Repeat: Ava broke the iPad.
I heard the crash and knew exactly what it was, yet I hoped to confuse the sound of disaster with a similar smashing of a remote control falling off the bed. Old, hardwood floors magnify sound like a guitar amp. Even a well-worn stuffed animal makes a sickening thud when ears or paws hit the ground.
WHAT WAS THAT?! I screamed from the kitchen, which echoes due to the absence of countertops and curtain panels.
“Nothing!” sang our 10-year old. I could hear the hurried effort to clean up whatever had fallen — and broken.
WHAT KIND OF NOTHING? I shouted back, frozen at the refrigerator, its new chrome finish smudged with the fingerprints of another guilty daughter.
WHAT KIND OF NOTHING?! I screamed again. This was not a day to practice my child-whisperer skills.
“Um…” she stalled. “Daddy’s shaving cream can fell off the sink and knocked over the soap dish and the toothbrushes and then the trash can.”
The sound came from my bedroom. I know the footprint of this house better than a tour guide at the Greenbrier bunker. My ears know which sounds come from which room. Bathroom slips and falls can be heard from the second bathroom directly beneath it. The girls’ toys fall from shelves that can be heard from the living room. Books, makeup bottles and jars tumble over in my bedroom, which can be heard down below in the kitchen and dining room.
ARE YOU SURE? I called back. THAT BETTER NOT BE THE iPAD!
“No….it’s the shaving cream and …. stuff.”
Wiping away I went. Damned stainless steel.
Later that night, Ava met me on the stairs as I climbed each riser in agony thanks to plantar fasciitis. Damned flip-flops.
“Mama…” she began, ringing two hands scarred with black Sharpie swipes. “There’s something wrong with the iPad.”
Is the battery dead? I inquired.
Her voice quivered. “I don’t know. Maybe. It won’t turn on.”
Maryn was in the bathroom, filing her teeth down to pebbles with a hard-bristled toothbrush. She closed the door.
I picked the iPad off my bedside table and pressed the button. A navy blue screen appeared. No black and white logo. No image of Bald Head Island. No Facebook icon.
I turned it off again. Ten seconds later, I pressed the button again. Blue.
I turned the iPad over. There were smudge marks identical to the ones I buffed out of the new refrigerator door. And a dent. And a ding.
WHO DROPPED IT? YOU DID, DIDN’T YOU? THAT’S WHAT I HEARD THIS AFTERNOON!
Her light blue eyes darkened to resemble the Blue Screen of Death. Tears welled up.
“No, Mama. It was the shaving cream can!”
AND THE SOAP DISH AND THE TOOTHBRUSHES AND THE TRASH CAN!
Maryn opened the bathroom door and closed it again. I heard the knob turn and lock.
GO TO YOUR ROOM!
Five hundred dollars. Gone.
I ordered Maryn out of the bathroom and into her bed, where she crawled under the covers and pulled Brown Bear close to her chest. My aching feet hobbled down the steps to locate a computer. I pulled up the Apple website to diagnose the problem.
Blue Screen of Death Victims wrote in discussion blogs that dropped iPads can be revived by hitting or dropping them a second time with the same force. Works like a charm, some nerd wrote. From a cinderblock garage far, far away, I could hear the muffled cries of Steve Jobs.
Oh, wait…I was mistaken. That was Ava crying in my bedroom. She was sobbing at the crash site, mourning the death of her mother’s favorite toy.
Assuming matters couldn’t get much worse, I punched the iPad on the back, hoping to open its airways. Nothing. Another throat punch. Nothing. I dropped it on the table, reenacting the miserable sound heard seven hours earlier. I turned the iPad over. The screen was black. Dead.
“I’m going to feed the dogs,” Mike muttered. He hates the dogs.
YOU DO THAT!
When I returned to the bedroom, I found Ava face down in my bed trying to suffocate herself in my pillow. I sat down beside her, preparing to unleash my masters degree in manipulation.
Gently, I told Ava to explain exactly what happened so I could tell Geek Squad at Best Buy. They’d know how to fix it.
“Um….I was…..um…..coming in here to um…..read something….and I um…..picked up the iPad….and um….the charging cord jerked it out of my hands…and it….um….fell between the table and the um….bed….and it hit the floor…and um….when I picked it up….the screen was blue…and it wouldn’t…um….come on.”
I KNEW YOU DROPPED IT!
Ava rolled back over and wailed into my pillow.
DO YOU KNOW HOW MANY ARTICLES I HAD TO WRITE TO MAKE ENOUGH MONEY TO BUY THIS THING? NO! BECAUSE YOU DON’T HAVE A J-O-B!
OUR PICTURES WERE ON IT! AND BOOKS! BOOKS THAT I WROTE AND BOOKS THAT I BOUGHT! AND VIDEOS! VIDEOS OF MARYN HOLDING A SNAKE! PICTURES OF DADDY ON HIS 41st BIRTHDAY! VIDEOS OF YOU PRETENDING TO BE TAYLOR SWIFT!
AND THAT’S ANOTHER THING! ALL OF YOUR ONE DIRECTION MUSIC IS GONE! GONE!! IT’S NO LONGER THE BEST SONG EVER!!
And that’s when Ava really started bawling.
NO MORE! I’M DONE! I WON’T BUY ANOTHER ONE. YOU CAN FACETIME WITH YOUR FRIENDS IN PERSON — IF YOU EVER GET OUT OF THIS HOUSE AGAIN!
Actions have consequences. Accidents happen. But lying? Lying can’t be overlooked with a measly apology, not for doing wrong, but for getting caught. She wasn’t completely sorry. She was totally scared.
And scared she should have been.
Suddenly, I couldn’t think of an appropriate punishment for Ava. I could’ve taken the $500 out of her savings account, but we’ll need that for college tuition one day. That and about $100,000 more. The kid doesn’t play sports, so I couldn’t take away that fun time. She didn’t have any birthday parties on the calendar, so I couldn’t take away anyone else’s fun, either. The only thing I knew to deduct was her access to the rest of our electronics.
“You didn’t mean to drop it, but you did, and then you lied,” I lectured. “Your first mistake was leaving your high tops next to my bed. Dead giveaway. I knew you had been in here.”
Ava looked down at the shoes. Leave the gun, take the cannoli.
“You’ve proven to me that you can’t take care of things,” I continued. “You clearly don’t understand value because you have too much. So you’ll go without for a while. You are not allowed on my iPhone, certainly not Daddy’s work phone, no laptop and no desktop. No iTunes and no YouTube. You’re unplugged, indefinitely.”
She crawled out of bed and slumped down the hallway to her room.
AND BRUSH YOUR TEETH!
Around midnight, Mike decided to come home. He had fed the dogs and chased them around the yard until they begged him to stop.
I filled him in on the evidence, the confession, the verdict and the sentencing. No electronics, no matter what.
AND YOU’LL BACK ME UP LIKE AN OLD COMPUTER!
Since Ava broke the iPad, she hasn’t asked when she’ll be relieved of her grounding. In fact, she’s written stories in her notebooks for the past three days. This morning, she worked on some art projects that she started earlier in the summer. She made a few crafts from an American Girl doll kit, and she actually played with her little sister in the backyard. She also hasn’t asked to watch TV, nor has she tried to sneak on the computer when we aren’t in the room. One less time-sucking gadget in the house might actually be what this family needed. It’s money down the drain, but that’s about it.
Isn’t that the truth?