"Hello - Mrs. Haversham? Is this the right room? May we come in?"
"Yes, I'm Mrs. Haversham. Are you Mr. and Mrs. Wilkinson?"
"I'm Harv Wilkinson, and this is my wife, Mae."
"Pleased to meet you, Mrs. Haversham..."
"Thank you, Mrs. Wilkinson, I'm pleased to meet you both."
"Mrs. Haversham, is Johnny in some sort of trouble?"
"Well, Mr. Wilkinson, it's not that he's in trouble exactly. Johnny is a very good boy, very well behaved."
"Well, I should hope so... I have tried to raise him right..."
"Dear, Johnny is a sweet boy. You've done a wonderful job with him, and anyway, he takes after you."
"Harv, you're so sweet to say it, but... well, there must be some sort of trouble, or we wouldn't be here. Isn't that right, Mrs. Haversham?"
"As I say, Johnny isn't in trouble, exactly, but... well, I should just show you. The class prepared drawings of what their typical Sunday dinner is like. The children all drew pictures of themselves at the table with their families. And so did Johnny, it's just that..."
"What? Did he portray us as cannibals or something?"
"Harv, dear, please don't make jokes."
"But Mae, really, what could the problem be here? Did Johnny draw something disturbing? Things have been a little tense lately... What I mean to say is, Johnny's mother and I haven't been fighting, exactly, but there has been some discord in the last month or so -- nothing we talk about in front of him, and nothing he's responsible for, but I'm sure he must pick up on it."
"Well, Mr. Wilkinson, maybe that's it. I should just show you what Johnny drew... Here... you see?"
"That's us at dinner, that's me, I guess -- carving... is that a red velvet cake?"
"Oh, Harv, you have no eye at all for Johnny's artwork. Of course that's you, dear, those are your horn-rimmed glasses. And that's a ham just out of the oven."
"Well, Mrs. Haversham, this looks all right to me..."
"Mr. Wilkinson, Mrs. Wilkinson, the problem isn't the drawing. The problem is what he wrote in the word balloons."
"These here? I can't really... I can't read his handwriting... What does this say over my head?"
"Let me see, Harv. I think it says... 'Comb comb my kaub?' "
"That doesn't make any sense at all. Mrs. Haversham, can you read this?"
"I spend a little time making it out, but I am used to your son's penmanship. I was able to read it quite well. You can see, here, this word isn't 'comb,' it's 'climb.' And it's not 'Comb comb,' it's 'Come climb.' "
"Oh yes, I see it. Yes, but still...?"
"The whole sentence reads, 'Come climb on my knob.' "
"Well, I -- !"
"Miss Haversham, that can't be right. I think you're reading into it... I think you're literally reading into our son's drawing things that aren't there. Dirty things. I think I might want to see the principal about this."
"Mr. Wilkinson, I need you to lower your voice. Please and thank you. The principal has seen this drawing, and others Johnny has made. She is very concerned about what his home life is like. She's got a degree in social work, you know."
"But Mrs. Haversham -- our son couldn't have... wouldn't ever have heard such language at our dinner table!"
"Mrs. Wilkinson, when children act out in this way -- "
"Act out?! Our sweet boy doesn't act out!"
"Mae, let the woman talk. I'm sorry, Mrs. Haversham, please continue."
"By act out, all I mean is that Johnny might be channeling his anxieties in inappropriate ways. He might not know that it's inappropriate, but part of what I do as his teacher is watch for signs that the children under my care might be distressed. It's not necessarily going to be the case that what Johnny wrote was said at the dinner table, or even said at all. But he might have overheard something that communicates a similar sentiment. Now, you said that there has been some friction in the home lately?"
"Yes, there has, but... nothing too serious..."
"Mae, what I mean is, nothing that a marriage can't be expected to go through at some point."
"Well, I like that! First it's your male animal urges and then it's having too much testosterone and now it's, why, it's something every marriage goes through! It's all the rage! Why not!"
"Now, Mae - "
"And for the record, I do take it very seriously, Harv. Because I take the vows I made very, very seriously."
"Mrs. Wilkinson... Mr. Wilkinson... I can see that this is a delicate subject. I don't want to intrude. But I do want to underscore my concern that the situation in your household might be affecting Johnny in ways that you don't see or realize."
"Respectfully, Mrs. Haversham, if my son were affected by all this I think I'd see it."
"Mrs. Wilkinson, can you see what Johnny wrote in the word balloon over your head? Here?"
"I... let's see, this looks like... Is this a name?"
"Shall I simply read it to you, Mrs. Wilkinson?"
"Yeah, Mae, just let her read it. She knows his handwriting."
"I apologize for what you're about to hear, but it says, 'At least Tommy Albcorn thinks I am a fucking hot ride.' "
" 'Tommy?' Thom Albkorne?! For Christ's fucking sake, Mae!"
"And here, if you look closer, he's written a second word balloon for you, Mrs. Wilkinson. It says, 'How do you like licking his jizz off my molars, that'll show you!' "
"Mrs. Halversham! That will be quite enough! I must say I am deeply shocked and - and offended - "
"Aw, knock it off, Mae. I shoulda seen it all along. Thom Albcorne. Shit!"
