Fanfiction - by Doug Fowler:
Author's note: Taking another break fo a good while, but Michelle in a chocolate factory was too cute to pass up, the way she loves sweets. Plus, this shows the decision to put her in Kndergarten, a tough one considering Danny hats to see his girls grow up. Could be either univese.
MICHELLE TANNER AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY
Michelle Tanner, four-and-a-half, gazed dreamily at the moon out the living room window. She was nibbling on a cookie as she stared into space.
Her dad, Danny Tanner, stood ready to take her up to bed. However, before he did, he stopped to gaze fondly at the girl he called his “little princess.” “Aw, look at that adorable face,” he whispered to his brother-in-law, Jesse Katsopolis. Jesse had lived in the Tanner home for almost four years, helping to raise Danny’s three girls ever since the death of their mother, Pam. “I wonder what she’s thinking.”
“Well, let’s ask her. Hey, shorty, what’s on your mind?” Jesse wondered as he knelt beside her.
“I can’t wait for my honeymoon. I want one just like you and Aunt Becky.” Jesse had recently married the co-host of a local TV show that Danny hosted.
Jesse and Danny were speechless for a moment. Finally, Danny asked, a little hesitantly, “Uh...what do you think they did on their honeymoon?”
“Duh. They sat under the moon, looked at the stars, and ate honey.” She turned back to gazing at the moon as the men chuckled. While Michelle’s older sisters, nine-year-old Stephanie and fourteen-year-old D.J., corrected her about saying things like “duh,” the men didn’t. So, it still slipped out to them on occasion.
Danny, as usually, didn’t pay attention to the word. Instead, he murmured, “What a sweet way to spend it.” Then, he scooped her up as she finished her cookie. “Okay, time for bed,” he said as he carried her upstairs.
“Daddy? Can I go to Kindergarten next year?” Michelle asked.
Danny smiled. Michelle had been asking that for quite a while. “Well, you know...” He hated to see his girls grow up; he wished they could stay young forever. However, Michelle could usually get her way if she acted sweet enough; at least, she could with the men of the family. And, she’d been sweet talking him for a while.
“You know, you’d probably be the youngest in your class. Second youngest, at best. And probably he smallest,” Danny finally said.
“She can handle it, Danny,” Jesse said with certainty as Danny laid her in her bed and tucked her in. Danny’s other helper, his best friend from college, comedian Joey Gladstone, walked into the room, too.
“Well...I guess so.” He added that, “I think she can, anyway. I have someone from the school coming tomorrow to see.”
“What will they do?” Michelle wanted to know.
“Well, sweetheart, they’ll just ask some question,” he said simply. The phone rang, but he heard D.J. get it quickly, so he didn’t pay attention to it.
While Danny pulled out a bedtime story, Joey asked Jesse, “Are you all ready for the big presentation tomorrow?” The men had their own ad agency.
“Hey, it’s in the bag. You just take your time bein’ one of the chaperones for Stephanie’s third grade class field trip. I can handle this,” he said with an air of certainty.
At that moment, D.J. entered the room. “Dad?” He looked up. “It was your boss, Mr. Strowbridge. He said the man you had to interview next Monday on your show is going to be out of town. So, you have to tape the interview tomorrow at one. I told him it was okay, and I’d give you the message.”
Smiling proudly, Danny said, “Thanks, Deej. I’ll just have your Aunt Becky pick up...wait. Your Aunt Becky has that fine arts luncheon she’s doing a piece on then. Neither of us will be done before two, at the earliest.”
“Oh. Well, Joey will be watching Michelle, right?”
“Steph’s field trip is at two,” Joey explained. “Danny, I could probably cancel if I have to.”
“Naw, Steph’s looking so forward to you being a chaperone. I’m sure we can find a sitter tonight.”
“Who’s the sitter?” Michelle asked, half paying attention.
“We’re talking about tomorrow. We’ll take care of it, sweetheart,” Danny promised, kissing her forehead. As he read, Michelle drifted off to sleep, thinking about Kindergarten and what questions she might be asked.
Suddenly, in her dream she found herself in a big, fancy room. It looked like the courtroom in Alice in Wonderland, as she pictured it. Here, however, Stephanie was in the jury box. Her nine-year-old sister wore a long, white wig. Her dad, Uncle Jesse, and Aunt Becky were dressed as playing cards, with their heads sticking out. Joey was in a court jester’s outfit. And, D.J. was walking around in royal robes.
A fellow walked in with a huge beard and sat in the judge’s box - he resembled the king in a deck of cards. “Order in the court,” the judge shouted as a large commotion erupted.
