“Peas is a silly name,” said eight-year-old Elise. “It sounds kind of yucky, you know, like …”
“Pee-pee!” exclaimed Elise’s four-year-old sister, Loretta.
“Come on, now, enough of that,” Steve said as he sat down at the table.
“Sorry,” Loretta mumbled.
“No you’re not,” Elise chided.
“I’m not!” Loretta bellowed before laughing maniacally.
“All right,” Caroline interrupted, “your father made your favorite. Let’s eat while it’s hot.”
Loretta roared, “Bow tie pasta! Yum!”
“Glad somebody’s excited for it,” Steve chuckled.
Steve did indeed make the girls’ favorite dinner. The night previous, he’d made meatloaf, never a popular choice among his children, but a favorite of his wife’s. He thought tonight he’d make something they’d all enjoy. Of course, Elise and Loretta eat the mini farfalle with only Alfredo sauce, whereas he and his wife add peas, red pepper, green pepper, onion, and Parmesan. Steve takes it even a step further with small Italian sausage slices. Not to worry, the girls must still eat their peas, albeit in a separate dish with too much butter.
Obviously, the peas were a topic of great concern to Elise.
“Don’t you think ‘peas’ is kind of a weird name?” Elise asked anyone willing to answer.
“I guess,” Caroline replied.
Elise grinned, then said, “Yeah, like when I drop a pea on the floor, I have to say, ‘Oops, I pead on the floor.’”
“I don’t think I’ve ever heard it phrased quite like that,” Steve added.
“No, Steve, she’s right,” Caroline said. “It does sound a little funny to warn people, ‘Oh, no! Don’t step in my pea!’”
Steve groaned, “Seriously? You’re doing it, too?”
The girls burst out laughing, so hard, in fact, that Loretta very nearly fell out of her seat. Steve caught her by the shoulder and hefted her back up into place.
“What would be a better alternative?” Carolina asked Elise.
Caroline clarified, “What would be a better name for peas?”
Elise took a bite of her garlic bread and thought for several moments. After great contemplation, she finally revealed, “I’ve got it! Green balls!”
Caroline took a drink of soda the moment Elise said this, and within an instant she had to cover her mouth to keep from spitting it out.
Loretta noticed her mother, started pointing, and shouted, “Look at Mommy! Look at Mommy!”
“Green balls, huh?” Steve repeated. “I’ve got to be honest, kiddo … that doesn’t sound appetizing.”
Finally under control, Caroline giggled, “I mean, it’s already hard enough to get most kids to eat their peas, you know? I’m not sure calling them ‘green balls’ will get children excited for a big spoonful.”
“Not me, that’s for sure,” Steve said.
“But you don’t eat peas, Daddy,” Loretta enlightened.
“True enough, sweetheart,” he answered.
Elise, a thoughtful young girl, took the matter to heart. “So we need a name that will make kids want to eat peas but not sound like, you know …”
“Pee-pee!” Loretta hollered. “Pee-pee! Pee-pee!”
“We got it, Loretta,” Caroline said with a smile.
“And ‘green balls’ isn’t any good?” she tested again.
Steve finished chewing before saying, “I won’t lie – it’s not great.”
“Okay. Well then … how about … healthy balls!”
Caroline’s eyes closed so tightly that they began to water as she hunched over and tried her hardest not to laugh. Instead, a sequence of rasps escaped accompanied by a strange series of heaving and jostling.
“I think that’s perfect, Elise,” Steve said. “The doctors will love it. I mean, ‘healthy balls.’ It sounds very nutritious.”
“You think so?” Elise asked. “It’s good?”
Caroline, still unable to talk as she fought to contain her laughter, offered her husband a silent warning with a quick shake of her head.
“It’s very good,” Steve agreed. “I think everyone should have healthy balls.”
“It doesn’t sound gross?” Elise questioned.
“Only if there’s a hair on them,” her father added.
“Steve!” Caroline chastised.
“No, Daddy’s right,” Elise confirmed. “If I find a hair on my food, I can’t eat anymore. It totally grosses me out.”
“Okay,” Caroline began after finally having composed herself, “let’s change topics.”
“Why?” Loretta asked.
“Yeah, why?” Steve repeated with an ornery grin.
“I think kids would love healthy balls,” Elise informed.
“I think we all would,” Steve added. “People will grab big handfuls.”
Caroline again lost control. She pressed her eyes shut, pursed her lips, and tried with all her might to keep it together.
“Maybe Daddy will like to eat them now!” Loretta said.
“Hmm. I don’t know, Lo,” Steve said. “I mean, it is just a name change. I’m guessing they would still taste the same. I’d have to ask someone to try them out for me. Maybe your mom would do me a favor and taste my healthy balls?”
At this Caroline screeched, “Excuse me!” before racing to the bathroom. They heard her slam the door, turn on the fan, run the water, and then emit a sound so jarring that the girls’ eyes grew quite concerned.
“Is Mommy crying?” Loretta asked.
It’d been a while since Steve heard such a ruckus from his wife. He informed the girls, “Ladies, what you’re hearing is your mother’s genuine laughter. It is not for the faint of heart.”
Elise looked at Steve very seriously and said, “I don’t think you guys are talking about peas.”
Loretta added, “I think they’re talking about real balls!”
Steve then had to excuse himself from the table as well.
Some time passed before the parents rejoined their children, at which point they agreed they should probably stick with the name “peas” and have no more talk of healthy balls.
Loretta, however, noticed Steve and Caroline’s conspiratorial glance to one another. She offered one of her own to Elise, which prompted a mischievous smirk in return.
This was not over.
Copyright © 2017 by Scott William Foley
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are products of the author’s imagination or used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
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