Packing for Vacation

Pack the toys, make sure they are by the seats.  If they are not, someone is going to scream.  Scream for the entire drive, scream past Witchita, scream through Texas.  Put the toys in a box, the same box that will somehow catch spilled coke and juice.  Pack trash bags.  Pack baby wipes.

One, two, three suitcases  Enough for 6 days plus any unforeseen nuclear apocalypse.  "I didn't over pack," they will say.  Unpack suitcase, take out winter coats, explain the beach doesn't need coats.  Repack suitcase.

Pack the blue foldable wagon, the one from Costco.  Pack the chairs, pack the umbrella, pack it all on top of the suitcases.  Pack like I'm playing Tetris in the back of the van.  Sit back and admire my handiwork.  I am a packing God, the deity worshiped by all fathers going on a summer vacation.  Wife comes out:  "I forgot to put something in the suitcase." she'll say.  "The suitcase at the bottom?" I say.  She will smile, shrug her shoulders.  Unpack the chairs, the umbrella, the blue folded wagon.  Take out suitcase, unpack suitcase.  Pack suitcase for the third time.  Play Tetris, round 2--expert level.

Pack the cooler, the small soft sided one.  Put water bottles in first, juice boxes second.  Turn back and child will pack a peanut butter and jelly sandwich in there when I'm not looking.  Unwrapped, underneath the water so it's nice and hidden from Dad.  Add ice.  Sandwhich will now be slimy and gross, mushed pieces clinging to the plasitc bottles, jelly floating like mines for my fingers.  I will discover this mushed up sandwhich at our first bathroom stop, 1 hour into 8.  Pack patience and mercy.

Pack the books, put them next to the seats.  Put cargo carrier on top of van.  Pack it with blankets, pillows, more toys but not toilet paper.  Leave toilet paper on kitchen counter.  Curse when you get to rental house and there is no toilet paper.  Attempt to close cargo carrier.  Fail.  Get on ladder, rearrage, close again.  Hold hands up in victory pose when successful.  Wait for kids to take pictures of my awesomeness. Remember to pack kids.

Start car, smile at wife.  Pull out of driveway, find some tunes.  Turn around at first stopsign.  Head back to house.  Grab the phone chargers that are on the counter, next to the toilet paper.  Pack chargers, go out to car. 

Drive 15 minutes the wrong direction to pick up mother in law.  Unpack back of van, find room for one more suitcase by sacrificing chicken and the blue wagon.  Leave wagon by mother in laws front door.  Get back in van, sigh, check time to insure we are an hour late from my scheduled start time for trip.  Mother in Law asks where the kids are.

Head back to the house.  Pack the kids.  


Crazy Shakes

I put the green laundry basket, the one with the half the side missing, on my bed.  I dump out the clothes, an assortment of preteen girl pinks, nine-year-old boy blues, and toddler reds.  This could have been load number 15 this week, maybe 20.  I’m not sure.  The summer with the kids also brings never ending laundry, piles of which no longer fit in hampers but have now overtaken the upstairs hallway.  It's like a mold fungus on the set of an alien film. On autopilot, I begin to fold, mostly wad, and then throw the clothes into other baskets.  A green basket gets my daughters, a blue for my son, and a white for the toddler.
"Dad!" I hear.
I stop for the CRAZY SHAKES.
I head back to the laundry room, 8 by 5 with machines that are older than my children. If guests are coming over, my wife insists that I clean the top of the washing machine off. I have no idea why because for the life of me I can't imagine why any guest would want a tour of the laundry room. Besides which, I'm currently having a contest with myself. Can I let the liquid laundry detergent drip enough on to of the washer so that eventually it creates a recognizable landscape? Maybe something by Normal Rockwell.
"Dad! Umizoomi!"
I stop for the Crazy Shakes.
I put in the next load, my wife's clothes? Maybe mine? Probably the neighbors. We are getting quite the collection of other kids clothes thrown in with ours so far this summer. A pair of pants left over from a slumber party, a towel from that kid that we invited swimming. Sometimes I think other parents are telling their kids to leave things at my house for the sole purpose thinning out their own laundry herd. I like the idea, I'm going to steal it. I head back into my bedroom, I need to dust.
"Umizoomi! Umizoomi!"
I stop for the Crazy Shakes.
I don't think I dust enough. The corners of my room would agree with that. The dusting hasn't happened for a long enough time that normal dust has gained consciousness and banded together. They have created cities near the ceiling, where the beige corners meet the popcorn. If there are dust kids in there, I bet they find a way to add their laundry into mine. Dusting walls are one of those things that you never think about until you see entire countries of dust that have somehow gone unnoticed. Or maybe we are just filthy people. That's probably it.
"1,2,3,4! Umi City!"
I stop for the Crazy Shakes.
This isn't so bad, this time. I can shake and dust all in the same moment. Although I would appreciate it if my four-year-old could get the words to the song right. It's "In a world that's not so far away, Umi City." The counting comes in the verse before that one. I know it by heart. My son has been following me around for the last 30 minutes with that song on repeat on my phone. I tried to just put him in front of the T.V. and turn on the show but apparently, you can't do it that way. He's the world's weirdest stalker.
I lay on the ground to grab some library books out from under the bed. I should dust a little bit under there as well. But I'm not gonna unless of course guest are coming over and they would like a tour under my bed after they see the laundry room. I find 4 books, one of them has a picture of Bot on it, from the T.V. show Umizoomi. He's still and lifeless, I see no Crazy Shakes.
"Umizoomi! Umizoomi!"
I do the Crazy Shakes on the floor. If my other children walked in right now it would look like I'm having a seizure. But they won't walk in because they know that Dad is cleaning and that is the best way to insure that your older children won't come find you. Not the toddler though, he always finds me like some sort of god damn bloodhound.
I've tried to get him to help me clean before. It usually ends with him throwing something in the toilet and trying to flush it. When whatever item doesn't flush he throws a fit. But when something does flush, he throws a fit then too. He likes to do three things in this world at the moment: 1. Throw a fit. 2. Flush things. 3. The Crazy Shakes
I open the closet in my master bathroom, trying to put away some towels that the dog was sleeping on. He doesn't do the crazy shakes. He sleeps and barks. Occasionally, he will rub his butthole on the floor usually right after I vacuumed. I kinda hope he does this the next time we have guests over. I put the towels up and notice more laundry on the bottom of the closet floor. Jesus fuck, there is even hidden laundry now.
"You can count on us to save the day!"
I stop to do the Crazy Shakes.
My four-year-old has learned how to go onto youtube kids. I know that he isn't finding the Umizoomi song by himself, his sister is helping him, I'm sure of it. She denied it because 11-year-olds deny everything. Then they scream "That's not fair!" when you tell them that you don't believe them. I think this is supposed to be a power struggle type thing like maybe it's hard-wired into her DNA to argue with me. Except I don't know what her endgame is supposed to be. I also think 11-year-olds don't have foresight.
My son, the youngest one that is obsessed with the Umizoomi Theme song and likes to follow me around, knows how to scroll his finger back to start the theme song video back over or move it ahead to his favorite part, the crazy shakes. So that's what we do on clean days, the crazy shakes, over and over again.
"Dad! Umizoomi!"
We both stop what we are doing, him following me around with my phone and me cleaning, face each other and then twist our bodies. We jump up and down, our arms go wide and then close again. I stick out one foot and then pull it back quick. He bends at the waist, sticks his but in the air and wiggles it like he's trying to attract a mate. We do the Crazy Shakes.
It takes me 3 hours to do a load of laundry and clean the upstairs. In the bathroom, it takes a good 20 minutes to clean the mirror because, after almost every wipe and spray, I have to stop for the Crazy Shakes. I clean the toilet, doing the crazy shakes after each section. Once after cleaning the lid, once after cleaning rim, once after cleaning the bowl.
I clean my dresser, all the crap that ends up from my pockets at the end of every day. Hair ties, bits of trash, sometimes the white paper parts of band-aids--all end up in a little silver bowl on my dresser. I organize them, start to finally throw some of it away. And do the Crazy Shakes five times.
I could take the phone away, refuse to do any Crazy Shakes at all. But that means that I'm just cleaning, organizing and not doing anything at all fun. And that sucks. The Crazy Shakes? Shit, the Crazy Shakes are awesome.
"We can measure, build it together, you can help us, you're so clever!"
Let's do the Crazy Shakes.


