While keeping me company during my shift at the school book fair recently, my son discovered this literary gem:
"Would You Rather?... Gross Out! Over 300 Crazy Questions (plus extra pages to make up your own!)."
I would like to thank authors Justin Heimberg and David Gomberg for this imaginative, haunting masterpiece, which had me pondering such weighty questions as: "Would you rather have hairy gums or ants crawling in your armpits?"
Jack, of course, loved it. Proclaiming it the best book since Captain Underpants, he spent the next half-hour drilling customers.
"Would you rather chew a leaf of poison ivy or a piece of gum you found on the bottom of your shoe?"
One mom smiled politely and looked over at me. I smiled back and pretended to count change.
"Leaf of poison ivy?" Jack repeated, because obviously this lady had trouble hearing. "Or a piece of gum from the bottom of your shoe?"
"Ummm, well, that's a tough one," she said.
She was browsing the picture books — lovely, innocent, nonrepulsive picture books made for snuggling at bedtime. I remember those books. I guessed she wasn't shopping for a 9-year-old boy.
"Gosh, well," she said. "I guess ... the poison ivy?"
"Definitely," Jack nodded.
"I don't know," another mom broke in, shaking her head. "If you saw the poison ivy Roger had last summer, you might not say that."
It was my friend Sydney, whose husband, Roger, leads Jack's Cub Scout den.
"Yeah, but gum from the bottom of a shoe?" I shot back. "At least poison ivy is ... fresh."
The debate was on. Jack offered the next question.
"Would you rather swallow five live cockroaches, or have to bathe in a tub filled to the brim with octopuses?"
"Octopuses," I said. "I don't think I could eat anything that was actually crawling."
Sydney winced and put a hand to her mouth. "Sorry," she said. "Gag reflex."
Jack's fourth-grade teacher was in the library now, laughing and joining in the absurd debate. She has sons.
"Would you rather have to eat a snotsicle," Jack continued. "Or a roadkill hot dog?"
"Ewwww," I said, and smiled at the twinkle in Jack's eyes, knowing how much he loves to shock.
"'Roadkill hot dog,' " one mom offered. "Isn't that redundant?"
We groaned and winced and laughed again. I paused and looked around for Picture Book Mom, but she was gone.
Give her a few years, I thought. She'll come around.