Sunday, July 31, 2011

Mr. Fix-It #GBE2

We find our hero hunched over the sink in his bathroom. You’d think it was impossible for a standard porcelain sink to appear worn, but this one does. Best Dad Evar’s attention is focused on the mismatched faucet and its chrome handles. He tests one, twisting it gingerly clockwise, then back counterclockwise again. No water comes out of the tap.
Best Dad Evar sighs and lifts his head, looking at his own reflection in the mirror. His face is a blank mask showing through the flecks of whiteness that the brushing of four sets of teeth inevitably leaves behind on the mirror, but the lines on his face provide a hint to his disgust, in this case with himself.
“What’s up, Best Dad?” Our narrator’s voice arrives softly, not probing too hard.
“The sink doesn’t work.”
“I can see that.”
“Dad’s are supposed to have an instinct for this sort of thing, right?” Best Dad asks rhetorically, the disgust and disappointment now showing clearly on his face in the mirror.
“For fixing things?”
“Yeah, but somehow that instinct seems to have skipped a generation with me.”

“Your dad has the fix-it gene?”
“I don’t know if he has the gene, but when we were kids he always seemed to know how to fix things.”
“So what happened?”
“Actually, I asked my dad about that once.” Best Dad sighs again. “I said ‘didn’t you ever try to teach me to fix things?’”
“What did he say?”
“He said, ‘Well, I tried to show you, but you never seemed interested in learning.’”

“What were you interested in as a kid?”
“Well, I did like destroying things. Like this one time, we had an old storage barn that my dad had built but which we didn’t need any more. My dad gave me a claw hammer and a crowbar and told me to go to town. I was happy as a clam tearing that thing down. I ripped off the roof with my gloved hands. I pried the plywood walls off the two-by-four frame with the crowbar. I whacked the framing boards with that hammer until they came apart. I even pulled out all the loose nails with the claw to make sure no one would step on them before we took all that wood off to the dump. Even tossing stuff out of my dad’s pickup into the gaping hole of the dump was fun for me.”
“Wow, it sounds like you liked destruction.”
“I missed my calling.”

“So why can’t you fix things?”
“I honestly don’t know. I suspect that part of it is because I’m always sure I’m going to break some little washer, bolt or tube or something and we’ll have to replace the whole damn sink (or whatever). That’s my instinct – that when you mess with things, they break.”
“So what do you do when something breaks at your house?”
“Well, first I stare at it for a minute or two. Then I see if there’s anything visible or obvious that I can fix, like a paper jam in the printer. If not, I loudly ask my wife something like, ‘Do you know what’s wrong with the dishwasher?’”
“That sounds like admitting defeat to me, Best Dad.”
“No, no, no.” He says, shaking his head and holding his hands up, palms forward. “That allows me to get her involved without directly asking for help.”
“Really?” The narrator asks, a clear sarcastic tint to his question.
“Yeah, yeah. Usually she’ll come over to take a look. Then I slowly back away, you know, to give her some space to take her own look at the offending appliance. I might even back right out of the room altogether if she’s not paying attention.”

“So after you’ve completely abdicated your responsibility as the man of the house, what then, Best Dad Evar?” Now the sarcasm drips obviously from the narrator’s voice.
Best Dad Evar chooses to ignore the insult and answers honestly, “Well, if we’re lucky, my wife’s tinkering is more successful than mine. If not, she usually calls her dad, who is unafraid of any challenge. He dives right in and can usually fix what for me seemed too big a risk to even touch.”
“You’re pretty lucky that you have at least one Mr. Fix-It in your life.”
“Yeah,” Best Dad says with relief apparent on his face. “I realize it every day. ‘Cause there’s pretty much always something broken around here.”

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Best Dad Evar's Stash #GBE2

It’s Midnight at the home of Best Dad Evar. Our hero is tiptoeing down the shabbily carpeted hallway of his home. He chooses his footsteps carefully in the dim light of a small night light, avoiding that squeaky floorboard he knows is right… there. He’s carrying something under his arm, a box perhaps, but it is hidden in the dark shadows of the night.

“Best Dad Evar, why are you being so stealthy?” A voice whispers, as if it understands that discretion is required.
“I have to be careful whenever I go into my stash.” Best Dad Evar replies in a whisper of his own.
“You have a stash?” The narrator is incredulous.
“Don’t act so surprised. You know I have a stash.”
“I bet your family and friends don’t. They might be surprised.”
“Yeah, they might be. They might disapprove. Well, they don’t need to know about it, do they?”

