*The usual disclaimers apply. Thanks to Annette for the initial idea and to Cheryl for plot and some wonderful brainstorming ideas. Technically, Barney didn't come out until 1992—but I fudged a bit—the idea was too good to pass up. Scarecrow and Mrs King is the property of Warner Brothers and Shoot the Moon Enterprises and Barney is the property of the Lyons Partnership--no copyright infringement is intended. All other characters and situations are the copyrighted property of the author and may not be used without permission. Enjoy :) *

Of Paint and Purple Dinosaurs—Part One

4247 Maplewood Dr.

Saturday, September 14, 1991

8:45 AM

The aroma of percolating coffee filled the kitchen, mixed with the smell of the bacon sizzling in the pan. Lee took the still-warm English muffins from the toaster, spreading them with butter which immediately melted; filling in all the little crevices. Bright sunshine spilled in through the blue curtains, filling the room with light.

It was going to be a beautiful day. He whistled a little tune to himself as he set the plates and silverware on the table. Next came the juice glasses—he placed those on the table. Opening the fridge Lee retrieved a pitcher of orange juice and turned to walk back towards the table.

That was when he collided with something—something soft and squishy which slid under his foot. Lee grabbed the edge of the counter—just managing to steady himself. The orange juice wasn't so lucky though—the pitcher he was holding tilted slightly. He watched as the cold sticky liquid sloshed over the sides of the pitcher and splattered onto the floor.

"Damn!" Placing the pitcher on the countertop Lee reached for the paper towels.

"Hello, friend!"

The sickeningly cheerful greeting came from the floor—in fact in came from the object he'd just stepped on. . Lee stared down at the purple and green creature underfoot—the creature stared back up at him with large friendly eyes. Jenna must have left this down here last night, he thought. With a sigh, he bent down to pick the thing up.

"Please give me a hug!"

"Like hell I will." Lee muttered.

"Honestly!"

Dotty's voice startled him. Lee turned as his mother in law came in through the back door, gardening basket in one gloved hand and pruning shears in the other.

"You wouldn't believe how warm it is out there already," she said. "I wish the weather would just pick one thing and stick to—" her voice faded away as she took in Lee and the orange juice on the floor. "What happened?"

"Fine," Lee replied. "Just a little accident, that's all."

Dotty placed her tools on the counter. "I see. And where did Barney come in?"

"Well, I guess I kind of slipped on him," Hastily Lee placed the stuffed dinosaur on Jenna's high-chair tray. "I was walking and I guess I just didn't pay—"

"Hugs are stu-u-pendous!" Barney's voice filled the room—if he didn't know any better, he'd swear the thing was possessed. Lee glared balefully at the object, daring it to say just one more word—one more obnoxious phrase and he'd—

"Oh, Lee." Dotty's shoulders shook with silent laughter—she covered her mouth with one hand. "I'm sorry, really—it's just the look on your face just now was—here, I'll mop the floor and you can finish breakfast."

"Thanks," Lee turned back towards the bacon. Not burnt, thank goodness, just lightly crispy. Using the spatula, he transferred the bacon slices onto a plate.

"You don't usually cook breakfast," Dotty commented, dipping the mop in the bucket.

"Not usually, no." Lee said. To be honest, he didn't even usually eat much of it, though both Amanda and Dotty were trying their damndest to get him into the habit. "But since Amanda's giving Jenna a bath this morning I thought I'd help. Would you like a plate?"

Dotty shook her head. "No, I had something earlier this morning—I'm fine. I will take some coffee though." Grabbing a mug she poured some, adding some sugar and creamer. "Didn't Jenna have her bath last night?"

"Yes she did—but sometime during the night she climbed out of her crib and broke into the markers."

"The markers?" Dotty repeated as she ran the mop over the floor. "Magic markers? You mean she—"

Lee nodded. "All over her walls and all over herself too," he said. "So, after breakfast we're going to go and get paint for her walls and buy her a big girl bed."

"Good idea. Jenna's getting too way too big for that crib."

"Yeah, and she said she wanted to help me paint—which hopefully should teach her a lesson about drawing on the walls in the future," Lee replied. "Though what she drew was actually pretty creative—I'm going to have to take a camera up there before we paint."