Tara and The Evil Fog

Another piece that I wrote as practice.  It's based on the prompt:  A sulfurous wind blows from deep in the mountains.  Everything it touches becomes twisted and evil.

Tara ran on twig-like legs trying to put distance between her and the smog. Some said the smog came from Hong Kong, some said it came from Hell. It did not matter. What happened when the smog engulfed the world, that’s what mattered.

Tara ignored the reports of the smog until it hit Mcdonald's. Big Macs turned into healthy baked chicken in disgusting green spinach wraps. Delicious grease turned into wheat grass tea. Scrumptious fries turned soggy and the staff all grew man-buns while vegans came by the thousands. Vegans with tattoos about being a vegan! Tara then knew the world was about to change.

The smog made it through Hollywood and soon movies like Ghostbusters II were released. Walter White suddenly became cured of cancer and the Firefly remake starred Scott Baio. Netflix became something unrecognizable. The Ironfist received rave reviews for wonderful writing, Barney the Dinosaur got his own cop drama and Netflix and Chill now meant to go hang with your parents while discussing all your bad life choices.

All art became easily recognizable so even the common man could discuss it without even having a proper chakra alignment. Books became twenty pounds heavier and only discussed the topics of macroeconomics. All great buildings became brown and were built by a guy named Steve who only completed junior college in Cleveland, Ohio.

Tara couldn’t take it anymore, so she ran. She grabbed her cat and ran. In Texas, she turned north because they wouldn’t let her carry a gun. In New York, she turned west because they tried to make her carry a bazooka with no waiting periods and a history of mental illness. Tara found out that Colorado was full of a bunch of people who were not high and hated hiking. She went to Florida and saw that not a single person was committing any crazy felonies, like robbing a 7/11 with an alligator. North Dakota pretty much remained the same. So she ran, any direction she could, she ran. Her legs probably got really tired.

Internet people wrote stories that didn’t make any sense, neckbeards were polite, and Reddit became an understanding and great place to have political discussions. Pornhub became the leader of No-Fap, Twitter expanded so that you could write 150,000 characters and Breitbart had a reputation for honest and fair reporting.

Exhausted, there was a lot of running, she went to the last place she could think of. Dennys. She sat down and waited for the waitress. She ignored the fistfight in the corner booth and gently wiped the cigarette butts off her table. The waitress eventually came over then left without taking her order. She came back sometime the next day, where Tara was still waiting.

But as Tara was about to give her order for a heaping helping of extra lard fried pancakes, she saw the smog creep in under the doors. It spread quickly. The fistfight, which now included 4 different families from 4 different trailer parks, stopped. They sat down and started discussing ways that they could improve nuclear security in the United States with a couple of rubber bands and a case of Miller Light. The lighting in the restaurant also improved, showing how much no one had bothered to bathe in a quite a while. The darkness retreated further to highlight the menus, which now showed nothing but healthy and organic choices, like kelp macaroni cooked in seaweed oil. Drunk food no longer existed. Tara’s waitress came back 20 times in 2 minutes to refill her tea glass, never adding any extra ice but always more tea.

As the smog overtook Tara, she had to fight the urge to call all of her ex-boyfriends to talk about feelings. She fought and fought and looked to the one thing that gave her strength. She saw her cat, Mr. Twinkles, bathed in the yellowish glow of the smog. Mr. Twinkles inhaled thick streams of the smog, breath after breath.

And, as Tara’s mind began to think of doilies crocheted for empty Coke Cans, she noticed something about Mr. Twinkles.

He hadn’t changed at all.


Never Talk About Your Book.

The first rule of writing a book is to never talk about writing a book.  It's an artist version of fight club.  At night, when the rest of the world is asleep, we gather in dirty basements or in the small back rooms of Chinese restaurants and have story duel offs.  Instead of punches, we scream cleverly worded phrases at each other.  Then, when the Alpha writer gets in the middle of the circle, he will write that phrase on a piece of paper.  He will hold it high above his head and yell "Who wants a papercut!"

And of course, since the first rule of writers club is to never talk about writer's club, we talk about it all the time.  We talk about it to everyone.  "Hey, did you know I wrote a book?" we will say to the random stranger on the street.  And this is important because he probably doesn't even know that you wrote a book.  The nice stranger, someone who doesn't have clever phrases ping-ponging around in his head, will usually run away right when we are trying to tell him how the second act is just brilliant.

Our spouses, those that are lucky enough to have cleverly phrased someone into staying with us, have to sit in bed and constantly hear about our book.  We will tell them "Honey, you should really hear this lovely way I described centipedes crawling over the dead body in Chapter 2."  The spouse will try to turn away from us but it makes no difference, we will keep talking about our book and what's in there.  Sometimes we won't even talk about the book itself, but the craft.  But you can't say "craft" like a normal person, like someone who scrapbooks (not a real book) on the weekend.  You have to drag the word out and talk like you have an overabundance of air to go with your overinflated ego.  "Honey, the craaafffftttt (almost leaving spittle on the final T), is so amazing and I'm so good a the craaafffftttt".

They can't divorce you of course because your written response to her divorce papers will be so cleverly written that you will obviously win the judge's favor.  Your awesome twist at the end will just be too much for them to handle and the judge will declare you married forever.  And he will also hear about your book.

When your wife is faking being asleep and you can't find the random stranger on the street, then you will need to talk about your book to your children.  You will lightly tug on your soul patch while you talk about the soul of your book.  You will explain subtext to you children and spout off about situational irony.  At some point, your nine-year-old son will exclaim "Jesus fucking Christ, Dad!  We get it, you wrote a book!"  You won't' get mad at him for the swearing but tell him to use it only sparingly and only if it fits the character.  Don't want to be fucking gratuitous with those type of words, people tend to get turned off by it.  Shit, be careful with the wording you twats.

And maybe, if your phrases have been clever enough, maybe your 11-year-old daughter will say:

"Dad, you need a cover for your book."

"But I don't have a title, honey.  I barely have a manuscript."

"I got you fam," she will say because she loves all your fancy words and non-gratuitous cussing.

Three hours later you have a book cover.  This is great because now you can post that you have a book all over social media because that is what your tech-savvy daughter tells you.  She uses unfamiliar words like "Twitter" and "Instagram."  Since you are a writer, and horrible at self-promotion, you should probably just give your computer to your kid and let them do it while you cluster the words Twitter and Instagram for inspiration.