"At least he treats me like a lady."
"Oh, you ain't no lady."
"And he speaks to me respectfully, and he bothers to take a shower first!"
"You fucking slut."
"Mr. Wilkinson - Mrs. Wilkinson - "
"Oh? So I'm a 'fucking slut?' And what does that make your little chippy? Don't you 'You fucking slut' me! You're the fucker here! Tommy is a lawyer, and he's told me what my rights are. You broke the covenant, Harv. Not me. You. You broke it. And now you can - "
"I can lick Thom Albkorne's goddamned jizz off your back teeth? Really?!"
"Mr. and Mrs. Wilkinson! You can stop this immediately, or you can both -- "
"What, teacher lady? Stand in the corner? Take a 'time out?' "
"Mr. Wilkinson, you'll address me respectfully. I'm sorry about your martial woes, but you will address me calmly and with respect."
"Yes, Harv. Respect a lady for once."
"And Mrs. Wilkinson, I feel for you, but we are not here to discuss the wrongs anyone has done anyone else. We are here to talk about your son. Can we all -- can you both, can we all focus on Johnny for a few minutes?"
"I will if she will."
"Of course I want what's best for my son. But how could he know any of this? Where did he hear such language?"
"That's true, Mrs. Haversham. Things aren't the best around our house, but nobody says words like that. Not in front of the kid anyway."
"Perhaps he heard you arguing? When you thought he was asleep, maybe?"
"No, I don't think so..."
"No, no, Mrs. Haversham, I married a pig, but he usually speaks like a gentleman. Even if we're having a disagreement. The way he spoke to me just now is... Well, to be honest, he's never said anything like to me. Never before just now."
"Is he hearing this kind of thing on the playground. Mrs. Haversham?"
"Mr. Wilkinson, what Johnny has written here is very specific and meaningful. He's not just using random words he's heard other children say. But at the same time, I'm perplexed. He never uses such language, but the drawings he's handed in over the last two weeks..."
"There's more of this filth?"
"I'm afraid so... some of it is even more vulgar and shocking."
"He didn't hear anything like it from me, Mae."
"Where did he pick it up, then?"
"Oh, I dunno, maybe from your sister? Who weighs in all the time about our private stuff that you keep telling her?"
"Johnny hasn't seen my sister since last Easter."
"But she phones you, right? Did he maybe pick up the phone and she gave him an ear full? Mrs. Haversham, my wife's sister is a man-hating harridan who crams junk into her mouth every second of the day she's not smoking, and when she's not cramming garbage in there, hoo boy, the garbage that comes out!"
"Harv, don't you trash talk my sister!"
"Honey, nobody has any room to complain, the way that woman talks trash every time she puts her mouth in gear."
"Jeanne would never use words like that to an eight-year-old boy."
"Then where did he hear it? He didn't hear it from me; he didn't hear it from you; the kids on the playground don't know a thing about our affairs -- "
"A well chosen word, Harv."
"... And I don't know half of what our son has written here, and this is how I find out. Your sister, Mae. Your fu -- sorry, Mrs. Haversham. But, Mae, your sister."
"Should we maybe ask Johnny? Mrs. Wilkinson? Would he tell us if his aunt had repeated things to him that you told her?"
"But the thing is, I never told Jeanne about Tommy..."
"Yeah? Well, you sure told her everything about Francine and me."
"Oh. Her name is Francine is it?"
"Mrs. Wilkinson, Mr. Wilkinson. Again, I urge you to focus on why we are here. Johnny. Okay? Let's talk about Johnny. In fact, let's talk to Johnny. He's in the principal's office waiting for me to..."
"Are you texting, Mrs. Haversham?"
"I'm letting Principal Sheridan know that we're ready for -- oh, hello, Johnny."
"Hi, Mrs. Haversham... Hi Mom! Hi, Dad!"
"Well, hey there, Sport!"
"Sport, you know why we're here, right?"
"Because of the pictures I drew. Mrs. Haversham didn't like them."
"But do you know why she didn't like them, dear?"
"Why do you think she might not have liked them?"
"I don't draw too good..."
"I don't draw too well..."
"Leaving the grammar aside for a minute... Sport, has your Aunt Jeanne been telling you anything?"
"Your Aunt Jeanne? Do you talk to her on the phone?"
"Aunt Jeanne? No."
"Well, son, there are some words you used on this drawing that are bad words. Grown-up words. Not words for kids. Do you know what I'm talking about?"
"I'm not sure. You mean like 'jizz?' "
"Jonathan Bryce Wilkinson! Do you want your mouth washed out with soap?"
"Mae, let him be. We want to get to the bottom of this, right? Let him talk, and then we'll explain."
"So... that is a bad word?"
"Yes, son... for a kid your age, it's a bad word. You can say it when you're older."
"I can? How old do I have to be?"
"You can say it when you have it."
"Really, Mr. Wilkinson..."
"Ladies, calm down. Let a man talk to his son."
"Always joking, Everything is a joke. Everything so light and funny, ha ha ha! Tra-la, fillip, follip, floozy!"