"I bet—I'll have to take a look myself later on."

"You should—it's really something." Lee placed the now-cooled bacon slices and the English muffins on both his and Amanda's plates. Usually he'd make a plate for Jamie too, but since Jamie had spent the night at a friend's house there was no telling when he'd be home. He filled the juice glasses with what remained of the orange juice and placed those on the table. Coffee came next—he placed cream in both mugs and a little bit of sugar in Amanda's.

"Please give me a hug!"

Barney again. Luckily this time Lee didn't manage to spill anything.

"Lee, relax," Dotty told him. "It does that automatically."

"I know," Lee said, a little too quickly. Still, he watched the doll warily out of the corner of his eye, not sure what it would do next.

Moving over to the cabinet Lee pulled down Jenna's plastic Barney plate—the matching Barney bowl and her double-handled Barney sippy cup. Even Jenna's little spoon had a Barney handle. Everywhere he turned that purple dinosaur was there—books, toys, videos— was he a terrible father if he admitted that the thought of Barney didn't exactly thrill him? He had seen plenty of children's programs with Jenna—even enjoyed a few—but for some reason this one seemed to get to him. Lee poured some orange juice into Jenna's sippy cup, refastening the purple lid tightly. Then, taking the box of cheerios, he poured some in the bowl, taking some slight satisfaction in covering that dinosaur's smiling face.

"Here we are," Amanda announced as she entered the kitchen, Jenna in her arms. "All clean now."

"Well, good." Lee's lips met Amanda's in a brief yet passionate kiss. "Good morning, Mrs. Stetson."

"All clean, Daddy—see?" Jenna repeated, holding out her arms and hands.

"Yeah, I see that, munchkin." Lee kissed his daughter's forehead, thanking God that the markers were washable. "You do look very nice."

Amanda put Jenna into her highchair and belted her in; Lee placed the cup and bowl in front of her. He didn't put any milk in the cereal—Jenna preferred to eat hers dry.

"Bawney!" Immediately Jenna reached for her stuffed doll, hugging it close. .

"You're super dee-duper!" The doll cried out.

"I super-dee-duper," Jenna said proudly.

"Yes you definitely are, sweetheart," Amanda said.

"Are you getting a big girl bed today, Jenna?" Dotty asked.

"Uh-huh," Jenna grinned as she nodded. Still holding Barney in one hand, she picked up a cheerio with the other, popping it into her mouth. "I'm big now—big bed. And I det to paint walls—right?"

"Yes," Lee said. "You get to help Daddy paint the walls."

"I toose color?"

"That's right—you get to choose the color, munchkin," Lee took a bite of his English muffin, followed by a swig of coffee. "What color would you like?"

"Um—" Jenna was silent for a minute, thinking. "I want poople."

Purple—Lee was beginning to a bad feeling about this. "Why purple, munchkin?" he asked, trying to keep his voice casual.

"Like Bawney, Daddy—'member?"

"Oh yeah, I remember." as if he was ever allowed to forget. He envisioned Jenna's bedroom with bright purple walls—like walking into a giant grape—

Or a giant dinosaur.

'You did say she could choose the color,' his inner voice reminded him mockingly. And looking over at the doll Lee could've sworn the damn thing was smirking. His eyes met Amanda's—he could tell she really wasn't excited by the prospect either.

"Sweetheart, when we get to the store we'll look at all the colors and see what we can do—okay?" Amanda said.

" 'kay Mommy." As Jenna shifted slightly in her high-chair the Barney doll fell to the floor.

"Ooops—Bawney fall. Daddy, pease?"

"I'll get him for you, munchkin." Lee rose from his chair and retrieved the stuffed dinosaur.

"Please give me a hug!" The third time that thing had said it.

"Hug, Daddy," Jenna urged. "Hug Bawney!"

Lee hesitated.

"Go on, Daddy," Amanda told him, a smile spreading across her features.

Amanda, Jenna—even Dotty—they were all watching him closely, waiting—letting out his breath in a quiet sigh, Lee hugged Barney close.

"You're super-dee-duper!"

TBC