Like Fathers, Like Sons
Robespierre Boinki Bartokomous, also known as Robbie, sat contentedly at the kitchen table, a thick dictionary under his backside, boosting him up to a comfortable height. Crayons and construction paper littered the tabletop. A frown of intense concentration creased the six-year-old's face as he colored.
A clang from behind brought his head up with a snap. He turned to see Tucker, his cousin many times removed, attempting to haul a toolbox across the kitchen floor.
"What you're doing with Uncle Cousin's toolbox?" he asked curiously in the thick Myposian accent he had inherited from his father.
"I'm gonna fix the faucet in the bathroom. It leaks." He stopped for a moment and leaned on the toolbox to catch his breath.
"Why you don't use your own tools, the ones Uncle Cousin got for you?"
"Don't you know anything? Those aren't real tools."
Robbie looked horrified. "They aren't?!"
Tucker gave him a look that plainly said 'I-can't-believe-you're-so-stupid'. "Of course they're not real! They're plastic and say 'Fisher-Price' on them."
"I always thought Fisher Price was just the junior version of Black 'n' Decker."
Tucker rolled his blue eyes and ran a hand through his mass of dusty blonde curls. "Will you stop being dumb and help me with this?"
"Okay." Robbie climbed down from the chair and joined Tucker. "But I'm not dumb."
Compared to the boys the toolbox was enormous and Robbie was surprised his cousin had gotten it this far by himself.
"You pull and I'll push." Tucker instructed, and together they managed to drag the metal box across the kitchen and the living room, leaving a big ugly scrape in the hardwood floor.
They stopped at the bottom of the stairs. Robbie looked up at the seemingly never-ending steps that led to the second floor. "There's no way we're gonna get this up there."
"Yes we will." Tucker said confidently. "We'll just do what Dad and Uncle Balki did when they brought up Mom's new dresser."
Robbie's green eye's widened slightly. "You want to hurt your back, make weird noises and walk funny?"
Tucker shook his head in irritation, causing his curls to bounce around the back of his neck. "No! That was after they already had it upstairs. I mean we need rhythm."
Robbie's platinum blonde eyebrows came together in a puzzled frown. "What 'rhythm' is?"
"It's where I say 'one, two, three, lift'. When I say 'lift' we move the tool box to the next step."
"Oh, I remember! That's when Papa said he hoped the dresser wasn't possessed like the piano." Robbie cocked his head thoughtfully. "Cousin, what's 'possessed'."
"It's a grown up word for 'have'."
Robbie's nose scrunched up. "Papa have a piano? I never see it."
"He must keep it someplace else."
"Are you ready?"
Robbie took a firm hold on the handle and nodded.
"One, two, three, lift!"
With a strained groan they managed to pull the toolbox up to the first step.
"Where did Mama and Aunt Jennifer say they were flying to?"
"Grease. One, two, three. Lift!"
"Grease?" Robbie asked as they reached the second step. "Isn't that what Papa cooks with?"
Tucker frowned for a second then shook his head. Why did Robbie have to make everything so confusing? Ignoring the question altogether he continued with another: "One, two three. Lift!"
"Where are Papa and Uncle Cousin?" Robbie asked as they ascended the next step.
"Why do you ask so many questions?" Tucker countered irritably.
He shrugged theatrically. "I'm six. It's my job."
"One, two, three. Lift! They're outside doing something to the car."
"Looking under the hood. One, two, three. Lift!"
"Because!" Tucker shouted angrily.
"They just are, okay!!" He was getting so flustered by Robbie's questions that he lost his grip on the toolbox, which was too heavy for Robbie to control on his own. Tucker squealed as it slid down the steps pushing him down in front of it. He just managed to roll out of the way before it hit the floor, leaving a distinct dent in the polished hardwood at the base of the stairs.
Robbie hurried down the steps to where Tucker sat on the floor, panting and looking as if he were about to cry. "Why did you let go?"
Tucker let out a small sob and large blue eyes glistened.
"I hurt my finger." He said with a high-pitched whine as he held up his pinky.
Robbie bit his lip in sympathy. "Want me to kiss it and make it better?"
Tucker shook his head and sniffed. "That only works if a grown-up does it."
"Want me to get Papa?"
"No." He stifled another sob and wiped the tears from his cheeks. He stood up and dusted himself off. "If they come in they'll know what we're doing and I want it to be a surprise." He moved back over to the tool chest and grabbed the side handle. "Come on."
"I don't think this is such a good idea." Robbie said nervously. "You were almost squashtiki."
"We'll just hold on to it better this time. Go grab the other side."
"But I think we should—"
"Just do it."
