2/20/17

Slumber Party

2:30 in the morning and my whole house shakes like it's just been hit with a broadside from Napoleon's cannons.  I can hear the tinkle of the lightbulbs in my fan when the second shockwave hits.  When the 3rd boom sounds I would bet that the little popcorn from my ceiling is now falling down on my bed like a snowstorm in Idaho.

"What is that?" my wife asks, sleep leaving her quickly.  "Hoss, what is that.  Wake up!"

I am awake.  I've been awake for 4 hours.  I haven't slept a wink.   What is that, what is that?

Slumber Party.  That's what that is.  A slumber party for an 11-year-old and I'm pretty sure I'm going to meet my deductible on my home insurance this year.

My daughter just had a birthday, which kind of freaks me out.  I am in no way old enough to have a child that is 11 years old.  I'm young, I'm hip, I'm with it.  Then my daughter will point out that grunge music was 20 years ago and I don't know who everyone was at the Grammys.

My little one is smart and perceptive, there is no denying that.  Sometimes I imagine that she looks at me and wants to ask me a question:  You have no idea what you are doing, right?  To me sometimes it is painfully obvious that I'm winging it.  But here is the thing about fatherhood, you don't get a whole lot of time to decide if you are doing it right or not.  Moments drop on your head like a bull and you have to deal with it because there isn't an option to not deal with it.  I don't want to be a shitty dad, that's the mantra that you have to tell yourself over and over again.  This is one of those moments and my house shakes yet again.  This time I hear giggling.

My feet hit the floor, slowly but surely.  I have to do the dad thing now and wreck the party.  I don't think that my poor house can do whatever activity they have decided to conjure down there.  Every time I hear a thud I imagine that they have somehow cloned dinosaurs and are now jousting in my living room.    Thud, giggle, thud, giggle, thud, roar.

I think there are 5 of them.  I'm not totally sure.  I could have sworn there were 5 of them when I told them lights out an hour ago.  I may have even counted.  But there is no way 5 little girls could make this much noise.  It's just not possible and I think I might need to call in the military to let them know that an alien vortex just opened near my kitchen.

Earlier, I tried threatening with our house rule.  It's our go-to rule when we want everyone to be quiet in the house.  It's our baby rule.  You wake him, you take him.  Usually, that's enough to keep everyone real quiet because no one wants to handle a screaming baby at 1 in the morning.  But my baby isn't a baby anymore either, they keep growing up and I keep growing old.  He's a toddler now.  I told 5 little girls they would have to take the 4-year-old toddler if they woke him up.  They made more noise.  Because you know what is awesome to 11-year-olds?  Make-overs.  And do you know who loves makeovers?  Toddlers.  It took me 45 minutes to break that up.

Now I'm going to have to go downstairs and put the old foot down, the foot that is sore if it walks on hardwood floors for too long without slippers.  I consider just walking down in my shorts and letting the silverback gorilla look say more than my words every could.  But I don't though because I love my 11-year-old and I don't want her to be traumatized forever.  Maybe for a little bit, like a week, but not forever.

I get to the top of the stairs and the banging has stopped.  I peak my head over and I'm a little taken aback but what I see.  I see 5 little girls in a straight line, front to back.  They are whispering, I hear a boy's name I think.  They are laughing too, occasionally one will fall over.  They are itching each other's backs or braiding another's hair.  They are laughing, so much laughing.  The T.V. is on and I can hear a movie playing, I think one of those preteen shows from Disney.  I see my daughter hugging her friends as they laugh.  Whatever crankiness that was in me, and there's a fair amount at 2:30 am, pretty much just goes away.

She's young, she's having fun.  Sure, they are a little noisy but I also know that they spend a fair amount of their time being told to behave and quiet down.  Not tonight, though, tonight I'm good.  I'm going to let them be 11 for a bit and I can go back upstairs and be old.  I'm good with that, it feels right.

Sure, I may be winging a lot of this fatherhood thing but I have to admit to myself, I'm winging it pretty damn good.




2/17/17

Tax Prison

"Do you guys want Mom or Dad to go to prison?"

Both my kids stopped and looked down at me from the top of the stairs.  They weren't sure if I was kidding or not.  I didn't say anything, I just let it sit there for a moment.  Not the toddler, though.  His choice was clear.  He chooses batman underwear.  That was his choice when it came to the prison question.  They were on his head and so thoughts of which parent should go to prison really didn't factor in that much.

