Sunday, March 31, 2013

Big Dog

Hi. I am the Big Dog in the house. I make the rules. When I speak  the lesser dogs listen.


But sometimes...

...okay, here's the story:

Scene A-1:

Handsome, his mother and her cousin are watching television. There is a sound from outside — a dog barks, a car door slams, a squirrel passes wind, whatever — and the dogs go ballistic, barking, barking, barking. The three people in the room tell them to be quiet. Order them to shut-up. The dogs ignore them for while as they yell, but eventually two of the dogs — the brothers — quiet down. Evie, however, a Papillon who is large of eye, fuzzy of ear and scarce of tooth, continues to ignore them. She is nearly eighty in dog years, and if she wants to bark then by God she’s going to bark and there’s not a damn thing some ungainly whipper-snapper of human can do about it. They simply continue watching television while she barks like a small furry machine, one arf per second for as long as it takes her to lose interest in the project: sometimes a half-hour or more. Evie can be a remarkably patient dog at times.
Scene A-2:
I am watching television, or more likely watching NetFlix on my latptop. Outside a loud truck goes by, or a car door slams, or we get another visit from that notoriously flatulent tree-rodent. Or, possibly, one of the dogs simply thinks they hear something. Whatever. The dogs all go ballistic, barking, barking, barking. I belt out one syllable — not yelling at the top of my lungs, mind you, just making certain I’m loud enough go be heard.
The brothers fall silent. Occasionally there is a little grumbling, a little under-the-breath “wuff-wuff”ing, and I say it again. Not shouting, just saying the word.
Now there is silence but for Evie, who is, of course, still making her version of ‘you can’t tell me what to do’ noise, but she sounds a little tentative about it. I hold up a hand, patting the air between us as I look her in the eye and say (not shout) two more words.
“Evie. Enough.”
Three quiet dogs now go about their business as I go back to watching whatever it is I was watching.

Conclusion A:
I am the Big Dog, and they recognize my authority without me having to yell about it.

Scene B-1:

It’s feeding time. Whoever is feeding the pack stands in the kitchen, three metal dog bowls arranged on the counter before them. They are opening the little dog food tins just as fast as they can, dumping them into the bowls and roughly breaking the meaty blocks apart with a fork before depositing the bowls on the floor. They are working as fast as they can because around them the pack is, quite loudly, losing its tiny little mind. There is barking. There is howling. There is, quite honestly, what sounds like the death scene in an opera going on, all reverberating within the confines of one small kitchen. From some there is that sweet little move where they rear up and claw at a shin with their forepaws; from one there is the Jump, that freakish ability some small dogs exhibit to leap like tiny fanged deer, occasionally used to bounce straight up into the air, attaining an altitude many times their own height. While two of the dogs sing and dance about the feet of the feeder, this one is doing the yowling hairy pogo. All this is going on despite the fact that every canine in the room has been told, repeatedly and at extreme volume, to shut the hell up. They have been spoken to, shouted at, had a finger shaken in their general direction (I won’t tell you which finger!) and eventually threatened with one of the food cans — well, not actually the can itself, rather with the intended placement of it. This raucous scene continues until the food bowls hit the floor and stops not one moment before.

Scene B-2:
It’s feeding time. I’m feeding the pack. They are sitting in a silent semi-circle around me, watching intently as I open the cans and fill the bowls, using a fork to roughly break up the moist meaty cubes that thack into the dishes when I upend the cans. I never yelled. I never shouted. I never even told them to be quiet. I set the bowls out on the counter and they simply arranged themselves about me. I told them they were good, and they stayed that way. The bowls hit the floor amid zero squabbling and snarling, and I wipe down the counter as they snarf down the Alpo.

Conclusion B:
I am the Big Dog, and they recognize my authority without me having to yell about it.

Scene C-1:
Handsome is in the TV room, either watching NetFlix or playing on his computer or the PlayStation. The room is a mess: an empty cup; an empty dish; food wrappers and clothes scattered about the floor and furniture. His mother tells him to stop what he’s doing and please clean the room. He says “Okay.”
An hour later she tells him again.
An hour later she tells him again.
Less than an hour later, voices are raised, but eventually the room is cleaned.
Sort of.

Scene C-2:
Handsome is in the TV room, either watching NetFlix or playing on his computer or the PlayStation. The room is a mess: an empty cup; an empty dish; food wrappers and clothes scattered about the floor and furniture. I tell him to stop what he’s doing and please clean the room. He says “Okay.”
An hour later I tell him again.
An hour later I tell him again.
Less than an hour later my voice is raised. Really raised. Raised to the point of losing my mind and on the verge of offering up some 1950’s style “this is going to hurt me more than it’s going to hurt you” motivation. Eventually the room is cleaned.
Sort of.

