Lisa said, “I got it,” in her nasal, robotic voice.
Caroline tilted her head and moved her mouth, but nothing came out. Her words had gone away again.
I climbed in up front and scanned the permission slip. “Crap, Scott which thing are we going to?”
Scott finished clicking in Sam. “Which what? Yogurt shop?”
“I thought you knew.”
“Well, I don’t, and the paperwork doesn’t say.”
“I’ll go in and ask.”
“The teachers are right there. Ask them.”
A minute later, with the right destination in hand, we started out of the lot. “Everybody buckled in back there?”
Caroline said, “Ah… ahh.”
Sam clarified, “Sis still has Lisa’s seatbelt.”
“Well, Caroline, either hand it to her or help her out, honey.”
Lisa repeated, “I got it,” in exactly the same tone as before.
Caroline handed over the buckle as I watched. Scott remained parked at the top of the school’s driveway, the teachers’ car waiting to go behind us. Lisa did not fasten herself. “I got it,” she assured me, her voice unchanged and uninflected.
“Well, go ahead and get it.” I hoped my voice didn’t betray my impatience. We were almost the last car out of the lot, and everyone would be there waiting for the teachers to go inside, while we sat here holding them up.
Lisa stared at the seatbelt. “I got it.”
Caroline said, “She… she…”
“Oh, I give up!” I handed Scott the permission slip and got out of the car with a wave to the minivan behind us. I opened up the backseat and I fastened Lisa in.
“I got it,” Lisa said.
Sam said, “No, my Mom got it.”
Caroline added, “Lisa can’t do buckles!” Which was probably what she had been trying to tell me all along.
We drove to the yogurt shop in relative peace. Caroline was quiet; Lisa announced, “I got it,” at periodic intervals; and Sam stopped countering her after the third declaration. I felt certain she had it. But whatever it was, I could bet it had nothing whatsoever to do with my car.
We arrived in time to see the rest of both classes, a total of fourteen students, waiting outside as we had predicted. Our three would make seventeen kids in all, with a total of nine chaperones in addition.
As soon as I opened Sam’s door, he bellowed “I’m going in with Miss H!” and took off across the parking lot.
The teacher took his hand and scolded him about running near cars while Scott let the girls out the other side. Lisa stopped Caroline with a hand and said, “I got it,” for the umpteenth time. Caroline, sitting with her feet hanging out onto the pavement, cocked her head, wordless once more. Lisa bent down and tied my daughter’s shoe in a perfect double knot.
I mouthed Can’t buckle? to Scott.
He shrugged. “Thanks for getting that,” he told Lisa.
Lisa nodded crisply. “I got it.”
Inside, we dispatched the kids in pairs to get their yogurt, one chaperone for each set of children. They ranged in ages and ability levels. Some of them could manage their bowls with ease, while others would have tilted and spilled without an adult to help dispense and top. One machine ran out just as Miss H pulled down the handle.
“Here’s another vanilla,” the teacher assured the little boy whose large eyes were fastened on her hands.
“Beep, beep, beep, beep.” Ten little voices picked up the machine’s chorus. Caroline and two others covered their ears. An employee, one of the three who had not reacted to the initial sound, ran over to hit a button and make the racket stop. She looked at the chaperones, clearly unnerved because none of us silenced the kids when they squeaked along with the computerized noise.
Another one of the mothers rolled her eyes behind the staffer’s back.
“Sorry for the delay back there,” I told Miss H. “We had trouble with the thing … the …”
“Seatbelt,” Scott supplied.
“Yes, that. Lisa couldn’t buckle it, but she couldn’t tell us, and Caroline had run out of words even though she knew what was wrong. Caroline’s whatever was in full force.”
“Her what?” Miss H paused in adding cherries to the little boy’s bowl.
“Um. Thing. Her… she loses track of words and can’t remember even very common ones. It’s the language disorder that interferes with her ability to talk when she’s feeling almost any kind of stress… the…”
“Aphasia,” said Scott. “She has aphasia.”
“Yes,” I said, blushing. “She has that.”
Jessie Powell is the Jester Queen. She likes to tell you about her dog, her kids, her fiction, and her blog, but not necessarily in that order.