Now that you have a book cover you can also blog about it.  But it won't be about the book, no that's to direct for a writer, the craft demands subtlety.  So you will write a funny story about a pretentious writer, a cliche for sure, and throw in some f-bombs.  Now everyone, EVERYONE, should know that you have a book.  This is good because you are never supposed to talk about the book you have written because it makes you feel like you are whoring yourself out to the masses.

But you can certainly write about writing a book.  There are no rules about that.


Flaming Arrows

"Can we do flaming arrows!" one of the kids asked me.  Around the porch table a chorus of "No!" could be heard.  The 5 mothers defiantly thought that flaming arrows were a bad idea in much the same vein as the Red Rider BB gun.  If a BB gun will shoot your eye out then a flaming arrow launched from a medieval siege weapon will pierce your skull and completely obliterate any good sense you had in the first place.

"Please!" they children asked.  One of the kids, an 11-year-old boy that had helped build the ballista, then showed us a stick.  I took it and turned it over.  He had taken a cottontail he had found in the fields at the farm we were staying at.  He had used some wire to attach the top of the cottontail to the stick.  To his credit, it very much looked like an arrow.  The stick was straight, other branches had been carved off it, and the tip was secure.  I'm not going to lie, I was pretty damn impressed with the arrow.

"We made a bunch of them," he said.

"Oh my gosh!" the mother's responded.

The dads though began to appreciate the workmanship and gumption of the children.  I mean, come on, they made arrows.

Together as a group, we are quite large.  Five families, sixteen kids and one farmhouse in the middle of Kansas.  The youngest kid is three, our oldest is twelve.  We have ceased to be a dads group at this point and are now into cult territory.  Each year we rent a place out among the fields and the cows, relishing the quiet and space.

The kids get to run around the farm, discovering turtles and the kittens that always show up every summer.  They can get dirty, roughhouse without breaking too much, and build those memories that I am after so much.

The parents get to sit around and talk about adult things, like politics and interest rates.  But mostly we just sit and sip drinks while looking at the stars.  Sometimes one of us will remember that the kids are around somewhere and should go check on them.  That's probably a good idea because each year I also build a siege weapon from 2000-year-old plans.

Two years ago we built a trebuchet, launching baseballs 70 yards down into the tall Kansas grass.  Last year it was a torsion style catapult that didn't shoot it's projectiles of potatoes and eggs as far as the trebuchet.  This year was the ballista.

For those that don't know what a ballista is, it's basically a very large crossbow.  The kids help me build it right before we go to the farm.  While we cut the wood and twist rope, I will get into the mathematics of the machine and why it works.  Halfway through this lecture, they will stop helping.  I will yell "The arm has to be 3/4's the length of the base!  Do you know why!  Let me tell you why!"  They just keep walking.  One day though I'll get them to understand how math helps their everyday lives.

For those that are asking "Why" I build these things, you can go ahead and close your browser now, you don't get to read about the ballista.  You have lost your turn if you can't appreciate it.  The answer is obvious, it's a ballista.  It shoots things.  That's why you build it.

I looked at the arrow more closely, letting the weight slide around in my hand.  The kids did a damn fine job, it even feels balanced like a proper flaming arrow should.  But would it light?  Would the fire go out once we launched it?  Not if I used a little bit of lighter fluid.  We are dads at a farm, I'm sure there is lighter fluid somewhere around here.  Probably not a fire extinguisher, but defiantly some lighter fluid.

The moms would never go for it of course.  They spent the first day a the farm telling horror stories of the diseases you can get from the turtles the kids found. Two of the moms are doctors so you have to take them a little bit more seriously than the WebMD moms you find on the internet.  Salmonella, hospital visits, flesh-eating bacteria.  Moms sometimes like to crap on a good time.  Last year it was the danger of ticks and Lyme disease.

So the dads, and I mean me, made an executive decision.

Can we shoot flaming arrows from the ballista?
You are god damn right we can.  I mean, it's a ballista, it's built for this type of thing!!  We have to ratchet down some of the power though, we have to be sensible about this type of thing.



The Meltdown and Rain Boots

"Don't you want to wear your rain boots, Bacon Hoss," my daughter says.  She looks over at me at the sound of the soft "noooooo" I tell her and sees my eyes roll back into my head.  My daughter doesn't realize her mistake until she the excited "yes! yes! yes!" coming from Bacon Hoss.  Now he's fixated on the idea of wearing the Batman rain boots.  I sigh.  I don't know where the boots are.  We are late.

But we are always late.  It's part of having kids.  If we need to be somewhere and it takes 30 minutes to get there in the car, we have to begin leaving the house an hour earlier.  Little Hoss has started picking up on this and asks why we have to leave so early now when we go places.   I smile and on our next scheduled appointment somewhere I tell her to learn and watch.  "Time to go everyone!  Get in the car!"

25 minutes later everyone finally has on shoes, coats, socks, pants and Bubba Hoss eventually is able to seat belt himself in between telling me Star Wars facts that not even George Lucas can tell.  But we can't go because now Little Hoss has forgotten her book and has to go back inside to get it.  Eventually, everyone gets back in and I point to the clock.  25 minutes from the time I uttered the words "time to go" and by the time we actually start the car.

I think my daughter learned a good lesson but she is too young to really get the subtlies that are required when you parent  She's only 11, a bright 11, bu still a young kid.  And I can't fault her for trying to help get us out the door.  She was going to put on the toddler's rain boots for him, isn't she helpful?

What she didn't know is that I had already thought of this.  I should pat myself on the back because there have been days where we have left without any shoes on and had to turn around and come get them.  Today's problem though is that I can't find my toddler's extra special awesome Batman rain boots.  This is why I had the Spiderman shoes in my hand.  If I put them on fast enough he wouldn't realize they weren't the right ones.

And it's not even raining, not that that matters.  Bacon Hoss goes through phases and currently, we are on a Batman and Barbie phase, an interesting combination of dream house and bat cave.

"Honey, I don't have your shoes.  You have to wear these," I tell him as I watch his eyes clothes and the waterworks come.  That's the next stage we are at, a meltdown at everything.  Not the right shoes, let's scream and cry about it.  The Ipad run out of juice, that's a meltdown every time.  The moon isn't full, you better believe that is a reason to scream.

"Alright hon," I tell Little Hoss.  Go find the shoes.  She looks at me like I'm joking.  I am not.  She started this mess she can go ahead and get all into it.  Maybe it's a bit cruel or maybe this is the best lesson for birth control a young girl can have.  Either way, I'm not moving.

No one ever puts their shoes back where they are supposed to go.  It's simple.  There is a shoe basket.  The shoes go into the basket.  Then you wake up the next morning and put your shoes on and hopefully, you have remembered to put on your socks first.  This is where we find ourselves now, my daughter looking for Batman rain boots on a sunny day.

I sit back down and give helpful hints.  "Check behind the couch," I tell her.  "If they aren't there, look in the oven."  Yup, I've seen shoes end up in the oven before.  Don't know why.  I used to ask why when things like this happen but I find that no explanation can make me understand  Now I just take it as par fo the course.

Little Hoss eventually finds the boots for the toddler.  He gets himeself up off the floor and she puts them on.  There, we are ready to go.

"Hey Bacon," my 9 year old now jumps in.  "Do you want to wear your special creeper sweatshirt?"