“Okay, but what happens if someone finds your stash?”
“Yeah, that’s a real problem and I think about it sometimes when I’m accessing my stash.” Best Dad chews his cuticle, his brow knitted into a slight frown.
“You have to have it somewhere in the house.” The narrator prompts.
“But it can’t be anywhere the kids normally are or they could get into it.” Best Dad replies.
“No, you wouldn’t want them to find your stash, would you. You could keep it somewhere locked.”
“We don’t really have that many locks, though. And think of all the noise of all that locking and unlocking, you don’t want anyone to wake up due to the racket.”

“You could keep it up high somewhere.”
“Yeah, but what good is a stash if you can’t get to it when you want it.”
“So there is a small chance that someone could go where you don’t expect them to and discover your stash.”
There is a long pause, and Best Dad appears to be simply staring at the carpet. “Damn it!” Best Dad says through gritted teeth. He stands up suddenly and disappears into the back room. When he returns, he is carrying a much larger box and his shoes. His keys jingle in his pocket and atop the box sits a small padlock.

“Well, what now, Best Dad Evar?”
“Look what you’ve done, now I have to find a new place for my stash.”
“So you’ve decided to go for the lock, I think that’s a good choice.”
“And I’m not even sure the lock is to keep my children out!” Best Dad says, trudging toward the door.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Best Dad's Bakery #GBE2

Our hero, Best Dad Evar, stands in his kitchen on sore feet. The tiles below his feet were nice once, but now many are cracked and the grout between them is crumbling badly in spots, leaving gaps to collect crumbs, paper clips and glitter. Best Dad is preparing to bake a meal for himself and his children, as tonight his wife has to work. Well, perhaps “bake” isn’t the right term. He’s tossing chicken nuggets and tater tots on a cookie sheet and heating them up. Despite his aching heels, Best Dad prefers to stand in the kitchen to dampen the high-pitched singing emanating from his children’s dutifully educational television show. He actually looks thoughtful rather than tired. This is atypical.

“Best Dad Evar, what are thinking about?” our narrator interrupts him.
“It doesn’t matter.” Best Dad replies disgustedly. There is a long pause. It seems the narrator is considering his next words carefully. But Best Dad replies instead, “I was thinking about a system to capture rainwater that falls on or around our house and use it to water the plants or flush the toilets.” He pauses for a moment, but continues. “But it doesn’t matter, because most likely I’ll never install any system like that.”
“Why not?” the narrator asks, innocently.
“Well, I can say that it doesn’t happen because we don’t have the money or the time, or because we don’t own the house...”
“But?” The narrator correctly deciphers the inevitable ‘But’.
“But the real reason is that I’m not a doer. My mind cooks up these ideas all the time-”
“Like a bakery!” The narrator butts in. Best Dad Evar just glares into the space where the narrator might be if he was visible to him.

“Yeah, like a bakery. Give my mind a couple of ingredients and it will cook up an idea like this one. I have them all the time. I just never do anything to make them happen.” Best Dad Evar frowns, fiddling with his wedding ring absently and leaning his upper body over the counter to take some of the weight off of his feet.
“Well, you must have had the idea to have children, and you made that happen.”
“Yes, but my wife was involved in that, too. She’s more of the planner and doer around here.”
“You also decided to get involved in the mortgage business and you made that happen, too.”
Best Dad Evar pauses to think. “Yeah, I guess I did. Fat lot of good that’s doing me now.”
“Still, you can’t say that you never make your ideas happen. I am aware of several other ideas you’ve made into reality.”
“You’re right, you’re right.” Best Dad replies, brightening a bit, but still showing his disappointment in himself.

“What you’re really saying is that you lament those ideas that you’ve cooked up that you’ve never been able to make real.”
“Yes!” Best Dad exclaims. “My god, I’ve had so many great ideas. So many things that would have made my life great or even changed the world if I’d been able to bring them to fruition!”
“I know, I know. But Best Dad, you’re just one man and you only have so many resources at your disposal to make these ideas real. Can’t you appreciate it when some of them come true?”
“That’s always been a problem for me, being satisfied.” Best Dad opens the oven to reveal lightly browned, sizzling patties of breaded chicken and spuds.

“Wow, how did you know it was time to take those out of the oven, Best Dad?”
“I cook using my senses. I have an internal clock that tells me about how long these babies take to cook and I can smell when they’re close to done.”
“I’m impressed.”
“Maybe I should have been a baker.” Best Dad says absently as he slides a pair of oven mitts onto his hands that are so badly blackened and torn that the narrator gasps, sure Best Dad’s hands are about to be burned. Instead, Best Dad gingerly pulls the cookie sheet off its rack and quickly plops it down on top of the range. The smell is wonderful, in a processed food kinda way.
“Yeah, but I’ve never seen you spend more than fifteen minutes in the kitchen at a time.”
Best Dad laughs and smirks. “You know me well. That’s one idea that I won’t spend any time fretting over.”

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