9/25/17

Sent To The Publishers

This one is for me...

Little Hoss pushes her brother out of the way, a hard shove and his socks slide away on the hardwood floor in the kitchen.  He responds with a fury that only a 10-year-old little brother can.

"Hey!  I want to push the button!"  Then he pushes her back.  She leans to her left but holds her ground.  To give up now, to succumb to the shove, would admit that her little brother might not be so little anymore.

"No!  I'm doing it!  Go away!" Little Hoss says.  It's direct and to the point.  It's what older siblings say to younger ones so that there is never any doubt who is in charge.

However, with kids that are still not teens, tactical thinking is not their strong suit.  They have forgotten about the toddler.  It's easy to forget about him if he decides to let you.  He's small, doesn't even come to my waist yet.

"Me! Me! Me!  I want to do it!"  Then he throws himself into a tangle of shoved legs like they are an 8/10 split and he's a 14-pound ball.  He crashes into someone's knee and falls on his butt.  Gets himself up, seems to throw a dirty look at everyone at once, and then starts pushing lower halves.

The dog comes crashing in because he's the dog and something is going on.  Screaming, yelling, wrestling:  all things that the dog wants to be a part of.  The dog jumps up on my daughter who pushes him down, charges the 10-year-old who dodges him,  and then licks the toddler because licking is awesome.

The problem is not that there is a battle royal in front of my computer sitting on the kitchen counter.  The problem here is that they are collectively pushing me.  Dad is getting smacked around like I'm a pinata.  And you know what, I want to push the button.  Screw-off.  I wrote the book.  I want to be the one that sends it off to the publisher.

All this is a bit surreal a the moment and it's a memory that I don't want to forget.  A quick twitter pitch, a hopefully funny query letter, a partial request--all that leads to a full manuscript request from someone that isn't my wife.  Someone is going to read the book.  After they read it, then they will decide if they want to publish it.

I've looked back over this blog from the last year.   It's fun to mark how everything has come about.  I spent a lot of time hiking in the woods thinking.  That's where the outline was formed, dodging spiders and accidentally sneaking up on people having sex in their cars.  It's where I explored themes, came up with the first line, decided where I wanted the book to end.  That shit took almost three months.  But somewhere in those woods and besides those ticks, I decided fuck it.  If I'm going to write, then let's get serious about it.

And so I did.  The first class on writing I ever took was taught by my kid's elementary teacher.  No shit, seriously.  Go look up the blog from last year.  I joined communities online, began to research on the business side of things.  I joined a writers group--with my stomach in my throat and a nervousness that made me jittery enough that I could phase through walls.  I have never been as scared as when my first piece was read out loud to 12 strangers that had no idea who I was.  I've had guns pulled on me, not as scary as that first time getting your work read out loud.

It's weird hitting 20K words on the book and not realizing it.  I kept a schedule to write (some of the best advice I ever got).  I wrote in the morning for an hour, entertaining the toddler with juice boxes and cell phone videos.  Then another hour or two at night when I finally put everyone to bed.  On days when the toddler went to preschool I would hit four or five hours straight of keyboard pounding.  I wrote in a castle.  That was awesome.

Then having my wife print off what I had written and bringing it home as I never had a thought to print anything out.  I hadn't even known I had hit 20K words.  Holding that first manuscript in my hand and feeling the weight of it, holy shit this was real.

My daughter made a cover for the book.  I have it still and plan on framing it.  She's awesome.  My whole family came up with a working title:  No Changing Tables In The Men's Room.  My son's told me to get back to work.  Really.  My older son is a beast of a time manager apparently.

All that leads to getting requests for a full manuscript.  Professionals are now reading my book.  Like, more than one.   It makes me want to vomit and dance at the same time.  Maybe they will like it.  Maybe they won't.  I don't know.  But it's ok because this is just the start.  And I want to remember the start, really really badly.  My stories don't ever seem to dry up and there is so much more to tell.

So I want to push the button to send my book out.

The fight is going good and I'm a bit concerned as they are getting closer to whacking the computer.  That would probably put it in the sink.  That wouldn't be good.  Or maybe it would?  Afterall, even though I wrote the book, the truth is that the kids provided the stories.  What happened at the Mormon Jail would have been boring without them.  And who eats grave dirt and licks windows?  My kids do.  A T.V. pilot would have been boring if it was just me going around cleaning things.  And without my wife, none of this would have been possible.  None of it at all.

I realize that it's not my book at all.  It's theirs.  It belongs to the kids who ran like nuts through a state fair.  It's my wife's who always asked me when I was going to write again.  It's the twist ending that I call my toddler.  This book belongs to all those other Dad's that had the adventures with me and kept me humble.  It's to them and their kids who ask me "Where do you want to go again?  Are you sure?  Ok, we are in."    I'm just the guy that got lucky enough to tell the stories.

