Connor, Richard and Bram are 3, 6, and 9 when the book opens, 5, 8, and 11 when it ends.
Mostly this is just transcription.
"Put your head under the faucet," FatSam suggested.
Connor looked at the faucet. "Why?"
"And turn on the water," FatSam added.
Connor looked at FatSam. "Why?"
"To cool off," FatSam said patiently. "The cold water will make you feel better."
"Oh. OK, I'll put my puny little head under there."
"Puny little head?"
"Puny is another word for small," Connor explained.
"I have a hex," said Connor.
"Like, magic? "
"A magic box?"
"A six sided box," said Connor patiently. "There's no magic in it, just Transformers. Hex, for hexagon."
"It's bedtime," yelled FatSam. "No more noise from the boys!"
Bram sighed loudly. "OK, OK, I'll shut up and go to bed."
"I'll shut up and get a glass of water," Connor yelled.
"I'm going, I'm going," Richard muttered.
"This ball is brand new," Connor observed. "When we get home it'll be new. Not brand anymore."
At a Lakers game the Lakers lose to he Charlotte Bobcats -- an awful team. It happens, FatSam tells Connor -- in the real world, the Lakers don't win every game. When Connor gets home he tells his mother:
"We went to the Lakers, but they lost to the Bobcats," said Connor, "because this is the real world."
When FatSam's father dies, Richard is four. FatSam inherits his father's car, and Richard asks: "If Papa dies again, do we get his next car?"
While suffering through having too many brothers and sisters ...
"I wish I was the lonely child," said Connor.
FatSam guesses ten different things and Connor says no to each of them.
"I give up."
"You're not supposed to give up."
Connor: "I'm googleplex happy. Googleplex is very happy."
"This is my real voice," said Connor. "I like to talk with it a lot. I was talking with my real voice at school today."
Connor held up two pairs of pants -- black cords and blue jeans. "Which pants should I wear?"
FatSam said, "I would wear the black ones."
"I would wear the black ones too, because black is my favorite color now."
"Because when you wear black no one can see you in the night."
"So you want to be a phantom in the night?"
"Yep. What's a phantom?"
"A phantom is like a ghost."
"OK, yeah, I want to be a phantom like a ghost in my black pants." Connor looked at the pants with satisfaction. "And I want a belt so I can look more handsome." He paused. "Sam? This is dark blue actually. Dark blue that looks like black."
"Does dark blue not help you be a phantom at night?"
"Well, people still can't see me at night, all I need is black at night, too, I need a black shirt and black hair and black skin with the dark blue pants."
"And then you'd be invisible?"
"And ... a black car. That's probably the most important."
FatSam could hear Connor singing in the tub:
"Bad bears, bad bears,
what you going to do,
what you going to do when the cops get you?"
(Second chapter of the book -- you first meet one of Sam's kids. Connor is 3.)
When the door to the bathroom opened, FatSam knew who it was, because all the older children were at school, and Anna would have knocked. They'd been married fifteen years, and Anna would have knocked. His three year old poked his head in, saw it was FatSam and came into the bathroom. He was carrying his brother Richard's walkie talkie in one hand. "Hi, Daddy. Can I have a bath with yous?"
FatSam smiled at him. "Sure."
Connor started getting undressed. He talked while undressing. "Good. Sharkboy needs a bath with Daddy. Mines shirt is stuck" -- his voice got a little muffled as he navigated it over his head, and he dropped the walkie talkie to the rug -- "Richard's walkie talkie was stuck," the shirt came over the head again, "so the shirt was stuck but not now, the water is big, because you're big and yous need big water?"
"Yes," FatSam agreed. "That's how it works."
"I'm taking mines underpants off and mines socks, Sharkboy is just a little boy and doesn't need big water, is the water hot? Sharkboy and ... and ... and Richard don't need it very hot." He stood on one foot and tugged at the sock on his left foot and fell over. "Woah! I fell down because because mines sock stuck. I sit down and I do the other sock and not fell down. There!" The other sock came off and he got up and stepped gingerly into the tub. He smiled sweetly as he settled down into the water by FatSam's feet. "It's hot but it's not very hot so it's OK for Sharkboy."
