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Little Boy Has Acquired Taste (for Everything)

February 21, 2001|CHRIS ERSKINE

On the day the boy grew a full foot taller--not 9 or 10 inches, but an entire foot--he woke up a little hungry.

So for breakfast, he pounded down a couple of eggs, chugged some orange juice, polished off a cup of pudding he found in the back of the refrigerator, near the Christmas cheese.

Then he topped it all off with a piece of cold pizza, 2 weeks old and kind of curled along the edges, the way pizza gets.

"Good pizza," he said, wiping his wrist with his face.

"It's always better after a couple weeks," I told him.

"Good pizza," the boy said again, dipping the crust in ranch dressing, a popular pizza lubricant.

On the day the boy grew a full foot taller, he hugged his mother good morning, gave her the full hack-a-Shaq hug, which took her breath away, really, her little boy capable of such a hug.

"He's getting so tall," his mother said.

"I hadn't noticed," I said.

"Strong, too," his mother said.

"Strong like bull," said the boy, who knows a thing or two about bull, being a boy and all.

On the day the boy grew a full foot taller, the boy and his mother stood staring at each other, wondering who flipped their world upside down.

She used to be the tall one. Not long ago. Like, yesterday. Now he's the tall one. Grew three inches since this sentence began.

"Have you had breakfast?" his mother asked.

"Breakfast?" he said, like he'd never heard the word before.

So he ate another breakfast, rehugged his mother and then rode his Razor scooter up and down the street, flying over curbs and dreaming of lunch.

By 11, he could maybe eat a little something.

"Want some lunch?" his mother asked.

"Lunch?" said the boy, as if he were unfamiliar with the term.

"Ham, turkey, salami, peanut butter," his mother said, rattling off the choices.

"Sure," said the boy.

"Yuck," said his little sister.

On the day the boy grew a full foot taller, he ate lunch the way Yosemite Sam used to eat lunch, teeth gnashing, food flying, growling over every tasty bite.

"Please try," I asked, "not to growl while you eat."

"OK," growled the boy as he picked up a glass of milk.

He is one of those people--and we all know a few--who gets winded from drinking a glass of milk. Stomach, diaphragm, kidneys, lungs--a glass of milk involves them all. Eight ounces later, he is completely out of breath.

"More," he said, as he finished his second glass.

"Pardon me?" his mother asked.

"More, please," the boy gasped.

On the day the boy grew a full foot taller, his mother went to the supermarket in the afternoon. When she returned, the boy helped her unload the bags, eating the groceries while he carried them to the kitchen.

"Can we make smoothies?" he asked his mom, who grows weary and poor just watching him eat.

"Don't make a mess," she said, like he ever would.

So for an hour, he and a friend made smoothies, which are one part milkshake, one part Gerber baby food and one part exotic rum drink--minus the rum.

The boy and his buddy--the Ben and Jerry of smoothies--experimented wildly with each icy batch, whirling them up in his mother's new blender--crushing bananas, punishing strawberries, liquefying assorted nuts.

"Got any cereal?" the boy's buddy asked.

"Cereal?" said the boy.

And they made nutritious Trix smoothies in his mother's blender. Of all the breakfast cereals, Trix seemed to work the best. It ground up real well, creating a grainy, purple mix that slathered the glass like Pepto-Bismol.

"Here, taste," he said handing me a glass.

"Gee, thanks."

"Got any anchovies?" the boy's buddy asked.

On the day the boy grew a full foot taller, he downed a Milky Way bar at 2 p.m., a glass of Gatorade at 3, the sprinkles off a stale doughnut at 4.

At 5 p.m., the boy devoured a bubblegum-flavored Chap Stick he found between the cushions of the couch, mistaking it probably for a piece of Halloween candy.

"What's for dinner?" he said when he was done.

"For you, a herd of cattle," I said.

"Hamburgers?" said the boy.

"By the hundreds," I said.

On the day the boy grew a full foot taller, the Nasdaq tumbled, the Dow plunged and I gained 7 pounds.

In the kitchen, meanwhile, the boy stood against the back of the sliding wooden door where we pencil in the children's heights. On ankles thin as a martini glass, he stood, measuring his progress.

It's unclear where the boy stores all this food. It doesn't go to his waist or his hips, as with most adults. It doesn't go to his gut, as with most SEC football coaches.

Despite eating 18 times a day, the boy grows up, not out. He has the fat-to-weight ratio of a pair of scissors. The metabolism of a chain saw.

"Look how much I grew," he said, marking his new height on the door, a full foot higher than the day before.

"He's getting so tall," his mother said.

I hadn't noticed.


Chris Erskine's column is published on Wednesdays. His e-mail address is

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