Conclusion C:
Oh, #$%&!!, we’re gonna have trouble with this one!

Talk to you later!

Sunday, March 24, 2013


Every group, be they family, friends or simple co-workers, tends to create a special language all their own, with words and phrases that no one else would understand. They may understand the words, but not their meaning.

I’ll give you an example:

In one place I once worked (nothing to do with my current place of employment, I assure you) there was a man who came in to work some of the Saturday mornings that he worked still at least a little drunk from the night before. He would be rumpled, unshaven, bleary-eyed, with a little wobble in his step and breath that smelled like Satan’s balloon knot. We’ll call this man, at least for the purposes of this example, Scott. Eventually we began to refer, at least among ourselves, to people who exhibited signs of great inebriation to be ‘Scott-faced’, as in ‘Wow, you should have seen this guy at the party, he was totally Scott-faced’. No one outside of our group would have had the background to understand that. They may have picked up the intent through context, but we all simply understood the phrase ‘Scott-faced’.

Got it?


 One of these little phrases sprang into being just last weekend… and here’s the story:

So there we were, strolling casually toward the theater. Handsome was planning his attack on the concession stand, trying to decide whether he wanted their chicken fingers or just a huge bucket of popcorn, while I was marveling at the way a parking space had seemed to just magically appear right next to the door as I drove by a full thirty minutes before the show was due to start…

Okay, I can’t do it. I can’t lie to you like that. Besides, anyone reading this who actually knows me will be able to call bull$#!% on that anyway. I’ve never been early to the show in my life, and as far as I can tell all the parking spaces within a mile of the door are just there for show — I never actually use ‘em. I’m late to absolutely everything, to the point that I’m going to stipulate in my will that my hearse should be last in line on the way to the funeral rather than first, and the driver has to stop somewhere along the way to buy Milk Duds. That way everyone will get to wait for me one more time. For some people, that’ll be the only way for them to be certain that’s really me in the box.

But I digress.

So there we were, running toward the theater entrance to the mall. Handsome was chugging along beside me, just trying to keep up. Jack the Giant Slayer was scheduled to start at 7:15, which was, coincidentally, the exact time I pulled into a parking spot in one of the satellite lots set around the mall. Each of these lots is about a day’s travel from any mall entrance by foot. 

Or so it seems.

So we were moving along at a fast jog as we crossed the ring road around the mall and entered the parking lot proper.

Wait… let me rephrase that. I was moving at a fast jog. Handsome was moving at a run, then a walk, then a jog, then a fast run again, then… well, you get the idea. He was all over the place, juking left and right, moving around some of the parked cars like a 135 lb hummingbird.

He was also flapping, a little like a hummingbird, but much, much slower. His boots were, of course, untied, and his coat unzipped, though it was a pretty cold night and we ran past snow left over from the last storm. The tarmac had been plowed down to no snow at all, the road dry beneath my feet, but the grass was still covered with inches of the white stuff. 

Now I, being the adult (yes, I know, there is some dispute about that, but I sometimes at least try to be a grown-up) kept to the plowed, dry road — well to the side and out of traffic, but at least on dry footing. Handsome, however is not an adult. He is a 10-year old boy with a gift for ‘mess’. During one of his short sprints, just as we were crossing the ring road and entering the main parking lot, he decided to take a short cut across the grass. The snow covered grass.

  • Movie tickets for two to see the show: $22 
  • Chicken fingers and bottled water from the concession stand: $12
  • Watching your son, whom you’ve told time and again to zip his coat and tie his shoes, trip and fly, like Superman, to land face-down in the snow, landing with such forward momentum that his t-shirted chest pushes a crest of snow into the air like the prow of a boat smashing through the water — Priceless!

He leapt to his feet, unharmed but embarrassed, and immediately tried to keep running along. I, however was right there, getting in his way, trying to brush snow from his chest and face.

“Holy crap, are you okay?”

“I’m fine, yes, I’m okay,” he said, trying to bat my hands away and just keep moving.

I stepped directly into his path, crowding him with my (still) larger size and forcing him to stop moving. I knew he just wanted to keep moving, trying to get away from the scene and anyone who may have seen it; I also knew I was doing a stupid parent thing in slowing him down and making him respond, but I was actually worried, and I couldn’t help myself.

“Seriously, are you okay?”