"Now! Now! NOW!!" Tucker shrieked, stomping a foot on the floor with each word.
Robbie flinched and hurried to grab the other end of the toolbox. "When you do that your face turns all red and you look like a curly-haired tomahto."
Tucker gave him an ice-cold glare before saying: "One, two, three. Lift!"
After a great deal of grunting and straining the two boys managed to get the toolbox to the second floor and into the bathroom.
"Okay," Tucker panted, leaning up against the counter. "We did it."
Robbie sat on the tool chest and fanned himself with a hand. "We did it alright. I don't think anybody's gonna be happy about that tear in the carpet."
Tucker dismissed the issue with a wave. "They'll forget all about it when they see we fixed the sink." He pulled out one of the drawers, using it a step to climb up onto the counter.
Robbie rested his chin on the counter and watched as Tucker examined the dripping faucet. "Maybe we could stick something in the hole to plug it up."
Tucker rolled his eyes. "What if somebody wants to turn the water on?"
"Oh right!" The blond boy said with a nod, mimicking his mother's tone exactly.
"Okay." Tucker said, using his 'take charge' voice. "Now let's take this off." He pointed to one of the knobs.
"Aren't you apposed to turn the water off first?"
Tucker crossed his arms irritably. "Robbie, how many sinks have you fixed?"
"How many sinks have you fixed in your whole life?"
"All six years of it?"
"None." He hung his head for a moment, then frowned and looked up at his friend defiantly. "But I still think you should turn the water off first."
Tucker shook his head with a long-suffering sigh. "Robbie, Robbie, Robbie. If the water's off how am I supposed to find the leak? See, what we're gonna do is take it apart, find the hole, plug it up and then put it back together. How hard can that be? Now give me the hammer."
"The hammer?" Robbie. asked uncertainly. "Wouldn't the monkey pincher be better?" He pulled out the monkey wrench, struggling to hold the heavy tool up.
"I'm being a plumber and Dad says that a hammer is a plumbers best friend. And Dad knows everything. Now give it here."
Robbie's eyes widened, his feelings obviously hurt. "B…but I thought I was your best friend."
Tucker gave a small, irritated huff. "You will be if you hand me the hammer."
"Okay." He picked up the hammer and handed it up to Tucker.
"Give me the big nail thing too."
"This?" Robbie asked, picking out the chisel.
"Yeah." He took the chisel and placed the wedged end against one of the spigots. In his other hand he held the hammer, which was quite large and really too big for him to use properly. He made several wild swings that missed completely but the last one hit the chisel dead center. There was a loud 'POP', the spigot went flying and a hissing fountain of water exploded from the sink. With a startled yelp Tucker toppled backwards off the counter.
Robbie reached both arms out to catch him. The next thing he knew he was on the floor with Tucker on top of him. The boys managed to untangle themselves and stared helplessly at the gushing water spraying straight up only to rain back down on them. "Well, now you've done it! You just turned a little drip into Old Reliable."
Tucker gawked open-mouthed at what he had just done. "Oh, po po." He moaned, running a hand through his damp curls. "What are we going to do?"
Robbie picked up the broken spigot from the floor. "We need to put this back on."
"Right." Tucker snatched it from him and climbed back onto the counter. Try as he might he couldn't manage to get the spigot to stay on through the violently spraying water. "We need to turn the water off!" He shouted, his young voice becoming frantic.
"How we're supposed to do that now? You've got the turn-off knob in your hand!"
"Under the counter!" Tucker said as he climbed down. "There's some pipes under the counter. Maybe we can turn it off there." He opened the cupboard under the sink and pushed various bottles and containers out of his way. "Hey there's a knob under here!" He shouted excitedly. There was a moment of strained grunting then: "It won't turn. Hand me the hammer."
Robbie blinked in disbelief. "I…I don't think we should use the hammer anymore."
"I'm going to tap the knob so it will turn. Now hand me the hammer!"
Robbie winced and braced himself before saying: "No. We need to tell Papa and Uncle Cousin. They can fix it."
"I can fix it if you just give me the hammer."
"No!" He picked up the tool in question and hid it behind his back.
"Give me the hammer or I'll tell mom what happened to her favorite necklace."
Robbie cocked his head in confusion, not quite understanding why this was a viable threat. "Poosikalos took it." The big black and white cat that Balki had brought home as a kitten was notorious for stealing the girls' jewelry.
"But who was watching him when he took it."
Robbie gulped audibly. "Me."
"That's right, you were. And who should have stopped him."
Robbie's eyes widened in realization and his bottom lip quivered. "Me."
"So who's fault is it?"
