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“WELCOME to 10 o’clock bitch!”. Sofia’s little brother announced at the table. Sofia and her mother froze. Her father quickly pulled out the acid filled spray bottle and squirted his son in the chest. A small squeal escaped the small boy’s mouth. The family stopped, stared at the small boy with less than a mite of expression, then continued eating their breakfast.
Sofia’s brother had acquired a weird habit after Perla, the nanny, had dropped him on his head 6 months ago. He was two years old at the time, and fell straight onto black asphalt at the zoo. The fall had caused massive internal bleeding, damaging his brain. Since then he couldn’t help himself from declaring the time every half hour, with the same strange phrase. Their entire family was trying hard to get him to quit. They had tried every method of punishment they could think of, consulting experts around the town. The newest method, acid squirting, was recommended by Pavlov, a family friend, who was studying conditioning.
Pavlov believed that by negatively reinforcing the boy each time he declared the time, the boy would soon learn to stop his strange habit. Sofia’s father did this approximately 30 times a day, every half hour that the boy was awake. The boy had begun to get burn marks on his stomach as a result of the acid conditioning, but that did not stop his lips from continuing to state the time. The father was at his wits end. He could not comprehend why his son would not stop this annoying manner.
Sofia understood why her father could not live with the humiliation that this toddler was bringing. Her family could no longer go out in public, unless, if only for ten minute intervals. Their social standing had dropped and they were becoming the town outcasts. Sofia was no longer invited to friends houses, and her teachers treated her poorly, believing that swearing and bad habits were a part of her family. Sofia and her parents felt hostility toward the little boy, they often wished they could prevent him from further deterring their quality of life. They often dreamed of a life without him.
As the family sat around the table that morning they could barely keep their hearts in their chests. Except for the boy, each one of them was anxious to get past ten thirty. 5.. 4.. 3.. Sofia counted down in her head.
“WELCOME to 10:30 Bitch!” Like popping a balloon, for Sofia and her mother, there was both stress and relief that accompanied the little boys sentence.
Sofia’s Father only felt the stress, He took the spray bottle and squirted his son twice this time. The boy whimpered a little more than before, and the family tried to finish their meal as if nothing were wrong.
After breakfast, They all went to the back yard. Sofia played with her new hula-hoop, while her parents closely watched her little brother. 11 came with her brothers half hourly announcement, the fathers squirt, and then the squeal. This time however the squeal was closer to a scream, her father’s anger had increased to the point that he let out five squirts, instead of one. Sofia’s mother noticed, but kept herself silent, and merely observed the scene.
Each time her hula-hoop looped around, Sofia felt the tension in the air rise. Around and around it went. The air became heavier and heavier. The hula-hoop did not stop and neither did the rise of the family’s frustration. The time neared towards 11:30. Sofia repeated her mental countdown. 5… 4… 3…
“WELCOME to 11:30 Bi-”
Sofia’s father began squirting before her brother finished speaking. Her father kept squirting till the boys body and face were red with burns. Once he fell to the ground, Sofia’s mother took the squirt gun and instead of putting it away she began squirting the silent body as well. When the bottle emptied the parents looked at each other, with wide eyes and smiles that stretched across their face.
They looked at Sofia without lowering their cheeks and waited until Sofia assumed the same expression. Then the three family members began allowing miniscule titters to enter the air and soon their laughter became a cacophony that echoed throughout the neighborhood. Sofia had entered a rhythmic set of cackles as her hula-hoop continued circling her-around and around- believing that all her family’s problems had disappeared.