Sigh, eye roll, slight muttering under my breath.

My toddler loses his shit again when he realizes that the extra special awesome creeper sweatshirt isn't hanging on the hooks which is conviently located next to the shoe basket.  We start over.

"Bubba Hoss.  Go check the oven.  And if it's not there look in the shower upstairs."


The Book and 50,000 Words

Last week I hit 50,000K mark on the word vomit that is slowly becoming my book.  It’s a nice little milestone to reach and one that I should be proud of.  That’s me being humble.  So fuck that.  
I hit 50K words on “the book”, the mythical thing that has been in production for freaking forever.  The ideas have been floating around the head for years but things kept getting in the way.  There is an actual plot, plot points, characters and their development, subplots and interactions, themes, the whole shebang.  I’m pretty pumped.  
“The Book,” which should always be capitalized now and spoken about in whispers, has taken shape.  The story that was abstract in my head is now in physical form.  I’ve given this thing life and hopefully, there is a soul in there.  But what if it’s an evil soul and causes world destruction as it matures into a finished manuscript?  Is it the Hitler of books?  
Screw it, so be it.  It may be the most colossal piece of trash ever created but it has been CREATED and that’s the point.  If it’s going to be evil then let it be the evilest.  I will love it anyway.
 There is no need for me to print off the pages, to actually have a physical manuscript.  But I do it because sometimes late at night I like to pick it up and hold it.  I like to feel it’s weight and pet its pages.  Is it doing ok, does it need anything else?  Perhaps a good plot twist, maybe more developing in the first act?  The Book doesn’t talk back but one day it will.  
It’s far from finished.  I don’t have any magical word count to reach.  But when I write I never really do.  I just tell the story until the story is done.  Most of the time, I have an idea in my head and see where it takes me, making little pit stops along with way.  
But The Book is different.  There’s an outline, a convoluted and large outline that is it’s own being as well.  It took me two months just to do that outline and it’s constantly getting a makeover to make it look pretty.  It does a good job of linking one plot point to another, to being the roadmap of The Book.  I know where the story ends and I know how to get there.  I just have to keep writing, keep chugging along to tell the story.  
The Book is a funny story, the ups and downs of what happens when a grown man tells his children “Please stop breaking shit, the moms are starting to look at us weird.”  Oh, there are hugs and kisses in there, on those beautiful pages.  There are also stories of my son whacking my car with a hammer and my daughter flashing her goods to some Mormons.  
The book will be finished sometime over the next month I think, maybe two.  The first draft of it will anyway.  Then I will go back and change it, dress it in something pretty, letting the words act as accessories to what I hope it will eventually look like.  But for right now, it’s still a young book.  
But it's MY BOOK and at 50K words it’s growing up just fine.      


What Happens When You Turn Your Back On A Toddler

Notice How He Even Got In Between The Fingers
I've done fucked up and I know it.  I'm better than that.  I'm not some sort of a rookie, a noob that doesn't understand what can happen when you don't pay attention to your toddler.  I make fun of guys all the time that say "I only turned my back for a second."  And what did I do?  I turned my back for only a second.

I was talking to my sister on the phone.  It was a call that required all my attention.  My boy and I were having a great day, a day filled with the park and coloring.  He was happy, I was happy.  I thought that I could be on the phone for just a couple of minutes and nothing would happen.  Jesus, I'm better than that!

I walked into my kitchen and even did some dishes while I talked to my sister.  I had her on my headphones so I could set the phone down while I talked to her.  I was multi-tasking, a skill that I thought I had perfected!  I need new multi-tasking lessons.  My son is about to give me a free one.

I looked up.

"Shit.  I have to let you go, sis.  Ollie has gone and put on blackface."

Not full on blackface, thank the lord for small miracles.  But his hands and much of his wrists are covered in black marker.  He decided sometime over the "I only turned my back..." that he was done coloring in his special coloring book.  Coloring hands are way more fun.  So that's what he did.  I'm sure he was laughing all the way too but I couldn't hear him with my earbuds in.

And he had to choose black marker because that makes it way more fun and way more difficult to get off.  He has to go to preschool tomorrow and I know exactly what is going to happen.  I'll practically give him a bath in rubbing alcohol trying to get the marks off his hands and wrists.  But I won't get it all because I pick up the marker pack we were coloring with and nowhere on the package does it say "washable."  Another rookie mistake.

I've been in the game for 9 years, 9 years of caring for children and I'm still making these mistakes.

"What happened, buddy?" I ask him.

"Daddy!  Daddy!  Look!  I colored." he tells me.

Yes, son, you colored.  Now you have to wear gloves to school tomorrow and I have to tell the teacher it's because we are afraid of germs.  Great, you are Howard Hughes now.  Have fun with that.

He then points to the table showing me his little black smudged handprints.  They are also on his chair, his clothes, and probably some on my computer which I left near him.  Suddenly my lazy afternoon has been filled up.  The rest of our day's schedule is full thanks to a toddler and the parenting cliche "I only turned my back for a second."  


Kids Chess in the Thunderdome

"Move over, I'm going to beat this kid."

When I heard my daughter say this, I spun around and my shoulder caught the bookshelf that I was standing next to.  Several books fell to the ground and I thought that I was going to have to get my daughter out of a fight and repair the library all in the same day.  This would be a new record of destruction for us.

But what I saw was not my daughter whooping some poor kid.  I saw Little Hoss moving her little brother out of the chair in front of the white pieces of the chess board that they keep at the library.  I walked over and asked my son what was going on.

"She's going to play this kid.  He thinks he can beat her."

Oh shit yeah.  It's on now.  As my son explained it, this young blond hair boy was explaining how to play chess to my children.  He didn't like being corrected by my kids.  Now Little Hoss has decided that a game is the only way to settle this epic battle.  I wanted to hug her, not only for accepting a chess challenge but for not being me at that age.  I got into a lot of fights that usually required some explaining to my parents afterward.

But as the parent in this situation, I would require no explanation.  My girl is going to the Thunderdome of chess skewers and forks, have at it!

My daughter can play chess.  I taught her.  She plays me on occasion.  She's no Bobby Fischer, but she knows what she is doing.  She can skewer a piece and castle and it's become second nature to her.

Now, I'm no chess genius either.  But I have found that if you learn some basic strategy and combine that with some tactics, you can beat 90% of the public at a friendly game.  Most have a passing knowledge of chess and we have taken it a bit further.  I've tried to get the kids to watch chess tournaments with me at times but they fade after the first 5 minutes.  Baby steps, baby steps.  Let that first step be wrecking the random stranger that appears to be talking down to my daughter.

Part of me wants to stick around and be the cheerleader.  I want to get some sports stands around the board and my giant half-gallon of soda.  Perhaps I'll start a little tailgating party in the parking lot, get some beers out and turn on my radio for some analysis.

I leave them though because this is a challenge between kids and I don't want to see the other kiddo cry.  That wouldn't be very fatherly, would it?  It's all about the competition, about fair play, right?  But there is the other dad side of me that thinks "You gonna let that boy talk down to you like that?  Kick his ass, honey."  I don't know which guy to listen to so I leave them at it.

I head back to the children's section to watch my youngest son destroy the toys they have back there.  Occasionally he'll hit a truck with a book and I consider that a win.  He plays chess too sometimes with me although at 4 years old that usually means that he is going to stick a piece in his mouth for a little bit.  That's ok, know your pieces on an intimate level and the rest will follow.