I asked my kids this question because it is time to do our taxes, the great American ritual where you try not to screw up your life with the scrawl of a number.  This takes great concentration because if you miscalculate 758392754 x Form 4321, and then take the my little pony deduction, you will not be getting any refund.  Nope, instead, you will be spending 10 to 20 years in supermax because everyone knows that you don't do that with Form 4321.  Doing your taxes is like taking a master's level physics test except you are a caveman and fire is still the most mysterious thing in your world.

It takes quiet to do taxes because how are you supposed to argue the merits of a 1099 with noise?  It' can't be done.  Pretty soon you will be working with a 1099-SA and not the 1099-G.  That means it's back to supermax, and since you are fresh meat, you will have plenty of company to discuss the merits of form 1099-G.

The kids were supposed to be quiet while we were getting this done.  They were supposed to be playing gently with each other.  They were supposed to keep the underwear on the bottom of the toddler and not on his head.  They have failed at all 3.  Which is how it should be, I suppose.  If there is another way that this goes, then I don't know it.  I have never experienced quiet children.  Is it weird?  I bet it's weird.

10 minutes into taxes, as we were trying to decide what the C code in Box 12 meant, my daughter could be heard upstairs yelling at her brother.  This triggered her brother to come downstairs and state that an octopus has no spine and that his sister is being mean.  I threw a rolled up pair of socks at him.
Then the toddler came down for no particular reason.  He wasn't riding the dog.  This is always a win in my house.  He screamed for a bit until I bribed him with couch candy to go back upstairs with his brother and sister, who were doing a bang up job of watching him.  My daughter came down because she couldn't find the toddler.  I pointed to the gross kid eating a smushed skittle on the bottom of the stairs.

This goes on for a good 30 minutes, and with each minute passing, I can feel my prison sentance growing longer.  An error that surely would have resulted in probation has now compounded and I'm looking at life with Charles Manson as a roomie.  I hear he tells great bed time stories.

At this point, I had it.   It is obvious that I cannot run my house.  That my little dictatorship has apparently turned into a democracy.  So I called everyone down, the dog and undearwear on the head toddler, and posed the question to them.

Who would they prefer to go to prison?  If mom goes to prison, then you will have to live on the street and she is the money bags.  If I go to prison, they can probably stay in the house but will have to catch mice to eat since no one is going to cook for them.

This seemed to have finally shut them up.  I sent them back upstairs and told them if they come down again, or let the toddler come down (underwear or not), then they would have to tell me who should go to prison.   We could watch the old prison show OZ that was on HBO so they could know how to act when they came to visit one of their parents in the slammer.  They would also learn why Daddy can't make eye contact with anyone anymore and that snitches get stiches.

Mum's The Word

Hossmom gave me a writing prompt not to long ago to see if I could make a story out of it.  The prompt was "Where did the phrase 'Mums the word' come from and get it's meaning."

So I gave it a shot and the below little flash fiction is the result.  I'm just going to stick it here on the blog for 2 reasons:  1. It's my first piece of real fiction that I thought about.  2.  I like it.

So there you go.  Don't worry, we'll get back to the funny soon.


MUM'S THE WORD

Mum sat on her rock, behind the reeds next to the small pond. It was sunny here. It was always sunny here. Her hair flowed down her back, her brownish curls touching the top of the rock of where she sat. Through the reeds she saw the tree. She saw the bird. She saw the horse and the cow. She saw the people.

She remained quiet, peaceful in her silence. She watched the animals and the people walk. She watched the wind blow the leaves of the tree. She watched the sun rise and the sun fall. She watched. Mum never came out from her concealment behind the reeds. She never went to the man or the woman. She never spoke. She remained muted and closed.

The snake found her like he often did. Green with bits of brown crossing the scales. It was neither large nor small. Big enough that it wasn’t hunted by other animals but small enough to be easily overlooked as it perched on the tree, as it did most days. The snake came to her foot and looked up. Mum remained silent, as always. The snake began climbing, over her foot and curling around her calf, each stretch of muscle bringing him higher. He came to her back, looped himself around her chest and perched his head on her shoulder. Together they sat in calm and watched through the reeds. The snake spoke to her.