“I’ll have ice cream.”
“Not that kind of order. Please step up to the witness chair.” As Michelle did, the judge said, “This hearing concerns whether this girl can go to Kindergarten.”
“Of course she can,” Danny began as he stood. “I know she’ll follow the rules. She’s always a very good girl.”
Joey nodded. “Oh, certainly. Not only that, but...”
“Sir, you will button your lip in this courtroom until it is your turn.” Michelle giggled as a button appeared on Joey’s upper lip. Someone, he managed to fasten it to his lower lip.
D.J. rose and said, “Your honor, first we have some questions for this young lady.”
Jesse held up a doll. “Who is this?”
“Elvis.” Elvis Presley was Jesse’s favorite performer.
“Mmmpf, mmmpf,” Joey began.
“Joey, you may now unbutton your lip.” He did.
“Thanks, Your Honor. Michelle, how high can you count?”
“I can count to 100,” she said proudly.
“Oh, really?” Joey was suddenly on the ceiling. “I can count this high.”
“This is silly. Ask me another question.”
D.J. asked, “When do you cross the street?”
“Only if I’m holding a hand.”
“Honey, can you brush your teeth?” Danny asked. Michelle nodded. “Did you brush your teeth tonight?”
“I don’t know.”
“You’d better make a decision fast, Your Ho+nor,” Danny said as Michelle began to grow. “This girl is getting big.”
Suddenly, a car’s brakes squealed out in front of their house. The noise was so loud, it woke Michelle up. “Aw, nuts. Now I won’t know how it ended.”
She sat up in her bed for a second. “I can brush my teeth. Then, maybe I can have another snack.” She got out of bed and went into the bathroom.
Danny found her a moment later, brushing her teeth. “Honey, it’s pretty late. Did you forget to do that?”
She nodded, then rinsed and got off her stool. “Can I have another bedtime snack? I was good and remembered to brush.”
“Sorry.” Danny picked her up and squeezed her. “You know, the other sitters are busy. The bus won’t be loading till two, but I don’t think any of us will be done by then. How about showing us all how good you can be tagging along with Joey. He and you will just meet the group for the field trip at 2:30, and he’ll make sure you have plenty of coloring books and other stuff. Okay?”
“Will we play in a field?”
Danny shook his head as he put Michelle back to bed. “No, sweetheart. This is that trip to the chocolate factory your sister’s been talking about.”
“Mmm, I can’t wait,” Michelle spouted suddenly. She was wild about any chocolate treats, especially cake.
The next day, Michelle eagerly bounded into Joey’s car when he arrived to pick her up at preschool. “Let’s go!” she commanded excitedly.
“Whoa, hold on, the field trip’s not till 2:30. I told them I’d meet the third grade classes there. That way it won’t be quite as long for you.”
“I can have cake while I wait.”
Joey snickered. “I’m sure you’d like that, Michelle. Some other kids will be just as excited.” Including me, he told himself.
“Not like me!”
Joey fixed Michelle some lunch. Once she ate, he had her lay down for a few minutes while he packed a small bag. It contained coloring books, crayons, a couple dolls, and other items to keep her occupied. Plus, he figured she’d probably enjoy parts of the tour. So would he, in fact - at least the free sample parts.
Mrs. Wexley, the other third grade teacher, addressed the children as Joey and Michelle walked up to them at the factory entrance. “Stephanie, would you please introduce your chaperone?”
“Sure. This is Joey. You kids in the other class don’t know him, but he’s like another dad to me. Except, I call him Joey. Now, since they want us to be polite, he says he’d like to be called Mr. Gladstone, since most of you don’t know him well. Although you might hear other voices come out of him, like Popeye. He...”
“Hey, you forgot about me,” Michelle interrupted.
“Oh, yes. This is my sister Michelle. Anyway, as I was saying, Joey’s a comedian. But, he says it’s very important to follow the rules. There’s lots of big, fancy stuff in there.”
Joey nodded. “That’s right. I won’t be as firm as I’d have to be as a teacher. But, you seeing me act silly - doing the voices Steph mentioned, and so on - depends on how good you are. If we all stick together and follow the rules, you’ll hear me do some comedy along the way, and maybe a little more at the end,” Joey finished. He knew teachers had to be tough sometimes. But, he also knew field trips were supposed to be fun. He knew that he had to control himself a little, but that using his comedy as a reward would help the kids behave.
Stephanie’s teacher, Mrs. Claire, took advantage of the short break in Stephanie’s speech to begin the tour. “Yes, children, we all need to stick together. They keep everything totally spotless in there - chocolate making is a very delicate art.”