FatSam's children were all very smart. He knew that all parents thought that about their kids, but in this case, as in many others, the rest of the world was bloody well wrong, and FatSam was right. Connor wasn't four yet and could read some words in his picture books. FatSam had been reading at four; he saw no reason Connor shouldn't manage it at three.
"Are you Sharkboy today?"
"I'm always Sharkboy because, it's my first name. And my next name is Stretchyboy, and then Speedyboy is my next name, and then Connor is my name next and then Richard and then Israel and then O'Donnell."
"So your whole name is Sharkboy Stretchyboy Speedyboy Connor Richard Israel O'Donnell?"
Connor thought about it. "Yeeeessss," he said finally. That's how it works."
"I need the blue towel," Connor said, "because Stretchyboy's uniform is blue." FatSam handed the towel down to Connor -- Stretchyboy was from the Fantastic Four, and Sharkboy was from Sharkboy and Lava Girl in 3D. Speedyboy wasn't from a movie, as far as FatSam knew; Connor had inherited it from Richard, who occasionally made the point that he was the Original Speedyboy. FatSam sympathized; he'd been FatSam online longer than anyone else on the planet, he was pretty sure -- nowadays the internet was full of Fat Sams -- usually with a space in the name -- FatSam had been FatSam back in the days when BBS's didn't let you have a space in your name, and he'd gotten used to seeing the name that way.
Every now and again FatSam thought about changing his handle to The Original FatSam, just to make a damn point.
After their bath FatSam is sitting on his bed, naked, checking e-mail on his notebook -- Connor's gotten dressed already.
Sharkboy said, "Then that's why you need to put a shirt on yours belly, and underwear!"
"After I check my e-mail."
"Oh, OK, wait!" Connor jumped off the bed and ran into the living room. FatSam could hear him shuffling through the DVDs. He was back a second later. "Daddy, I want to watch Spiderman with you!" He had the DVD in one hand.
"Not right now," FatSam said. "Daddy's working."
"Nooooooo!" Sharkboy howled. "I need to watch Spiderman with you nooooowwwwww!"
"Not right now. I have to work. And you know you're not allowed to act like this."
"Yes, ma'am," Sharkboy sobbed. "But Mommy will watch it with me."
"Probably," FatSam agreed, "if you ask her nicely and aren't a drama queen."
Connor blinked and said in his normal voice, "I'm a drama king." He'd only recently gotten genders straight, him versus hers, princes and princesses and kings and queens -- the Chronicles of Narnia were helping out on that -- and was insistent that others do the same.
"Well, Mommy doesn't like drama queens or drama kings. Go ask nicely and I bet she'll watch the cartoon with you."
"OK. You put underpants on."
"Yes," said FatSam. "'Clothes make the man. Naked people have little or no influence on society.'"
"No influence," Connor agreed. "And a shirt."
About midway through the book FatSam ends up in the tub, nearing midnight ... Connor's heard the water running, and has gotten out of bed to have a bath with FatSam.
"We are two lucky guys," said FatSam. "I'm the best daddy in the whole world, and you are the best little boy. Other daddies wish they had a little boy as great as you, but only I do."
FatSam believed in positive reinforcement, and didn't consider megalomania a drawback, particularly for small boys who couldn't get their hands on explosives.
Connor smiled at being called the best little boy, but then asked something he'd never asked before. "Why? How come we're the best daddy and best little boy?"
"That," said FatSam enthusiastically, "is a superb question. Let's count."
FatSam held a fist up, so Connor held a fist up.
"One, we are both very handsome." FatSam stuck a finger up, and Connor used his other hand to lift a finger up out of the clenched fist. "One," he agreed.
"Two, we are both very smart."
