I realized I hadn’t turned off the hose in the backyard.
As I rounded the side of the house I saw a misty spray of water over the fence, shooting straight up towards the birdhouse in our tree. A toddler laughed gleefully. Her back was turned towards me.
“STOP.” I said firmly.
She releases her grip from the trigger and turns around slowly to face me. The smile quickly fades from her face. It is replaced with a stoic, indifferent expression. An expression contemplating something. Calculating her next move, perhaps. Suddenly her face contorts into a mischievous grin as she looks down at the hose in her hands.
She repositions her hands firmly around the trigger. She sprays in shower mode on full force, and I saw the nozzle kickback a bit before she clumsily readjusted her aim on me. I receive a face full of water.
“Augggghghhheedafff!” I scream.
She let go off the trigger again, surprised by my scream. Her eyes go wide as she stares again with that indifferent expression on her face. She did not stop spraying because of my anger, but to observe the result of her actions. As if I were some experiment. I was angry, all right. But she had seen that angry face I made many times. All the times she was put in the time-out corner.
Along with my angry face, I was also drenched in water. Water dripping off the tip of my nose and rolling down the sides of my face. And that was what made her laugh maniacally. That maniacal, nearly insane sounding laugh sounded like an uncontrollable high-pitched giggle that transformed into a deep, roaring guffaw.
“Eeee-he-he-he-he-AH-HA-HA-HA-HA-HAWW-HAWWWWWWWW!!!” the toddler laughed as she repositions her fingers on the nozzle and trigger again. I was maybe 25 feet away from her and knew it would be too late to take the hose from her hands in time. I prepared myself by holding my breath to prevent more water going up my nose and started walking forward. She sprayed me again, this time as if remembering the recoil of the nozzle from before, because it only took a couple seconds to readjust her aim directly on my face. Impressed with her newfound control of the weapon, she playfully waved it down on my shirt, and back up to my face, then back down to my shirt again, making sure I was completely drenched from head to toe this time, laughing her gleefully deranged laugh the entire time.
“DON’T. YOU. DARE!” I say helplessly and with abandon, as I trudged against the force of the water towards this child who knew the difference between right and wrong, but clearly chose not to care at the moment.
And I wondered, at what point did she choose not to care? She had been put in the time-out corner for far less, and more often these days. She knew she would be punished indefinitely before she even pulled the trigger, just because she had grabbed ahold of it to water the tree. It was maybe at this time that she first had the revelation, as do many children before her in situations like these – I have nothing to lose.
Taking the hose out of her hands, we stood there facing each other in silence. She was smiling. And for some reason I laughed. She laughed in return.
I whipped the nozzle towards her and sprayed.