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20 September 2002

Can any mommies and daddies out there give me some advice on IQ testing for babies? Seriously, I think I may have a budding genius on my hands here with Throbert Jr. (or Throbertina Jr.)!

The hilarious part is that for months now, I'd been concerned that he (or she) might be just a little bit... S - L - O - W. Go figure! I mean, the kid's gotta be over a year old now, judging by size and weight [Important note to new readers!!! Throbert Jr. (or Throbertina Jr.) isn't my natural-born offspring; he (or she) was left practically on my doorstep by (I'm guessing) some unwed and frightened teenage mother who'd (I'm guessing again) been struggling with daily recreational use of aromatic solvents during her first trimester, and who lived near or worked at (yes, this is another guess) a cyclotron or some other nuclear research facility. -- Ed.], but he (or she) hasn't uttered a word yet. What's worse, he (or she) has never spontaneously ''babbled'' the way infants are supposed to -- I read somewhere that all human babies produce the click sounds of !Xao and related African bush languages, the difficult trilled rzh of Czech, the undulating tones of Mandarin or Vietnamese. But not my baby. (Sob, sob!)

Throbby Jr. can't articulate labials or dental plosives at all, for instance -- no buh, no tuh, no mmmmm. Come to think of it, no velar fricatives, no liquid ''l'' or ''r,'' and no distinguishable long vowels, either.

He (or she) is phenomenal with the sibiliants, though -- day and night, Throbert Jr. (or Throbertina Jr.) sits there in the playpen I made out of chicken wire, some Muppet Baby stick-on decals, and the plugged-in cord from an old hair dryer, and just hisses like a moistened cobra on a hotplate. So you can see why any doting parent would've been concerned about the tyke's cognitive development.

But boy, did I get one big shiny ray of hope last night! I'd left Throbert Jr. (or Throbertina Jr.) playing with his (or her) Buttercup® PowerPuff Girl doll. We make a game out if it sometimes -- I'll hold the doll and make her do stuff and talk in a special girly voice:

Daddy: Oh, goodness, Blossom, is that a very special baby I see over there?
Baby: Hisssssss.
Daddy: Such boo-ful eyes the baby has, like scarlet billiard balls glistening in the rain, only with veins and black horizontal pupil-slits instead of numbers, don't you think?
Baby: Hissss.
Daddy: And what a pretty dolly! Wouldn't you like to comb her pretty hai-- no, we do not express our poison glands on the dolly! Bad, bad, bad baby! The doll is all melty now, you see?

Anyway, I'd left Throbert Jr. (or Throbertina Jr.) playing with the doll while I went to the kitchen to whip up some Beefy Mac 'n' Cheese. After a few minutes I started noticing this weird noise -- kind of a soft, fluttery, thumping. At first I thought it sounded muffled because it was coming from an adjacent apartment, but as I walked towards the apparent source I realized that the noises were emanating from the bedroom where my roommate, Juan, sleeps. So I carefully open the door, turn on the light, and -- holy shit, there's a pigeon flapping around the ceiling, stopping briefly to perch on the wall shelving and drop a few feathers before taking off again in a panic. I realized what had happened -- the upper sash of the window was open for cross-ventilation; the bird must've flown in and gotten confused.

Well, pigeons are like Boeing 747s for lice and similarly revolting members of the Arthropod phylum, so as I'm trying to figure out (a) how best to defenestrate this airborne pestilence and (b) whether Juan's bed linens will need disinfecting, I suddenly feel these claws scrabbling up my back. I realize right quick that it's Throbert Jr. (or Throbertina Jr.), but before I can grab the child, he (or she) takes this leap through the air right at the pigeon. Misses, but then alights on the antique wardrobe and before I or the pigeon knows what's happening, the kid slides back his (or her) jaw, the folding secondary mandibles spring out, and ZOOOT, half the pigeon plops to the floor like it had been cleaved by a vivisectionist's scalpel. Now, language difficulties or no, that kind of eye-hand coordination in a child so young has to count for something, I would think.

posted by Throbert | 9/20/2002 03:44:00 PM |
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