Then, later, my daughter asked, as she often does, for me to make up a story on the spot. Only one thing came to mind.
“Hmmm,” I said. “I could tell you the story of reapportionment in the state of Connecticut.”
She responded appropriately: “What’s reapportionment?” I tried to explain.
“Well, we have three kids and two parents in this family. Let’s say we had to decide what to have for dinner. The kids want hamburgers, but the adults want liver and onions. The kids have a better chance of getting what they want, because there are more of them, right?”
She looked incredulous. In reality, our family is not a democracy — you eat what’s on the table, and she knows it. She also knows that a meal of liver and onions would result in a coup to rival Cuba’s. But she humored me, good-natured and generous child that she is.
“So what we can do is invite two more adults to dinner. That way we have more adults at the table, and more people who want liver and onions.”
“But what if the two new adults don’t like liver?” she asked. My daughter is very reasonable (unlike her father).
“They’ll pretend they like it, if they want to sit at the table. But then, what you kids do is, you actually take a chair away from the table and hide it, so there’s no room for more adults. Then we have a chance to add a chair in 10 years. Now lie down and go to sleep.”
The explanation complete, I launched into my story. I knew that the more boring the story, the sooner the slumber, and I knew that this would not be a problem, considering the subject matter.
I have included my daughter’s questions and comments during the story in parenthesis:
Once upon a time there was a kingdom of two parties.
(Only two? I like parties. They should have more parties.)
No, not parties like with cake and presents, parties like groups. Let’s just call them two teams, a red team and a blue team. Each team wanted stuff in the kingdom: The red team wanted the ships and the castles and the trebuchet.
(What’s a trebu-shay?)
Forget the trebuchet. The red team wanted the ships and the castles and the people, while the blue team wanted the forests and the rivers and the people.
(I want to be on the red team. They have the castles. Who wants forests?)
Yes, but you can’t build houses if you don’t have wood, and wood comes from forests.
(Who cares? I would have a castle!)
Fine, fine, you’re on the red team. This situation was very difficult as you might have guessed. Nobody knew who was in charge. Nobody knew who to talk to if they had a problem. But instead of going to war to decide who gets what, the two teams sit at a gigantic round table and talk about it for months. Days turned into weeks, weeks turned into months, and still, nobody knew who was in charge. Nobody knew who owned the forests or the castles or the people.
(You can’t own people, daddy.)
Well, slavery still exists in a surprising number of countries around the world, and you’d be surprised how much slavery of different kinds goes on even in this country. But whatever. Because the two teams couldn’t agree, the king decided to call in a prince from a far-away land, to help them decide.
So back to the big round table they went, and days turned into weeks, weeks turned into days and, still, they couldn’t agree.
In the end, they had to send it to wise King Solomon to make the decision, who gave some of the fields, some of the forests, some of the rivers, some of the castles and some of the people to each team.
Nobody was really happy with the decision, but they had to live with it because that’s the way these things work. The end.
(That was a terrible story, daddy.)
Yes, honey. Yes it is.
Reach Jordan Fenster by email at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at Twitter.com/JordanFenster.