"Very smart," Connor agreed soberly.
"Three, we are both very nice."
Connor looked doubtful. "I got a time out today."
"That happens," FatSam admitted. "But you're a little boy, so it's OK to have time outs sometimes and still be a nice guy."
"Three," Connor agreed, looking relieved. He had trouble with the third finger, holding it up while the thumb and pinkie were still down, so he held all three fingers with his left hand.
"Four, we are both very charming."
"Not as charming as Richard," Connor offered.
"No, no one in the whole world is as charming as Richard," agreed FatSam. "He's a dangerous boy. But you and me are both very charming."
"Four," and only the thumb was still down.
"Five," said FatSam, "we are both tough guys."
Connor stuck the thumb out and let go of the other four fingers. He held the hand out with the fingers widespread. "Yes, but I'm only three, so I'm not such a tough guy yet."
"Six," said FatSam, not bothering to stick up a sixth finger, "I love you a million times."
"And I love you more than doghouse peanut butter cookies," said Connor soberly. "Well, that's right then," he said after a moment's reflection, "we are the best daddy and little boy in the whole world."
Just before bedtime one night Connor says:
"When I have a car I will drive Dan to work, then I will drive Richard and Bram to school, then I will drive you to Burger King, thenI will drive you to McDonald's, then I will go home.
"And I will drive you to Kevin's house if I can drive that far. I will buy a car that goes really fast, so I can go to Kevin's house. And I will buy a really fast car for you guys, so you can go to Kevin's house. And that is the end. Now read me a story."
(Interesting age -- when my nephew Kevin was four years old he once told me, "Uncle Danny, when you get old, I'll drive you everywhere you want to go.")
Conversation with Richard, when he's about 6 -- FatSam has just worked a month of 90 hour weeks, has gotten done and is at the park with his sons. He tells Richard he's got a new client --
Richard had an odd, hopeful expression. "Daddy, does this mean you're going to get a half day client?"
"A client where you only have to work half of every day, so you can spend some time with us?"
"I'm working on it," FatSam said. "I'm working on it real hard."
Melissa Etheridge's version of "Thunder Road" is playing in FatSam's office. Connor stops in the doorway --
"Hey!" said Connor. "Hey! Hey! That's Thunder Road! Why is that girl singing Thunder Road?"
"Because she likes it," said FatSam. "She thinks it's a good song."
Then Springsteen came in -- "Hey!" said Connor, getting more excited. "That's the boy! That's the boy who sings the song! He likes it too! A boy and girl are singing together!"
"It's a town full of losers," FatSam and Connor sang together, "and I'm pulling out of here to win."
"Get your finger out of your nose."
Connor looked blank. "I'm looking for boogers."
"My eyeball is hurted. It's a little bit hurted, and humungous. The eyeball is a little bit hurted so it's humongouser, that what it is, I want to watch a movie on your computer, can I play Sonic with Richard? OK."
"Did I say yes to that and I didn't notice?"
"What you say?"
"Did you ask if you could play Sonic?"
"What did I say?"
Connor thought about it and ventured "Yes?"
"I don't think so. I think it's too late to play Sonic. It's almost bedtime."
"Oh, darn!" wailed Connor, and fell over again on the bed, instantly sobbing. FatSam sat and watched him. Eventually he slowed down.
"Does that work?"
"Does what work?"
"When you cry and cry and cry, do you get what you want?"
"No," said Connor in a broken-hearted voice.
"So why do you do it?"
"Because I'm so sad, and because you don't love me!"
"I love you more than anyone in the whole world," said FatSam. "Except Mama," he amended. "Mama loves you as much as I do."
Connor jumped up. He wasn't allowed to stand on the bed, but FatSam let it pass. "Hey, Daddy! I love you. I love you so much. Blaaaga!" He fell over on the bed and bounced around until his head was hanging over the edge.
"And I love you," said FatSam.