"M…mine. But I didn't mean for it to happen! Please don't tell." He cried, frantically. "I'll find it."
"Give me the hammer and I promise not to tell."
Robbie readily complied, guilty tears slipping down his young face along with the spraying water from the faucet.
Tucker took the hammer and crawled back under the counter.
Tucker squealed as a flood of water poured from the open cupboard. He was literally washed backward onto the bathroom floor that was now an inch deep in water. "This wasn't supposed to happen!" He said lamely, staring at the fountain spewing from the spigot and from under the sink.
"Really?" Robbie said with all the sarcasm he could muster. "I thought this was all part of the plan."
"We've got to do something about all this water!"
"I'll get a bucket." Tucker announced as he opened the door.
"Don't leave me!" Robbie cried in panic. "I don't have my water wings!"
"I'll be right back. But if it gets too high, just hold your breath. Meanwhile, just try to get rid of the water!" With that he closed the door behind him.
Robbie looked around him in panic. What could he possibly do with all this water? Then a thought occurred to him. He reached down, scooped up some water in his cupped hands and dumped it into the bathtub, where it quickly disappeared down the drain. Satisfied that this bailing idea worked he reached down for another handful.
"I know that toolbox is here somewhere!" Larry grunted as he shuffled things around on the garage shelf.
"Cousin, we don't need the toolbox. We need to just take it to the mechanic."
"Balki, I'm telling you, I know how to change the oil!"
The former sheepherder shook his head defiantly. "Cousin, you're a wonderful writer, a great editor and a cracked photographer, but you don't know babasticki about cars. Now we need to take it to…"
They both looked up as the door to the house opened and Tucker casually strolled in, went straight to a shelf, grabbed a bucket and started back to the door.
"Tucker?" Larry asked cautiously.
The boy whirled around with wide eyes and a plastered on smile. "Dad, Uncle Balki! I didn't see you there!"
Balki leaned close to Larry and whispered. "I think you better get his eyes checked."
"Why are you all wet?!"
"Wet? Oh right, I'm wet. Well…um…about that. I decided that I was just so dirty I needed to take a bath. But I forgot to take my clothes off." He looked uncertain for a moment then waved stiffly. "Well, bye."
Balki sighed nostalgically as he watched the boy reenter the house. "He's so much like you."
"What do you mean?" Larry asked, obviously concerned about what his son was really up to.
"He gets that same look in his eyes when he lies that you do."
Larry glanced at his cousin, brows furrowed as if he couldn't decide whether or not to be insulted.
"I got the bucket!" Tucker announced as he burst into the bathroom. The water was now ankle deep. He found Robbie near the bathtub bailing with his hands. "This will work better!" He said as he dipped the bucket in the rising water and dumped it into the bathtub.
"But what about the water that's still coming out?"
"We'll get it all off the floor first, then we'll worry about—"
The door burst open and both boys looked up with a sudden gasp to see their father's standing in the doorway. Robbie and Tucker flashed their most innocent smiles and said in unison: "Hi."
"What did you do?!" Larry shouted, stunned by the destruction the children had managed to cause in the short time they were unsupervised.
Both boys began talking at once, Robbie in Myposian, Tucker in English and it was impossible to completely understand either one.
"You two are in so much trouble!" Larry said with a shaking finger
Balki, with a barely concealed smirk, tapped him insistently on his shoulder. "Cousin, Cousin. Before you blow your haystack and start administrating punishment. Take a good long look at the scene before you. Is your mind ringing a bell?"
Larry glared at Balki for a beat, irritated at being interrupted. But he did as his friend asked and looked again, taking in the fountain spewing from the broken faucet, the ankle-deep water and the two drenched boys standing solemnly before him. A smile of recognition slowly spread across his face. He looked at Balki and chuckled. "They are a chip off the ol' block, aren't they?"
"You know what they say, Cousin: the Appleton doesn't fall far from the tree!" Balki said with a laugh of his own. He reached down and lifted his son from the floor. "And neither does the Bartokomous."
"I'm sorry Papa." Robbie said. Droplets of water escaped his drenched blonde hair to drip down his face.
"We were just trying to fix it." Tucker said in his most pathetic voice as Larry picked him up too.
Robbie looked from his father to Larry. "We're in trouble, hoh?"
Larry gave Balki a sideways glance before saying. "We'll talk about that after you two are all dried off."
"Cousin," Balki said as they carried the kids to their room. "I think we need to call the plumber."
"Plumber, please." Larry scoffed. "I can fix this myself."
Balki's jaw dropped in a look of complete disbelief.
"Kidding. I'm kidding!"