"Ok, everyone gather up," I tell my kids.  They stop fighting.  I pick up my toddler and put him on my hip.  Umph, he's getting big.  I can actually feel his weight in my arms and wonder how much longer before I can't pick him up anymore.  I gave that up with the older kids years ago.  I miss it.

I tell everyone to put a finger on the return key, the magic black button that sends the book out into the world.

"Push," I tell them.

And it's gone.  It's not our book anymore.  It's everyone else's.







9/11/17

Car Seat Cover

"I hate it," my wife says.  Her nose scrunches up like she smells something bad.  We are in the van so she could actually be smelling the sweaty soccer socks that I'm sure are tucked away somewhere in here.  I wish that were the case.  If it were, then my feelings wouldn't be hurt and I wouldn't be getting all defensive.

"No, you don't.  You love it,"  I tell her.  Primo argument.  Immediately tell your wife how to feel and I'm sure it will work out for you as well as it did for me.  Seriously, don't ever take my advice.  It's pretty terrible.

"Not a chance.  I hate it and I won't sit on it," Hossmom says.

"Yes, you will."  You should also tell your wife exactly what she will do.  I promise that this will work out as well for you as you telling your wife how to feel.

"No."

She won't even touch the car seat cover.  She is barely looking at it.  She tries to turn her head because I'm guessing the awesomeness of the white flames is too much to take.  But she can't look away, try as she might.

"Give it a chance, baby.  Don't hate.  Procreate."

"I hate that as much as your new car seat cover."

But she laughs.  If I can get my wife to laugh then I can get her to sit on the car seat cover.

$2.99 from the thrift shop.  Captain American blue and adorned with white flames like we are riding to our destiny.  Professionally embroidered edges and custom fitted over the arm rest.  It was the best three bucks I've spent in years.  I didn't even know I needed it until I saw it.  China makes the best stuff.

"You need to take this off the driver's seat.  I'm not going to be seen riding to the school picnic with this thing on," Hossmom says.

"Baby, baby, baby.  Don't let other people dictate to you.  We don't care what other people think," I say.

"I need for the other parents to think that we aren't meth dealers," Hossmom says.

"Baby girl, let us shine together.  You, me and the car seat cover.  Let's be the sun and not a black hole."

"You call me baby one more time and I'm going to throat punch you."

"No, you're not.  You are a pacifist.  You don't believe in hitting."

"I'm rethinking that."

I get it.  I know what's going on.  Hossmom is jealous of the tacky beautiful.  The blue is too powerful.  The fabric flames are too hot.  She's afraid that her own beauty will be extinguished next to the car seat cover.  I need to reassure her.

"Honey baby," I say.

"Hoss," Hossmom says.

"I mean Honey girl.  Not baby.  Honey girl."  I think I almost got throat punched there.  "Honey girl, you're prettier than the car seat cover.  You know that.  I know that.  It brings out the brown in your eyes, the curl of your hair.  It does other stuff that I can't describe because sometimes your beauty is too much."

"It brings out CPS is what it does," Hossmom says.  "And it's not safe.  It goes over the seatbelt latch.  It's a death trap.  If the police pull you over, you are going to get arrested for having bad fashion sense."

"I got great fashion sense."

"Little Hoss picks out your shirts every day.  You got nothing."

"I got you and a car seat cover."

"Not for long."

"We are running late,"  I tell my wife.  "We have to go.  Just sit.  Just feel it about your buttocks."

"I'm going to buttocks you," Hossmom says.

"I'm game.  Baby."

Crap.  That was a mistake.

Anyone need a bitchin car seat cover?



 






9/5/17

What Time is Dinner

"Dad, what's that thing?" my toddler asks.

What thing?

"That thing."

I'm driving.  I can't see what you are pointing at.

"That thing.  Over there."

It's a thing.

"What time is dinner?"

After soccer practice.

"Dad."

Yes?

"What's that thing?"

____________

"What time is soccer practice?" My nine-year-old asked.

In an hour.

"What time is dinner?"

After soccer practice.

"What time is soccer practice?"


________

"Can we be called the Red Dragons?"  One the kids on the soccer team asked.

Sure

"What about the Orange Macaroni?"

We are already the Dragons.

"What time is soccer practice?"

We are at soccer practice.

"What time is dinner?"

Ask your parent.

_____________

"What time is dinner?" My daughter asked.

I'm cooking it right now.

"What time is Bubba Hoss's soccer practice?"

We just got home from soccer practice.

"What are you cooking?"

You can see me cooking.  Just look.

"Is it almost done?  What time is dinner?

_________________

"Dad," one of my kids asked.

Yeah?

"I'm hungry."

We just had dinner.

"What did we have for dinner?"

Seriously?