“Yes,” he said, looking me in the eye, knowing this was the only way to appease me and thus get out of the area. “I’m fine.”

“Okay,” I said, and we kept on jogging.

We got in the theater, and were standing in line for tickets when I started chuckling. Handsome looked at me and I held out a flattened hand, palm up. I moved my other hand down and forward at a steep angle, slapping my palms together like I was simulating a crashing plane and said one word that made his eyes widen.


Thus a new term has entered the family lexicon:

Boosh — “Remember that time you tripped while running along and made a chest-crest in the snow that looked like a meteor strike?”

Contextual Usage: 

“Hey, zip up that coat.”

“Naw, I’m not cold.”

*Hand gesture that might be used to indicate a crashing plane*  “Boosh!”

“Okay, fine.” *Zzzzziiiiip!*

Talk to you later!

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Interlude II: Hungry Gremlins

Okay, y’all know what Gremlins are, right?

And no, I don’t mean those little things in that 1984 movie where they had little things called Mogwai running around, tiny bundles of cuteness that made your favorite childhood teddy bear look rough and tough and homely. I’m talking about those things that pilots tacked the blame to for all the mechanical failures their planes had during World War II. The kind of thing Shatner saw in the 1963 Twilight Zone Episode, Nightmare at 20,000 Feet, or that Bugs Bunny had to deal with 20 years earlier in the 1943 Warner Brothers cartoon Falling Hare.

The kind of thing I’m positive is behind most of what goes wrong with my car, my computers, and hell, maybe even me.

Every time I’ve had to take something to the shop (or the doctor) and seen someone shake their head at me and say “Wow, you know, I’ve never seen anything like this before,” all I can do is picture the gremlins, some little creatures, rubbing their gnarled hands as they grin wide with glee. I envision them doing little happy-dances, hopping and strutting as if they’d just scored a major NFL touchdown when they knew their moms was watching. I see them in my mind, a grinning little group made ecstatic by the utterance of those words, this admission of bafflement from the supposed ‘experts’, all slapping each other on their bent little backs and high-fouring each other in a congratulatory celebration.

Picture NASA’s Mission Control on every successful launch you’ve seen in the movies.

Now make it tiny, twisted, and invisible. Oh yeah, did I mention that? I think the little suckers are invisible.

And hungry. I’ll tell you why.

Here’s the story:

I got out of work one evening last week, and decided to stop by Wendy’s drive-through window on my way by. I had some writing and stuff to try to get done when I got to the House Which Once Was Mine, and I didn’t want to waste a bunch of time cooking myself something to eat, never mind all the time I’d have to spend cleaning up after myself. Much easier to simply pick up a pair of Crispy Chicken sandwiches to eat on the way, right? No muss, no fuss, and it only costs me $1 a sandwich. What more could anyone ask?

So I pulled through the drive-through. Being right next to a building like that sort of captures and amplifies the whistling that still comes from my engine somewhere. It’s usually pretty loud, but in this type of situation it becomes truly obnoxious.

—A quick sidebar about that damn whistle: That’s the gremlins too. It’s a loud whistle that I’m assuming is coming from a hole in a pressure hose somewhere, but I can’t find it. It will whistle loud and clear for a half-hour or more, quieting or even pausing when I accelerate but coming back like shrieking siren when I let up on the gas, and God help anyone who’s standing about when it’s idling. It whistles like this until I stop the car somewhere, intending to put up the hood and listen to the engine, trying to isolate the sound, find its source and finally fix it. The sound continues while I park the car, get out, fetch the rod I use to prop the hood open from the back seat or even the cargo area, pop the hood, raise and prop the hood… and then it stops. Right in front of me, it just stops. Every time. And every time I imagine those crinkly-wrinkly little bastards hooting and hollering, rolling about on their backs and just pissing themselves with thigh-slapping laughter.

If I ever do catch one of these little supernatural saboteurs, things will not go well for him.

End of sidebar. Back to the story—

So I pulled the Whistle-Mobile through the drive through and collected my pair of plain Crispy Chicken sandwiches. I know from experience that they are going to be too hot to eat right out of the bag (This, after burning my mouth and tongue nearly a dozen different times. Hey, I might learn slowly, but I do learn!), so I don’t even try to eat right away. As I drove down the street with my left hand on the wheel I used my right to open the bag, unwrap the sandwiches from their protective paper packaging, and sit them on the passenger’s seat with their lids off, so to speak. I took the top of each sandwich off and let the cool night air have at the batter-coated meaty center of the sandwiches for just a minute. I then put the lid back on one of the sandwiches and happily munched away as I eased the Jeep through evening traffic.