“Totally spotless. We’re used to that, huh?” Stephanie muttered to Joey, who nodded. Danny was a compulsive neat freak.
“You children will have to be extra good for Michelle, too. How many of you hear from your moms and dads, ‘Be a good role model?’” Several raised their hands. “Well, you not only get to be a good one, you can all show Mr. Gladstone how good you are at helping out, because he’s here to help you have a good time. He just had to bring Michelle along because they couldn’t find a sitter.” Mrs. Claire noticed the tour guide opening the door for them. “And here’s Mr. Townsend.”
“I thought that was Mr. Wonka,” Michelle said, to the delight and laughter of numerous children.
“Aren’t they adorable?” Joey said to Mr. Townsend. “Sometimes she takes the jokes right out of my mouth.”
“How realistic is Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory?” asked the class brain of Stephanie’s class, Walter K. Breman.
“Well...Walter,” the man said, glancing at his name tag, “Willy Wonka made lots of funny inventions to help him. And, those aren’t very realistic. But, the fact that lots of machines are used, and it has to be very precise, that is very true.”
He led the group to a place where cocoa beans were being processed to remove the cocoa butter. He explained what was happening, and passed around samples. “This is what it tastes like out of the bean.”
“If anyone’s allergic, I’ll take yours,” Michelle offered. However, when she got a piece, she bit into it and scrunched up her face. This was not chocolate! “Ewww.”
Stephanie looked a little embarrassed, but Mr. Townsend seemed to appreciate Michelle’s comment. He led into what he wanted to say by remarking, “Children that age always say what’s on their minds. And, I’m sure most of you thought the same thing - that’s not the chocolate you know, is it?” Many shook their heads.
“Mister, when do we get cake?” Michelle asked, raising her hand as she did so.
“We’ll see how chocolate flavoring for cake mix is made, along with lots of other things.” He turned to Joey. “Is she always this talkative?”
“Actually, when Steph was her age, she went a mile a minute. Michelle’s pretty quiet compared to her. I think she’s just extra excited thinking about the samples.”
“I can tell. Right this way, we’ll see how cocoa butter is added to what you just tasted.” He led the children into another room.
A female worker greeted the classes. “I’m sure you’re all excited,” she said.
Stephanie raised her hand slightly. “Are you kidding? If our Dad had let her, Michelle would have camped out here overnight last night. She’s crazy about chocolate.”
“You love it, too.”
“Not like you, Michelle.”
Stephanie placed her hands on her hips. “Yeah. You’d eat it for breakfast.”
“All right, kids,” Joey said, holding up his hands. “You know you’ll get here eventually. Let’s speed this up.” Joey did different voices as he took turns looking to his left and right - the voices were Fred Flintstones and Barney Rubble, to be precise. “Would not. Would too. Would not. Would too. Wouldn’t. Would. Wouldn’t. Would. Not. Too. Not. Too. Not. Too. N. T. N. T. N. T.” All the children were laughing by now, including Michelle and Stephanie. They had forgotten all about the spat.
Once Joey told the kids to settle down, the place quieted quickly, and the employee went on with her explanation and demonstration. Michelle, meanwhile, looked up from a coloring book to see someone walking by with some chocolate bunnies which were to be used for display later. She licked her lips and snuck over to them and asked if she could please have one.
“Wait, where’s...Michelle,” Joey said suddenly. “What are you doing with that chocolate bunny?”
Michelle gave an impish grin and said, “Eating it.”
“Michelle, there will be lots of chances to have samples.”
“But, they don’t make cake.”
Joey chuckled. “Well, you’ll still get a sample. So, put that bunny away now.”
She put the last bit in her mouth, ate it, and said, “I put it away.”
Joey couldn’t help but laugh. He’d have done the same thing if he’d had the chance. “All right, Michelle, let’s get back to the demonstration.”
“At least there’s no river of chocolate for her to slurp from,” Stephanie whispered as an aside to her best friend, Allie.
Her eyes quickly widened, though. I spoke too soon, she told herself, as Michelle walked over to where the other children were. When they were invited to dip their fingers in a small bowl of liquid cocoa butter and taste it, Michelle picked the bowl up. “Is this chocolate syrup?”
“Michelle, don’t drink the whole bowl!” Stephanie scolded her.
The little girl looked at Stephanie and said, “Even I’m not that nuts about it.”
Stephanie shook her head. She just never knew with Michelle.