"Mom texted, says to not forget the chairs."

I know.  I'm packing the car as fast as I can.  We can leave for the drive-in when your mother and grandmother get here.  About 5 minutes.

"Will there be time to have dinner before we go?"

__________

"Dad!" one of my other kids asked.

What!

"Don't forget the chairs!"

I know!  Don't ask about dinner or we are not going.

_____________

"Hoss," My mother-in-law asked.

Yes?

"Did you pack the chairs?  Don't forget to pack the chairs."

I know.

"Have you guys eaten dinner yet?"

Yes.  We are good to go as soon as Hossmom gets home.

______________

"Daddy!" my toddler asks.

Yeah?

"Don't forget to bring my chair!"

I got it!

"I'm hungry."

Jesus Christ.

_______________

"Honey?' My wife asked.

Right here.  The car is packed and ready to go. How was work?  Wish you didn't have to work late today.  It's been a long one.

"Had to finish up some stuff.  Did you pack the chairs?"

YES!  I PACKED THE DAMN CHAIRS!

"Are you ok?  Why are you getting so angry?  Calm down."

I am calm.

"Ok.  I'll grab the kids and my mother from the house.  Maybe we can stop on the way to grab a quick dinner."

--And that's the moment I lost it.







8/29/17

Lettuce Head

Can I hit my daughter with a head of lettuce?  She’s about four aisles away, right behind the strawberries, next to the cantaloupes.  It’s a pretty good distance from me and of course, I’m no longer sure of my aim.  Getting old sucks.  My arm isn’t what it used to be and I think I need glasses.  But barring all that, yup, I think I can make the throw.  

She’s standing next to her brother.  If I’m lucky, I could get some ricochet and catch him in the face.  A two for one kind of deal, an 8-10 split with a prayer.  I would need to take off the plastic though from the head of lettuce which I don’t think I want to do.  I would have to buy it then.  

Little Hoss’ hands are waving in the air, her face snarling.  The hands are going to create a little bit of a defensive structure, a weave of flurry that makes it pretty much a wall.  Her brother, the nine-year-old has his hands moving around while he talks, too.  Without meaning to, they seem to be working together.  

I don’t know what they are saying.  That isn’t to say that I can’t hear them.  I can hear them just fine.  Everyone in the God Damn grocery store can hear them.  The cashiers and the stock boys can hear them.  The people in the next town over can hear them.  I’m just not listening to them.  The words shoot toward me, pummel me, the anger in them.  There are acquisitions, excuses and blame all being passed around.  The same shit that we’ve been dealing with since 7 this morning.  

“You are being too loud and I can’t sleep,” my daughter accused her brother this morning. 
“I’ve got the TV on mute.  I’m not being loud!”
“You are being loud and now I can’t sleep!”

And on and on it went.  It troubles me that they were being loud while arguing about being loud.   When they are that screamy, that early in the morning, I don’t think they realize what is happening.  At that point, they are being loud enough to wake me up.  Then, from nowhere, I hear the toddler scream and start to cry.  When did he get up?  At what point did he enter the fray?  Seriously, what the hell is going on and why is he crying.  I can only assume that he saw a battle going on and would not be denied glory.  Head first he would have charged, yelling his battle cry so that the gods of Valhalla would hear his woe.  

I might be able to hit the toddler with a kiwi.  

It’s going to be tough though.  He’s not as tall as the other two and his head doesn’t reach above the little half shelf they are all three standing by.  And let’s not be cruel here, a kiwi might be a little harsh.  It’s hard, like the apples that I held moments before while considering what I’m going to do about the arguing today.  That’s why I switched to the lettuce.  Heavy enough to throw with a good solid center to keep it flying straight.  It should break away on impact which should lessen the blow.  I'm a responsible parent. 

Can’t use romaine lettuce.  There’s plenty around me, the fresh kind, not the prepackaged stuff.  But it’s going to catch too much wind and not go very far.  An orange is too bright, they might see that coming.  Carrots have points, I don’t want to put an eye out.  I just want to knock some sense into them.  I have a whole arsenal of fruits and vegetables at my disposal.  And with them oblivious at the other end of the fruit and vegetable section, I have time to be choosy.  

Tomatoes.  I have plenty of tomatoes right around me.  Tried and true tomatoes, the fruit flinging projectile of angry mobs for centuries.  I could use the big old fashioned tomatoes and get some easy juicy splatter.  But then I might hit someone else, collateral damage of the sample lady night to far away from them.  The Romas are intriguing.  A tomato with a bit of aerodynamics to them.  I think the vine-ripes are not going to be very good.  Unless I can find a strong vine, then I can use it as a bolo.  I like that idea.  