Connor looked at without moving his head, which was hanging upside down over the edge of the bed. "Hey, are yous a pirate? Pirates don't love nobody."
"Pirates get bad press," said FatSam. "I love you."
"Everybody loves me," said Connor. "Say who."
As a baby, even before he could talk, Connor had requested the recitation of the list by pointing at the palm of his left hand with the index finger of his right hand.
"Mama loves you, and Daddy loves you, and Alex loves you, and Andy loves you, and Bram loves you, and ... who's your big brother?"
"And Richard loves you. And Aunt Jody loves you, and Aunt Kathy loves you, and Aunt Kari loves you, and Kevin loves you." Kevin was the cousin Connor's saw the most. "And Missy and Luke and Matt and Joey love you," which were his other cousins, "and Grandma loves you, and Papa loves you forever."
"When I was a baby," said Connor --
"When you were a baby, the first person to see you, after me and Mama, was Papa. Papa drove across the entire city of Los Angeles at rush hour to come see you."
"Because I was born too soon and you was worried."
"Yes, and Papa loved us so much he made sure we could stop worrying by coming to the hospital and saying you were going to be OK."
"Papa is yours Daddy and he died."
"Yes," said FatSam. "But he loves us forever. That's the important part. And I will love you forever. It doesn't matter if I'm a pirate."
"Are yous a pirate?"
"Yes," said FatSam, "but not because of the patch."
"These are mine sandals. They're, they're, they're made out of shoes. Look!" He stamped his foot and red diodes lit up. "Lightning! Lightning on my foot, not off my foot. Watch again." Another stomp and he looked up, watching FatSam expectantly. "Isn't that cool?"
"Yep. When I was a little boy, nobody made shoes that lit up."
"When I was, I was, when yous was a little boy, nobody made lightning for shoes? That sucks."
"Yes," agreed FatSam. "But don't say 'sucks,' it's not a nice word for little boys."
"Oh." Connor looked uncertain, then brightened. "I better be going now."
"When I grow up," said Richard, "maybe I would still like to live with you and Mom."
"Maybe," said FatSam. "And maybe you'll want to marry your own girl and have your own kids in your own house."
"Maybe," said Richard uncertainly. "But if I want to live with you and Mom, I can." He finished the statement on a rising note.
"Honey," said FatSam, "you can live with me and Mom forever, if you want to."
"Good," said Richard. "Just if I want to."
Richard yelled to the other boys, "We can go to bed! We can go to bed!"
Bram said sadly, "I bet we have to have baths first."
"Yes," said FatSam.
Bram said, "I went first two days in a row."
Richard said, "I went like sixteen times in a row. No, like twenty times in a row. Mom makes him go first now because I went first twenty times in a row. Mom always tells Bram to go first because I always go first. I said I wanted to flip a coin in here and then I changed my mind."
"Yeah," said Bram, "after I flipped it."
"But I said, I don't want to flip a coin before that one, and you just flipped it anyways."
"Only because I won," said Bram.
"You only won because you went twice."
"I won both times, though," said Bram reasonably.
"He just flipped it anyways," Richard said to Sam.
"OK," said Bram, "What are we going to do then?"
"Sam," said Richard, "who do you think should go first, me or Bram?"
"Remember," said Bram, "as soon as you get in the tub you can go to bed."
Richard snickered. "You're going to go to bed in the bathtub?"
"You said as soon as you get in the bathtub you could go to bed."
FatSam's kids were all hair-splitting, nit-picking pedants. He was sure it came from their mother.
Bram laughed. "OK. After I get out of the tub, I can go to bed."
"And then Santa will come," said Richard soberly. "After we go to bed."
Bram didn't believe in Santa. FatSam knew Richard had his doubts on the subject, but both of them were considerate of Connor, who talked about Santa the way he talked about his friend Jack who lived down the street -- not here at the moment, but Connor would not have been surprised if Jack or Santa or both were to show up without warning.
