Monday, June 29, 2015

Who Needs Pumpkins?

So. Being the caretaker of a 12-year old boy is . . . interesting. A study in contrasts. The good and the bad. I’ll try to explain.

You might have noticed I said “caretaker” up there, not “parent”, or “father.” I’m proud to be a father, and tell people all the time. I do—if you know me, back me up here: I’ve probably told you at least one story about my kid. Probably more. They were probably funny: he’s a funny kid, and I have a terrific sense of humor.

Note—most times, when someone tells you they have a terrific sense of humor, it’s like when someone says “I don’t mean to be rude, here,” or “I don’t mean to butt in”: complete and utter bullshit. This time, however, the words are the sweetest truth—Rob does, indeed, have the best sense of humor he’s ever encountered.
—The Management

No, I didn’t say “caretaker” for any other reason than that’s what it’s like sometimes: being a caretaker at a very small zoo. Just one exhibit. There’s a room in the house that smells a little bit like an animal den, though the dogs themselves are not allowed inside. It’s kind of steamy, with a sort of rain forest atmosphere, and it’s always dark in there. If you look closely you can spot a structure we refer to as a bed, though in reality it’s more nest-like than anything else, cast-off clothes and blankets forming a warm, comfy pile that can be either lain upon or burrowed under, depending on the weather and season.

In this den lives . . . a creature.

The creature (we call him Handsome, for anyone who may have forgotten), is roughly man shaped, and sized—in fact, we can now share clothes, which will make it pretty easy to Christmas shop this year. I’ve already picked out a number of shirts that will look good on me—I mean, that look like they’ll fit him. But I digress. The beast seems to communicate in almost nothing but grunts and a sort of muttering, though when provoked can roar a variety of phrases at surprising volume. There’s “In a minute!” and “In a minute!” and, when he’s really provoked, there’s “In a minute!

Yesterday I managed to pry the Handsome from his lair with promises of food and a well-placed cattle-prod. He emerged from his hole grumpy, glaring about, blinking in the unaccustomed daylight. I had the Handsome help me with a task or two I had about the house, but it was a constant battle. The Handsome does not take well to harness, and the phrase stubborn as a mule comes to mind. Eventually, I lost track of the Handsome, and he slipped away from me.

I found him back in his lair, where I stood in the doorway and tried to call them out again. I saw nothing but his silhouette against the computer screen, a head misshapen by oversize headphones, the phones clinging to his ears like long-lost friends. I could hear the video he was watching, or the game he was playing, right through the phones, so I raised my voice, shouting my call.

The call was answered immediately with a roar of “In a minute,” the sound of a young male defending what he sees as his territory; I’d get no more work from the beast today. With a sigh, I shut the enclosure door and went about my business.

~ ~ * * ~ ~

Hours later, I finished my projects, and decided to hit the shower before it was time to go. It was dark outside now, and there hadn’t been a peep out of the boy’s room. The house lights were on, and I was tired, so I stepped into the shower. And then I stepped out. I opened the bathroom door, clad in my fresh clothes—and stopped dead when I saw the darkened house before me.

What had happened to all the lights? Was there a power outage? No, there couldn’t be—the lights in the bathroom were still on, and had not flickered, so . . . I poked my head around the corner, calling a quiet “Hello” into the darkness, in good not-going-to-survive-the-horror-movie fashion—and saw a light off in the dining room. It was faint, and small, and seemed to be flickering.

I walked closer, making my way slowly through the shadows of the kitchen. The light in the dining room did not retreat, and seemed to be on top of the dining room table, where I’d left my ChromeBook and bag. I walked closer.
  . . . closer  . . .

What was this? A tiny, flickering face in the dark? I peered more closely, noticing for the first time that there was a piece of paper in front of the face—there was writing on it, though I could barely make out the presence of the letters in the dim, unsteady light spilling from the tiny head in front of me.

So I turned on the lights.

It was a jack-o-lantern made from an extra-large Dunkin Donuts hot chocolate cup, a worn tea light candle, scooped from the holder on the stove, nestled down within it to give it life. While I had been in the shower, the Handsome had carved this thing for me, found the smallest of candles to put within it, then run about the house dousing all the lights to give his creation its full power. In front of the thing he’d left me a note: 

Who needs pumpkins?

Awwww . . .

Yeah, sometimes having a 12-year old boy is a lot like keeping a small and very private zoo. But lots of times, and this was one of them, I just love being a dad.

—Talk to you later!

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