Little Hoss and her brother come join me about 5 minutes later.  I lift my head up from the book that I really wasn't reading.

"How did it go?" I asked her.

"Easy.  I castled early and then it was pretty much over.  I just got his pieces one at a time."

"That's great," I say.

But what I mean is:  That's my girl.  Don't ever let a boy tell you what you can and cannot do.  Now go over there and punch him in the balls for good measure.   It's important that I don't let this Dad out to much, he doesn't play well with others.  He's still needed but he's kind of a jerk.

"Can we go get some ice cream, Dad?"

"You're god damn right we can."


The Toddler Proofing Company

I have decided to launch a new company.  Hossman’s Toddler Proofing.  It’s going to make me a million dollars and when I get all that sweet money I will make sure that I forget all you lowly peasants.  But first, buy my products.

The first product in my genius plan will be the Crazy Shake Timer.  It will look exactly like an egg timer, an old fashioned one.  That means it’s vintage and bitches go crazy for vintage.  You set it for 5-minute increments right when you need to clean or do something important like eating all the crumbs in the chip bag before you throw it out.  You paid good money for those chips, get everything out of it that you can.  When the timer goes off, you stand up and do the crazy shakes.  I’m assuming that every parent that stops by to read this knows exactly what crazy shakes are.

But for those that don’t, the crazy shakes are from the cartoon Team Umizoomi.  Bot, the robot, of course, will say at the end of every episode that it’s time for crazy shakes.  My 4-year-old demands that we do it and when a 4-year-old demands that you shake him, god damnit you do it.  Not a baby though, don’t shake the babies.  I find that my productivity drops way off when my toddler is around.  So the crazy shake timer is really just finding a way to automate the constant interruptions.  After the crazy shakes set the timer again and then go find that bag of chocolate chip cookies because I bet there is a least one more in there you fat bastard.

Our next product is revolutionary and will probably get a lot of hot supermodels wanting to endorse it.  It’s called the Bathroom Muffler.  It’s basically just a shit ton of styrofoam, thick stuff that can be duck taped to the bathroom door. Once installed by one of our supermodel installation ladies, it will successfully block all sounds from outside the bathroom door-- like a screaming toddler.  It will also cancel out any loud banging coming from outside the door.  So when the 4-year-old is screaming “Dad!  Daaaadddd!  What are you doing?” you don’t have to reply “I’m taking a dump, what do you think I’m doing!”

Now, you may be thinking why not just use sound proof egg crate foam?  Listen, Mr. Moneybags, we are trying to make these things affordable for the American family.  We cannot afford official high-end shit, kids suck up money like Bill Oreilly soaks up harassment lawsuits. (hahahahahaha, that made me laugh.) Our styrofoam can be found for almost next to nothing if you go down to the docks on the lake after the 4th of July weekend.  Just pick up all the old cheap coolers that I guarantee will litter the shore.  The beer smell will remind you of college.  Bring your toddler and the crazy shake timer.

The Parent Control Volume Remote will be our next big seller, after the success of the Bathroom Muffler.  This specially programmed remote will have only 3 settings.  Setting 1 will be called “Nap Time” and immediately mute the T.V. and it cannot be canceled for at least 2 hours.  This prevents the fat god damn dog from accidently stepping on the remote and jacking the volume up to 50 and ruining nap time for everyone. Seriously, screw you dog.  You owe me.  Setting 2 on the remote is labeled “Sexy Porn Time.”  It sets the volume of the T.V. to a very low whisper, only audible over heavy breathing.  Use only around 3 am when the whole house is asleep and you really don’t want to wake anyone up but need just a little bit of sound to achieve lift off.  Finally, setting 3 on the remote will be called “When the older kids have friends over.”  This setting will automatically turn every speaker in your house to the loudest volume.  You will still be confused as for why you can’t hear anything other than preteens tearing your house apart but at least you are making an effort.

The last product in our revolutionary new Toddler Proofing company will be called the “Picky Eater Food Dispenser” and is the flagship of our product line.  This white box contraption easily fits on your dining room table.  It will have huge compartment space for all the lunches and dinners that your toddler has decided not to eat.  After they take one bite of their peanut butter and jelly sandwich the machine will automatically open and take the sandwich away, storing it for later because your toddler will declare he’s “done.”  Every 5 minutes, when your toddler tells you he’s hungry, even though you just had lunch, the white box will open and again deposit the sandwich on the table.  Your toddler will scream, take one bite and again declare he is done.  The cycle will continue for 45 minutes until finally it just spits out a cup full of cheerios on the floor and flings the sandwich towards the wall.  This action allows you to add to your collection of food stains on the wall without the hassle of your toddler doing it.  There is also a handy paper shredder built right in so you can just open up your wallet and destroy your money rather than wasting trips to the grocery store.

I believe in these products and have no doubt that they will revolutionize the way we take care of our families.  Why go through the bother and the fights that you know you are coming anyway?  My super awesome, super handy Toddler Proofing program will….

Wait, the crazy shake timer just went off.  Back in a bit.


Another Piece of Reddit Fiction

This little story did pretty well too on Reddit.  It story made me laugh.

The Writing Prompt was:  "Here is your sword, that purges all evil.  Here is your shield, to protect all you hold dear.  And here is an infinite mug of coffee, arguably the most dangerous of the three."

