I Like The Taste Of Sweet Fern Dirt.

by Serge Bielanko

I tried to keep her from shoveling the dirt in her mouth, but no. It went in her mouth. Plant dirt, from the big boy in the floor pot. I holler out NO like in the movies, slow motion sound/drawn out for effect. Its useless.

The way she does it though is as pure as anything I have witnessed in some time. I'm on my back relaxing on the floorboards. She glides across the waxed wood in her new long pants. Effortless it seems. A lily in the current. I chuck a couple of squishy building blocks her way as a deterrent when I notice she's headed toward the Ikea Palm. She shucks and jives through the carpet bombing, maintains speed/course/mission. I figure that the worst won't happen. Shit, it can't. She won't eat dirt. No way no how.

Will she?

Her little body trucks across the floor through the hail of fun rain. She pays no mind and about halfway through her boogie I start using my voice as a weapon. Stern Daddy. I say stuff like:

"Violet, look at me!" She does not look, of course.

I throw in a, " Violet, Nooooooooooooo." I use firm loving tones. They mean nothing to her. She gets closer and closer.

"Violet! Come Doll-butt! Come here to Papa!" A soft red square pounces off her back. She crawls faster at the plants.

I feel a little pissy because it is looking as if I might need to actually move from my repose, to stop her. To save my little baby. I flip over, a Manatee on the house floor. I chuck a stuffed bowling pin that looks like a cow at her. It swipes her feet but the stubby arms keep reaching out for floor and finding it and so now she's at the plants.

I scootch up. Violet rises to her knees with easy grace. Her smile is a billion suns and they're all turned on, to high. Her right arm arches from her body, unfolds, and places her cupped pink palm into the rich dark dirt. She is a little bulldozer, I think. Dozing away, that's what my kid is up to. A little scooper. A little soil shifter.

I begin to release a hideous squeal. There is concern in its layers of panicked audio, but also a mildly feminine hodgepodge of surprise/repulsion/early afternoon emergency. As I make my sound I stand, launch my self at her. But on that perfect Technicolor Plasma 51 incher that is real life, I watch my tender nubile Violet take a mini-handful of potted dirt from the brim to her lips without missing a beat. There is no hesitation at my screech. No pause to ponder or deliberate. This is as pure and poetic as weekdays ever seem to get.

The kid goes for the dirt, gets it, and eats in one stunningly fluid movement. And it doesn't end there. No taste testing here. She is a Bielanko, for God's sake. Swallow whatever it is you just shoved in your piehole quick before someone tries to take it away from you. By the time I fly down from the sky and land next to my baby-in-need and shake out the dust from my superhero cape: she's already gulping, she's already looking up at me and grinning my way with her blackish lips. I catch sight of a fleck of cruddy dirt on one of her two teeth. A speck of tiny dirt on her little nugget of a tooth.

Its the whiskey-drunk pistol-swinging Devil himself: dancing at the Pearly Gates.

I sweep her up and rush around unsure of what to do. I run into the kitchen and turn on the sink, turn it off again. Finally, I grab a mostly empty baby bottle off the coffee table in the living room and slam it into her jaws. I am a paramedic. I am a creator of life. And a sustainer of it too. She guzzles the lukewarm formula in the bottle and lays back in my arms and looks up at me like:


Freaking kids. She'll be the damn death of me, you know.

Eating dirt from plant pots while I'm trying to whack her in the noodle with Nerf bricks. Munching on fistfuls of crumbly fern craps and fly wings and dog hairs and, Oh God...what else? How long have we had that freaking plant? There could be pot seeds in that soil. Hell, there could be old blow dust in there for all I freakin' know.

Ugh. Love is so goddamn tricky. I don't wanna give a rat's ass if someone mainlines straight Miracle Grow. I really truly don't wanna care. It never would have phased me before. Eat scorpions dipped in deer blood. Whatever. I was free to not worry about anyone at all.

But its just too late for all that now isn't it?