I have a secret affection for doing the laundry and thus one year on the occasion of a minor holiday (perhaps Father's Day) my wife got me a couple of these hippie dryer softeners. The idea is they bounce around in your dryer and give your clothes something of a magic fingers massage and everything comes out of the dryer all relaxed and fluffy and mellow because there's no chemicals involved, dude.
Unhappily, there seemed to be a strong correlation between these softening devices and my handkerchiefs and underwear coming out of the dryer looking like a Vice Presidential memo. So I returned to my previous program of benign neglect and contented myself with casting the occasional fond glance upon these tokens of domestic affection where they sat amid the sundry bits of pocket detritus (ponytail holders, paper clips, nickels) strewn about on the top of the dryer.
So daughter L. has of late caught some of her old man's enthusiasm for laundry, an enthusiasm stoked by her mother's strategic purchase of a small laundry basket for her room. "I want to help out on wash day!" has become my daughter's vaguely anachronistic cry. And thus on a recent visit to the laundry room my daughter paused in her task of heaving underpants up into the washing machine and her unoccupied gaze came to rest on the two prickly fabric softeners.
"Baby porcupines!" she cried.
The prevailing animism of a moderately pious five-year-old with a domestic bent can of course be something of a challenge. We have been chided for throwing away gross lint-covered stickers that had allegedly been possessed of sentience; angry tears have followed our imprudent decision to recycle empty toilet paper tubes. So I was not particularly surprised to discover that this otherwise innocuous drug store impulse purchase had become another member of my daughter's ever-expanding and increasingly complex interspecies kinship structure.
"This one," she said as she waved it around in her left hand as we walked up the stairs, "this one is Porky! And this one is . . . Borky!"
Mindful of the financial advantages of a future sinecure in a federally funded research facility like the NIH, I suggested perhaps her young charges might be named "Virus" and "Birus," but alas! the idea of the porcupines had already taken root. Porky and Borky have made two fine additions to our household, though my daughter's tendency to tuck them in for naps under washcloths on the couch has meant that I have jumped up rather suddenly on a couple of occasions after incautiously sitting down in the living room.