“Oh, I gotta go, I gotta go, I gotta go, I gotta go,” said Chet the Magnificent. The dragon stopped in mid roar, about to blast this twig of a man, because Chet was now running around in circles. This made no sense to the dragon who had eaten plenty of newcomers before. “Have some decency man,” the dragon thought. Chet couldn’t hear him, of course, and if he could it wouldn’t matter because all Chet was thinking at this moment was to find the nearest bush.
Chet was the chosen one, destroyer of evil and conqueror of the minions of hell. With his sword he sworded with his shield he shielded. Monsters wrote dirty limericks with his name on bathroom stalls and put his real address in Craigslist personal ads. They cursed the very air he breathed and as each of them fell Chet’s fame grew.
With boundless energy, Chet never failed to meet a demon head-on. This enterprising hero never seemed to grow tired and the dark rings under his eyes only worked to entice the ladies even more. Most times he almost seemed nervous, electric like, a combination of a boxer puppy crossed with methed out cat. But his quirks only served to remind his foes that he was unpredictable, like the mage who had given him his weapons had predicted.
Ollie the Wise and Opulent first gave Chet the sword and said: “Go forth and sword things. It’s good for you.” Then Ollie gave Chet the shield and said: “This thing is heavy, I don’t want it anymore.” And finally, Ollie gave Chet the last of the hero’s treasures and said: “Take this bottomless coffee mug from 7/11 and find the will to destroy all. Also, to much coffee may make you poop, so watch your intake and check your blood pressure from time to time.”
Today Chet had too much of the bottomless coffee and it did what coffee does: jack you up and make you miss your first-morning meeting because you’ve got to run to the bathroom. Normally, Chet would have taken care of business earlier, perhaps on the secret bathroom stall of the 4th floor. But the dragon roared from his cave and Chet momentarily forgot about Ollie the Wise’s advice.
Chet the Magnificent raced to the cave and stood to face the beast. The dragon roared, Chet roared, and then Chet’s stomach rumbled. A loud gurgling base came from Chet’s midsection and then a small squeak came from his backside. The dragon, not sure what kind of game weirdo Chet was playing, decided to roar louder. Chet stood straighter, his face turning red from embarrassment and not from the heat coming off the dragon, raised his sword.
He had gotten the sword up about halfway when the lower half of this manchild’s body decided nope, it was time to poop instead.
And so we find our hero desperately running around in his plate mail armor, looking for perhaps a large rock while the confused dragon looks on.
Sadly, Chet could hold it no more and a torrent of filth came rushing out of his nether regions like a mudslide over the Niagra. Clump, squoosh, clump, squoosh, squirt--the sounds of a man losing all his dignity and finding it slowly piling up in his boots.
The dragon stepped back immediately like he had been slapped. Understanding came to the dragon as the smell of Chet’s shame came to his nostrils. “Holy crap,” the dragon thought. “This guy pooped his Cussies, (the correct term for leg armor, go ahead, look it up. Don’t look it up)”
Chet though was named the Magnificent for a reason and knew there was only one thing to do in this dire situation. He quickly threw his sword to the floor and turned to face the dragon. The dragon let out a minor roar, not sure what was happening or what weird fetish this guy had. Chet let mother nature take it’s course, all the while making direct eye contact with the dragon. The dragon tried to avert his gaze but Chet held him by sheer force of will. “Look at me! Look at me! I can’t finish unless you look at me!” Chet let loose with a torrent that sounded like an oboe being played by a 4th grader.
The dragon, overwhelmed by the situation finally broke eye contact and jerked his head hard to the right. His skull smashed into the cave wall, sending a spiderweb of cracks up through the ceiling. The cave came crashing down on the dragon ending his reign forever. Chet was spared as at least today he had found some luck.
Squishingly, Chet bent over and retrieved his sword and his shield that lay at his feet, wiping the little brown specks from them as he secured them back onto his armor. He turned gingerly and walked out of the cave. Chet the Magnificent, destroyer of destroyers, scourge of evil and drinker of bottomless coffee. Oh, Chet, may your name and your legend live on. And may you always carry some handy tissues and reading material in your saddlebags.


For those wanting to read the comments on the original story on Reddit,
click here and enjoy!


Whose Is Bigger

You don't have to pull your pants all the way down to your ankles in order to take a leak.  Well, if you're a female you probably do.  But men don't unless we have a peeing distance contest going on and in that case, you do whatever you need to do God Damnit.

I was trying to explain this to my youngest, Bacon, while in the bathroom of Culver's.  Culver's is an ice cream and burger joint.  Tonight we were there because of a school function.  Something about raising money for the school or to show community spirit.  I don't know, it starts to get all wrapped together like a burrito towards the end of the school year.  I spend 50% of my day running around in my van going to one kid thing or another.  It's to the point where I'm happy if I just show up with the right kid.

Bacon had to pee so into the bathroom we went.  Pretty normal but he is 4 now and it's time that we got some man lessons in him.  "Son," I said.  "This is the urinal.  You are going to use this now."  Later I will show him how to shoot guns at stuff.  That's going to be tough as I don't know really how to shoot guns at stuff.  But I do know how to pee at urinals.  One small baby pee step at a time, we can get to the guns later.

He starts to drop the pants when I stop him.  "No, son.  Do it like Daddy."  I unbutton my pants and step up the urinal.  "See, we don't pull our pants all the way down.  That keeps our butt warm.  Pretty cool right?"  I start to pee hoping to show him how this is supposed to work.

Bacon screams "You have a big penis!"  Then he starts laughing and pointing.

Kids make things weird and awkward all the time.  It's part of their job description.  I'm pretty sure somewhere they have a toddler union and that they have to reach a weirdness quota.  I appreciate the compliment but now that he is pointing and laughing I'm not sure it was a genuine compliment.  Like Mighty Mouse being a small mouse.  

"No, son.  We are not talking about penis right now.  We are learning to pee in the urinal.  Now open your pants and pull your penis out."

"Daddy, I have a small penis!" he yells.

That's when I hear the guy in the stall start laughing.  Nothing is better than getting in a dick size competition in front of an audience.

"Dude, just go pee," I tell him.  I have decided that urinal lessons can wait.  He pulls his pants all the way down to the floor, gleeful in his exposed butt and his exposed junk.   Next time I teach him we are going to make sure that the little guy and I are alone in the bathroom.

Wait, that doesn't sound very good either.  Fuck it, we are going back to diapers.


A Reddit Story

For a writing warm-up, occasionally I go to Reddit.  There is a subreddit there called Writing Prompts.  I pick one and just go with it.  I give it very little thought and just roll, letting the story just develop.  I find that it helps my mind get to the right place to work on other projects, namely The Book, that ever present project that sits in the back of my head.

One night, around midnight, I decided to pop out a story.  I hadn't written that day so I wanted to get one out.  I found a prompt and just let go.  It's a stupid story, one that doesn't make any sense.  But it made me laugh so I posted it.

Somehow, and I have no idea how, it became my most popular story.  Throughout the next day, I was hit with so many comments that I couldn't keep up.  I've decided to post that story here.  Maybe you guys can figure out what made this one work better than the others.


After too many ridiculous and lengthy lawsuits dominate the world's courts, the world's leaders decided to pass a law to remove all warning labels.  The Darwin Act has just been passed...

Here is my take on that prompt.  I'm currently sitting at 3,000 upvotes.  Who knows why.


Sarah Miller, exhausted from a double shift, put her green blouse into the washing machine. She poured her Clorox Bleach in and washed the garment. 30 minutes later she mindlessly threw the blouse into the dryer and set it for 50 minutes. Sarah promptly fell asleep, looking forward to her job interview for the next day. When she awoke 9 hours later, she was frantic as she knew she was going to be late for her job interview at the High Powered Business Person’s Business. She grabbed the blouse, the faint light barely spilling in from her cracked apartment windows and began to iron. The shirt exploded, engulfing her in flames. The flames quickly spread to the rest of her apartment building. 45 innocents perished because the tag that read “Do Not Bleach, Do not Machine Dry, Do Not Iron” was not on her brand new blouse.

Jonathan Sqiggles had just laid down in his bed, ready to enjoy his brand new mattress. He had gotten the mattress from Steve’s Wholesale Bedding just down the street only today. But what he didn’t know, because the label was removed, was that Steve’s Wholesale Bedding had gotten the mattress from a factory in Columbus, Ohio that had used other dirty recycled mattress to make this new mattress. The bedbug attack was so fierce and unexpected that within 20 minutes only a skeleton remained of Mr. Sqiggles.

Muldoon looked in his side view mirror and saw the T rex’s jaws gaping. However, the view in the mirror showed the dinosaur much further behind him than he had thought. He knew that they were safe, despite the screaming of Dr. Malcolm. No one listened to Malcolm and his chaos theory because he was an insufferable bore and know it all. Muldoon breathed a sigh of relief and slowed the jeep down. It wasn’t until Ellie was snatched from the passenger seat of the jeep that he realized objects in the mirror may be closer than they appear. The T-rex soon ate them all. Dr. Grant, upon learning of Ellie’s death but not caring about Malcolm's, became despondent and allowed himself to be eaten as well. The dinosaurs escaped the island and invaded the mainland. No one was prepared because no one even knew that dinosaurs existed once again. New York became a dinosaur buffet.