“You have watched since near the beginning. I have watched since the beginning,” the snake said, it’s voice more felt than heard.
Mum said nothing.

“They live but they don’t know how to live. In ignorance, they appear happy but it is only because they don’t understand what you do. What I do. As you sit here watching, you have never gone to them. I wonder why? I know that of all mine you are shy, you are reluctant to be seen. Some would think this is a way of you avoiding creation, some would think it is a sign of fear or a mark of reluctance.”

The snake moved it’s head to the other side.

“I think not though. You watch and you think. You watch and you plan. My little Mum has got more to her than she lets the others see, I think. I have watched with you and sat with you. We have had our little talks and it’s so good to talk with you. Ideas and plans become fresh, the abstract begins to take shape. Without my little Mum I doubt that I would have had the patience to just sit and observe and do nothing.”

The snake seemed to laugh but it was hard to tell.

“But we did not do nothing, did we Mum? No, we did not. We watched and now we know what must be done. Now we know the way to do what must be done. It is a simple thing really, but through it, we strike our first blow and they won’t even know it. They don’t even know that we are at war. They think that it is over but it is just beginning. My Mum, we must start our work.”

The snake slithered off and Mum watched it go. She did not say goodbye or good luck, but she merely let her eyes follow the snake's path. She saw the snake climb the tree and lounge on a low branch that held the apple. Mum watched and she noted every detail. One day she would write about it, she would tell the true history of the beginning. She would write quietly, near the small pond as she watched humanity in its infancy.

She saw the woman approach the tree and the snake tensed, but it was only noticeable to Mum. The snake looked at Mum right before the woman sat under the tree. As always Mum felt him clearly in her head.

“Yes, my Mum. Write the story and when we are ready, when the world is ready, we will release our book. Until then, write and watch and think. This will be our secret. Mum's the word my dear heart, Mums the word.”

Mum smiled, her own scaly face distorting what beauty remained in her. Yes, Mum is indeed the word.

2/16/17

Talking to the Insurance Company

Shhh, everyone down in the foxhole.  Keep those heads down, goddamnit!  The dog is lost, forget about the dog.  Hossmom is on the rampage.

She's on the phone with an insurance company.  Which one?  We have no idea and the kids and I have decided that it's unimportant.  It's a detail that doesn't help us deal with her snapping fingers and her snapping glare.  I just know that her patience is being tested and I can hear her getting angrier by the second.  Every time she says "Don't transfer me" I see her fill like a volcano fills with lava.  It's going to blow on someone and my job here is to make sure the kids and I aren't the poor villagers.  Well, me really.  The kids are secondary.  I have no shame.  The kids owe me.  She can't divorce the kids.

"No!" she says.  "Don't put me on hold."  She sighs and then the eyes fall on me.

Fucker.

I keep my head down.  This is the most interesting blog I have every written, yup, just gonna keep on writing here.  Oh, look, funny jokes.  Let's make more funny jokes.  Don't look up, don't look up, don't look up.

I look up.  Double fucker.

I get a glare and I'm not even sure why.  I'm not the insurance company nor one of their agents. I'm just a guy sitting in a chair trying to find a story to write about.  I'm about to become what is called "collateral damage."

"Hoss....."  She doesn't finish.  I"m not sure what is going on but I'm spared.  She starts talking on the phone again.

She's ripping into someone now and that's good.  That's not me so that's excellent.  My 4-year-old comes into the room.  He's screaming.  I don't know why he's screaming.  I rarely know why he's screaming.  He's 4.  He likes to scream and he likes it better if there is an inopportune time.  Something about My Little Pony or the state of Isreal.  I don't know.

My daughter comes down the stairs to see what the screaming is about.  I sent her upstairs when I saw how the phone call was starting to go.  I tried to spare her, her stupidity brings her back.  Think Little Hoss!  Think!  She does not.

"Daaaaaaaaddddddddd, I want.........."

She doesn't get the sentence out because now my 9-year-old rolls in because when you are in quicksand it just gets worse when you struggle and I'm about to struggle pretty damn hard.  He is running and mows over the toddler.  This is my house.  It's like a Nascar race where there is a high-performance machine on the track and also the Amish.

Now I know why my toddler is screaming.

 Vesuvius blows and it blows in a whisper.

