept around her city, she took little comfort in knowing that her older brother slept with a baseball bat and a steak knife. Big deal. This guy was called the fucking Night Stalker, not The Guy Who Is Intimidated By A Boy And His Bat.
Miss Spoken wants her kids to understand danger and be instinctive. She doesn't understand why they insist on talking to everybody; why they are so damned friendly. They did not inherit this from her because she doesn't even talk to people that she knows and likes.
She has thought about hosting a Nancy Grace marathon. Invite the neighborhood kids. Maybe hand out popcorn, rape whistles and a map of local sex offenders. But Miss Spoken doesn't want to suffocate her children with fear. At least not until they are in their teens and she is able to use crime scene photos. However, she also does not want them to walk up to cars, point to their house and say, "Second bedroom on the left. Yeah, the one with the broken screen on the window."