Felix/Martha: Hippo Barfday to you!

Delivering greetings in a birthday suit.

By Laura Grimes

It happened. Art Scatter World Headquarters is now the official home to not one, but two teenagers. Yes, today is Felix/Martha’s big-kid birthday. Forget sending sympathy cards. Better yet, send a life raft.

In that spirit, and as a little present, here is one of Felix/Martha’s favorite stories.



Felix/Martha, barely 3 and totally bare, dabbles in water trickling from the faucet. The scene? The bathroom. Upstairs.

“So, you want to play in the sink?” He likes the idea, and I like it that I can take a shower and keep an eye on him.

I fill up the sink with warm, soothing water and search out the toys that he requests. Cups, funnels, all the ducks and all the frogs.

I slip out of my pajamas and slide into the shower. The hot water glides over my body and relaxes my muscles. It’s been an arduous week. Sick kids. Sick parents. Weird schedules. Extra projects. Late nights. Christmas. Technical hassles at work that stressfully put me behind schedule.

But I’m on vacation now. The heat lamp emits its welcomed warmth. The fan hums soothingly. Felix/Martha patters on, talking to his ducks and frogs. He sings songs to them. He turns on the faucet so it blasts and I tell him to turn it down low. I clean my body and my face. I shampoo my hair and faintly hear Felix/Martha’s patter as I think about the day’s chores, the Christmas to-do list and the errands that I need to run. I rub my hair and try to remember whether I put conditioner in it. I look down at Felix/Martha, now squatting over the bathroom floor. The floor has an odd shine to it. I can see the lights reflecting off it. I squint through the fogged-up shower door without my glasses on. I’m fascinated by the shimmer, finding it beautiful and wondering why I’ve never noticed it before, when I realize, much too slowly, that it ripples. Because Felix/Martha is happily splatting at a lake of water on the floor.

I jerk my head up and see the faucet on full blast and water cascading in torrents over the counter. I throw open the shower door and leap out to turn off the faucet and unplug the drain. I turn off the shower. Strangely, I take stock that my hair may or may not have been conditioned. I place Felix/Martha in the bathtub and, strangely, take stock that he never bothered to say, “Mommy, I made a waterfall!”

I grab all the bath towels and mop up the floor. I pile them in the bathtub as they get soaked. My wet pajamas go in the pile. My underwear. I grab more towels and wipe down the counter. I mop up all the water I can see. Felix/Martha fingers the beads of water on the bathtub floor and draws designs with them.

Finally, I get dressed. “Mom-my! I wan-na baa-ath!” he sing-songs. So he can take a bath, I head to the basement to get a laundry basket so I can take all the wet items out of the bathtub. On the way, I notice that same funny sheen on the floor of the bathroom on the first floor, which is directly below the upstairs bathroom. Water has dripped through the venting fan and splattered everywhere – the floor, the counter, the toilet. I mop it all up and notice, thankfully, that there’s no water damage on the ceiling.

“Mom-my! I wan-na baa-ath!”

I start down the stairs to the basement and hear a strange, faint tapping sound. There’s water dripping through the venting fan in the basement bathroom, which is directly below the bathroom on the first floor. Water is all over the floor of that bathroom and in the doorway of the laundry room, drip, dripping down through the unfinished ceiling and soaking the ironing board cover. I grab more towels to mop up the water and to place under the drips. I strip off the ironing board cover and hang it up to dry.

“Mom-my! I wan-na baa-ath!”

I get a laundry basket and go back upstairs. I notice a line of water from the bathroom door sliding down the hallway like a tongue. It’s stretching due west to the half room. I load the wet things from the bathtub into the laundry basket and turn on the bath faucet for Felix/Martha. I go to the linen closet on the other side of the bathroom to fetch more towels. When I open the closet door – sniff, sniff – I whiff that dank old beach house kind of smell. The floor boards are wet and I notice a line of water sliding down the hallway from the bathroom door in that direction. East this time. I take everything out of the bottom of the closet and mop up the floor. I mop up the hallway. I mop up the half room.

I turn off Felix/Martha’s water. I look in the mirror and notice that my hair is still towel-tousled, sticking out in all directions and sculpted neatly because now it’s nearly dry. I open a drawer to reach for a brush. I feel water drops. Quickly, I inspect the drawers. The top drawer is fine, but the second drawer has a half-inch of water in it. Q-tips. Cotton balls. Feminine hygiene products. Sponges all. I throw some things away and put everything that can be salvaged on the counter to dry. The bottom drawer has water in it, too. I put tub toys from that drawer on the counter.

I check the cabinet under the sink. Soaked. The big, new bulk of 24-roll toilet paper? A puddle of water sits in the bottom of the plastic. In order to let the paper dry, I take out all the rolls. I can’t put them on the counter, because it’s already full. But, not so oddly, the towel racks are empty. I line up the rolls on the towel rack above the toilet and stack them high, forming a colossal art installation. It goes attractively with all the cabinets and drawers left open to dry and the mess on the countertop.

It’s nearly time for lunch.

“Mom-my! I wan-na get oou-uut!”


Ever wonder how Felix/Martha got his name? It was about a year ago, just in time for Halloween. Here’s the post.


Illustration: The nifty antique postcard is courtesy of The Daily Postcard blog, which shows cool postcards every day.