Hossmom begins snapping furiously like she is trying to break her thumb.  She is holding the receiver of the phone away from her mouth because I'm assuming that what she is saying, she doesn't want witnesses.

There are soft hisses coming from her mouth and I know we are all screwed.  The only thing worse than Mom screaming is Mom whispering.  That's where the big trouble is, that is when nations crumble, in the whisper.

I don't know what she is saying but I think it's probably "I'm going to murder all of you then dance on your cold graves."  Or something like that.

I grab the kids, I put them under my protective wings and fly upstairs.  At the top of the stairs, I begin answering questions, kissing elbows, and explaining that we should be quiet so Mommy (can't find us) can get some work done.  Well, what I actually say is "Do you igmoes have a death wish!  Seriously, what the hell was that?  You are going to doom us all!"

Hossmom gets off the phone and I can hear her stomp to the bottom of the stairs.

"Hoss!"  Well, she doesn't call me Hoss but she should, it's an awesome nickname.  "Hoossss!"

"Yeah?" I squeak.

"It's time to do our taxes!"

I look at my kids.  I love them.  Very, very much.  I touch my youngest on the head, I smile at my daughter.

"Hoss!"

I give them the best advice I can now.  The only thing I can think of.

"Fly, you fools!"



2/13/17

My Teacher, Their Teacher

I thought that it would be weird and awkward to be a 42-year-old man headed back to a college campus.  The kids would look at me and wondered where I went wrong in my life and how can they avoid those mistakes.  Then they would run back to their dorms and check the sexual offender website.

Turns out I was right.  It is awkward as fuck.  It's good to know that the 5 years I spent in college could prepare me for later in life to walk around college.  Good times.

But as I walked around the campus, something new came to me.  I don't much care.  I live in the world of awkward.  By this time, I have made awkward my best friend.  I've run into a women's restroom with my daughter, used it and made eye contact on the way out.  If I was in North Carolina I would have been arrested.  Awkward?   I carpool with awkward.

Which brings me to something that I noticed about these poor college kids.  I want to cut their hair and wash their dirty clothes.  I went to the campus bookstore mainly because it was one of my favorite places when I was 20.  The smell of new pens, a fancy notebook to take bio notes in.  Buying a book for 80 bucks and then returning it so you would have beer money for the semester.  I love the bookstore.  Or I used to, now, screw that.

I am so sorry poor college kids, I had no idea.  I picked up a Bio I book, pretty much the same one I had 20 years ago.  250 bucks.  For a Bio I book?  What the hell, man?  No wonder you can't afford a haircut and some quarters to wash your skinny jeans.  Jesus fucking Christ man.  It's not like basic biology has changed a whole lot in 20 years.  Worms, frogs, starfish, cats...pretty much the same.  Except, apparently, you have to sell a kidney just to get the first chapter.

I don't want you guys to cut your hair.  I want to now take you all to my house and make you a good hot meal.  Look, I know that I'm a big bearded dude, but I'm also a dad.  I can cook.  Come over and I'll make you a nice big plate of spaghetti with a steak on the side.  Then we can go out back and have a game of catch while I give you good fatherly advice like "The only thing worse than having regrets is not having any at all."  I know, that's pretty good.  I got a load of them.  After your English class come on over and I'll tell them to you.  Bring your laundry, I got you.

I'm not actually going back to college.  I'm just taking a short night course.  For the busy professional, etc etc etc.  Mainly, I get to ditch my kids off with mom while I go learn how to be a better writer.  It's a fun class and, hopefully, I'll learn the difference between a comma and a "what the fuck is that thing that always causes me so much trouble."  Like spelling only without letters.

Writing can be a hard deal.  Sometimes the inspiration comes and sometimes it locks itself away in the mind closet and won't come out until you confront your terror of Uncle Dave and his special cabin.  Uncle Dave is in prison now.  My aunts don't allow anyone to talk about that.

The class is good.  When I walked in there was a section of grandmas, who shall now be referred to as the awesome grannies, that were just hamming it up.  Loud, boisterous and without two shits to give at all.  I love them.

They make it easy.  Sometimes it's tough to talk about what I write because it just sounds artsy, so oh, look at me and my art.  I'm wearing black and smoking black cigarettes and have a soul patch.  But with the grannies, they make it easy enough to open up about anything, even Uncle Dave.