Something happens.  I can see the toddler’s head start jumping up and down.  His little blond hair barely visible over the strawberries.  Little Hoss is more animated and it looks like she is actually stomping her foot.  Bubba Hoss appears to be all in.  Nine-year-old righteous anger, right there on his face as he points at his older sister and younger brother.  Escalation.  That's what I’m seeing here.  Ok.  We can do that.  

I pick up a watermelon, a very unripe one, and walk closer to my children.  The watermelon is heavier and I need to get within range.  


8/24/17

Little Hoss Gets a Phone

My daughter is crying, tears coming from each eye like it's a race to her chin.  She hiccups a little bit when she tries to catch her breath.  Slobber from the mouth, refusing to look at me and my wife.  As a father, I feel that I have sufficiently done my job.  I'm a good Dad.

Little Hoss has her first cell phone.  Is 11 too young?  I don't know, I've been fighting this for at least two years.  There was a time that I was of the opinion that "You aren't getting a phone until you are at least 16 and engaged to a nice young boy that requires no dowry."  My wife thought that maybe that was too harsh.  So fine, I switched my opinion.  We could marry her to the church.

"Honey, you are not religious.  Like, at all."
"Quiet woman!  I'm making fatherly decisions!"
"You don't even say God Bless You when someone sneezes."
"Make me a sandwich!"

Those were some pretty rough conversations.  She's 11 though!  I mean 11!  She's at that age where she still likes to snuggle with me on the couch.  Little Hoss will occasionally play with some Barbies if no one is looking and her toddler brother is with her.  She still calls me Daddy.  Not Dad--Daddy.  She's a little girl, my sweet pea, my destroyer of everything quiet.  A phone is crazy talk, the thoughts of a loose father with loose morals.  A man that is willing to thrust his daughter out into the world without any preparation at all.

And she's a little girl that requires training bras.  She's a little girl that likes boys but won't talk to me about it because it embarrasses her.  I can hear her whisper with her friends and cousins but the conversation ends as soon as I enter a room.  Giggles follow me when I leave.  She's a little girl that understands fractions and her introduction to Algebra.  A little girl that wants to stay home by herself when I take the boys to soccer practice.  My sweet pea, my little girl that doesn't snuggle with me on the couch as much as she used to.

Fuck.  She's not a little girl anymore.

She goes to girl scouts and volleyball practice.  She goes into the store and uses my debit card to grab a gallon of milk.  She is going to start staying home for a bit by herself.  In fact, there is a shit ton of time that she spends not around me at all.  Little Hoss has built herself a life outside of me.  She is starting to gain independence.

We were finally able, thank you Jesus (see, I pray!), break away from our cell phone provider.  We switched to antoher carrier.  When we did, because of a great deal they were having, Little Hoss got her very own phone.  It was free and like every responsible father, I could not turn down a good deal.  Nor can I turn back time.

We gave her the phone and she immediately left me.  The string between us cut with a text.  She jumped on the couch and her fingers began moving faster than court stenographer.  She would send me a text:  Dad, what's Aunt Shell's number?  I would text back.  Dad, do you have my cousins numbers?  I would send them to her.  She is out in the world, the cold fucking world that preys on kids.

First off, how the hell does she even know how to work a phone?  How does she know how to text?

"All my friends have phones, Dad.  So does all my cousins."

Fuck.

Thinking about putting my daughter into a convent has blinded me.  I should have prepared her better to be out there.  She has google on her phone.  There is internet on that thing.  There are chat rooms and in one of them lurks Chris Hanson.

So my wife and I sat my daughter down that night and had "the talk."  It used to be that having "the talk" was just going over sex.  Dad puts his pee pee in Mommy's Ho-ha.  They wrestle a bit and eventually your mother thanks God and it's over.  A baby eventually comes around.

But now, so much different than my own childhood, "the talk" has to encompass a whole shitload of issues that I never had to.  We have to go over inappropriate texts--both of the bullying kind and the dick pic kind.  We have to go over people in chat rooms, how some may not be the people they claim to be. That she should never go into chat rooms at all and, to be honest, I'm not sure they even exist.  But just in case, we have banned them.

We talked to her about digital predators in digital white vans promising treats and love if only she would meet them somewhere.  My mind reeled, it ran from one nightmare scenario to another.  And I laid it all at her feet.

I invited my wife to tell my daughter of some of the inappropriate things that people have said to her.  It's a world that I have no experience.  It's rare that as a young teen anyone would say anything to me other than my dad telling me that masturbating should only be done in the bedroom, put your junk away son.  That was our talk.  Uncomfortable but hey, at least it was quick.  (HA).  Hearing my wife's stories, I now have a whole list of people that I have to track down a beat up.  So Mr. Old Man from 1988--I'm coming for you.  Eventually.  I know that you were somewhere in Indiana at the time.  We got a score to settle.

Cat calling, conniving, false promises, predators.  All of it.