FatSam missed part of the conversation. The next time the boys wandered by his door he had the impression they were insulting one another:
"You're tofu," said Richard.
"You're two tofu," said Bram.
"Toe board!" yelled Connor.
"Can I have a bath with Bram?"
Sam looked at him. "If there's no splashing. If there's splashing, no baths with other people."
"OK." Connor ran into the hallway and tried to open the bathroom door. It was locked. He knocked and yelled. "Sam says I can have a bath with you but not if there's splashing!"
The door opened and Bram peered out. "OK. Come on in."
Connor slipped inside. The door closed and Sam heard their voices, one high-pitched and the other very high pitched.
Connor: "I should get in the water?"
Bram: "Yeah, if you're going to have a bath."
"Oops! I forgot to take my clothes off! Wait."
"I did that one time. Forgot to take my clothes off."
"My clothes got all wet and I was really cold."
"I like warm baths," said Bram. "You should always take your clothes off and have a warm bath."
"Los Angeles is pretty excellent," said Bram. "When I have my first date with a girl, I'm going to take her to the pier and kiss her on the ferris wheel."
FatSam heard the front door open, followed by Anna's voice.
"Ow!" yelled Anna. "Ow ow ow ow! I just shut the door on my elbow!"
She walked into FatSam's office, rubbing her elbow. "Hi, honey."
"Hi, sweetie," said FatSam. "Our kids are sure related to you."
On Valentine's Day Connor tells everyone in the family: "I will love you when you are grown up."
Later that day:
"And when I grow up, I'm going to give all my Superman toys to my children."
"Richard pushed me and made me whine!"
"I'm a door," Connor intoned. "Look, a talking door!" He glanced down at himself, saw his right foot swinging idly back and forth. "A walking, talking door," he amended. He looked up and saw himself in the mirror across the room. "A walking, talking door with a shirt. A walking talking door with eyes. And a belly!"
Ricard: "Mommy, what's this say?"
"No well ... uhm, where's the well?"
Richard: "Sam, smell my hand. I washed it with soap. Seriously. Look, smell it."
"My heart can't breathe," said Connor, and threw up.
"Can I have a donut?"
"No, they're for the morning." FatSam watched him; he wasn't going to give Connor a donut, but he liked watching the boy think. "They're for tomorrow."
"Can I have a donut tomorrow?"
"Yes, you can have a donut in the morning."
"Because I'm so hungry, can I have a donut in the night?"
"If you want to save tomorrow morning's donut until tomorrow night, that's OK."
"So I can have a donut tomorrow night?"
"Can I have tomorrow night's donut on this night?"
"I got blisters on me fingers!" roared John Lennon.
"Did he say he had blisters on his butt?" Bram asked.
"Fingers," said Alex, and Bram snickered. Alex looked at him suspiciously. "You heard him fine, didn't you?"
"Uh huh," Bram agreed, and snickered again. "Blisters on his butt."
"I had a dream on this last night," said Connor. "Our new house was next to our old house, and our old house was in the dream, and they were next to each other, and our family. Was in the dream too. And the world! Not all the world, only half. And the half the world was in the river." Connor paused. "Rivers aren't big. The ocean is big. That's why it has sharks in it, and little sharks, and great big sharks, and puffer fish. And baby sharks. Babies turn into grownups. And little kids do too. And I was talking to Mama and she was talking to Richard and Richard said her car had his same birthday. The car is Richard's same age though but not his same birthday." Connor paused. "Mama said."
As I was posting the above, cutting and pasting it ... Richard was in the bathroom washing his hair. Bram walked in and said, "Connor just went into the bathroom with Richard and splashed Richard. Richard's all wet. I also heard a version where Richard dumped a bucket of water on his own head. That's one version. But in both versions Richard's entirely wet and he's in denial about it."
Richard came into the room. "I'm dry now. Look at my shirt!"
"But you were in denial," Bram said. "Oh, I made brownies!"
I've been smelling them for a while now. I believe I'll go have some.