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After a moment of frozen horror, Shara rushed to her baby’s side. Her eyes, still heavily inked and fringed with false lashes, now startled wide as she blinked at the child.

Napoleona recovered her senses, then lunged again for the spoon. But, just before it met her lips, she stopped short and thrust out her chin, opened her mouth, then slowly, deliberately stuck out her tongue to catch a drop of ice cream just before it plumetted to the tablecloth. Napoleona reared up in a shiver of ecstatic surprise and glared at the spoon suspiciously.

"She’s a baby," Shara’s mother croaked, "she can’t glare suspiciously.” Roberta waggled the spoon beneath Napoleona’s nose.

But Napoleona, spine straightened, peered down at the treat as she turned its sweetness over on her tongue. Shara and Roberta watched as suspicion turned to wonderment which became a shade of benign contempt never seen on a child below the age of 4 before. The women gasped and Napoleona smiled up at her grandmother. 

Shara hefted a sigh of relief as she lifted Napoleona from her high chair and remarked, “Parenting with Love & Logic!” with an air of self-congratulation.

"I don’t know why you think everything is about that book," Roberta rustled dryly as she replaced the cover on the ice cream and made way for the kitchen.

She encountered J.V. on the threshold, looking relaxed and handsome in his casual blacks. She cast about for a catty remark, but before anything came to mind, he gallantly scooped the ice cream carton from her arms, held it aloft and read the label, and let loose an intrepid guffaw, “But Roberta, doll, you did only just give her vanilla.”

Roberta blushed and gasped helplessly before she fled. “You should really come with us next year, babe” J.V. called after her.

"You know that’s not very nice," Shara admonished between babbling and bouncing. Napoleona smiled, nodding patiently along. 

"She could use a good stretch of the legs," J.V. retorted -

"Yes but, you know that she won’t and it only embarrasses her. She hasn’t left this land besides to go to the corner store and the post office in a lifetime."

"How’s my girl?" J.V. planted a hairy kiss on Napoleona’s cheek and offered her his index finger, which she accepted and crushed into her fist as she bobbed on Shara’s rocking waist. Pulled into the rhythm by the baby’s iron grip, J.V swayed with them, and gathered his wife into his arms. Shara nuzzled the baby and started to sing,

Now summertime’s here babe, need somethin’ to keep you cool 
Ah now summertime’s here babe, need somethin’ to keep you cool 
Better look out now though, Dave’s got somethin’ for you…”

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The Empress of Ice Cream

After digesting the imminence of the move and the upheaval of life as she knew it, it occurred to Napoleona that she didn’t know exactly what it was that had caused this change of fortune.

So, one day, she relinquished her heretofore uncontested domination of the jump rope squad at recess and spent the afternoon in the cool of the library, surreptitiously searching the creaking internet for J.V. and Shara’s talk show. Surprisingly, it wasn’t difficult to find.

She covered her ears in large, padded headphones and listened to the brief, 5 minute spot, only to surface on uncertainty: what was it all about? What did ice cream have to do with any of this stuff?

Napoleona’s first taste of ice cream was a family tale frequently retold by Shara’s mother, an amphibious Nevadan. Just before Napoleona turned 2, Shara and J.V entrusted her into the care of Shara’s sly, old hermit-of-a-mother before they set off for Leatherfest in San Diego.

At the time, Shara’s strategy for motherhood was deeply informed by a particularly popular book entitled: Parenting with Love and Logic: Teaching Children Responsibility.

When Shara first became pregnant, she bought a number of books, but this was the one she opened first.  Right away, she set to learning the first two paragraphs by heart and whenever the baby cried for too long and J.V. lost his patience, she would begin to recite:

All loving parents face essentially the same challenge: raising children who have their heads on straight and will have a good chance to make it in the big world. Every sincere mom and dad strives to attain this goal. We must equip our darling offspring to make the move from total dependence on us to independence, from being controlled by us to controlling themselves.

