The kids are in bed and the lights are out. For no particular reason, I've lit a fire and settled into the closest chair to get some writing done.
It doesn't take long for Sean to appear. He's at that age when bedtime is a series of events, more than a fixed point.
"Hi, Daddy." Long pause. "That's an awfully good fire you've got going there."
"Thanks, bud… but you should be in bed."
A solid minute passes while he stares at the flames.
"Would you like to lay on the couch for a bit and watch the fire?"
"Yeah," he says, and climbs up.
He watches, I type.
I look up.
"Maybe when I'm bigger, like…" He thinks. "Maybe when I'm seven or something, I can help you make a fire."
I consider it. "I suppose you could, but that's quite a ways off."
More fire watching. More typing.
Again, I pause and look up. He's easy to spot in the dark, his face lit by the fire.
"I guess I have a question, Daddy."
"Oh yeah? Okay."
"It's about boys."
I raise my eyebrows. "Oh yeah?"
He seems to lose his train of thought, watching the fire.
"What were you going to ask me, bud?"
He reply is broken up with long pauses for fire staring. "Well… I was going to ask… I don't know… how to you talk to girls."
"Really?" I raise an eyebrow. "I think you talk to girls all the time."
Another long break.
"But…" he shifts on the couch. "I don't know how you tell girls they're your best friend."
"Ohhhhh…" I let him see me thinking about it. "Well, I think you just tell them that. You say: 'I think you're awesome, and you're my best friend.'" I can see him starting to grin, just imagining it. "Do you think you can do that?"
"Yeah." He stares at the fire. "Maybe I'll say that to Margaret tomorrow."
"Margaret, huh?" I nod. "I bet she'd like that."
We both watch the fire, both thinking about Margaret, maybe.
"Maybe I won't say that until I'm bigger."
"Yeah. Like…" he thinks about it. "Like when I'm seven or something, and I can make a fire. And have a puppy of my own."
"Sounds good, buddy." I set the laptop aside. "You ready to go back to bed?"
"Will you carry me?"
"Of course." I swing him up, walk to the hallway, and turn back so we can look at the fire.
I don't know what he's thanking me for.
Honestly, I don't much care.