Joey thought about making some joking references to Willie Wonka, but decided against it. Some of the kids were being overanxious - especially Michelle. He decided instead to remind them that his comedy depended on their good behavior. They began to settle once more.
Next, they went to a place where different types of chocolate were being shown. However, while the others watched and listened to someone talk about the different kinds, Michelle wandered with a couple other chocolate loving children over to the samples. She got a sample of white chocolate. “I’ve never seen it this color,” she remarked before putting it in her mouth. “Mmmm.”
“Where are you children going?” Mrs. Claire asked firmly. Michelle hid her hands behind her back. “Don’t sample the chocolate yet. We have to listen to the speaker.”
“Here. Do you want me to help you put some stickers on?” Allie asked. She could tell Michelle needed someone to distract her. She pulled out a coloring book with stickers from Joey’s bag.
“Thanks, Allie,” Mrs. Claire whispered.
Stephanie hadn’t been paying attention to that bit - she’d been too busy learning about the different ways in which chocolate was used.
Soon, Allie had a question for the speaker. Distracted from Michelle, she took her eye off of the preschooler, which allowed Michelle to put down her book and think about the samples once more. She snuck over again, and placed a few caramels in her pocket for later.
“Hey, wait for us,” a third grader said. The class was allowed to take one piece each of two different kinds of chocolate. Since it was probably quite new to the children, each one was allowed a very small piece of the white.
Except for Michelle, of course - she took the chocolate of a couple students who weren’t allowed to have chocolate. She had at least half a dozen samples.
“Are you allowed to have all that?” one of the youngsters asked.
“I eat it all the time at home.” Her eyes widened and darted to the left. Her mouth watered as she turned that way. “Oh boy, fudge!”
Joey grinned as he took her hand. “Come on, Michelle. It’s time to go to the next room.” He could tell she was getting greedy.
“But, Joey.” She gave him her best pleading puppy dog look.
“Sorry, Michelle. I’m a chaperone, and I have to keep everyone in line. Including you.”
“Aw nuts.” She thought a moment. “Will we come here in Kindergarten?”
Joey smiled and nodded. “You’ll have good times. Field trips are always a lot of fun.”
Joey let go of Michelle’s hand to hold the door. Michelle went through, and Joey followed at the end of the children, watching as Michelle kept looking behind her. He figured she was making sure he was there. Michelle, of course, kept thinking about that fudge.
Once Joey got in the center of the group again, though, Michelle snuck away from the class - and wandered back to the sample room. Good, nobody’s here right now, she told herself.
She was still somewhat in control of herself, but as she looked around at all the samples, her eyes grew huge and her mouth watered more and more. She grabbed a few small samples of the fudge and ate them while grabbing a couple others and putting them in her pockets. Her suspender pockets were almost full.
Joey found her as she was eating even more chocolate. “Michelle, you know you have to stay with the rest of the group.” He bent down and impersonated Kermit the Frog. “Hey, who do you think you are? Miss Piggy?” Michelle giggled. “Come on. It’s a good thing one of the students noticed you were missing. We were worried about you.” He took her hand and walked her to where the others were.
Michelle wished she could go back for more samples. But, she still had some in her pockets. She wanted to save them for later. But, she decided to just take one. Then, once she ate that, she figured she would take just one more..
That was when her eyes bulged. “Whoa, baby!” she cried out. The group had walked into another room in the factory. And, she’d spied a ten-pound block of chocolate surrounded by ropes.
“This is how we ship chocolate for flavoring - like the chocolate cake some of you like so much,” the speaker explained. The children were gathered around it. They listened - and Michelle colored - as he explained further. While the item would be shipped in liquid form in a container, it was in solid form for this demonstration.
Michelle’s mouth watered even more. While that would have been daunting to her normally, all the chocolate she’d eaten already made her quite greedy. She kept thinking about that block, even when she looked away.
As the speaker and the rest of the group moved on, she slipped under the ropes, and began breaking off bits off the block. It was delicious - just like the flavor of chocolate cake, her favorite treat. Or chocolate ice cream, also one of her favorite treats. Face it, she loved chocolate in any form; even the chocolate covered cherries she’d tasted in the sample shop. She just kept eating and eating....
“Michelle!” she heard Stephanie scold her. She and Mrs. Claire had come back looking for her. “There you are!”
Michelle turned to Stephanie with messy hands and face. “Hey, it melted in my mouth and in my hands,” she complained.
Stephanie looked apologetically at her teacher. “I’m sorry, Ma’am.”
Mrs. Claire told Stephanie she understood. “Children her age just aren’t fit for field trips unless they have someone with them one on one every minute. That’s why I want to stay home and raise my own the first few years - they need one on one attention.” Mrs. Claire was planning to leave for a few years starting next year.