I sat down to watch the performance by the awesome grannies while we all waited for our teacher.  She came in and greeted the class.  She seemed like a nice lady like she knows her shit and I dig that.  That's what I need.  I need someone to teach me to write better than a 4th grader.

But she looked familiar.  I'm at a local community college so it's possible that I've run into her somewhere.

She says welcome to the class and gives her background.  Degrees, experience, a sense of humor.  This is going to be good.  She lets us then know her teaching credentials.  She also teaches at the local elementary school.

Things start to click in my head.  I know her.  I've known here for a while.  I've met her before.

I ask her which one.  She gives the name of my kid's school.

And there it is.  My teacher also teaches Little Hoss and her brother, Bubba Hoss.  She has taught them for quite a while too.  I didn't put it together at first because who would?  She teaches art class to my kids.  They have her every 3rd day.  I know here name, I know where her classroom is, I've gotten emails from her.

And now she is going to teach me to be a better writer.  This sounds like a Disney show.  The first thing I thought when I realized who she was is that my writing is on par with my 11-year-old daughter, that's my baseline.  I'm not in college, I'm in elementary.  But after spellchecking this thing, that's probably a good baseline to start from.   She told us to call her by her first name.  Can't do it, nope, just can't do it.  There's a mental block in there that wouldn't let me.  And now she is going to read my writing.  What if I have to write a sex scene???

This is how you make best friends with awkward.

2/8/17

Headphones and Cake

I grab my daughter's headphones, saying a slight curse to myself because really, again?  She brought them home from school yesterday.  Little Hoss told me don't worry about it dad, it's cool.  I can bring them home.

Will you remember to bring them back the next day?

She told me no problem, of course she will remember, she's 11 after all.

As I have the headphones in my hand, I believe this is a case of Dad Told You So.

But she's not at school yet.  She's about to catch the bus but she's not on it yet.  I can see her right out my window.  I'll be able to gloat and get her headphones to her.   8 am in the morning and already the day is mine.

I see the bus pull up and she begins to walk toward it.

Shit.

I take off like a sprinter outrunning a drug test.  The dog thinks we are playing and jumps on my leg, nips at my hands.  I almost trip but with my gymnastic-like skills, I'm able to keep my balance like little Mary Lou destroying the hopes and dreams of Russia.  I chant USA in my head as I power on.

The cat meows, seething with neediness and indifference at the same time.  He is like a walking contradiction that crawls right up to your feels.  Love me when you don't have time, touch me during abundance and I will smother you in your sleep.  I ignore him and move on, my daughter needs her headphones, I've gotta rub it in.  My legs pump past the cat as he emotionally tries to destroy me.

I throw open the door and a whoosh of air, air smelling like victory, hits me in the face.  Two stairs descend from the garage door like a trap designed to impede my fatherly triumph.  I skip them, leaping down, fist in the air holding headphones.

And then I land in cake.

A sound that is made by swamp creatures as they devour their virgin teenage victims comes from my outstretched foot.  I begin to slide answering that age-old question:  Can a 40-year-old man surf on concrete?  The answer now, as it has been in the eons past, is no.

My landing foot shoots forward, my trailing foot determinedly stays planted.  And as I contort myself into some highly complicated yoga lunge, I think to myself, why the fuck is there cake on the garage floor?

My back knee hits and I feel a pull in the groin as the front foot keeps going, unnaturally.   A guttural growl comes from my chest, 1/3 pain, 1/3 frustration, 1/3 confusion.  I know the answer to the cake question.  I have children.  Children have birthdays.  Birthdays require cake.  My youngest son just had a birthday last week and not all the cake was consumed.

I remember giving very specific instructions after about a week of the cake sitting out on the counter.  "Throw the cake away," I told my children.  I saw them take the small portions that were left.  I saw them head into the garage with it.  They assured me that they threw it in the trash.  But when you have young children the words "in" and "near" sometimes need further clarification  I missed this.  My fault.

My back knee hurts, my hip feels like it's going to need some replacing and my groin area just burns.  I give myself a pep talk though, it's not too late.  "I already have 3 kids," I reason.  "There is no more need really for that area."  "Now get up you sonofabitch 'cause I didn't hear no bell."  Yes, Mick, I gotta get up.

