A few years ago, my cousin and her family came to visit us over their winter holidays. We adults dropped off the boys at another cousin's house while we hit up Leesburg's outlet mall. To keep them occupied and entertained, the other cousin took the kids to Chuck E. Cheese's where they stuffed their faces with pizza, ran around like wild beasts, and played videogames. Engaging in a bout of acrobatics, magic, and perhaps contortionism, the youngest of the boys (I call him "Squeaky McGee") managed to mangle his finger in the machinery of one of the games. We raced back to find him miserably clutching his bloody finger and howling like a banshee when anyone tried to inspect it and see if he needed stitches.

We drove him home with a huge wad of tissues wrapped around his little finger and along the way, I tried to explain to him the concept of infection ("like, you know, BUGS and stuff might grow in there!") and clotting ("dude, let us look at it and we can get the tissues to stop turning red!"). No cajoling, no reasoning, no threats worked. When we got him home, I pulled out my secret weapon.

"Check it out. If you let me look at it, I promise, I won't hurt you. I'll be very gentle. If it hurts, tell me and I'll stop right there. Just let me make sure it's not all black and gross. Then, I'll let you have one of these."

(long pause, contemplation, reluctant agreement)

It worked. The tears dried up, the mouth fell open in awe, and the finger was cleaned, neosporined, and bandaged.

Last night, after mutilating my own thumb, I found one last secret weapon. It still manages to heal, to glow in the dark, and to bring a smile to my lips. Viva SpongeBob!

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