Last night I had trouble getting to sleep. I’d finished reading Lilith by George MacDonald in the afternoon, and thought I’d go ahead and start the next book on my list, The Phantom of the Opera, and read till I got sleepy. I don’t know when I finally turned off the light. I didn’t really want to know. When you know you’re already getting no nearly as much as you’d like to get, knowing exactly how much you’ve lost can be depressing. As it is, I can pretend I only was up till one or two in the morning, and if it was really three or for, then I am none the wiser. Regardless, I read the first one-hundred forty pages, which is just over half, and enjoyed it immensely. I was continually surprised to check the page number and find I had already jumped twenty pages. Usually it is only five or ten. Of course, the next day, Markus told me I should have just come down and grabbed a beer, which could have put me right to sleep. I wish I had thought of that.
Yesterday evening, before my fit of insomnia, an interesting parenting dilemma presented itself at dinner. Andrea had a visitor in the afternoon, so I had spent my time cleaning in the kitchen and listening to The Killers and some Beatles on my diskman. As a result, I was happily oblivious to the large amounts of screaming and rioting that took place amongst die Kinder. At dinner, Markus asked Andrea how the day had gone, and she launched into her report of the kids and their afternoon antics. One of the highlights on the list was that little Jakob, being the heinie-humplemann that he is, had apparently peed on he floor upstairs. Andrea lets out an exasperated sigh upon recounting the incident, and Markus turns a weary eye to his youngest son, who is busy playing with a cucumber slice on his plate, bobbing his head in every direction, and swaying back and forth to the tune and rhythm of some celestial melody that does not reach our deaf ears.
“Jakob,” says Markus, spearing a forkful of salad as he talks, “is this true? Did you pee on the floor?”
Jakob, still absorbed in his cumber, replies in a lyrical, sing-song fashion: “No.”
A silence descends upon the table.
Markus lays down his fork, and exchanges a glance with Andrea. Damaris makes good use of the distraction to eat the slices of cheese from atop her squares of buttered bread. Markus leans forward and looks his son in the eye. He repeats his question. Again, Jakob replies in the negative.
“Jakob,” says Markus, as the tension builds. “For a third time. Did you pee on the floor?”
Jakob has only now begun to grasp the seriousness of the situation. A shadow crosses his face, betraying his knowledge of the impending doom. “No,” he says yet again.
“Jakob,” says Markus, ominous undertones entering voice. His countenance is stern. “I am asking you one more time, think carefully how you answer. Did you pee on the floor.”
The little boy’s eyes have grown wide, he has his chin tucked down and is looking up at his father with a wide open mouth. Very quietly, he gives his answer. “No.”
Sighing, Markus rises to his feet. Jakob begins thrashing back and forth in his seat, screaming not to be taken away, imploring his mommy to not let it be so. Markus lifts him out of his chair, and carries him out of the room, where he sets the screaming, wailing child in the stairs to think about what he has done. Them Markus returns to his seat at the table, and a hurried conference takes place between him and his wife. Did she see it happen? She did not. How does she know it was Jakob? She told him off for it at the time and he did not deny it then. A couple minutes pass, and Markus goes out to talk to Jakob. We can hear the conversation taking place as Markus once more asks Jakob to tell the truth. Again and again Jakob denies it, and finally on the third time, in anguish and despair, he cries out “It was Jonas! Jonas did it!”
There is a long pause.
Markus walks into the room, sits down in his seat, and looks to his oldest child. Jonas is eating his meal like a good boy, but at the sound of Jakob’s accusation, he looks to his parents. “Jonas,” says Markus. “Jakob says you peed on the floor. Is this true?”
Jonas: “No, it was Jakob.”
Markus: “Jakob says it was you.”
Jonas: “No, I saw Jakob do it.”
Markus: “How did Jakob do it?”
*answer is mumbled in incoherent German. I don’t make it out entirely, but it sounds like Jakob dropped his pants, then sat down of the floor to pee.
Markus turns to Andrea and begins speaking in English for the first time, so that the boys can’t make out what he’s saying. He doesn’t believe Jonas’s story. If Jakob sat down, why weren’t has pants and legs all wet? Andrea points out that Jakob isn’t wearing any underwear, that he must have taken them off when he got them wet. Jakob is reinstated at his place, where he begins eating with a cheerful demeanor. Markus watches him carefully. “Look at him,” he says. “He thinks he’s gotten away with it. He thinks he’s fooled us.” There is a slight pause as we eat our dinner, then Markus picks up where he left off. On the one hand, they both think Jakob probably did it. He didn’t deny it earlier int he afternoon when it was first discovered, and he didn’t blame Jonas until much later. On the other hand, Jonas’s story does not make sense. Markus drills Jonas some more, asking questions about the whats, wheres, whens, and whys of the case. Jonas reveals that earlier in the morning he spilled some water on the floor, but it was in a different room. Markus asks Andrea if this is what she cleaned up, and she says no, it was pee. The confer in English once again. Markus thinks they should punish both, so that the guilty party is sure to be caught, but also knows that in the future, he needs to tell the truth if only to spare his brother. I point out that misery loves company. Markus decides to go ahead with the plan, and tells the boys that since one of them is lying, both of them will be going without a film that night.
Jakob hangs his head. Jonas shrugs.
Markus and Andrea are puzzled. Markus asks Jonas again if he understands that he is being punished. Jonas is unperturbed. Did he pee on the floor after all? No, says Jonas, it was Jakob, but he doesn’t really mind being punished. “Mir ist es egal,” he says, or in other words, “It’s all the same to me.” Doubts are renewed. Why is Jonas so indifferent? Is he maturely accepting punishment because he believes in his own innocence, or is he happy that, although he is being punished, the parental anger is mostly directed toward his younger brother? And what of Jakob? Is his stolid denial of wrongdoing a desperate bid for leniency, or his he honestly telling the truth?
We still can’t say for sure.