Apr. 18th, 2010


While perhaps five years ago Cary Retlin had not expected to find himself sitting in a Connecticut apartment taking dictation from a four-year-old -- one comprised partially from his own DNA, at that -- he found it a challenge to imagine an alternate existence.  Sure, he was supposed to be in New York, scribbling away -- or perhaps typing furiously -- to meet a Monday-morning column deadline for the internship he'd never gotten, but when he was Salinger's age, he'd wanted to be a fighter pilot.  And then a vet.  And then -- a little later -- an ornithologist. 

Life, he had heard once -- and it was a sentiment he fully agreed with -- was the stuff that happened while you were making plans for it.  And truth be told, even before Madeline, he had not been doing a hell of a lot of that.

"Da-ad!"  The insistent little voice never failed to make Cary smile, a more genuine expression than his old trademark smirk -- a trait he was admittedly pleased to see Salinger had picked up on and a dead giveaway that he was considering something vaguely devious.  The "Daddy" phase had not lasted long; Salinger had taken to calling him "Dad" fairly early; Cary himself seemed to recall having done the same thing with his own father.

"He wants to go to the park," Salinger informed him.  "To see if the... the... ice cream truck is there!" he grinned.  

Cary dutifully transcribed the words onto the sheet of notebook paper in front of him -- wisely positioned a safe distance from Salinger's sloppy cereal bowl -- mindful to leave space for Salinger's painstaking but recognizable illustrations at the bottom of each page.  He had taken to the recording of his son's imaginative -- and often slightly nonsensical -- tales almost immediately after Salinger had begun telling them at the beginning of the year.  And lately he had been telling them with such frequency that Cary and Madeline had quickly taken to working in shifts.  Although their son had not been shy to inform them that "Mom's writing is nicer," he did not seem to particularly favor one transcriptionist over the other.   

"And then... the truck gives him a free ice cream sandwich!" added Salinger, his eyes sparkling.

"The truck gives him a free ice cream sandwich?" asked Cary innocently, smiling again as his son's face screwed up in momentary confusion.

"The... the... ice cream man does," Salinger concluded proudly, and they continued this way until Madeline appeared in the kitchen, at which point their son paused long enough to beam up at his mother, who would -- with any luck -- have all sorts of questions as to what today's story involved.