Tommy Jenkins leaned his back against the wall at the chemical plant. He removed his hard hat and began to think of Linda waiting for him back home. He was lost in his thoughts when he brought his lighter to his mouth, getting ready to inhale that first cigarette after a long shift. He did, then the plant exploded, releasing benzene over half of Dallas County. Half a million people either died or suffered permanent damage due to the chemical cloud. The act was incorrectly labeled a terrorist attack perpetrated by North Korea and international tensions rose.

Jin Soo, a South Korean badass, finished welding the surplus jet engine onto the top of his used Volkswagen Beetle. He downed his beer, a Natural Light that a Texan sent him, and got into his car. When he was ready, he smiled at the small gathering of friends around him and uttered the last words anyone would ever hear him say: “Let’s light this candle!” His friends were standing too close behind the jet engine and quickly caught fire. The little car took off and soon found itself airborne without any way to control it. North Korea, mistaking the car for a missile attack, fired its own missiles. However, the guidance systems were so bad, probably made at a mattress company in Columbus, Ohio, that they quickly veered off course. The dear leader was right, they had been able to make missiles that could reach any continent in the world. 45 nuclear missiles landed in Antarctica and the polar ice cap was obliterated. Within a year there was no more land for people to live on. In the beginning, billions had died holding onto children’s inflatable beach balls not realizing that they were not flotation devices.

A new society would eventually arise, leading watery nomadic lives. They would have many years of trials and tribulations until a brave man by the name of Kevin Costner grew gills and saved the last of humanity by leading them to the only land left on the planet.

Thanks for reading.  Here is the story on Reddit so you can enjoy the comments as much as I did.


The Castle

Bring Me Your Maidens!
I’m writing in a castle.  How awesome is that?  I have the computer on top of a parapet, the gray tower is next to me and I’m writing.  So I suppose I’m not writing so much in a castle as I’m writing on a castle.  I’m basically a feudal lord now.  I should tax the peasants and get me some maidens.

This is not a castle in the traditional sense.  If I was going to be very technical, and very unimaginative, I would say that where I’m writing is a house with a castle exterior on the front.  The inside has rooms with carpet, chairs, tables, desks and no signs of dragons.  I don’t even think there are any suits of armors or long swords here.  And it is doubtful that I will find Edward Longshanks sitting in a throne room.  Mainly because he is dead and there is no throne room.

The place I am at is called the Writer’s Place.  It is a home, roughly 100 years old, and sits in the middle of an old neighborhood.  There are apartments behind it, normal houses on either side and the street is like any street in America.  There is also no drawbridge but give me some time and wood and I can probably fix that.

I am here because I am now a member of the Writers Place.  I have paid membership dues and have kept the receipt to deduct from my taxes.  Now it’s truly official, I am a writer.  I’m not sure of the history of the home other than that someone very rich, very long ago, decided that he wanted his home to have a tower and be covered in limestone blocks rather than wood and brick.  This is a home builder that I can relate to.  This person eventually died and his descendants decided to make it a place for writers to come work.  Thus, the Writers Place became a non-profit and so here I sit, typing away while looking for invaders.

It is run by a lady named Natasha, a very literary name much in the same vein of Tolstoy.  When I first met her she had on 24 scarfs, all of different colors, black square glasses, and blazing red hair.  I asked if she was perhaps Professor Trelawny.  I tend to make awkward jokes although that was not one of them, that was funny.

Quickly ditching my preconceived ideas of a castle and that I should go find a troll in the basement (there isn’t), I have now set up shop at the Writer’s Place to work on my book.

Wait, what’s that?  A book?  Is this whole post really just a vehicle to self-publicize that Hossman is writing a book?

No, this is a post about Hossman sitting on top of a fucking castle!

And yes, I’m finally writing a book about the misadventures of me and the children.  It’s a book that will have heroes and villains, stunning defeats and great victories.  And sometimes my wife will freak out when I take the kids on a bridge that is technically “not safe for crossings.”  Pshtt, what do engineers know?   We are still here, aren’t we!

I find it difficult to write at home with all the screaming and victory going on.  To truly get the words down on paper, to craft the story that will make you laugh and want to get into my pants at the same time. It’s a skill and I need someplace epic to do it.

So here we are, epically on top of a castle.  Well, not anymore.  I’m in the library because castles do not have power outlets on the towers.  Now I’m in the castle and as it’s getting close to lunch time I am expecting a roast boar to be brought to my table.  Perhaps I will get to meet the court jester and later I will go for a hunt.

The work on the Hossman book continues.   I don’t know how long it will take me to finish and I suppose it will depend on the number of disputes I have to rule on between the peasants.  That may delay me.  I will be a fair lord though, one that only boot stomps only the lowest.  I’ll post updates here and there on the book as I get to them.  The process of writing it is full of ups and downs, victories and defeats.

And there is no better place to plan your battles than within the safe confines of a castle.  I’ve got time here.

But first, I’m going to need to dig a moat.  All good castles have a moat around them.

We Need To Build A Moat


Missed Opportunities

My wife takes off her pants and I watch, sitting in my chair enjoying the view.  She stops and looks at me, notices my staring.  Or more appropriately, my glaring.  I have been with this woman for 22 years, I have earned the unashamed glare.

"What?" she asks.

"What do you mean what?"

"Why are you staring?"

I do not feel the need to explain my actions.  It should be self-evident.  My wife has no pants on.  I like it when my wife doesn't wear pants.  It's awesome and the fulfillment a dream of 16 year old me.  "What?" she asks again.

"I like it when you don't wear pants."

"Oh, yea?" She says, a smirk now on her face.  "It's been over 20 years, sure it's not getting old?"

"Nope," I say.  I like where this is headed.

Bacon Hoss runs into the room like he is being chased by a carnie with a pitchfork.  He misjudges the turn and smacks the bed, falls down but quickly gets back up.  His little feet start moving again, taking the time to give a kick to the bed because fuck you bed, that's why.  He jumps into my lap, I wince to avoid certain areas, and look at him.

He grabs my chin tightly, his vice-like fingers surprisingly strong for a 4-year-old and looks me in the eye.

"I have a donut on my forehead."

"What?" I ask.

He jumps off and is gone.  There was no donut on his forehead.  Bubba Hoss comes in as if getting the go-ahead from the stage manager that he was missing his cue.

"Dad," he says.  "I lost my school book and need to find it for tomorrow.  Also, did you know that Hans Solo uses a DL-44 to shoot Guido?"

This is what it's like with my son.  The first statement is about something he lost.  The second statement is a star wars fact.  That's where we are at with him at the moment.  I tell him to check under his bed for the book, that I didn't know the exact model of the gun and that it's time to go brush his teeth.  We are doing early bedtime tonight for, um, reasons.

Little Hoss comes in.  I imagine this is how clown cars work.  Just have more people show up until the driver can't fit anymore.  She says that she needs her girl scout shirt and she can't find her girl scout shirt, why can't she find her shirt, the boys must have taken it.  Stomp, stomp, stomp.  I don't even say anything to her.  She just stomps out.

My wife is at the sink now, getting ready for bed, still pantsless.  I can salvage this.

All three kids come in for the curtain call.  If they take bows and I'm going to be knocking some heads.  I shut them down before they can even tell me who hit who, I don't care if you're bleeding, and can we all just stop talking for a bit?  I tell them to zip it and everyone go brush their teeth and get ready for bed.

