I grab my daughter's headphones, saying a slight curse to myself because really, again? She brought them home from school yesterday. Little Hoss told me don't worry about it dad, it's cool. I can bring them home.
Will you remember to bring them back the next day?
She told me no problem, of course she will remember, she's 11 after all.
As I have the headphones in my hand, I believe this is a case of Dad Told You So.
But she's not at school yet. She's about to catch the bus but she's not on it yet. I can see her right out my window. I'll be able to gloat and get her headphones to her. 8 am in the morning and already the day is mine.
I see the bus pull up and she begins to walk toward it.
I take off like a sprinter outrunning a drug test. The dog thinks we are playing and jumps on my leg, nips at my hands. I almost trip but with my gymnastic-like skills, I'm able to keep my balance like little Mary Lou destroying the hopes and dreams of Russia. I chant USA in my head as I power on.
The cat meows, seething with neediness and indifference at the same time. He is like a walking contradiction that crawls right up to your feels. Love me when you don't have time, touch me during abundance and I will smother you in your sleep. I ignore him and move on, my daughter needs her headphones, I've gotta rub it in. My legs pump past the cat as he emotionally tries to destroy me.
I throw open the door and a whoosh of air, air smelling like victory, hits me in the face. Two stairs descend from the garage door like a trap designed to impede my fatherly triumph. I skip them, leaping down, fist in the air holding headphones.
And then I land in cake.
A sound that is made by swamp creatures as they devour their virgin teenage victims comes from my outstretched foot. I begin to slide answering that age-old question: Can a 40-year-old man surf on concrete? The answer now, as it has been in the eons past, is no.
My landing foot shoots forward, my trailing foot determinedly stays planted. And as I contort myself into some highly complicated yoga lunge, I think to myself, why the fuck is there cake on the garage floor?
My back knee hits and I feel a pull in the groin as the front foot keeps going, unnaturally. A guttural growl comes from my chest, 1/3 pain, 1/3 frustration, 1/3 confusion. I know the answer to the cake question. I have children. Children have birthdays. Birthdays require cake. My youngest son just had a birthday last week and not all the cake was consumed.
I remember giving very specific instructions after about a week of the cake sitting out on the counter. "Throw the cake away," I told my children. I saw them take the small portions that were left. I saw them head into the garage with it. They assured me that they threw it in the trash. But when you have young children the words "in" and "near" sometimes need further clarification I missed this. My fault.
My back knee hurts, my hip feels like it's going to need some replacing and my groin area just burns. I give myself a pep talk though, it's not too late. "I already have 3 kids," I reason. "There is no more need really for that area." "Now get up you sonofabitch 'cause I didn't hear no bell." Yes, Mick, I gotta get up.
And I do. Slowly, injured but not done. The headphones are still gripped in my hands. I hobble run to the middle of the driveway. "Stoooppppp! Wait!!!!!!!! You forgot your headphones!" Spittle drools out of my mouth, my breath ragged and pained. I wave my arms like the headphones are a flag on the fourth of the July.
She hears me. She was 1 step on the bus and she hears me. She stops and comes down a step of the bus, remarkably there is no cake at the bottom of her stairs. The bus driver waves her by to let her know that it is safe and my 11-year-old girl runs to me.
"Oh gosh," she says. "I almost forgot them. Thanks, dad!" Then she kisses me on the head as I begin to sink, my knee unable to hold my weight.