All was right with the Crispy Chicken eating world.

My first sandwich finished before I was even half-way to my destination, either geographically or hungrilily… hungri…hungrilililiy… Uh… before I was even half-way to my destination with regards to both geography and appetite, I reached over to take up the second sandwich. I found the main sandwich, rough batter scratching at my hand as I grazed across its naked top. My fingers found the far side of the sandwich, scrabbled uselessly on the empty wrapper they found there and moved on. My hand patted, poked, scratched and searched, but found nothing on the seat next to me other then the uncovered half-a-sandwich lying on its open wrapper.

There was no sandwich top.

I pulled up to a red light, nosed in close behind the car ahead of me, and flipped on the dome light so I could scan the seat next to me with my eyes, intending to quickly find the elusive top-half to my sandwich bun, reconstruct my dinner, and commence the eating portion of this Crispy Chicken, all by the greening of the traffic light above.

There was no sandwich top.

I sighed, flipped off the dome light and scooped up my topless meal just in time to hit the gas and move along with traffic flow. Obviously the damn thing had slid off the far side of the passenger’s seat, slipping silently down to wedge itself between the seat and the door, probably coming to rest on the slightly nasty floor carpet waiting down there. No only was it out of reach and sight, there was no way I was going to eat it now. I shuddered at the thought of what might be lurking in that carpet, just waiting for the chance to attack my unsuspecting digestive system, slapping me in the bowels with all the delicacy of a wrecking ball.

No, I thought, taking a bite of my oddly bread-light sammie, that one’s lost to me. Best just to make due.

Which I did. For nearly two-thirds of the way to the house. Then I pulled over to the side of the road, got out and walked around to the other side of the Jeep. It was bugging me, hell, it was driving me crazy that I hadn’t gotten to eat my whole sandwich and I wasn’t sure why. The sandwich had been in the center of the seat, after all, not shoved over near the edge; so how in the hell did the top half of that bun slide off the far side of the seat?

I opened the passenger’s side door.

There was no sandwich top.

I got on my knees and looked in front of the seat, under the carpet mat over there, on the floor behind the seat, even down between the seat and the center storage area, where the seat-belt buckle array is anchored.

There was no sandwich top.

I got out a flashlight to carefully double-check each of the places I’d already searched before jamming my head down onto that nasty floor carpet to look under the seat, wedging my hand in as far as I could to probe the small spots my light could not reach just in case Wendy’s buns respond to different laws of Physics and motion that the rest of the world does…

There was no sandwich top. It had disappeared from a closed and moving car with me sitting right there beside it, completely oblivious.



“Gremlins,” I hissed, getting to my feet to slam the passenger’s door before stalking around to get back behind the wheel. I could practically hear them in there, hiding in the unseen recesses of the vehicle, slapping each-other’s backs and rolling on the floor with laughter. At least, rolling on the floor with laughter when they weren’t stuffing their pudgy, misshapen little faces with my dinner! I pulled back into traffic and drove on through the night seething with anger, radio off and listening hard for any sound, any hint of a sound that might have been the laughter of the world’s tiniest terrorists, the world’s smallest saboteurs.


They exist.

They mess with us on a bigger scale than anyone out there realizes.

And they like bread.

…and to any of you out there who might be thinking, as others have thought who’ve heard this story first-hand, that I might — might— have accidentally scooped up both sandwich tops and unknowingly eaten both of them with the first sandwich: Preposterous! The odds of someone as observant as I am accidentally eating two tops with one sandwich have got to be astronomical! To suggest that I might… Well… seriously? I mean… seriously? And after you’ve seen/heard my cogent and articulate explanation of what really happened to that bread?

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m just on my way down to the Jeep with a Kaiser roll.
And a mousetrap. Let’s see y’all laugh at me once I show you one of their little invisible asses.

Well… not ‘show’, exactly, I guess… but… aw, hell…

Talk to you later!

Friday, March 8, 2013

Interlude 1: Savage Dust Bunnies

Interlude One--

Here's the story:

So there I am at that house again — the house I know I always have to be careful at because it’s under guard. It’s patrolled.

Patrolled by… things.

I make my way up the walkway, moving quickly but cautiously. I need to move right along, but I’m still trying to avoid any inadvertent sounds that might trigger an attack. I tuck my mail bag tight against my hip, swiveling like I’m doing the bump to avoid scraping on the bushes to either side as I pass by, placing my feet carefully rather than just clumping along in my big winter boots. I’m holding my breath, listening, trying to pick up any sign of where they are, hoping they’re in the house somewhere, not lounging by the mailbox, either hiding in the bushes or concealed by deck-furniture, just lying in wait to pounce.

