"Liam hurt Noa!" the call floats over the yard, over the newly cut grass and the roses that have just opened. Floats like some winged devil creature, spry and aching for trouble - just waiting to relish in the punishment that surely must be coming to the accused offender.
Why must a tattle always be presented like a victory?
Glee practically oozes when they have some fresh dirt to spill, plopping at the feet of whichever parent acknowledges them first - a euphoric pile of sibling-destroying bliss - tattletale-pie, fresh and wet and reeking retribution. (Not unlike Liam's socks and their ever-taunting tango with the laundry detergent.)
Noa's stumbling across the lawn, summertime dirty and hair bleached bright white beneath the sun that has us melting into our Walmart deck chars. Tears streak through the sandbox dust on her cheek.
"He grabbed her arm and twisted. Like this." And Tattler mimes an indian sunburn.
Noa gets her whimpering self up on the deck and tucks herself up beside me.
"Why would you do that, Liam?" I ask.
"Because!" But he sees my face and he see his sisters tears and he knows that's not enough. "Because... she was telling secrets from my life!"
There are moments of discipline that make it near impossible to keep a straight face.
"Secrets from your life? What secrets?"
"Just stuff I didn't want her to tell!"
"Did you tell his secret, Noa?"
"She telled the neighbours." And he says neighbours like it's a curse word.
"Does that mean it's okay to hurt her?"
"Well, she just did it and she knew I didn't want her to!"
His hair is sticking to the side of his face, sweat beads along his temple and I can't tell if the red on his cheeks is from anger or because it's so hot.
Noa's tears are gone but her face is one big dirt-smear-mess. She leans in to me, eyes sparkling with crying leftovers and the fire of now being the one who had a tale to tattle. "I dest told them that Liam peed on their tree."
Liam's bottom jaw juts out. "NNNOOOOAAAAAA!!!!"
But by that point we are all laughing and he doesn't have a leg to stand on (or a tree to pee on).