"Does that really happen, Dad?" She asked me.  She called me Dad.
"Damn right.  Not if you were in a convent but it looks like that's not an option for us.  So yes, that happens  And sometimes it happens a lot."  My tone was serious, more serious than I think she is used to from me.  That's when the sniffles started.

And to drive the point home, in my over protective father mode, I pulled up Reddit.  I went to a subreddit called /r/creepypms--which is not what I thought it was when I first saw the name of it.  This is a place where women of many ages post all the creepy shit that people send them.  I didn't let my daughter read them of course.  I just showed her how many there are, page after page after page.

That's when the tears started.

So my daughter has her phone.  There are rules, of course,  No texts without me knowing and only to people that I know.  No apps unless I know what they are and give approval.  Child safety talks, precautions.  My wife and I have complete and total access to the phone whenever we deem it appropriate.  All that and more so that at least we are sending her out into the world fully padded and with a safety net.  And of course, if anyone from 20/20 ever contacts her, she should immediately come to me.

At the end of the talk, I sat down on the couch.  Tired, exhausted, nightmares fresh behind my eyes.  She came and sat next to me.  She leaned over and put her head on my chest, I put my arm around her.

"People are weird, Daddy."

"I know, sweetpea.  Now show me what a Bitmoji is."



8/17/17

The Noise of Summer


The tent was hot, the kind of hot that makes certain male body parts stick to other body parts.  No breeze at all, just the constant sound of my nine-year-old snoring.  Soon, his sister began talking in her sleep.  Something about braces, it’s been on her mind a lot over the summer.  How can it be so loud on a camping trip in the woods?  It’s supposed to be quiet where only the sounds of the insects chirp you off to a nice sleep.  I didn’t sleep at all and woke up the next day wanting to take a nap.  

Our next trip was to Houston.  Three kids, a mother in law, my wife all packed into the van.  Eight hours the first day that turned into ten hours because that’s what happens during road trips.  The next day of driving was only supposed to be four hours.  The traffic jams in Houston decided to extend that by two.  You could measure how long we were on the road by how loud it was in the back.  We started off with soft voices, easy conversations.  We ended with screams and accusations of “You are on my side!” It was the same way going back.  

Boy Scout camp was held a week after we got back from Houston.  More camping.  Still hot.  Louder though, so much louder.  What’s louder than three of your own children?  20 boys that aren’t yours that have discovered the joys of farts, running and fidget spinners.  It’s impossible to read a book, to really get into it, with that much chaos going on.  Then we gave them knives.  Now there was a bit of blood mixed in with the loud.  

In Mid July, we took a trip with friends to the lake.  They have a house that they get the use of once a summer.  Right there on the lake, hidden behind some trees with a big porch where you could sit and listen to the yelling of our families.  There’s also a little amusement park nearby which is great for adding scratching metal sounds as you walk.  If you wait up at night a bit, say around midnight, you can finally get to that quiet.  The park shuts down, all the kids are asleep and a glass of whiskey on that porch can be heavenly peaceful.  However, Bacon Hoss had an accident at the amusement park that required four stitches on his eyebrow.  He didn’t sleep very well.  By the next morning, when I went back on the porch, it appears that the bugs enjoyed my leftover whiskey very much.  

Every year, at the beginning of August, we take what has now been called the “Dad’s Trip.”  The name implies that it’s only dads, five of us actually.  It’s not.  The five dads do come, but so do our children.  In total there are 21 of us.  We pick a direction and try and find what there is to find.  We visited a replica of Stonehenge which allows the children’s voices to bounce off the rock so there is an echo.  We saw Johnny Cash’s boyhood home, a quaint little cottage in northern Arkansas that is perfect for making 21 voices compact and grating.  We ended that trip at a vacuum museum, that’s a real thing.  A vacuum museum has a lot of vacuums.  A lot.  From every era.  The kids decided that now they liked vacuuming and turned most of them on.  My ears rang for a good hour after we left.  

Yesterday the kids went back to school.  They had new lunch boxes, fancy new shoes, and bright smiles.  The day before I asked them if they wanted to do any more adventures, perhaps camp one more time.  The kids ran from me, even the toddler.  I put them on the bus, wished them the best of luck, and went back into my house.  

Quiet.  No sound but the A/C kicking in.  I sat down and looked at the black screen at the T.V.  There were no jumping thuds from upstairs.  I didn’t hear anyone laughing at all.  The dog was asleep on the couch, not a single time did he bark or try and chase anyone around.  I checked my phone, no one had called.  I should put away the camping gear but the garage is quieter than the house.  Outside, there was a garbage truck but it was far off.  I could hear its engine rev and then fade as it went up the hill.  There were no hugs, no sounds of tears being dried and nobody asked if I wanted to play with them.  The silence is louder than the screams.    

