“We should take his temperature rectally.” Words that no human being should ever wake up to.
“Hmm,” I said, feigning sleep.
“Did you hear me?” she said. “The book says the armpit is not reliable enough.”
“The book says a lot of things,” I mumbled. Stall tactic. It would never work; I quickly tried a new tack. “Well, we should take it then…rectally.”
The word reverberated through the bedroom like a cheap 80s pop effect. Rectally. Ectally. Ally. Ly. It hung there, unclaimed in the airspace, reveling in its grammatical glory. For only English could concoct a word as heinous as rectum, and then feel the need to supplement it with adjectival and adverbial forms.
“Yes,” she said coyly, “we definitely should. I’m late for work. There’s Vaseline in the top drawer.”
Well, that just didn’t work at all. “Well, what do you mean? I don’t know how to do that. I mean, what if I break him?”
“You’re not going to break him. Look, just pretend this is your skewered piece of bread,” she said coolly. “And he’s your little fondue pot.”
Thank you, Wife. Thank you for irrevocably tainting the entire medium of fondue for me. For you see, Bub had his first brush with illness this week, which translated for us into a dizzying array of sleep-starved nights, second-guessing, paranoia and the introduction of The Rectumnator.
Oh, you poor little TrueRead digital thermometer—you’ve no idea what is in store for it on this sad afternoon. Join the club, buddy. My experience in rectal thermometers to this point did not extend much past a small portfolio of Laffy Taffy jokes.
The questions kept circling around my head: How far do I put it in? Is it going to hurt? What if he squirms? Or kicks like a mule? What if it gets stuck? What if he breaks it off? How do I know when it’s done? Is there some sort of proper rectal foreplay protocol? I mean, shouldn’t I sing him a song first or something? What exactly was wrong with this kids armpits?
The things parents do for their kids, right? I chose a diaper-changing, after a nap. Seemed as good a time as any. He looked so happy lying there, playing with a Babar book, waiting for me to put on the new diaper. Drafty, but happy. I said a few comforting things to him. I had trouble maintaining eye contact. He saw the thermometer, the Vaseline, couldn’t see the rest. Just like a C-section. And…
Nothing happened. I shouldn’t say nothing. There was a delay in the reaction—the thing slid right in. Then he looked like he had a deep itch, or that he was trying to poop (I was pulling for the former). I sang to him, directed attention to Babar’s antics, sweated. It was all over in about fifteen seconds. And though I can’t speak for Bub (wait, yes I can), I’d say we actually prefer it to the armpit twitchy inaccuracy. We’re old pros now. We should start a band. The Rectum Twosome. Or not.