She looked straight at Michelle and used the same quiet voice she knew worked with Stephanie. “Michelle, you had the chance to get samples. This is only to look at, not to eat. I expect you to listen and follow orders, understand?”
“But it was free,” Michelle said.
“I tend to be a little firmer with Michelle,” Stephanie explained. “Michelle, come on right now. And, you can forget about that ten pound block of chocolate - when we get home you’re going to get a 400-pound lecture.” As they walked, Stephanie asked, “How much have you eaten?”
“Just a bunny and some of that, and...” She rattled off the numerous samples she’d eaten, but she didn’t know if she remembered them all. Stephanie’s eyes bulged. How could she have eaten all that?
“I want more of that. But, I’m full, too,” Michelle finished. Suddenly, all that chocolate was beginning to weigh on her. She began to rub her tummy a little.
By the time they finished the tour - with one student always holding Michelle’s now washed hands - Michelle felt sick. She sat down next to the exit, and looked up at the tour group. “Please carry me,” she muttered.
“I would, but the doctor says not to lift heavy objects,” Stephanie quipped from the center of the crowd. When she stepped out and saw how bad Michelle looked, she frowned and spoke with great pity. “I guess we can forget that 400-pound lecture - you look like you have a ten ton tummyache.”
Michelle held her hands to her belly and nodded slowly. As Joey lovingly picked her up, Stephanie turned to Mrs. Claire and asked if she could ride back home with her sister.
“Well, it is after 3:30. I suppose.” She had known that Stephanie might want to ride home with Joey. But, she hadn’t said anything about that before, and Stephanie loved taking the bus. Still, since Joey okayed it, she let her.
Meanwhile, Miss Wiltrout, one of the Kindergarten teachers at Frasier Street Elementary School, had stopped by after school to visit the Tanners. And, upon walking up the sidewalk, she saw an old pupil being dropped off. “D.J.?” she asked, not sure if it was her or not.
“Miss Wiltrout!” D.J. smiled warmly. “Are you going to have Michelle?”
“Well, maybe, dear. I thought about retiring, though I might stay on a few more years. I don’t know. Anyway, she might be in the other class, too. Either way, it’s a great way to spend my time, visiting the students. If I don’t have them, at least they’ll have met someone from the school. Even if I’m just volunteering as a lunch lady next year.” She then asked, “How is that Gibbler girl doing? I understand you became really good friends.”
“Yeah, we’re best friends now, Miss Wiltrout. Kimmy’s...” She made sure none of the Gibblers could overhear. “Well, things are still...unusual with her family. But, she’s really nice.”
Miss Wiltrout was glad. She’d sensed that Kimmy had some family or other problems. “I still remember that week Kimmy wore her E.T. Halloween costume to school all week, because she said it saved her mom the trouble of washing any clothes. Hers were the type of parents who would come to conferences, but didn’t seem really enthusiastic about being involved with their children.”
“Things have gotten a little better since they bought the house next door,” D.J. said, pointing to Kimmy’s house. She declined to mention all the help she gave Kimmy in schoolwork and some other things. “They take care of the property. But...well, I’m really glad to be able to help her,” she confessed lowly. It wasn’t something she said often - Danny and Jesse even joked about how annoying Kimmy was, after all.
“You always were a great help in my class. Just like your mom when I had her. I never got to meet your dad; your mother and I spent all the time in our conferences talking about the good ol’ days, when I’d talk with your grandfather and he’d share all these stories about Greece. I think he’d just moved to the U.S. maybe ten years before that.” She’d remembered that D.J.’s mother had died, and thought that this might help her, talking about the “good ol’ days.” “I’m sure you really enjoy talking about your mom the same way, reliving those good ol’ days.”
“Yeah, we do. Come on in,” D.J. invited her as she opened the front door.
“You know, it’s so wonderful seeing children develop. That’s why I’ve always loved this age. They do so many unique things...” the teacher began. Suddenly, she noticed Danny down on his knees, lecturing their dog, Comet - almost like a child would talk to a dog.
“...Comet, it’s very important to vacuum the stairs every day. And, I expect you to be a good dog and not drag dirty things through the house, especially after I’ve cleaned. Cleaning things is very...Oh, hi,” Danny said as he grinned and rose. “You must be Miss Wiltrout.”
“Yes, Mr Tanner? I’d heard it was Joey who talked to animals,” Miss Wiltrout said, making small talk. She’d heard about Joey volunteering a couple different times, and doing comical things each time.