I miss the noise.  



8/14/17

Blood Deposit


It was my mistake, my miscalculation.  I forgot that when dealing with a multinational corporation that you should always bring a bucket of blood first.  It’s got to be a full bucket too, not just some half bucket shit.  And not the blood of a cow.  Hell, no.  It’s got to be from your own veins, a deep cut that reaches your soul so that not only do you give blood, you give your very fucking essence.  


And forget about getting anything actually done, just a hint of customer service without that blood.  They are going to get that one way or another.  My request was simple, but I didn’t bring the blood.  I want to change cell phone carriers please.  


“Sure, no problem!  Let me just press some keys on this computer a bit,” the rep said to me.


“What does pressing keys do?” I asked.


“Oh, absolutely nothing!  I just like the sound of it.  Now, did you bring me any soul tainted blood?”


“No.  I did not.”


“Hmm, well that’s not good.  It looks like I can’t help you.  Maybe you can call back 10 or 12 times and then we can think about helping you.”


I tried getting smart after the 4th phone call.  They caught me.


“Sir.  Sir!  Calm down.  This is only the 4th time you’ve called and we still don’t have a blood deposit.  Please call back many more times before we will help you.”


My request was simple.  I just need my phone unlocked so that I can switch carriers.  A simple phone call, right?  We are not under any contract, have had the phone long enough, no problem.  Yeah, there are problems.


On the 7th call.


“Sir, your phone is already unlocked.”  I could hear this person, Athena, eating children while talking to me.


“No, it’s not.”  I’m checking the website now.  The new phone company has checked.  Nothing is unlocked.  


“Sir, I’m showing that it’s unlocked.”


“It’s not unlocked!”


“Are you saying that our computer system is wrong!”  I could hear Athena gulp down the limbs of the children and wash it down with the tears of a puppy.  “How dare you, sir!  How dare you!”  Then she hung up on me.  Seriously, that part is completely true, as well as the children eating bit.  


I tried begging on the tenth phone call.


“Please! (sob)  Please, for the love of God!  Help me!  Unlock my phone! (sob)”


“Are you crying?  Any chance you can gather those tears into a plastic bag and mail them to me, at your expense of course.”


“Yes, yes, whatever you want.  Please just unlock my phone.  I want to quit the phone company.  Please.”


“No.”


I took to social media.  My wife posted to social media.  I called again and again.  I talked to supervisors.  I performed satanic rituals to summon phone unlocking gods.  I prayed to whoever would listen only to find out that no one was listening.  I emailed the CEO.  The fucking CEO.  I have not gotten an answer back.  


With a scratchy voice, deprived of the will to even eat a donut, I once again called after yet another email denying that my phone was unlocked while also assuring me that it was unlocked in the same sentence.  


“Beth.  Beth.  I need your help.  No one can help me Beth.  Please, unlock my phone so I can switch carriers.  Please Beth.  I can’t go on, can’t.


“Oh, your phone is unlocked.  No problem.  It’s been unlocked for a whole week actually.  You could have switched at anytime.  Isn’t that super?”   I hear Beth smile through crooked and evil teeth, the sound produced makes your heart flutter unevenly.   


“What?  Beth?  For realsies?”


“Yup.  For real.  Your blood deposit went through just fine.  Took a while but we got it.  Thank you for your business.”

Fuck you, Beth.  Fuck you.

8/2/17

I Want To Sleep


One of them opens the door.  I'm not sure which one at first because I refuse to open my eyes.  If I do that, that nice little sleep seal will be broken and then I will officially "Be up."  I don't want to be up.  The bed is warm, the down comforter perfectly placed around me to keep out any cold.  My pillows bunched up in just the right spot, with my head almost floating rather than laying on anything.

"Daddy!  Wake up!"  It sounds like the littlest one, the toddler.  He's the only one that calls me Daddy.  The other two call me "Hey" or "You".  I should spank more I think.  But "Daddy," said in that high pitched whine, we are clearly in little boy country

"No.  Go Away."  Simple and straight to the point.

"Wake up!"

"What time is it."  He's a toddler, he can't tell time.  Of course, I know this and that's why I asked him.  It's like asking a computer what the value of Pi is.  There is no answer.  He'll spin his wheels forever.
"Um," He says and then takes off, little feet slamming the carpet.  So loud, why do they have to be so loud in the morning?

It's summer.  Summer is for sleeping in and taking long naps.  It's one of the really great perks of being an at-home-dad.  I'm on duty 24/7, 365.  I'm never off.  I work until every little eyelid actually closes and doesn't open again.  I'm on at 3 am when one has a bad dream, doesn't feel well, or accidentally thought it was time to get up.  But in summer at least, we are all supposed to be able to sleep in.

