I flip through her book, spread out across one side of her messy red bed. I try hard not to let the desperation show. Don't let her smell the fear, that would be the worst thing...it's gotta be in here somewhere in this thick book...gotta be... "Oh, wait! Here it is. It says here in this book..." I scan the page, trying to refresh my memory from my days in high school.
And Miss Thing sits across from me, picking at her underarm. I tactfully try to ignore that. "So, if you want to graph 2x-3y=9, all you need to do is to let x equal 0. So what do you get if x equals 0?"
Ashes keeps picking at the scaly bumps formed around her armpit.
"Ashes? What do you do to x to solve for y?"
Ashes stops her picking, looks over my way. "Dad? Do you think I could have herpes of the armpit?"
Okay, okay. Maybe if I just humour the beast, maybe we might actually get some work done. "Gee, I'd hate to think how you'd get herpes of the armpit, Ash."
Ashes giggles at the thought and goes back to scratching.
"So, Ash? What would you do to solve y if x is 0?"
Scratch scratch scratch.
Okay, this might take some redirection. "Well, if x is 0 that means that 2x would be two times zero, right? So what's two times zero?"
"Good. Right! So that leaves us with 3y equals 9, which means--"
Ashes stops her scratching, abruptly. A look of concern passes ovcer her face. "Dad, can you be allergic to Teen Spirit?"
"Well, I suppose so." I abandon the book, glance over at her, suspiciously. "It just seems weird that you could all of a sudden become allergic to something you've been wearing all day and for the past three months..."
"But you could, right?"
"Sure. And if we can just get through this we could--"
"So what could I do to stop it from itching?"
"Well, you could stop scratching."
As if. "Besides that."
"You could scrub under your armpits..."
Ah, there you go. Ashes smiles at me, sweetly. "Daddy, can I go scrub under my armpits?"
Oh, groan. Just keep it together, Teddy. Be firm. "Sure you can, right after we just finish this--"
Scratch scratch scratch. "Oh, this armpit is so itchy. Do you mind if I just go wash them and then come right back?"
Bang, bang, bang. This is the sound of me mentally banging my head up against a proverbial wall.
It's no use. Better to give in, Otherwise, I'd be lying on this damn bed until midnight. "Sure. Go ahead, Ash."
"Oh, and I'm going to get a drink while I'm at it. You mind?"
Five minutes later, she's back on the bed. I read through the book and the paper in front of me. Refresher course. "So, 2x-3y=9, X equals zero. Two times zero equals zero so we're left with 3y=9. So what do you do--"
"Ouch!" She places her hands to her armpits. "My armpits are BURNING! I must have scratched them too much or something."
"The pain will go away. Come on, focus! What would you do to 3y=9?"
Ashes places a finger to her mouth and looks up at the ceiling. "Divide by three."
"Good! Divide by three! Which would be...?"
"Good! Three, let's write that down, Three. Now, let's let Y equal zero, So, what would you--"
"Owwwww!" She places both hands under her pits. "My armpits are soooooooo burning!"
"Want to hear my song?" Suddenly she starts singing, belting out in a little girl voice the theme to Star Wars. " Herpes...under my armpits...it's really itchy...oh yes it is...herpes...under my armpits...really really itchy..."
Sigh. I can't stand it...I just can't stand it...the things some people will do to get out of graphing the linear equations of two variables...
Then I burst out laughing. I can't help it. "Sing it again, Ash."
Hey, my little girl may never be a quantum physicist. But at least she can sing about her herpes-ridden armpits, in a galaxy far, far away.