A family room in California. Late September, 5pm. A smattering of worn socks are strewn on the floor, alongside a sneaker and a flip flop. Lego pieces, the small ones perfect for inadvertently stepping on, hide in the carpet’s pattern. A throw blanket that had been strategically placed by the mother on the dirt-stained arm of the sofa is strewn on the floor, next to last week’s classwork spilling out of a backpack. A licked-clean popsicle stick takes up company on the floor with an empty plate that looks like Nutella may have been consumed there. We hope it was Nutella.
A child reclines on the sofa, absorbed in Volume 4 of the Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan. He folds the page where the next chapter begins, and lumbers over to a stool next to his mother, who is just now reading the newspaper.
Kid: (Sighing) I think I want to join the Army. Or Something.
Mom: Well, that’s two different things. The Army, and Something. What’s Something?
Kid: I don’t know. I want to be a hero. Like Percy Jackson.
Mom: There are a lot of ways to be a hero that don’t involve bullets.
Kid: Like a fireman?
Mom: Uh huh…Actually, I was thinking of something else. I was reading about MacArthur Geniuses, and one hero who’s an environmental engineer, who learned how to take wastewater and turn it into energy.
Kid: I just like to fight.
Mom: I have an idea.
Kid: What is it?
Mom: You’ll be my hero when you pick up your socks, Legos, and dirty dishes.