And I do.  Slowly, injured but not done.  The headphones are still gripped in my hands.  I hobble run to the middle of the driveway.  "Stoooppppp!  Wait!!!!!!!!  You forgot your headphones!"  Spittle drools out of my mouth, my breath ragged and pained.  I wave my arms like the headphones are a flag on the fourth of the July.

She hears me.  She was 1 step on the bus and she hears me.  She stops and comes down a step of the bus, remarkably there is no cake at the bottom of her stairs.  The bus driver waves her by to let her know that it is safe and my 11-year-old girl runs to me.

"Oh gosh," she says.  "I almost forgot them.  Thanks, dad!"  Then she kisses me on the head as I begin to sink, my knee unable to hold my weight.

2/6/17

My Bacon

Oh, he's eyeballing my bacon.    He thinks he is looking cute and I suppose to others he does.  Perfect black coat, big welling eyes and a tongue that lounges to the side.  Yes, you're a good boy.  But you're not a good enough boy to get my bacon.   That's my bacon.

My daughter comes up behind him.  "Bacon!"  Now she's reaching for my bacon.  I step between her greedy hand and the plate of heaven.  Her hand bounces off my rounding stomach, she takes a step back.  I explain to her that those 3 pieces of bacon are mine.  I explain that I love her.  I explain that I would give her anything in the world to make her happy.  But not my bacon.  That's more than anything, that's everything.  She doesn't move.  The dog and my daughter eyeballing my bacon.

My son leaps down the stairs.  "I smell bacon!" he screams in mid-air.  When he lands on the floor his feet are already running toward the kitchen.  He takes out the cat as he rounds the corner and only stops after he has pushed my daughter and dog out of the way.  I place my hand on his head, stopping abruptly his forward progress.  His feet keep churning but he makes no headway.  He only weighs in at 80 pounds so he's not moving me, my girth keeps my bacon safe from the invading horde.

"No," I tell him.  "That's dad's bacon."

He keeps trying and as he is distracting me, I see my daughter's hand dart out once again for the plate of goodness and cholesterol.  It doesn't make it.  I block her again making sure that my eyes remain on my dog.  Man's best friend or not, that bacon shall remain out of his poop eating mouth and I know he will take every opportunity to fill his gullet.

I look down on my leg.  My 3-year-old has appeared from nowhere.  Knowing the delicious smell of bacon, god's own gift to man, he has soft stepped through the horde and has attached himself to the alpha male.  He sees that pure force is not letting his brother and sister through.  He notices that the cry of the pup is not enough to force me to abandon my love of bacon.  So he takes a different tact.  He is trying to make an alliance.

He smiles as if to say "If you give me bacon I will not scream my head off and I will actually hit the toilet when I pee."

It's a ruse.  I know it.  My 3-year-old has used his ninja-like skills to get close to me and the bacon, my bacon.  I would walk through the fires of hell to ruin my health and grab my bacon.  Scream away my son for the bacon will remain on the counter behind me and not in your belly.  If that is the price that I must pay, then so be it.

My daughter asks why, why no bacon from them?

Now the debate will start.  It's the next step of those who couldn't take the prize by force.

I could explain bacon economics but I can't expect ones so young to understand such a complex subject.  But I'm dad so I'll give them a simpler explanation.

"Because I said so."

The tried and true dad go to.  I could go deeper but the bacon is calling me, beckoning to my clogging arteries.  I could say because it's 6:30 in the morning and they were supposed to be sleeping.  I could explain to them that I got up early to workout and then reward myself with the last three pieces of bacon.  I could explain that each child will cost me hundreds of thousands of dollars in my life time and I'm calling that loan due now, payment only accepted in the form of bacon.  But I don't because it's early and I'm hungry.

"Mom says you aren't allowed to have bacon," my son tells me.

Shrewd.  I like that, he will go far.  Not today though, no not today.

"Mom's sleeping in.  The bacon is mine.  Go eat your whole wheat unbacon things that we buy. "

Victory is mine and it tastes like bacon.

I turn around the grab my prize, which is even more satisfying now that it is illicit.

The cat is sitting on my bacon, his greasy butthole is on my greasy bacon.  He is eating my bacon.

The cat.  I always forget about the cat.   The horde has won but tomorrow is another day.