At this point, she looked meaningfully at J.V. and then continued, dutifully:

Let’s face it: In this incredibly complex, fast-changing age, responsible kids are the only ones who will be able to handle the real world that awaits them. Life-and-death decisions confront teenagers – and even younger children - at every turn. Many of the temptations of adult life – drugs, internet pornography, premarital sex, alcohol – are thrown at kids every day. The statistics on teen depression and suicide bear out the seriousness of the parental task.

Here, J.V. invariably interrupted: “For god’s sake, Shara, she’s barely 2 years old!”

But Shara, who was as meek as a kitten the day J.V. met her, only gathered volume and seemed to rise in height and bearing with mysterious and newfound glamour:

HOW will our children handle such intense pressure? WHAT choices will they make when faced with these life-and-death decisions? WHAT will they do when WE are no longer pouring wise words into their ears? Will merely telling them to be responsible GET THE JOB DONE? THESE are the QUESTIONS that should GUIDE the DEVELOPMENT of OUR Parenting Philosophy!

It was a performance at which J.V. could do nothing but sigh and relent while Napoleona, bleary eyed, blinked up at the both of them, smiled and reached for her mother’s coarse, bleach blonde hair.

Naturally, Foster Cline and Jim Fay, the renowned authors of Parenting with Love and Logic, never said anything explicitly about ice cream.

“It’s a work of philosophy,” Shara explained as she set out jars of baby food and neatly labeled baby snacks at her mother’s house, “They don’t actually tell you what’s right or wrong for your family. You construct your own moral values and lead based on a framework of Love and Logic.”

“I still don’t see what that has to do with a little vanilla ice cream,” Shara’s mother replied crisply.

“Ice cream is a temptation and Napoleona isn’t equipped to handle it yet.” Shara retorted.

While J.V. and Shara lectured and performed demonstrations on safe, sane and consensual BDSM activities, Shara’s mother dutifully fed Napoleona the temptation-free diet her mother had prepared. But, the moment she heard the Shara’s old Toyota rattle up the long, dusty driveway, she fetched a tub of Bryers Classic Vanilla Bean ice cream and by the time J.V. and Shara were kicking dust onto the welcome mat, she was lifting a little silver sugar spoon from the container. And when Shara, peaked and breezy, bounced into the dining room, the spoon met Napoleona’s tiny pink lips and her baby’s eyes lit up with a knowledge that could be defined as none other than divine.

“And she turned out just fine,” Napoleona’s grandmother gloated.

Georgia (state, United States)

Georgia? Napoleona choked on the state’s soft syllables like she was swallowing a mouthful of Wonderbread. 

"We’re famous honey," J.V. clapped her on the back, "We finally made it to the big time."

"Well, now, I wouldn’t say famous, not famous really, but your father and I did make some news recently - a clip from one of our shows was played all over the T.V!" Shara exclaimed in bright bewilderment.

"Aw, you shoulda seen those buttoned-up conservatives go apoplectic! Man, I’d love to burst a couple buttons on Ed Schultz’ ego."

"Oh, honey, we don’t have to worry about him anymore! We’re going to be southerners!"

"Yeehaw!" J.V. slapped his knee and danced Shara down the steps. Napoleona sat down & hugged her knees. She wished for a piece of gum. 

"When do we leave?"

J.V. dipped Shara dramatically on the lawn and her bleach blonde hair tickled the winter-worn grass, “Oh please stop, J.V., we’ve got to talk about this!” Shara cried charmingly. In response, J.V. froze and allowed his wife to dangle upside down while she explained to Napoleona that she would finish out the school year and then, the very next day, they would pack into the minivan and follow the Mississippi river straight down the middle of the country until they reached Little Rock where they would make a hard left and cross straight across Dixie to the state of Georgia. 

When J.V. finally righted Shara her face was flushed and pink. She wound her arms around his neck, stood on her tip-toes, and planted a lip-level kiss on his jawline while Napoleona slipped inside. 