I hear the feet come back in.  There are some other feet with it this time too.  Bigger, they make a larger sound.  I can feel the floor shake a bit as they come closer to the bed.  Seriously, are we stepping on bugs as we walk?  Maybe we are just trying to test out the floor joists, make sure they are stable?  There is no reason other than those that I can think of that would account for why there is an earthquake walking into my room.

"Dad."  It's the oldest one.  She has been summoned by the great and terrible toddler, destroyer of sleep.

"What."  I hope I sound surly.  I put a tinge of annoyance in my voice, made it a little louder than it's supposed to be.  I'm hoping that they can get the idea without me saying another thing.  They do not.

"It's 7:15.  Time to get up."

"No.  Go away."

"Dad!"

"No"

"Daddy!"

"If I get up we are all going to do chores.  We are going to clean the garage and then do yard work.  When that's done, we are going to re-shingle the roof, give the dog a bath, and talk about the importance of saving your money in a volatile stock market."

My daughter leaves without saying anything.  I can feel her sigh though, that came through loud and clear.

"I'm hungry!"

Crap.  I forgot about the toddler.  He's still here.  

"Hungry!"  His little hands start smacking my face.  He's going for the eyelids.  I squeeze them tighter.  "Hungry!"  He's no longer speaking in sentences but as a native from a 1600's Carribean island greeting weary explorers.

"Go tell Bubba to get you a bowl of cereal."  I hear the little feet go away again, my eyes still closed, my comforter undisturbed.

What kills me is that during the school year I have to drag everyone out of bed.  They are slow moving, blankets held on to tightly like they are some sort of life line to the world of sleep.  They move at a speed that even a sloth would be disappointed in.  Breakfast is eaten even slower, milk dripping on the table, cereal over poured into bowls.  That's 9 months of the year.  And then summer comes and all of a sudden they turn into a bunch of god damn go-getters.  Can't waste a day, not a summer day!  There are things to do, youtube videos to watch, parts of the house to mess-up.  The day isn't truly seized until I have had to clean the kitchen 4 times before 5 pm.

More footsteps enter my room.  Softer, a bit quieter.  At least this one is showing some god damn respect, some decorum for the tired father that just wants ten more minutes.

"Dad." my older son says.  Nine but seems to at least have gotten the point that I will be more receptive to voices that are not demanding.

"What?"

"We are out of milk."

"Use water."

"What?  Gross."

"Make some toast.  You guys can make toast without burning the house down."

"Oh, yeah.  Peanut butter toast!"  He runs away, hitting the doorjamb of my bedroom on the way out.  I feel the house shake again.  Shit, I'm going to really have to check the shingles now.

If I try really hard and believe in myself, I bet I can go back to sleep completely in five minutes.  Maybe I can make to 8 this morning, 9 if they decide to play video games.  They can play all morning as long as no one wakes me up.  It's win/win, a mutual beneficial situation.  More of a symbiotic relationship rather than the parasitic one.  Man, that's a dark analogy, isn't it.  But every parent knows that it is an apt one.  I should call my mom soon, see if she is up and would want to babysit tomorrow from 7 am to 9.

I hear the toddler scream, not one in pain but the one he uses when he's pissed.  There are words in that scream if you pay close enough attention.  It's a combination of "no," "stop" and the unformed "fuck you older siblings!"  But mostly, it's just screaming.

"No!  You sit down and stop screaming."  It's my daughter, her voice as loud as her stomping feet.

"Bacon!"  It's my other boy, weighing in for some reason.  And then "Sissy!"  He's just yelling at both of them.  I like my middle child, my son.  He's an equal opportunity blamer.

Then the crash, the bang, the thing breaking somewhere downstairs.  It could be a bowl, it could be a tray of ice cubes being thrown on the floor.  But more than anything it sounds like the garage needs to be cleaned up and the yard mowed.

Now my eyes snap open, the dim sunlight from my window making my vision a bit blurry.  I rub my eyes as I walk, I curse to myself as a I rub, I yawn as I curse.  School is two weeks away.

But so are afternoon naps.  Afternoon naps on a Tuesday is way better than sleeping in on a Monday.



7/27/17

The Meltdown

"Alright everybody, we are going to let this happen."

I can feel the collective moan from the ten people behind me waiting in line.  I don't think they like my announcement.  The breeze their sighs make pushes past me and I'm pretty sure I can hear some whispered "shits" carried on that wind.  I get it, I know that they are frustrated.  Some mothers, probably some fathers, a few kids--all waiting in line behind the kids and I, all waiting to check out.  They just want to pay their money for the little trinkets, hand cash over so they can get their new clothes placed in a bag and they can be on their way.

