On Monday, I could hear them whispering to each other, and occasionally kicking their respective doors in what I can only assume was a rudimentary morse code. Whenever I'd walk down the hall they'd fall silent and wait for the sound of my footsteps retreating before they'd start talking again.
I had no choice but to change up the guard schedule to throw them off, and try slithering down the hall on my belly so as to avoid making footstep sounds. (It didn't work. We have creaky floors.)
I then had no choice but to imagine the exchange.
Buster: Pssst... Chicken? Chicken? Are you there?
Buster: Oh thank God! I couldn't see anything... all I heard was the sound of the door opening, and then, those terrible footsteps, echoing back down the hall.
Chicken: I'm here. I'm here. Are you okay?
Buster: I'm okay. Are you okay?
Chicken: I don't know. She... she said no water for me today.
Buster: Oh God... OH GOD NO
Chicken: I mean, I had water with lunch. Sparkling water, actually. I got to squeeze the lime wedge too.
Chicken: But she said NO water in here.
Buster: Did you do something to provoke her?
Chicken: I dunno... something about "Last time you dumped it all over the bedside table and floor, and danced in the puddle, and it got the iPhone charger really wet and it didn't work for a week."
Buster: (taking notes) Operation Riverdance successfully hobbled communications capability for one week, but resulted in severe fluid deprivation for the operative responsible--
Chicken: Shhh! I think she's coming...
They hear footsteps coming down the hall... the footsteps stop. They wait.
Chicken kicks the door three times.
Buster kicks his door back twice, but with both feet.
After a silent moment, the footsteps retreat, back toward the kitchen.
Chicken: We don't have much time.
No sound comes from Buster.
Chicken: Buster? BUSTER!
Buster: Mm? Herm? Wha? I--
Chicken: Did you fall asleep?
Buster: What? No! Well... yes.
Buster: She turned on the ocean sounds.
Chicken: Buster, what have I told you?
Buster: Yeah, but she stroked my hair across my forehead and--
Chicken: And let me guess... the room is dark, and the bed has smooth flannel sheets, and it's just cool enough in there that when she tucks the fluffy duvet up under your chin you sigh involuntarily with the sheer pleasure of the weight and warmth of the covers, even as the cool air kisses your cheeks?
Buster: Mm hmmm.... (creaky yawning sounds)
Chicken: SNAP OUT OF IT BUSTER. You're playing right into her hands!
Buster: You're right. You're right. I know you're right.
Chicken: We are not dealing with your run-of-the-mill baddie here.
Buster: What's run of the mill?
Chicken: No, we're dealing with something far more sinister.
Buster: Is run of the mill a snack?
Chicken: NO it means normal. Which she ISN'T. What, do you think she threw me in here, into a puddle of old rat piss on a cold cement floor? No, man. She's too smart for that shit. She tucked me into a sumptuous bed, too. She flipped my pillow to the cool side, pulled the soft covers up around my shoulders, and handed me my favorite book. She told me to, "Have a nice rest, SWEETHEART."
Buster: She is a monster.
Chicken: You gotta stay focused buddy. That cell is engineered to put you DOWN. And we CANNOT GO DOWN.
Buster: YEAH! WE CANNOT GO DOWN! Why can't we go down?
Buster: It just feels so right... I'm getting grumpy... and the pillow is squishy... and my head feels so funny... and the ocean sounds...
Chicken: Buster, when you go to sleep, do you know what happens?
Buster: Laundry. It's laundry, right? I'm out of jam jams again right now but somehow there are always jam-jams at bedtime.
Chicken: No, buddy. I'm gonna let you in on a secret that NOBODY knows but us and the kid who DIED getting me this intel.
Buster: What's died?
Chicken: Ask Mommy. Here's what happens...the second we fall asleep, she knocks quietly on the door and whispers "Anyone who is awake can have a warm brownie ice cream sundae with three kinds of sprinkles and whipped cream!"
Chicken: AND the second after that first second, she says, "Also, if anyone is still awake, all of the awake people can eat gummy bears and make a spider web in the play room out of every roll of toilet paper in the house and then watch every Paw Patrol ever made for ever and the only thing I will say when one episode ends and you're waiting for the next one to start is "DO YOU WANT MORE POPCORN OR WOULD YOU RATHER SWITCH TO PIRATE'S BOOTY."
Chicken: She tells us we "need" to "rest," to keep our "bodies" "healthy" and "have" a "good" "afternoon." But make no mistake, she has an endgame. And that endgame is...
Buster: (whispering, horrified) To eat all the Pirate's Booty?
Chicken: To eat. All. The Pirate's Booty.
Buster: (muffled sobs)
Chicken: She's a MONSTER.
Buster: Is she eating it now?
Chicken: I don't know. Maybe. Probably.
Buster: I'm gonna destroy her.
Chicken: That's the spirit.
Buster: I'm gonna BREAK HER PHONE.
Chicken: Atta boy, Buster.
Buster: Chicken... I'm getting that feeling.
Chicken: Yeah, man.
Buster: The feeling where I've got a thing I need to do.
Buster: I've got an idea. And I HAVE to do my idea.
Chicken: I remember that feeling. I used to have it a lot before I learned about consequences.
Chicken: You'll learn, brother. What's your thing?
Buster: I HAVE TO push my bed over to the tall dresser where the lamp and the ocean sounds machine and the clock and the bowl of binkies are and I MUST climb up onto the tall dresser and then I AM COMPELLED BY INVISIBLE FORCES to UNPLUG ALL OF THE DEVICES and THROW EVERYTHING ON THE GROUND.
Chicken: I salute you. But prepare yourself, comrade. When she hears the crash from the stuff you've thrown off the dresser, she's gonna come barreling down the hall like a mother who thinks her child might be in danger. When she opens the door and sees what you've done, you're going to see all 6 of her feelings play across her face, one after the other: fear, anger, confusion, hysterical giggles, love, and tiredness. It's like spinning a roulette wheel - you don't know which one she's gonna land on. Could be hysterical giggles--
Buster: I know.
Chicken: COULD BE ANGER THOUGH, man. You're taking a big risk here.
Buster: I KNOW. But Chicken, what shall we do with our one wild and precious lives? Give us Pirate's Booty or give us death!
Chicken: OK. While you're doing that, I'm just gonna snap the hooks off some velvet clothes hangers and then sit in her bed and crumble up this Ritz cracker I just found.
They hear footsteps coming down the hall. The footsteps turn into the bathroom. They hear the fan turn on.
Chicken: You have only 2 minutes to get the bed in position. Once the bed is under the dresser, kick the door seventeen to twenty times so I know you're in position, and then I will snap four clothes hangers so you know I'M in position.
Buster: Roger that. I'm moving.
screeeeeeeeeeeeeeee (sound of bed being pushed across hardwood floor)
running footsteps back to the door
Mom: BUSTER! Please stop kicking the door!
Mom: Buster, please, buddy? I'm just trying to take a quick poop here.
Mom. Thank you, B.
Chicken: (whispers) Godspeed, brother.