Before you read
Here is a story about the worldview of a little child, and the difficult moral question she raises during the story session with her father.
In the evenings and for Saturday naps like today’s, Jack told his daughter Jo a story out of his head. This custom, begun when she was two, was itself now nearly two years old, and his head feltempty. Each new story was a slight variation of a basic tale: a small Who is Jo? How does she respond creature, usually named Roger (Roger to her father’s Fish, Roger Squirrel, Roger Chipmunk), story-telling? had some problem and went with it to the wise old owl. The owl told him to go to the wizard, and the wizard performed a magic spell that solved the problem, demanding in payment a number ofpennies greater than the number that Roger Creature had, but in the same breath directing the animal to a place where the extra pennies could be found. Then Roger was so happy he played many games with other creatures, and went home to his mother just in time to hear the train whistle that brought his daddy home from Boston. Jack
described their supper, and the story was over. Workinghis way through this scheme was especially fatiguing on Saturday, because Jo never fell asleep in naps any more, and knowing this made the rite seem futile. The little girl (not so little any more; the bumps her feet made under the covers were halfway down the bed, their big double bed that they let her be in for naps and when she was sick) had at last arranged herself, and from the way her fat facedeep in the pillow shone in the sunlight sifting through the drawn shades, it did not seem fantastic that some magic would occur, and she would take her nap like an infant of two. Her brother, Bobby, was two, and already asleep with his bottle. Jack asked, “Who shall the story be about today?” “Roger...” Jo squeezed her eyes shut and smiled to be thinking she was thinking. Her eyes opened, hermother’s blue. “Skunk,” she said firmly. A new animal; they must talk about skunks at nursery school. Having a fresh hero momentarily stirred Jack to creative enthusiasm. “All right,” he said. “Once upon a time, in the deep dark woods, there was a tiny little creature by the name of Roger Skunk. And he smelled very bad.” “Yes,” Jo said. “He smelled so bad that none of the other little woodlandcreatures would play with him.” Jo looked at him solemnly; she hadn’t foreseen this. “Whenever he would go out to play,” Jack continued with zest, remembering certain humiliations of his own childhood, “all of the other tiny animals would cry, “Uh-oh, here comes Roger Stinky Skunk,” and they would run away, and Roger Skunk would stand there all alone, and two little round tears would fall from hiseyes.” The corners of Jo’s mouth drooped down and her lower lip bent forward as he traced with a forefinger along the side of her nose the course of one of Roger Skunk’s tears. “Won’t he see the owl?” she asked in a high and faintly roughened voice. Sitting on the bed beside her, Jack felt the covers tug as her legs switched tensely. He was pleased with this
Should Wizard Hit Mommy? 49
moment —he was telling her something true, something she must know — and had no wish to hurry on. But downstairs a chair scraped, and he realised he must get down to help Clare paint the living-room woodwork. “Well, he walked along very sadly and came to a very big tree, and in the tiptop of the tree was an enormous wise old owl.” “Good.” “Mr Owl,” Roger Skunk said, “all the other little animals run awayfrom me because I smell so bad.” “So you do,” the owl said. “Very, very bad.” “What can I do?” Roger Skunk said, and he cried very hard. “The wizard, the wizard,” Jo shouted, and sat right up, and a Little Golden Book spilled from the bed. “Now, Jo. Daddy’s telling the story. Do you want to tell Daddy the story?” “No. You me.” “Then lie down and be sleepy.” Her head relapsed onto the pillow and...