Danny extended his hand, and shook Miss Wiltrout’s. “Yes, well, it’s important to me to see that Comet knows the different between right and wrong. He responds to lectures like that.”
“Well,” the teacher said as Danny showed them into the kitchen, “I do suppose the tone of voice can be picked up like that. The same is certainly true with children.”
“Would you like something to drink?”
“Some iced tea, if you have it, please.” As Danny got some out, she continued. “I loved having D.J. in my class. I’m hopeful Michelle will be the same if she’s in my class. I suppose, knowing the family, I might stay on one more year if I would get to have her. I love following all my former students. When my fiancé died in Korea, right after he’d sent the letter asking me to marry him, I was so heartbroken, I couldn’t think of marrying anyone else. But, I helped a lot with my nieces and nephews, and I devoted myself to this profession. And, in a way, I feel like I have hundreds of children.”
Danny poured the last of the iced tea into a glass and gave it to her. He spoke rapidly, still thinking of how she’d caught him lecturing a dog on cleanliness. “Sorry, it’s only half full, that’s all we had left. Of course, some people call it half empty, but it’s sort of the same thing.” D.J. chuckled inwardly. She could sense of Danny’s famous rambles about to begin. “I mean, there’s always a little bit of each. When Michelle finishes her plate she still likes to say ‘all gone’ sometimes, meaning it’s empty, but at the same time she says she’s full. So, the same thing can have two different ways of looking at it.
“That’s why whenever someone asks me if the glass is half full or half empty, I always say, ‘Well, if you already drank half, you can be nice and offer it to others. Or, if you haven’t had any yet, like what I gave you just now, you can be thankful you can still have some.’”
Miss Wiltrout smiled politely and said, “You know, Mr. Tanner, I had heard Stephanie was very verbal when she was in the other Kindergarten class. I can see where she got it.”
“Yeah, Michelle’s quieter. Of course, part of that’s because Steph doesn’t give her time to say anything,” D.J. joked.
After the light laugh, Miss Wiltrout asked if Michelle was home. Danny explained what had happened, and that Michelle was on a field trip.
The teacher was quite impressed. “Wow. Michelle must be very well behaved, to be able to do that.”
“Oh, she’s a perfect angel.”
D.J. spoke up for her dad. “She is pretty good. She responds well to that different tone of voice, or to being sent to her room or to having dessert taken away.”
The teacher turned to D.J.. “I’m glad to hear something like that from an older sister. Sometimes sisters are the toughest critics. I’m sure you’ve been a big help, just like you were in my class.”
“Thanks. I’ve done a lot of work, especially before Dad started punishing her hen she was three-and-a-half.”
“Deej, I don’t think Miss Wiltrout needs to hear...”
“No, really, I like to hear about the families of my chldren. I like to visit my old students, too,” she said with a smirk.
She turned to Danny again, a little puzzled by what D.J. had said. That was a long time to wait before disciplining a child. Still, she chose to ignore it. Maybe the other men had handled that till Danny was ready. “How is Michelle as far as her alphabet, numbers, and so on?”
“She knows her letters....” Danny tried to think for a moment. Should he really build her up, or be truthful. His main concern was her size and age - as it would be to the teacher.
D.J. piped in. “She can already count to a hundred with almost no help. She isn’t reading like Steph was at four, but she knows her letters. I think she’ll do well when she sees the other children all doing it at the same time. Right now, she’s just happy with us reading to her.”
“D.J. and Stephanie have been reading ‘Alice in Wonderland’ recently. But, whichever one reads it, she names the older sister after herself,” Danny said proudly.
“Oh, how sweet,” the teacher said, smiling broadly. “Does Michelle follow instructions well?”
“Oh, she’s very good at obeying the rules.”
“Actually, Michelle has been kind of bossy lately,” D.J. noted, interrupting Danny. Miss Wiltrout assured her that that was not uncommon with kids around her age.
“See, Deej? I’ve been telling you it’s just a phase,” Danny affirmed.
Miss Wiltrout smiled. She didn’t know how in charge Danny really was now, so she decided to drop a subtle hint, just in case. “Well, it is a phase, but a phase that will only go away with consistent, loving reminders that the parent is in charge. And, that while children should be allowed to ask questions and so on, they must be polite about it.”
At that moment, Jesse and Becky walked through the back door. Jesse had picked Becky up after his anointment. He was telling her what had happened the night before. “...And so Michelle looks at us and says ‘duh!’ And she says you and me spent our whole time sitting under the moon, looking at stars, and eating honey.”