"Mae -- "
"Mrs. Wilkinson, this isn't the time. Johnny, it's not just the bad words, it's the things you have your parents saying in your drawing. Those are adult things that someone your age shouldn't have to think about."
"But I'm not thinking about them. I just wrote them down. They're thinking about them."
"Sorry, son, but how would you know that? Did Aunt Jeanne say something?"
"Harv, leave my sister out of it already! He already said he hasn't talked to her!"
"Son, where did you hear people talking like that?"
"You and mom."
"Uh, no, son. No. Mrs. Haversham, no."
"Mr. and Mrs. Wilkinson, I do want to give you the benefit of the doubt, but I should tell you that if there's indication of sufficient disturbance in a household I am required by state law to contact social service."
"Oh, no, you don't! You back off. You're not taking my son."
"Mrs. Haversham, it's really not necessary. Wherever Johnny heard this sort of talk, it wasn't at home."
"Johnny? You parents and I very much want to know where you heard people talking like this. We want you to tell us the truth... Don't we Mr. Wilkinson? Mrs. Wilkinson?"
"Well -- yeah. Sure."
"Of course we do. Johnny, just tell us the truth. Where did you hear this sort of thing?"
"You and Dad."
"But Johnny! Your father and I would never, never say these things. Not to you..."
"No, son, and evidently not even to each other. Look here. Look at this. Johnny. Look at this, son. You see what this says? 'Climb on my...' Well, you see it?"
"Do you know what that means?"
"I think I do."
"Who talked to you like this? Did someone touch you and make you unhappy?"
"Son, did anybody touch you in a way that was... bad...?"
"No. I don't think so."
"Then who said these things about climbing on knobs and jizz on back teeth?"
"But dad, you did, and mom did."
"Johnny. We never -- never..."
"Not with your loud voice. Duh! With your inside voice. Like how Mom is thinking that she's going to get the Lexus when she nails your ass to the wall in court. And you're thinking that a glass of scotch will sure be nice once you get out of that hell hole Mom calls a home and you and Francine can get down to business. And Mrs. Haversham is thinking about whether she should call Mr. Duffy at social services, or Miss Abernathy. She doesn't like Mrs. Abernathy because she's a stuck-up bitch, but she's shy about calling Mr. Duffy. She should never have given that blow job to Mr. Duffy in his car after they talked for two hours about Tammy Richards and how Tammy's father -- "
"Johnny! Stop right now!"
"Yes, Mom... Dad? What's a blow job? Why do you think it's funny?"
"Never you mind... Mrs. Haversham?"
"Mr. Wilkinson... Mrs. Wilkinson... I don't know what to say..."
"Looks like you don't need to say anything. Not around this little guy... Johnny, I want you to listen to me very carefully. I want you to promise that when people are using their inside voice, you won't listen."
"I don't, Dad! Usually I don't. It's really boring and dumb. But sometimes when people are right there and they're being really loud, I can't help it."
"Even if you can't help it, son, you can't ever say anything about what you hear. Never repeat it. People's thoughts are sacred. They're private. You understand?"
"Yes. But dad? Can I ask something, though?"
"Of course, son... you can ask me anything. You know that."
"What's an exa-cism?"
"Okay, which one of you two -- "
"Dad? What's a slag?"
"Quiet, son. Which of you two nice ladies is thinking my son needs a goddamn exorcism? He's a mind reader, he's not possessed!"
"Well, Harv. I mean, it's not exactly natural, is it?"
"It is for him, evidently!"
"Excuse me, everyone, but really... I think it's time for me to go. I... I have some calls to make."
"Ya don't have to be a mind reader to know she's planning to call her lawyer."
"No, Dad, she's planning to call Mr. Albkorne."
"Son, what did I tell you about repeating what you hear people think? What they say, fine. That's public. But not what they think. That's private."
"Yes, Dad. Sorry."
"Anyway, Mr. Albkorne is her lawyer... Johnny? Are you crying?"
"You and mom are gonna break up and it's my fault."
"No it isn't, son. It's my fault. And your mother's fault, too. It takes two to... not tango."
"What I mean is, this has been coming for a long time. It's not your fault."
"Dad? Is it okay that I'm gonna live with you?"
"Did your mom say something about that with her inside voice? -- It's okay. You can tell me."
"She said... she thinks I'm a freak and the devil. What's a spawn?"
"Spawn of the devil? Oh, that's nice. -- Mrs. Haversham, I think we've cleared this up. Are you going to be okay with it?"
"To be honest, Mr. Wilkinson, I don't know whether I believe what I just heard."
"But can you keep a secret for Johnny's sake?"
"Well, I -- yes, Mr. Wilkinson, I can do that. If Johnny can promise not to listen to me thinking."
"Yes, Mrs. Haversham. I'm sorry. I never listened before. It's just you were so close and you were thinking so loud. I didn't mean to."
"Then we don't need to say anything more about it. I think we can let the matter rest where it is, and if we never need to talk about it again... well, that will be that."
"Thanks, Mrs. Haversham. Come on, Sport, we better go figure out how to feed ourselves. From now on it's just gonna be you and me... We can't let ourselves got too uncivilized."