But no one can because Bacon Hoss is losing his shit.  Defcon 1, Red Alert, full on biblical meltdown right there at the cash register.  Hands slapping the floor, his back arched, butt lifted up--the kind of meltdown that people will refer to by the season and the year.  Old men will meet down at the feed store, they will hear a tractor rumble outside that is loud and obnoxious.  That will jolt their memories and they will say to each other "Boy howdy, ya'll remember the meltdown of summer 17?  Jesus Lord, God Above!  That was a biggun, wasn't it!"  Then everyone will nod their head over the shared experience while making the sign of the cross.  

This isn't just my problem anymore, boy howdy no.  This is OUR problem.  This is our shared experience, the event that forever bonds us.  We will all send Christmas cards to eachother for the next ten years.

I could have told my four-year-old yes, yes he can have the toy.  I could have backed down from my previous threat, made just 5 minutes before.  But I told him, I freaking told him.  "If you hit your sister again, you can't get a toy.  I don't care if it's only a buck.  You hit, you get nothing."  Maybe he thought I was joking, good old funny dad always making the jokes.  I do joke but this is too big for jokes.  This isn't just about getting a toy, a little misbehavior.

No, this is about his future.  This is about showing him that popping your sister in the face with a plastic golf club is going to have consequences.  What happens if I let this go?  Then he thinks he can get away with it all the time.  He goes to elementary school, beats up some kid for his lunch money.  He enters high school, carjacks someone for a joyride.  Pretty soon, we've got a 25-year-old tweaker running around the town snorting whip cream cans for thrills.  So no, we can't crack.  I have to stay firm.  WE have to stay firm, all of us waiting in line.  Bacon Hoss has gotta learn.  But also, he's pretty much just being a butthole.

Like I said, this isn't my choice anymore.  It's something that WE have to do.  All us mom's and dads waiting in line to check out.  All ten of them back there.  We have to be strong.  We have to show a good example.  We have to stick to our guns.  Sometimes it does take a village to raise a child.  And sometimes it takes just ten of us saying "fuck it," and letting the temper tantrum happen.

Bacon is still screaming on the floor.  I'm just watching him.  He hasn't slowed down at all.  He's hitting notes and octaves that shouldn't be possible.  White flakes drift down from above as the popcorn covering on the ceiling is vibrated off.  I'm worried that the glass cases next to us will shatter and all those two dollar plastic earnings kept inside will melt.  He's using his legs to now turn in little circles, his gray cloth shorts bunching up.  His hands tear at his t-shirt, snot runs down his face leaving little snail trails to the floor.  If this was an Olympic sport, he would win a gold.  Hands down, no competition at all.   Even the Russian judge would love him.  

I just look at my kid, arms crossed the classic Dad pose.  The one that says "You done with this shit yet?"  After three kids, I have perfected this.  All dads have.  During the birthing class in the hospital, this is the last thing they teach you.  While your wife talks to other moms all the dads in the class get together and we practice together until someone cries.  That's how you know you've got it down pat.  I turn to the cashier, smile, and hand her my debit card.  Bacon thinks he trying to embarrass me.

I'm beyond being embarrassed.  This isn't even the worst things my kids have ever done to me.  We got a long way to reach that threshold.  My oldest once pulled down my swimming trunks at the pool because she wanted to climb up for a hug and that was the best hand hold.  No Bacon, we got a long way to go for me to be embarrassed.

I pay for our clothes, our trinkets, whatever junk I have let the other two kids with me pull off the shelves.  I am tired and my wallet hurts.  I usher the older two kids towards the door with a big sweeping motion of my arms.  They've been through this before with me, they know the drill.  I actually step over Bacon and head for the door.

He stops crying, no more whimpers.  He's thinking to himself "Did you see that shit?  He just stepped right over me like I wasn't even there."  I'm walking slow, not a hurry in the world.  I hear him get to his feet.  He screams "wait!"  Little plastic soles of his shoes smack against the plastic linoleum on the floor.  His face rams into the back of my leg, almost pulling down my cargo shorts.  That would have been embarrassing.  He should have started with that rather than the tantrum.  I turn around and pick him up, letting him bury his face into my t-shirt and I can feel his snot transfer smoothly to my chest.  Gross, but it's a comforting move and that what we are doing now.

"No more fits?  Right?"
"Yes, Daddy."
"And you won't hit your sister anymore?"
"No, Daddy."
"Say you're sorry to your sister."
"Sorry."
"Like you mean it."
"I"m sorry sissy."

I look back at the others in line.  There's probably a few smiles on their faces if I looked long enough.  If it's from them being happy I'm leaving, or the total fathering victory I have just achieved, I don't know.  I nod at them.

Good job team.  Well done.  I'll be back at this same department store tomorrow and then we can all give the birds and the bees talk to my daughter.  That should actually get embarassing.


    

6/19/17

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.  

6/14/17

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.



6/13/17

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.
Enjoy
------------

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.