The Meaning of Life

The 5-year-old next door is in his yard yelling the name of the kid two-doors-down in the opposite direction and interspersing the yelling with “whistling.” He’s weird.

I’m not sure what got me out the door to stand next to the fence we share. I ask, “Are you whistling?”

He replies without hesitation, as if my question was anticipated, “Of course. You guessed on the first try, so you must have been reasonably sure I was whistling.”

I realize that it’s true. I have a child who was once 5-years-old. I know what a 5-year-old whistling sounds like. I decide to ask him if he would be my Spirit Animal. “Sure,” he replies.

I was joking. He wasn’t.

The neighbor kid walks around his yard in circles saying “let it go” over & over. This means something. “Meditate on this,” he says, noticing my attention.

“The cold never bothered me anyway,” says the neighbor kid. Is this that infernal song or is he telling me I should accept what is?

“You must devolve your thinking, pupil. Do you like my fire truck?” In the span of roughly 2 minutes he has become my teacher.

“Cold. Hot. It is all the same. All passes into the next,” says the neighbor kid. I think I follow. “Ahhhhhh-roooooo. I do not have a harmonica, pupil.” I think he is just messing with me now. “I am.”

“Wait, you are messing with me?”

“Who are you to be messed with? Why blame the floor when it is you who cannot dance? Think in terms of this Space Ranger explorer module which is so cool it is my favorite.” I don’t relate.

“Toys today are too specialized,” I offer.

“What is it to you? Are you in the market? Would you like to buy this module you cannot have it it is mine.” The neighbor kid sets down the module. He picks up a giant block. “The block and the module are the same. Obviously the module is way cooler and it can fit the multitude of Space Ranger action figures I have but I do not have all of them my parents will not buy them for me. I want all of them.”

“The block and the module are the same?”

“Yes. I said that. It is true. What is it to you? Are you in the market? Would you like to buy this block?”

Four minutes have passed. I am leaning against the fence, having pushed one of the blueberry bushes out of the way. The dog who lives with the neighbor kid comes bounding out of the house. “F.!” yells his mother, not realizing he’s by the fence with me. “F. come in and let’s wash you up.”

The neighbor kid stares at me. The dog’s long tail thwaps against the chain-link fence. The neighbor kid’s mother has gone back inside assuming he’s right behind. I stare back at the neighbor kid and hope the dog doesn’t jump up at me.

“I must go. Think on what I have said. I will assess your progress tomorrow. Depending how far you make it, I may let you press the horn button on my bicycle. It is very loud. BEEP BEEP BEEP!”

“That isn’t how things work,” I say.

“You are pronouncing “isn’t” incorrectly.”

“I am? How am I supposed to pronounce it?”


“Is and Isn’t are two different words,” I exclaim. I sound exasperated. Who’s the grown up here?

“Is and Isn’t are not two different words. It is the same word. It is pronounced “is.’”

“I think you should go inside, you’re mom is waiting.” I sound angry. This isn’t how things are supposed to work.
“What is it to you?”

He goes inside and closes the door in the dog’s face. The dog runs back to me, leaps up, and licks me. He stands with fore-paws on the top of the fence with a look on his face as if asking, “what is it to you?”