I arrive at daycare after work. Everything seems normal, but I am about to discover that I'm wrong. Dead wrong.
I see Scout playing in the back of the infant room with Walter, often the only other kid who's there this late in the day. Scout sees me, and races into my arms. Such a happy cat. Nothing in the world is amiss. Her caregiver hands me a slip of paper, and a pen.
"There's been an incident," she says slowly and quietly.
Confused. I glance at my daughter, double-checking. She's moving. Breathing. She inhales and exhales. Like any honest parent, my next instinct is Scout, what the hell did you do. She is not yet even two years old, so I do not say this out loud.
The paper lays bare a clinical retelling of the incident. That another child took his/her teeth and sunk them into Scout's upper arm, that the act itself was not seen but the fallout was loud and immediate. No blood or punctures, but there were tears, and an application of the proper salve. No names. I look at her arm and there it is: a perfect little horseshoe of teeth marks. The caregiver sees the wheels creaking in my head, and offers instruction. Sign the form.
Heading home, everything seems normal. "Scout, what did you do today?"
"Walter? You played with Walter?"
I cut to the chase. "Scout, did someone bite you?"
"Who bit you?"
I begin naming names. "Walter?"
"Walter bit you?"
"Walter did it?"
WALTY DID IT.
At home, Scout dishes to Kerry. WALTY DID IT. Neither of us can believe what we're hearing; Scout and Walter have been daycare mates for almost a year, and are as good a pair of friends as children this young have a concept of. Walter, always smiling, always helpful, passing me Scout's diaper bag as I nudge her boots on. Walter's a biter. He bites little kids.
The next morning I joke with daycare staff about their no-names policy, explaining to them how Scout outed her assailant. "Walter? No. It wasn't him. Walter's such a good boy. No, it's one of the newer children; we always have to keep an eye on this one."
Scout, you lied to me.
That evening, I ask her again. "Scout, who bit you yesterday?"
"Who bit you?"
CALEB DID IT.