“Oh, that’s so sweet, Jess.” They looked lovingly in each others’ eyes, and Becky said, “Shouldn’t we see who our visitor is?” When Jesse protested, she added, “maybe after a bit, then, we can celebrate your big contract by sitting under the stars and eating some honey.”
“Have mercy,” Jesse remarked.
“That’s where she gets some of her rudeness,” D.J. said. “Michelle says ‘duh’ sometimes yet, though I always correct her about it.”
“Well, I just don’t see the need to correct it,” Danny tried to explain.
Jesse, overhearing and wondering who the lady was at the table said, “Yeah, that’s just the way the band and I talk.”
“Still, I...think it’s important to teach a child politeness,” Miss Wiltrout said as diplomatically as she could. “Of course, it sounds as though D.J. does a good job.” Who exactly was the boss in this household, she asked herself. She knew some parents had hard times dealing with spouses’ deaths, but had Danny really relinquished this much control? After all, D.J. had said he hadn’t punished her till she was almost four.
Mis Wiltrout looked at D.J. almost as much as Danny after Jesse and Becky were introduced. “Does she stand up for herself well? Like on the playground?”
Jesse spoke this time. “Oh, sure. She’ll tell a teacher right away. I know, there was a time when I told her to pinch back when some kid pinched her, but I know that was really a mistake teaching her that. And, she knows it, too.”
“She will use her words very well now. She’s not afraid to say what’s on her mind,” D.J. assured her.
Suddenly, Joey and Stephanie came walking through the door, Joey carrying a sleepy Michelle. “Hey, guys.”
“Joey, what happened? Is she okay? She looks sick,” Danny observed, rushing over to her.
“My tummy hurts,” Michelle mumbled as Danny lovingly picked her out of Joey’s arms and cradled her in his.
“She ate too many samples. Way too many,” Stephanie said sadly. The whole family was around Michelle now.
“Has she thrown up at all?”
“Not yet, Danny, but only because I managed to find a way home that didn’t involve potholes,” Joey explained. He added in a pitying voice to lighten the mood, “One big bump and I think my back seat would have had a chocolate interior. But, we went slow, and we made her feel better, right, Steph?”
“Yeah. I kept telling stories and rubbing that upset tummy all the way home,” Stephanie said tenderly. She could be tough, the kind of sister Miss Wiltrout had said was the toughest critic. But, she was also very loving and tender.
“Aw, it’s okay, Michelle. Reminds me of that time you shoved that bean up your nose when you were two, and Uncle Jesse and I rushed you to the ER and held your hands the whole time,” Danny pondered aloud. He kissed her lightly, and instructed the others. “I’m going to take her upstairs and lay her down for a bit, I think that’ll make her feel better. Becky, they’re making a tape of my interview down at the station, could you go cover for me?” She said she could. “It’s okay, pumpkin. Daddy’s going to take you upstairs, and lay you down on your bed, so you can get nice and cozy and sleep off some of that eating binge.”
“Okay. I love you, Daddy. I’m sorry I ate so much.”
“Aw, that’s okay. I don’t like it, but sometimes you have to learn those lessons yourself, instead of us just telling you, huh?” She nodded slowly.
“You’ll feel better later. You can meet your teacher some other time.” He carried her upstairs.
D.J. beckoned Stephanie and Miss Wiltrout upstairs. “What happened?” D.J. asked Stephanie as they walked upstairs.
“Let’s put it this way. If she tries that again, she’s gonna turn into a Nerf Michelle,” Stephanie quipped. Then, she inhaled deeply as Danny left the nursery. “I feel bad, though. I should have been watching her more carefully.”
Danny smiled. He knew Michelle would be okay now; he’d laid her down and draped a blanket over her. He assured Steph that, “You and Joey did what you were supposed to do. You were all supposed to watch her. But, your main job was to learn, and Joey’s was to watch the whole group. If Michelle had listened and not wandered, she’d have been fine. This is just one of those lessons kids learn the hard way - like when I was seven and learned how fast dirt bags explode when you try to vacuum a flowerbed.”
“I guess. Still, can I go in there and read to her while she rests? I would like to help her,” Stephanie said.
“I’m sure she’d appreciate that. Then, I can talk with the teacher a little while longer, too. Thanks.” He walked downstairs with Miss Wiltrout.
Before Stephanie went into the nursery, D.J. held up a hand. “Oh, and Steph. Whatever you do, don’t read her Hansel and Gretel,” D.J. joked. “It’s one thing to scare kids a little about what can happen, like if they run into the road. It’s another to totally freak them out.”