Rather than climbing the stairs to her bedroom, Napoleona descended into the basement of the grey house on Scarborough Road. Not typically sentimental, she suddenly felt a surge of nostalgia as she ran her hands along the faux vintage wallpaper inexplicably lining the faux wood-paneled walls. Downstairs was the remanants of Shara’s whole-hearted attempt at a playroom, a project she started back when there was supposed to be a little brother coming along. He never arrived and Napoleona never played, so it stayed a musty homage to a 4-person family. 

Napoleona made for the only space in the basement that she had claimed: the back bookshelf. It housed a well-thumbed collection of Encyclopedia Brittanicas. They were dignified Micropedia Ready Reference editions that J.V. had bought after peppering the young salesman at the door with so many questions that Shara insisted he make a purchase while she served the poor man lemonade. Napoleona loved the gravitas of the leather-bound volumes and had once even made her painstaking way through every entry in A-ak - Bayes

Now she picked Freon - Holderlin from the shelf and cradled it in her lap as she flipped through the thin pages until she found it: Georgia (state, United States).

Georgia, constituent state of the United States of America. The largest of the U.S. states east of the Mississippi River and by many years the youngest of the 13 former English colonies, Georgia was founded in 1732, at which time its boundaries were even larger—including much of the present-day states of Alabama and Mississippi. Its landscape presents numerous contrasts, with more soil types than any other state as it sweeps from the Appalachian Mountains in the north (on the borders of Tennessee and North Carolina) to the marshes of the Atlantic coast on the southeast and the Okefenokee Swamp (which it shares with Florida) on the south. The Savannah and Chattahoochee rivers form much of Georgia’s eastern and western boundaries with South Carolina and Alabama, respectively. The capital is Atlanta.

Impressed, Napoleona read on until late into the night. By the time she finished, she had accumulated what she felt was a rather exhaustive knowledge of the territory. Still, as she navigated back up the stairs through the familiar space of the old, dark house, she sensed that she was missing some deeper knowledge of the place. It remained, she realized, unfamiliar.

Not one to be daunted, Napoleona mused over how she might develop a kinship with her new home as she brushed her teeth. She had been especially taken with the state’s central role in the Civil War and sensed that Sherman’s march across Atlanta was somehow at the crux of an undercurrent of culture that shaped it even in present day. As she wound a thread of floss around her left molar, it occurred to her, simply, obviously, that there was one solution to piecing this mystery place together - a book, a fictional book yes, but one so important that even the austerely factual Encyclopedia Brittanica couldn’t ignore it: Gone with the Wind.

Napoleona resolved to pick it up from her local library the very next day.

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The Safe Word is ‘Periwinkle’

J: Welcome back to The Safe Word is ‘Periwinkle’ - where everything is game as long it’s safe, sane and consensual. I’m your host J.V. and here with me, my lovely assistant, my longtime girlfriend, and my smoking hot wife, Shara.

S: Oh my, where are the other two?

J: I only have eyes for you, baby. I only have eyes for you.

{{bell rings}}

J: Oh Ho! She’s already blushing, ladies and gentlemen, that’s one ring of the bell and we’re only minutes into today’s show. Try not to look so disappointed honey, just because I only have eyes for you doesn’t mean we can’t invite over some playmates now and then. 

S: Well… I.. (Shara breathes into the microphone)

J: Time to bust another myth, Twinklers: The myth of the husband led astray by his insatiable desire. Now, at Periwinkle we know we’re not all alike, we can’t all fit our square pegs into rounded holes nor can we fit our squared holes over rounded pegs, so before you start calling and telling me otherwise, let’s just recognize that I’m not speaking for everyone, but I am speaking for many.

S: Oh here we go…

J: Shara?

S: Yes, boss?

J: Wouldn’t you agree -

S: Of course I agree!

J: I know you agree, but please, let me continue for the sake of the listening audience.

S: Oh, right of course. In that case, I might agree, but I with hold my agreement until you’ve managed to complete your thought in its entirety.

J: Thank you. Shara?

S: Yes, boss?

J: Wouldn’t you agree that many women like yourself suffer from a lack of variety? 

