CM: I know you’re just trying to help, but you need to be careful. Addison, do you hear me? Please be careful when you step on and off the stool. Okay?

AM: Okay.

CM: Thank you.

AM: Is that how Grandpa fell?

CM: Here, hand me that bowl. Now give me the towel. See how I wipe the entire thing down—the bottom, the edges? We can’t put wet dishes in Grandma’s cupboards. Remember? Here, you try. That’s better.

AM: Mommy?

CM: Yes, Addison?

AM: Did you want Grandpa to die?

CM: What? No. Nobody wanted Grandpa to die. You hear me? Nobody.

AM: Then why did Grandpa die?

CM: We all die eventually, sweet pea. Some people get sick. Some people die from accidents. Some die just from old age.

AM: Why?

CM: Because we can’t live forever.

AM: Why can’t we live forever?

CM: Because we just can’t. It’s not how it works; it’s not how we work. That hasn’t stopped people from trying, though.

AM: What do you mean?

CM: People have been trying to figure out how to live forever for years. They build things, they tinker with new medicines—

AM: Tinker?

CM: It means to play with. To explore.

AM: Explore?

CM: Yeah, sweetie, explore.

AM: What do they explore?

CM: Lots of things. Diets, exercise, pills, treatments.

AM: But they haven’t figured out how to live forever yet?

CM: Addison, come on, what did I just say a minute ago?

AM: Be careful stepping on the stool.

CM: Yes. Thank you. But not yet, no, people haven’t figured it out. Maybe when you’re all grown up they’ll have it so you can just eat a piece of chocolate and live forever.

AM: I’d like that.

CM: You would, would you?

AM: Yeah. I don’t like death.

CM: What don’t you like about it, sweetie?

AM: It’s scary.

CM: It is. I know it is. Do you wish that Grandpa could’ve lived forever?

AM: Yeah.

CM: I understand.

AM: I wish he wouldn’t have died because then Grandma wouldn’t have made me cry.

CM: How did Grandma make you cry?

AM: She cried in the church, and she wouldn’t stop crying, and I cried at her crying.

CM: It’s never easy to see those we love in tears.

AM: I love Grandma.

CM: I do too, sweet pea.

AM: Did you love Grandpa?

CM: Here, just set that heavy dish on the table. We’ll take care of that one later.

AM: Mommy?

CM: Yes, honey?

AM: Did you love Grandpa?

CM: There were times that—well, did you love him?

AM: I didn’t like it when he was mean to Grandma.

CM: He wasn’t very nice to your daddy either.

AM: His voice was scary when he yelled.

CM: Yes, it was. We all yell, though. Daddy yells. I yell. Even you yell.

AM: I yell?

CM: Of course you yell, silly.

AM: Wyatt yells.

CM: Wyatt yells pretty loud, doesn’t he?

AM: Mmhm.

CM: And you love Wyatt, right?

AM: Yes. I love Wyatt very much.

CM: I know you do. And that’s what I think I’m trying to get at somehow. People do things that make us sad, that make us mad, they say things they don’t mean, but we—well, we just keep on loving them, don’t we?

AM: Does Daddy make you mad?

CM: Your daddy makes me mad all the time.

AM: All the time?

CM: All the time.

AM: But you still love him, no matter what?

CM: No matter what. I mean, how many times a day do you see me kiss your daddy?

AM: Once in the morning, once before bed, and as many times as you can between.

CM: And can you remember why do we do that, Addison?

AM: I don’t remember.

CM: Oh come on, yes you do. In the hospital, before Grandpa went to sleep, what did Grandma say to you? When she sat you on her lap, what did she say?

AM: Kisses con—kisses con—.

CM: Kisses conquer all. That’s right. They help us forget the yelling. They help us forget the crying. Grandma says it all the time: kisses conquer all. And now she said that to you, didn’t she?

AM: Yeah.

CM: Listen, sweet pea: we kiss those we love as often as we can because we just don’t know how much longer we have with them. Do you understand?

AM: I understand.

CM: Good. Good, good.



CM: Mrs. Price—

KP: Ms. Price.

CM: Ms. Price, I don’t think we’re quite understanding you. Is she kissing her desk? Her book? Her locker? A plunger? What?

KP: No, Mrs. Myers. I’m afraid Addison has been kissing each and every boy and girl in her class. She gives out kisses while the students are hanging their coats. She gives out kisses during recess, as well as at the end of the day, before the students walk to their buses. She has even tried giving kisses out to Mr. Borming, while he has attempted to diffuse the situation time and time again.

CM: Jesus.

KP: As you can imagine, there have been some complaints. Parents have called Principal Eaves and have begun to question the ways in which the school is run.

HM: Which parents?

KP: That isn’t relevant, Mr. Myers.

HM: I think wanting to know who has a problem with my daughter is relevant.