“Don’t worry, Deej. Dad’s so protective he won’t even let me hear the story.” And after the scary movie Uncle Jesse let me watch a couple years ago, and I was up for nights afterward, maybe that’s a good thing, Stephanie considered.
Stephanie walked into Michelle’s bedroom, and sat up on the bed next to Michelle after pulling out a book. “Hey, Michelle. Want me to read to you?” Stephanie asked as she brushed back the bangs from Michelle’s face.
“Can you fix my tummyache?”
Stephanie lightly stroked Michelle’s hair as she laid her head in Stephanie’s lap. As she cradled Michelle’s head, she answered, “I’m sorry, but when you eat too many sweets you get a tummyache. You just have to close your eyes, and try to sleep.”
Though Michelle’s tummy still felt really gurgly, she did what Stephanie suggested. She closed her eyes, and drifted off to sleep as Stephanie read.
Suddenly, she was in the courtroom in Alice in Wonderland again. But, it was very different this time. D.J. was in the judge’s seat. Stephanie was the prosecutor, and the jury box was filled with chocolate bunnies. Michelle sat in the witness stand, holding her tummy.
“Your honor,” Stephanie said, “I don’t know if this girl should be allowed into Kindergarten.”
“For one thing, she might eat the building,” Stephanie joked.
Aunt Becky - dressed as a playing card - rose and asked what evidence there was that she could eat a building.
Joey, dressed as a court jester, explained that, “She was at a chocolate factory. A short time later, there was a shortage of chocolate all over San Francisco.”
“Where is this chocolate factory?” D.J. asked. Joey didn’t know, so D.J. asked Michelle the same question.
“I can’t believe I ate the whole thing!” was all that Michelle would say.
Stephanie’s eyes bulged. “You mean you ate a chocolate factory?”
“I feel like it,” Michelle muttered. Suddenly, she started getting bigger.
“I believe it - this girl is getting big,” D.J. exclaimed. She had to run out of the way, as Michelle was now as big at the courtroom.
“Big enough for Kindergarten?” Michelle asked.
“Only if she can promise not to eat any buildings,” Stephanie said. “She went after that big block of chocolate, though. Who knows what will come next. She might eat a city block!”
“I’m sure she won’t eat a block,” Judge D.J. exclaimed as Michelle grew so big that her head burst through the roof of the courthouse.
Michelle found herself waking up as D.J. sat on her bed.
D.J. rubbed her belly. “Yes, sir. I’m sure you won’t eat like that again, huh, Michelle?”
“No, I won’t.”
“It’s supper time. You’re probably not going to feel like eating, but I thought I’d come see if you were awake so you can come downstairs with us,” D.J. said, picking Michelle up and cradling her in her lap. “ I heard how much you ate. That was one big tummyache, wasn’t it?”
“I hope there’s still chocolate left.” She didn’t want anything right now - especially chocolate. But, she might again sometimes - like in a few weeks!
Danny, Stephanie, Jesse, Becky, and Joey walked into her room. Jesse sat down and took Michelle into his arms. “Hey, shorty. You feelin’ better?”
“She is. And, she even brought us some. Steph and I made sure she wasn’t tempted to eat any more.” D.J. looked at Stephanie. “Those caramels in her pockets sure were good, weren’t they?” Stephanie nodded.
“I guess the cookie monster has a rival who likes chocolate now, huh?” Danny smiled as he sat on the other side of Jesse and stroked Michelle’s hair. “Honey, your teacher had to leave. But, she was really impressed. She says it sounds like you’d do fine in Kindergarten next year. So, we’re letting you go.”
“Yay.” Michelle thought a second. “But, Daddy, I didn’t get to meet her.”
“Well, that part wasn’t as important. When she saw how everyone cared so much when you came home with that big bellyache, she saw you had the most important thing of all to succeed there.”
“What’s that, Daddy?”
“He’s talkin’ about us, munchkin,” Jesse explained. “It’s your family.”
Danny picked her up and cuddled her. “You see, everyone messes up sometimes. Just like with you stuffing yourself with so much chocolate. But, we all work together to raise you,” Danny explained. “Sometimes, maybe I don’t do all I could or should. But that’s when it’s important to have a backup like D.J. or somebody. And then, when things go wrong with someone, we all care about that person, and help them feel better.
“You’re going to be one of the youngest, if not the youngest, in your class. You’ll be one of the smaller ones on the playground. But, you’ve got lots of people around you who love you. And, even if you mess up, like today, we’re still going to love and support you. And, she says that’s the most important thing to getting a kid through those tough times.”