Stories About Joseph: Fairly Dangerous Adventures in the Garage and Car and Other Shenanigans

I continue to feel under the weather, but the fever is gone and with it my inability to do anything of consequence. I have laundry in both the washer and dryer, it’s a little past midnight, and I’m ready to get down to business.

Pippa called earlier to ask me to tell some stories about our adventures with Joseph, so I’m going to do exactly that.

I’ll begin with the garage of which there are three tales, though one is infinitely more disastrously than the rest.

Here’s story number one.

Like most young children, we loved make-believe, and one of our favorite games was called “car,” in which we would persuade some parent to let us into their car so that we could mess about and do things like pretend to go on road-trips and escape from “bad guys”. However, we were not known for our ability to not lock each other in the trunk, causing general pandemonium and arguments, and we tended to leave things a little messier than we found them. All that considered, it wasn’t a game that we were allowed to play often, so when we were, we milked it for all it was worth.

One of the times we had managed to beg our way into the cars, we decided that we were going to be a group of orphans escaping from an evil orphanage lady, à la Annie. It did not begin auspiciously. First, we loaded a ton of things into suitcases and stuffed them into the trunk, which inevitably would have been forgotten about and left there until some adult found them and wondered who decided to load up a duffel bag with CDs, bags of chips, and the contents of Lee’s shirt drawer. Then, we all piled in. I was in the passenger seat, hiding under a blanket, Lee and Pippa were hiding under more blankets in the back seat, and Joseph was pretending to drive. It was going pretty well. We had gotten out of sight of the orphanage and had just about shaken the “bad guys” off of our trail, when Joseph got the brilliant idea to actually start the car and take it out of park. Enough screaming ensued to break the eardrums of at least twenty adults, and we lurched forward, coming precariously close to slamming into the garage door. I believe that Joseph was grounded for the rest of the day, and our car privileges were revoked for several months. In a way, I suppose we did not end up escaping the evil orphanage after all.

Let’s move to number two, the potentially truly terrible one.

Following Hurricane Isabel, we were without power (and by extension, also school) for about a week, and after day four of not being allowed to hang out outside or able do any activity requiring electricity, we decided that we desperately needed to watch a movie. To solve this, we got Joseph’s new portable VHS player (It weighed over ten pounds, had a screen smaller than an iPad’s, and only worked when plugged into the car or the wall.), stole the car keys off of the key hook, and went into the garage from the door connected to the kitchen. We turned the car on, plugged in the VHS player, popped in a tape of Parent Trap, and Lee, Pippa, Joseph, and I all jammed ourselves into the back seat to watch.

About ten minutes into the movie, Joseph’s dad came running into the garage in a bit of a panic, opened up the big garage door,  turned off the engine, and made us all get out and stand outside. We were throughly confused as to why we couldn’t stay there and watch the movie—If anything, the grown-ups should have been glad to have us silently sitting in the garage and not bothering anyone! We had just gotten in trouble for playing on the stairs and making “witches brew” by putting the contents of the fridge into a giant pot and stirring it with wooden spoons and had been sent to “find something quiet to do.” Then, we all proceeded to learn that carbon-monoxide was very seriously B-A-D bad for you and that car batteries can run out of energy and that when they run out, it’s a problem.

And here’s number three:

(Pippa’s very fond of this next trick of Joseph’s.)

Now, Joseph’s family, unlike us, had an automatic garage door, and fairly early on, Joseph discovered that if he held onto the handle and someone pressed the button for it to open, he would be carried up along with the door. So he would have one of us stand next to the keypad, press the button so that he would go all the way up and be suspended many feet in the air, then drop to the ground, run to one end of the garage, have us press it again, and see how many times he could run in and out before being hit by the dropping door. We could usually only get away with about five minutes of quality garage door time before being asked to stop, but considering that we played this game whenever we wanted to get something out the garage, which was very often, it is incredibly surprising that the door did not break.

It was sort of like what happens when you give a present to a very young child—they only care for the wrapping paper and not for the carefully selected gift inside. We couldn’t care less about the countless toys in the garage, that door was where it was at, and we were going to have a blast with it until it was forcibly removed or we got distracted by something else.

Continuing in the theme of dangerous games, we were, as I mentioned earlier in Back Flips Off of the Sofa, Daredevil Stunts, and Childhood Dance Shows: The Story of Ella, the Gang, and the Merits of Free-Range Parenting, incredibly fond of a game we called “Gladiator.” Essentially, we would all grab a cushion from the couch, run full tilt at each other, and attack. If you fell over, you were “dead.” Once again, it’s a miracle no one cracked their head open or got seriously injured. This, unfortunately, was partially my brain child, the result of reading about Ancient Rome, but the attacking component was all Joseph’s.

I’ve always been very focused on strategy in games like Gladiator and discovered early on that if you planted your feet in a slight lunge and stayed slightly in the corner—thus preventing attacks from the rear—you could usually end up being the last one standing or have the most effective position from which to start barreling across the room, knocking over everything in your path. Pippa, however, didn’t have much of a battle plan and was typically our biggest pacifist, so it was a huge surprise when she went running towards Joseph who was sitting, crouched on the couch. He brought his feet up and kicked her squarely in the middle of her chest (which was thankfully covered by a pillow) with both of his feet, launching her into the air almost horizontally, before she slammed back down onto the mat, cushioned by her pillow. When I did some fact-checking on these stories with her this evening, she said that it felt like she was flying for a few seconds before the panic set in, and she landed hard on the ground.

Here’s the evening’s last story.

Joseph, if you haven’t already surmised, was prone to impulsivity and thus, bad decisions. We once walked into his house to discover him in his dining room, sitting on a chair with his foot stuck clear through a pane in the glass door as his dad propped his leg up with phonebooks and broke enough of the glass away so that they could remove his foot and take him to the hospital for stitches. No one has ever discovered the reason for why or how this happened, but at the time, it was just accepted as something completely normal and not a real cause for concern. It was just “you know, one of those things that Joseph does.” And if you’ve read In Which Ella Discovers A Cat Underneath the Deck (spoiler: it involves Joseph, his cat (named after himself), and a bathing experiment), you’ll probably understand that explanation even more.

So there you go, Pippa, you now have five different Joseph stories for your reading enjoyment. Any one else have story requests?

Tomorrow, depending on how well I feel, I’ll either do the day-in-my-life post I referenced in Back Flips Off of the Sofa, Daredevil Stunts, and Childhood Dance Shows: The Story of Ella, the Gang, and the Merits of Free-Range Parenting, finish writing about the book launch for Maureen Johnson’s In the Name of the Star I went to back in September (You can find earlier stories about that awesome day here: A Scintillating Story in Which Ella Nearly Loses a Boot, Takes a Train, and Eats Lunch and here: In Which Ella Has a Costume Change), or finally get around to writing about the time I went to the Laini Taylor signing in the beginning of October (a bit about that day can be found here: In Which Ella Refers to the Morning as Yesterday).

For the month, you can find me updating my word count on NaNoWriMo here. (I need to do it more regularly so that it doesn’t become flat for a few days, only to receive an enormous spike, indicating that I somehow magically wrote about twelve thousand words in one day.)

And as always, you can also find me on tumblr at, if, you know, you’re into that kind of thing.