My eyes go back to my wife.  I find her evening ritual slightly alluring.  I don't know why but I always have.  22 years I've watched her do it and it never gets old.  Mentally, I high five the teenager still inside me.  We are living the dream buddy, we are living the dream.

Screams can be heard from the kid's bathroom.  There are shouts and yells, accusations and a 4-year old that is just crying.  His voice rises above the rest, but my daughter's whine is giving it a run for its money.  Bubba Hoss is in the middle of defending himself, demanding that slanderous and libelous statements be retracted.  I consider ignoring it until a sentence catches my ear.

"You broke my toothbrush."  The absurdity of this snaps my eyes off my wife's legs.  How the hell do you break a toothbrush?  Jesus Christ, are you kids serious?  A toothbrush?  Was someone making a prison shank?  I don't think I could break a toothbrush if I tried.   I would have to get tools out to break a toothbrush.  God Damnit, seriously?

They did indeed break a toothbrush, I didn't care to find out whose.  For some reason, I keep a lot of extra toothbrushes because you never know when one is going to end up in the toilet or apparently be sharpened on concrete to make a point.  The kids are given a new toothbrush and I make a mental note to put them all up for adoption tomorrow.

My wife walks by, headed downstairs.  She has pajama pants on now.

I have missed my opportunity and I realize that I have more in common now with that 16-year-old teenager in me than I thought.


An Arm and A Child

“4 billion! But wait, you also get a radio with that price.  Come on, gurl, let’s go get your car.”

“Lint.  We will give you the lint in my belly button for the car.”

Haley and I are playing hardball.  We seem to be a pretty far away from each other in terms of price, her billions to my offers of the lint in my pocket and a kiss on the cheek.  But this is how you buy a car, this is the expected dance.  Two peacocks strutting around showing their feathers until one of us gets fucked.

“I can’t do the lint, but how about we talk about what I can do.  I can do the cost of the Louisiana purchase in today's value and how about I throw in something meaningless about the undercarriage.”  Nobody knows what the undercarriage is.  It’s a bullshit term car salesman invented just so that the could offer it for free.

“That’s still a bit out of our price range,” I tell Haley.  “I’ll give you some quality Llama fur and then call your mom for you on Tuesday’s to let her know that you are doing swell.”   My mother in law is buying a new car, go grandma, and I”m just here to help out a little bit.  I feel this is going well and I”m about to offer a used napkin to sweeten the pot before she cuts me off.

“I like Llamas.  Who doesn’t like Llamas?  But Llamas don’t ride like this sweet piece of foreign made machinery.  You know what I heard?  I heard that Jesus was conceived right in that backseat.  True story, saw it myself.  So how about we take the Llama and add the weight of Everest in Gold.  I’ll even throw in the steering wheel for free.  FOR FREE!”  Haley is on a roll.  She gives me her shrewd eyes, the challenge in them is obvious.

“I like steering wheels but Everest is a little steep, don’t you think?  Why don’t you come down a bit.  Say around to basecamp where there is a 1920’s coffee maker waiting for you.  I’ll give you that plus one coffee bean.”  This is called haggling.  I’m really good at it, promise.  I once got a car salesman to come down 100 dollars.  All on my own.  I earned my big boy pants that day.

“Well, at least we are near Everest.  So we got a coffee bean, a Llama, the coffee maker and a steering wheel.  That’s not going to do it though.  I need more to sell this deal to my bosses.”  Pssht, she doesn’t need more to sell to her bosses.  These negotiations haven’t even started until she has gone back to her “bosses” 25 times.

“And a radio,” I tell her.  She tried to trick me there.  I got it.  I’m helping!

“And a radio,” she confirms although I can tell she is not happy that I remembered.  “Let’s split the difference and you give me your child.”

“Which one?” I say.

“You have more than one!”  She gets a little too excited at that.  I might have offered a little too much so I back peddle.

“They are more my wife’s than mine.  And they are pretty beat up, little resale value and require constant maintenance.  You don’t want that.  But you do want a look at the gun show without the shirt on, am I right, Haley, bubbie.  This gut under this shirt is covered in a thick black hair and I haven’t showered in like two days.  I’ll give you that sweet, sweet musk for free.  Free, Haley!”

She went and got her boss.  Or she got a little sick and needed to go to the bathroom.  I didn’t care, I’m breezy.  It’s just another move in the chess match of car buying.  Eventually, when I”m close to dehydration, the bossman comes out and Haley stands at his side as his standard bearer.  The negotiations continue for another 25 hours.

Empires are made and discarded, health care is fixed and then screwed up again.  We go over the political importance of the Roman system of government in the early 2nd century.  I may have blacked out a couple of times in there somewhere.

Eventually, both of us exhausted, we stand.  A respect has been earned on both sides.  We have lost family members during this ordeal and apparently, there has been a coup in the U.S.  None of it matters, a deal has been reached.  We shake hands and they go to draw up the paperwork.

“How did you do?” my mother in law asks me.

“I got you floor mats.  For no additional charge.”  I stop to let her bask in my business abilities while performing business.

“They come standard on the car, we already had them.”

“But I got them installed.”  Bam!  I’m like a superhero sometimes.  As I walk away from my mother in law and her new car I shoot Haley a grin.  Today was mine Haley but perhaps tomorrow will be yours.


Kids Cooking Dinner

Holy crap the kids are cooking me dinner.  I’m sitting on the couch in our cabin and I’m not doing a damn thing.  It’s entirely possible that this night will end with the fire department being called and a trip to the emergency room.  I’m not cooking, though, that’s the important thing to remember here.  

Things smell a bit funky but that’s ok.  I guarantee you I will eat anything that they happen to pull out of the oven.  It could be a full on boar, complete with singed hair and burnt tusks and I would eat that shit like I’m a starving man on the plains.  

For the past two days, we have done adventures while the kids are on spring break.  We have seen a 6-foot tall human mouth, weird statues, fired a catapult, put our heads in the stocks, have played mini-golf, gone swimming in a lake, and of course have seen a troll and a henge.  And fishing.  We have gone fishing twice.  

I hesitate to call this fishing, though.  Maybe the kids would call this fishing.  The lady at the state office asked me if I would be fishing personally and would need a license.  I laughed at her little joke.  I would not be fishing.  I would be constantly untangling lines and dodging hooks that were cast by my head.  This is not fishing, this is the last stage in a survivalist show where the winner gets to go home and smell like worms.  Do you need a license for that?

At the end of it all, we are at a cabin.  A nice place where we can get an actual bed in the pristine beauty of nature.  This is so we can ruin the quiet reflection of the lake by screaming constantly.  It’s just not a vacation to me unless I’m am constantly apologizing to random folk.  

The smoke detector is now going off.  It sounds like the bell from Rocky IV and Mick is telling me that I have to get up.   My son tells me that they might have forgotten to set the timer.  That's ok I tell him.  Life is full of success and failures and sometimes that failure involves the loud blaring of the smoke detector.  I tell him that I will 100% eat whatever they have cooked.  

“Even if it’s yucky, Dad?”

“Especially if it is yucky.  Yucky is a feast when you don’t have to cook yourself,” I tell him.  He doesn’t understand but that’s ok.  The point is, I am going to have to apologize to a park ranger very soon so I need to get my shoes back on.