S: It’s the spice of life!

J: Exactly. And without it, or with the same seasoning over and over day after day wouldn’t you lose the taste for it? The same man, the same moves, the same sure thing gradually becoming more uncertain as you familiarize yourself with the ceiling, make an unbidden recollection to buy eggs at the market, conjure up an image of a co-worker…

S: Oh, dear.

J: YES: Oh dear. Yes! And it’s only a matter of time before you roll to your side and feign sleep just to avoid his hand’s habitual journey up your thigh…

S: Now who are we talking to J.V.?

J: We’re talking to the people, honey. After that it’s just a matter of time before he loses count of the nights given over to headaches or the children and starts to look around, to see..

S: Well, he should, shouldn’t he?

J: Of course, baby, unless enforced chastity was part of the deal, but that’s not what I’m saying.

S: Well then what are you saying?

J: I’m saying husbands should let their wives have a few girlfriends -

S: And boyfriends?

J: Boyfriends too! The bedroom can be a very social place. 

S: But you know that sort of thing is not for everyone.

J: Of course it’s not for everyone, did you miss my speech about holes and pegs?

S: Well no, now, of course not, but it was a little while back now into this whole conversation.

J: I’m just saying we should all strive to keep each other entertained. And, drawing from my own, personal, oblong experience, women are far more prone to sexual boredom than men. 

S:  Hmm, now J.V., I just don’t know about that, but I do agree there’s no reason to do the same old thing night after night.

J: Exactly! Which brings us to our first caller - 

"Hey J.V., hey Shara - hey, so I’m calling with kind of a strange one. My girlfriend and I have a great sex life. It’s just great. She’s adventurous and giving and we’re both very satisfied… except for one thing. You see, she tends to queef… post-coitus and during the act itself. I’m not sure if my dick is too small or if I’m moving her around too much or what. All I know is it kind of ruins the mood - I mean, not totally, it’s not like we both can’t get off or anything, but the only response seems to be to laugh it off… but we’re not very laugh-y people during sex, I mean.. we take it seriously! It’s passionate. I just want to know if there’s anything I can do… a position I should stick to…"

S: Wow, J.V., I don’t know.. It sounds like he’s doing it right.

J: I thought of you, Shara, I did! The Queefing Queen! Oh, there we go -

{{bell rings}}

J: Shara’s blushing again.

S: Oh, J.V., but seriously!

J: Yes- seriously: a little queefing is the sign of an active session. And I mean, man, you don’t have to laugh if it ruins the mood - you can have it anyway you like.

S: In fact, I think queefing is more likely to happen when the sex is fast-paced and deep… just how I happen to like it!

{{bell rings}}

J: Right you are, Shara. See folks, this is what I mean about variety…

S: Oh please let’s not go back to those square pegs.

J: Don’t like the peg analogy? OK, well how about this one: Sex is like ice cream. 

S: Oh that sounds wonderful.

J: You can have it one way - straight up, vanilla. Or you can have it any way, with any kind of toppings you like, whichever way you like them: hot fudge, rainbow sprinkles, cookie dough, brownie bites, coconut shaves, raspberry drizzle, chocolate chips, goji berries, graham cracker crumble, dipped pretzels, melted caramel, sliced mango, gummy bears, black jimmies, whipped cream, crushed tagalongs, butterscotch chips, mini marshmallows, m&ms, mmm…. I don’t know, what do you like, Shara?

S: Oh, I like just about everything.

J: And a cherry on top, ladies and gentlemen! And that’s what I mean about sex - you can have it vanilla, or you can have the entire sundae bar at your convenience every day, any day, whatever you like, how you like. It’s up to you to make it happen.

S: Now that’s a nice analogy, J.V.

J: It sure is, my queefing Queen.

{{bell rings}}

J: And with that last blush, Twinklers, we have to call it a night. Stay safe. Stay sane. And keep it consensual. Tune in tomorrow at 11:30pm for the next installment of The Safe Word is ‘Periwinkle.’