I picked up a crumpled napkin to throw it away, but when I realized there was a note on it, written in pencil, the boy averted his eyes and began to chuckle. I read it aloud:
“Pleas read book or you get cut in hafe and maybie pay the pelece all your monney!!!!!”
Apparently, frustrated that his daddy was otherwise engaged and therefore unable to read him the next book in the series of mysteries with which he is currently enthralled, he had taken to dropping napkins with threatening messages in his lap and then running away in a fit of laughter.
All extra creepiness rendered by the broken English of first grade spelling aside, I saw two signs of influence in the note that were like a glass half empty or half full. On the one hand, the threatening games and taunts of the schoolyard ring out loud and clear. Just last year, he was lamenting the violent ways boys can interact with each other, on the playground especially, and now he seemed to be engaging in such behavior himself.
On the other hand, my husband and I seem to be having some kind of influence, too. After all, it may have been misspelled, but he did clearly say, “Please.”