KP: Let me rephrase, then: I can’t give out that information. Even if I could, I wouldn’t. Because the other parents and their phone calls are not the issue here.

HM: But my daughter is an issue?

KP: I’m not saying Addison is an issue, sir. But her behavior most definitely is.

CM: Has she said anything? I mean, does she say anything about why she’s kissing?

KP: She has. But sense has yet to be entirely made from her responses. Which is why you’re here—details need to be gleaned; gaps need to be filled. Mr. Borming, who has witnessed this issue first hand, and who has asked Addison on multiple occasions about her behavior, believes that Addison is a frightened child.

HM: Frightened? Of what?

KP: That she’s going to lose her classmates, Mr. Myers. When Mr. Borming has asked her why she feels the need to kiss her classmates, she has replied on multiple occasions with something along the lines of not knowing if she’ll see any of them tomorrow. Has she said anything of the sort to either of you at home?

HM: No—

CM: Yes—

HM: When? When has she said something like that?

CM: I don’t know. But she has, Hud. To me. To Wyatt.

HM: Well, I’ve never heard it.

KP: And you didn’t see that as a problem, Mrs. Myers?

HM: She’s ten years old. Kids her age say things they don’t mean all the time.

CM: How long has this been going on, Ms. Price?

KP: It’s been happening for about seven weeks now.

CM: Seven weeks?

KP: Maybe even longer. The first reported incident occurred sometime during the second week of December. While you wouldn’t be wrong in wanting either myself or my colleagues to contact you immediately, Mr. Myers is right in saying that overreaction isn’t the best approach. That said, we’d decided to let it play out, acting under the assumption that what had occurred, and what continued to occur, was a phase, perhaps even a product of the Y2K scare. We thought maybe she was just acting out of fear, that, coupled with what she explained her reasoning to be, she’d simply seen too much on the news. But, as you know, Y2K came and went. The kissing continued. Here we are.

CM: Okay. Okay. Okay, so what comes next? What do we do? She gets to stay in school, doesn’t she?

KP: In no way do we intend to remove Addison from school. Please don’t worry about that. All we’d like you to do today is answer a few questions. From there, we all can decide how best to go about this.

HM: Now just wait a minute. I understand what you’re saying. Really, I do. I understand how this can be viewed as an issue. But, do you honestly think our daughter—that girl out in the hall, slumped against a locker, thinking she’s started the apocalypse—is doing something so wrong here? Maybe I’m missing something, but is kissing really that bad? Would you rather have her sit at her desk and do nothing? Say nothing? Feel nothing?

KP: Try and think of this from my point of view, Mr. Myers, from another parent’s point of view. Imagine your daughter being ill—carrying something contagious—and continuing this behavior. I can only assume you’ve heard of mononucleosis. Meningitis? Imagine several children contracting that illness. Are we to shut the school down then, because of a kiss? Spread of illness is only the first tier of this issue. I mean, if something of that magnitude were to happen, it isn’t like Addison would be the one and only culprit. It’s a school. Illness walks in and out of here every day. The second tier of this issue, however, the one I’d be most concerned about, is what would happen if we were to let this just run its course without interruption. A year goes by: she’s still kissing boys and girls. Fine. But three years from now, four years from now, once she’s menstruating, what then? Beyond the cruelty of the words she’d hear, what if the kissing advanced to other activities, with several partners? You’re talking about sexually transmitted diseases, you’re talking about pregnancy…I have plenty of statistics to offer, if that’ll help support what I’m saying to you.

HM: No thanks, Ms. Price, you’ve said enough. And you’ve wasted enough of my time. I’ll see you at home, Caroline.

CM: Hud, where are you going?

HM: Plenty of streets that need plowing before dark, don’t you think?

— :

CM: I’m sorry about that, Ms. Price.

KP: It’s quite all right, Caroline. Can I call you that?

CM: Of course.

KP: If you’d prefer, we can hold off on the questions until the next time your husband is present. Or, we can proceed as outlined. I promise, the questions won’t take much of your time.

CM: Sure. Sure, we can go ahead. I’ll just catch him up later. I’m really sorry he acted like that though. Truly.

KP: It’s okay, Caroline. It’s normal for strong feelings to arise from protector types; they feel threatened by the issue with their child; they feel like they’ve failed. But, let’s get started. My first question is: Has there been a death in the family recently?

CM: Not recently. No, the most recent one was five years—yeah, about five years ago now—Hudson’s father died.

KP: I’m sorry to hear that. How’d he go?

CM: He’d had a long battle with prostate cancer.

KP: Was Addison close with him?

CM: I wouldn’t say she was close, no. She saw him, sure, she knew most of what was going on. But close? No, I wouldn’t say that.

KP: What about Wyatt?

CM: He was closer to him than Addison was, definitely.

KP: And what kind of a relationship do Wyatt and Addison share?

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