Recently, I returned from a parent-teacher event across town to find one of my offspring (who we’ll call Unidentified Cobb – or UC) spread-eagled and scowling on our back porch. UC had left my presence over an hour before, promising to walk home and start on homework.
“What’s going on?” I asked.
UC pointed towards the door. “The key broke.”
I walked over his body to the door. Sure enough, the jagged remnants of a key protruded from the lock. In my time, I’ve broken a legion of items made of inferior metal and plastic. Once, in fact, I accidentally pulled the door off a friend’s oven as we chatted in his kitchen. I have never, however, broken off a key.
“How?” I asked.
UC shrugged. I stared back at the door and noticed that the spatula I normally use on our grill lay beneath it.
“What’s with the spatula?”
After a notable pause, UC replied, “I don’t know.”
“Seriously,” I asked UC as he wearily got to his feet, “How did you manage to do this?”
UC clenched his slender fists, then again yelled out, “I said I don’t know!”
Bride #1 was out of town, so it fell to me to keep composure and try to figure out a way to make this a teachable moment. I couldn’t come up with one, so I fished out my keys and went to another door that, fortunately, didn’t have a broken key wedged in the lock. Many questions occurred to me, but I knew it would get me nowhere. UC followed me in the house and went to his room.
The next day one of UC’s friends (who we’ll call David) was over. My curiosity about the prior evening remained front and center. UC, no longer trapped on the porch, was in a much better mood. I decided to do a little fishing with UC’s friend present to calm the waters.
“So, did you tell David about your super-strength?”
UC and David turned to look at me. “What?” UC asked.
“You know, breaking the key off in the lock,” I replied.
“How’d you do that?” David asked, interested.
UC’s rage simmered to the surface, then subsided. “I had to poop, ok?!”
I’m not sure what answer I expected, but this wasn’t it. With further prodding from David and me, UC revealed that about half-way home he realized that he had to poop. I tried to connect the dots – but couldn’t.
“So, why didn’t you just go into one of the restaurants or hotels you passed on the way home?” I asked.
“I didn’t want to, ok? I wanted to do it at home.”
We’ve all been there. A good friend of mine is famously able to shut down his system while on vacation so that he can return to home field for this activity. A week’s worth of shutdown is nothing to him. It can’t be healthy.
“And you had to go so badly that you broke off the key trying to get in the house?”
UC looked away to avoid my question. David broke out in a fit of giggles. The giggles were contagious, and soon even UC was laughing.
Eventually, the giggles subsided. Another question occurred to me.
“But you still had to poop after you broke the key. Where did you poop?”
UC bit back a smile. “In the woods.”
David laughed and grabbed his stomach.
“Where exactly in the woods?” I asked this question from a self preservation perspective. I do a lot of work in the wooded part of our yard.
“It doesn’t matter. I buried it.”
David howled. UC tried and failed to fight the impulse to join him. I pictured a desperate UC running from the locked door into the woods and joined them in laughter. At some point my wanna-be-detective-mind came back to the image of my spatula sitting by the door.
“How did you bury it?”
UC, still laughing, looked away. “I buried it in the dirt. What do you mean?”
“I mean, did you happen to use my spatula?”
All laughing stopped. David turned and studied UC, who began a mumbling defense.
“No, I mean, I didn’t. The spatula was for the lock.”
David and I shared a look.
“You’re telling me that you tried to pick a deadbolt lock with … a spatula?” David and I fixed our gazes on the now nervous UC.
David and I pressed UC for several more minutes but we never learned anything more about the spatula. Eventually, UC escaped to his room, dragging David with him.
I did manage to take the lock apart and pull out the remains of the key. I also thoroughly washed and decontaminated the spatula, though I will probably never use it again.