We catch up with Best Dad Evar at his dining room table. He sits in a baby food-stained chair at a table covered with a plastic table cloth. The table is piled with mail, partially sorted. In fact, our hero is doing the sorting. "Junk, junk, bill, junk, bill..., that goes in the wife's pile (probably junk, too)."
A child scoots past him and pulls on the handle of the sliding glass door that leads into their small back yard, causing the door to careen against the door frame with a thud. She runs through the now open door and skips merrily away, leaving the doorway open and exposed, no door, no screen, just cool air rushing in and warm air rushing out.
Without even turning his head to look at the offender, Best Dad Evar shouts, "Close the damn door!" There is no reply. He grips the table with whitened knuckles, pops out of his chair with a surprising sprightliness.
"You! Child!" Best Dad Evar's teeth are gritted. "Come back over here!" His eyes burn with fire. The little girl slinks over, peering up at him with her face downcast. Her pupils peek up at him as if her eyebrows were protecting them from his glare.
"You're heating up the whole god damned neighborhood! Close this door now!"
“Okay, daddy,” she says, still peering at him with those puppy dog eyes. She reaches up and slowly, carefully slides the door closed. She bounds off again, a bit slower and a bit less joyful than the first time.
“Best Dad Evar,” our narrator’s voice pierces the now empty room, “don’t you think you’re being too hard on the kid, she’s only three years old.”
“I know,” Best Dad says, his shoulders slumping a bit, “I never wanted to be the dad that said ridiculous things like ‘would the starving kids in Africa leave so much food on their plate?’ or ‘money doesn’t grow on trees, you know!’”
He now has that faraway look he often gets these days. “But I never realized that you don’t just say those things as a dad, you feel them... deep in your soul.”
“In your soul?” Our narrator’s tone is understandably incredulous.
“Wherever you feel your emotions.” Best Dad says, brushing off the narrator’s semantics. “And wherever that is, the strongest emotions I have these days all result from these ridiculous situations. I walk into the bathroom and some child has left the faucet running after washing their hands... and just left the room! Wouldn’t you be angry, furious even!”
Best Dad continues as if no one has spoken, “And the worst, the thing that sends me past the boiling point angry, when I hear that furnace click on and the front door is wide fucking open!! It’s all I can do to keep from screaming at the top of my lungs, ‘I have to work all day to make the money to pay the god damned power bill and you’re just letting that money float out the door!’”
“Have you actually said that to your children?” The narrator asks, clearly dreading the answer.
Best Dad gets quieter now. “Yes. They don’t understand. How could they? They have no concept of how money... works. When I say those things, the only thing they understand is that I’m angry. And it’s over something small, like an unrolled roll of toilet paper on the bathroom floor, or a refrigerator left open. But it’s all wasted money to me. Money that didn’t just grow on a tree. Money I worked for. And that makes me angry. They should know that, get that.”
“I think they get it.”
“Maybe, but it still doesn’t stop them from leaving the door open the next time.”