I was at the House Which Once Was Mine, visiting with Handsome. I was lying on the couch in the TV room doing a little reading while he played on his PlayStation. As often happens, his mother had already gone to bed and was sound asleep. As also frequently happens, I dozed off for a while. I’m used to this, though, and I have an alarm set in my phone for his bed time. Well my alarm went off and I woke to find myself all alone in the TV room. I got up and moseyed out into the hall and peeked into Handsome’s bedroom. There lay the boy, already in bed without having been told, looking weary of body and sleepy of eye.
“You already going to bed?” I asked, ever a Master of the Obvious.
“Yeah,” he yawned, curling over, pulling the blanket tight in under his chin as he nuzzled deeper into the pillow. “I’m tired.”
“Okay,” I said. “Get some sleep. I’ll see you tomorrow, okay?”
“Okay,” he sighed, though I could barely hear him. He sounded at least half-way to Dreamland already. I shut off his light, shut off the light in the TV room, and left, shutting off the rest of the lights in the house as I went. I got in the Jeep and headed for home. I was heading for home to get ready to go to the Queen City Kamikaze Con in New Hampshire the next day. I had to go pack all the books I was going to try to sell in one of those plastic three-drawer towers I’d bought to act as a ‘sale case’. All I needed was to lie it on its back and wrap it with one of the packing straps I keep in the garage at Handsome’s house, and—
I had forgotten the very packing strap I needed to finish packing up all my gear. I had gotten almost all the way home but there was nothing for it. I turned around and let my headlights lead me back to Handsome’s House. As I followed them into the driveway, I noticed something odd.
The lights were on in the TV room in the front of the house, and I could see a flickering effect… the kind you see if someone’s watching television.
Or playing a PlayStation game.
I remote-buttoned the garage door open and grabbed the packing strap I needed from its hook on the wall and threw it in the Jeep’s backseat. Then I went upstairs to see what was going on. The dogs barked at me, giving me away, but I got all the way upstairs, across the kitchen, and was just stepping into the hall outside the TV room when the door opened and handsome came out in a rush. He was looking back into the room he was just leaving, being sure to slap the light switch down and kill he lights as he left, and stopped just short of running onto me chest-to-chest.
“Oh! You scared me,” he said, in a voice that was a far cry from the nearly comatose tones he’d been offering when I was leaving the first time — at his bed time. He started to slide past me, heading for his room, which was just the next door up the hall.
“Really?” I raised an eyebrow, then my wrist. “I probably wouldn’t have scared you if you’d been asleep like you were supposed to be about—” I made a show of looking at the watch on my wrist, “—forty minutes ago.”
He turned back to me and if looks could kill his face still would have said “aw, crap, I am so bagged!”
“I wanted to talk to my friends,” he said, making the smallest of gestures toward his PlayStation III. I know he’s a part of a whole on-line community through that thing, and I also know some members of that community, his friends, are in different time-zones around the world.
He had faked going to bed, faked being tired, so that he could talk to his friends, playing with them as late as he wanted.
I thought back to myself when I was growing up. Had I ever dared to disobey my parents like that? Had I ever had the gall to pretend to go to bed, only to ignore my prescribed bed time and stay up until I damn well felt like going to sleep?
You bet your ass. Only I’d not done it for a PlayStation, but to read books until 2 or 3 in the morning. Yes, I was just that geeky.
Handsome was still looking at me with an expression that said he thought he was in serious trouble. I checked my watch again, the made my own gesture in the direction of the PlayStation.
“Go on. You have 20 minutes. Just be in bed by 10:30 — and stay there this time, okay?”
He brightened right up, gave an excited little bounce and started toward the machine. He’d taken only a step or two before he turned back.
“How did you know?”
“Easy,” I said. “I used my Father Sense. It’s like SpiderMan’s Spider Sense, but it tells me when you’re up to no good. I was driving home and it was buzzing like crazy.”
“Come on, Dad, seriously?”
“Okay,” I grinned. “I forgot something and had to come back, and there was the TV room light, visible from the street.”
I reached out and touched him lightly on the chest.
“Okay, I’m leaving again,” I said. “Now, I’m not mad, and you’re not in trouble, but will you do me a favor?”
He raised his eyebrows at me.
“Don’t do this too often, okay? You’re on vacation right now, so there’s no school to worry about, but if you go back and you’re not getting up in the morning and your teacher says you’re all grumpy and sleepy in school, I’ll know why.”
I tapped the side of my head.
“Father Sense, remember?”
I patted his shoulder and nudged him toward the game.
“Go on, you’re running out of time. Just don’t abuse this, alright?”
Hey, I was a kid once myself, and part of me still is — quite a big part, actually. And I trust him.
Besides — *tapping the side of my head* — Father Sense. Remember?
Talk to you later!