I hate it when they do that.

Sometimes they lunge at the big plate picture window along the front of the house as I walk by, their ferocity shaking the very walls of the house as they thrust themselves toward me again and again, slaver coating the window before each terrifying beast as it sprays from their open, howling jaws — jaws filled with sharp and savage teeth. When this happens I try not to look directly at them, try not to make inadvertent eye contact: they take that as a challenge, increasing the ferocity of their display until I begin to doubt that the house itself lacks the strength to contain them.

The house, which even now stands silent, looking almost vacant in its stillness.

They can’t fool me.

I know they’re there!

I have the mail all sorted and together as I approach the mailbox, fastened as it is to the railing of the rear steps. It’s bundled together in one hand, rolled into a sort of tube that will slide easily and, more importantly, soundlessly into the waiting mailbox. I lift the lid with the back of my fingers, a smooth, practiced motion I make with the hand still cupping the mail. The lid rises. I swivel my wrist, push my hand down, release. The bundle of mail, one smooth catalog wrapped about the outside, slides into the box with all the sound of a light breeze gently nudging a stalk of grain.


I pivot on the balls of my feet and begin to make my way back the way I have come, the steps already marked out in my head, the path already clear of obstructions as well as anything that might wake the sleeping beasts.

Behind me, the breeze nudges the raised and balanced mailbox lid with all the force it would use against a stalk of grain.

The lid, of course, slams down with a report like a cannon.

Within the house the beasts awaken.

Bellowing, shrieking, snarling with rage at the prey that nearly got away, that dared to make its way into their territory and think it could get away with it, they come through the house. I can hear them, the sounds of them, getting closer and closer. I could run — should run — but instead I stand there like some poor damsel in distress in the old movies about the Mummy, or the Creature from the Black Lagoon, those women I used to think were so stupid, used to yell at the screen ‘just run, run and you’ll get away from that slow thing easily, what are you standing there for run!’ But just as they stood there, paralyzed by horror, mesmerized by fear, so stand I waiting for the monster to get me.

The pet door built into the back door of the house thumps once, twice, and they are outside with me, separated from my flesh by a mere fence, a fence they sprint the length of, snarling and slavering. Looking for an opening. Looking for a way through.

A way through to me.

I watch them run, horrified by what I see before me, a pair of otherworldly things, creatures not found in any zoo you might visit, Animal Planet special you might watch or taxonomy you might find. These are things straight out of a Stephen King novel, something found only in our own nightmares, only these nightmares have refused to be left on the pillow in the morning, defied our efforts to shake them off upon waking like water sluicing from a duck’s back as she leaves a pond, left to dry, evaporate, and be gone. These beasts have followed us into the waking world, and from the look of them they’re hungry.

Dust Bunnies.

Balls of fluff like you’d see under your sofa, or maybe your bed, tiny tumbleweeds of dust and hair and God-knows-what that blow hither and thither across our floors and up our hallways to collect on our stairs and in our corners, only to be swept up and thrown in the dustbin. Vacuumed up and thrown out with the trash.

These Dust Bunnies, however, move.



Somewhere, somehow, they’ve been given a terrible, monstrous life, whether by the hand of Man’s science or some perversion of God these things live, and I can not look upon them without feeling a shiver of fear that runs through me to my very soul.

Huge compared to their mundane brethren they remain small in our world, barely a foot tall, but they seem to gain stature through their rage and ferocity. Like Tribbles on steroids, out of control with rage, these nearly featureless balls of fur and dust and whatnot race up and down the fence on what must be rudimentary legs, puffballs of spite, snapping at the very wood that stands between us, protecting me from their savagery.

Their terrible high whining cries cut through the air, a dark sound filled with menace, reminiscent of bus air brakes squealing or nails dragged on a chalkboard. The long cries break down into a series of shorter, staccato squeals of indignation, barks of anger that hurt the ears and turn the bowels to water as I back away from the fence, wracking my brain for something, something I can give these small white demons to appease them, to somehow satisfy the incredible want, the need that fills their piteous barking so they might stop hounding me for…

…waitaminute. Barking? Hounding?

I stop backing toward the street, take a half-step closer, leaning down slightly, squinting to see through the fence pales at the small shapes flashing by…

Son of a bitch. Those things are…


Huh. Imagine that.

Talk to you later!

Saturday, March 2, 2013


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—

“Aw, crap!”

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.


He laughed.

“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?”

He nodded.

“I won’t.”

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!