Sunday, August 21, 2011

Where the Wild Things Grow #GBE2

Today our hero Best Dad Evar is standing in the small, multicolored back lawn of his faded home, clutching a cheap hose with a plastic nozzle. Water shoots out in uneven fountains from the nozzle into a surprisingly lush garden nestled into the back corner of the yard, the kinks being so bad that occasionally they lessen or completely interrupt the water pressure. “Cheap piece of shit.” He exclaims, but not loudly, and despite his foul words he seems almost, dare we say it… content.

The familiar voice of the narrator quietly rises, as it typically does, when Best Dad is out of earshot of the rest of the family. “Best Dad, I’ve noticed that you have a number of…” he pauses, searching for the right term, “plants growing wild around your property.”
“You mean weeds?” Best Dad replies with a wry smile.
“Well yes, those, too. But you also have a number of flowering plants and even vegetables sprouting up in odd places.”
“Ah, yes, our volunteers.”
“That’s what we call plants that we end up liking that we didn’t actively plant ourselves. We have a bunch of them. We have flowers: our lilies and our four o’clocks. Our mint, too. Did you know that fresh mint makes a very tasty tea?”
“I hear it grows like a weed.”
“Yeah, it does, but it’s manageable.” Best Dad says. For once he doesn’t seem annoyed by what could be a very vexing problem.

“What about this pumpkin plant coming out of your flower patch?”
“Oh, that’s actually transplanted from my compost. So not a volunteer, but pretty cool anyway. We’re going to get three pumpkins out of that plant!” He’s proud, it’s obvious.
Suddenly, a commotion can be heard from inside the house. Screams and the pounding of footsteps can clearly be heard even outside in the yard. Best Dad doesn’t move. The narrator asks curiously, “Um, shouldn’t you check on what’s going on in there?”
Best Dad sighs deeply. “Yeah.” He walks over to turn off the hose. Clearly he doesn’t think the commotion is an emergency. “I’ll be back in five minutes.”
“Are you sure?”
“Yeah. Ten tops.”

A whirlwind is passing through the home, carrying with it presents and sweets. The children are jumping up and down and shouting, and it’s now apparent that these are gleeful shouts. Best Dad and his wife are briskly whisking toys and laundry off of the floor and the furniture, but are failing in their attempt to make the home presentable for their guest. As quickly as it arrives, the whirlwind is gone again only minutes later, leaving the children huffing and puffing as they come down from their sugar highs, and the parents slumped against the kitchen counters, shaking their bemused heads almost in unison. Best Dad rolls his eyes and returns to the back yard and his hose.
“Best Dad, what was that?!” the narrator asks with high-pitched alarm.
“That,” he pauses, gathering his breath, “was my brother.”
“Did you know he was coming?”
“Of course not, we never know when he’s coming. We never even know when he’s going to be in the country!”
“Surely you’re exaggerating.”
Best Dad chuckles softly. “You’re right, we know when he’s arriving in the country, because he always needs a ride from the airport.”

“Does he always stir everything up like that when he comes?”
“It’s just his way. The kids love him, of course. He’s fun. He plays with them. He’s loud and boisterous, which, let’s face it, kids find irresistible.”
“But he always seems to leave the grown-ups perturbed.”
“Yeah, well, he’s a shit-disturber. He can’t help but mention some complaint or gossip whenever he visits.”
“What was it this time?”

“He has a favor to ask.”
“That doesn’t seem like much. What was the favor?”
“Well, he couldn’t just come out and ask me the favor, could he?”
“No, he says ‘I’ve got a favor to ask, and it’s kind of a big one.’”
“And then?”
“Then he says, ‘But I don’t want to bother you with it right now. I can see you guys are busy. We’ll talk about it later.’”
“What did you say?”
“I said, ‘Why wait, just ask me?’ But he was already heading out the door and he pretended not to hear me.”
“So you’re left speculating and worrying about how big a favor it could be.”
“Exactly. See what I mean? Shit-disturber!”
“Well, it could be worse.”
“Really, how?”
“Well, uh, I don’t know. It was just something to say.”
“Yeah,” Best Dad says with a smirk and a shake of his bald head. His watering complete, he tosses the hose loosely onto the lawn and looks longingly at his pumpkins, as if wishing everything in life could be so productively simple.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Does it ever stop? #GBE2

Our hero, Best Dad Evar, is walking quickly between the front door of his gym and his dusty little car, the one with the paint chipping away on the roof. Within moments, the car is bouncing into the driveway of the little house with the unpainted trim that his family lives in. He hops out quickly (though he still makes that grunting noise we talked about earlier), and a few minutes later he's changed and sitting at his computer typing.

"Best Dad Evar, I've been watching you." The narrator says, with a hint of a scold tinging his words.
"Oh yeah?" Best Dad Evar replies halfheartedly, his fingers still tapping the keys.
"I've been watching you for the past fifteen hours."
"Uh huh." Best Dad seems not to be paying attention.
"Do you know that you haven't stopped to take a break since seven o'clock this morning?"
"You've been going non-stop, switching from one task to the next all day: shower, breakfast, commute, work, quick lunch, work, dinner, clean up, bedtime routine, gym, write. You even spent most of your lunch hour doing chores!"
"Yeah, that's my life." Best Dad replies, staring at the computer screen with a faraway look, no longer seeing the words on the screen.

"How long has it been like this?" the narrator asks.
"I can't remember. Certainly since I became a parent. Non stop chores from morning 'til night. Even the weekends mostly consist of chores I have to do to get the kids ready so *they* can have fun and not die in the process."
"Do you ever get a free moment for yourself?"
"A moment here, a moment there."
"Do you ever just do what *you* want to do?"
"Hah!" Best Dad bores his gaze into the spot where he imagines the narrator to be. "That's just not available to me."

"That's a pretty strange kind of life, don't you think?"
"Yeah, it is. But I trust that this life will end some day."
"Do you mean when you die?!" The narrator is horrified.
"No! What makes you say that?"
"Whew! I thought..."
"I know what you thought. What I meant was that there will come a day when these kids are a little older.... you know, when they turn eighteen and move the hell out of my house." The narrator chuckles. "When they move out, maybe I'll be able to spend a little time on me. Until then..."
"Okay, but Best Dad, what happens if you end up like so many parents these days."
"What do you mean?"
"With grown children living at home and mooching off of them into their 20's and even 30's?" Now it's Best Dad's turn to be horrified. The look on his face is pure panic. He's clearly never considered this possibility.
"But... I'll be ... in my 70's when my youngest is 30.... it just.... Noooooooooooo!" He runs for the medicine cabinet to grab a bottle of pills.
The narrator is relieved when Best Dad only shakes three pain relievers out into his now sweaty palm.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Best Dad Evar's Bookshelf #GBE2

Today our hero, Best Dad Evar, reclines on an unmade bed, reading. His position seems uncomfortable, so he shifts a bit from laying on his side propped on one elbow onto his back with his head resting on a contour pillow. Unfortunately this particular contour pillow doesn’t quite fit *his* contours. Beside the bed is a bookshelf stacked two deep with paperbacks and inspirational tomes.
“Best Dad Evar, I’ve noticed something about your bookshelf.” The narrator’s voice interrupts Best Dad mid-sentence.
“What’s that?” Best Dad replies. He’s grown accustomed to this omnipresent narrator and grown to like him a bit.
“Almost all these books are bookmarked.”
“Yeah. So what?”
“Well, almost all the bookmarks are less than a third of the way through the books.”

“You’re right.” Best Dad sighs deeply and places a bookmark into today’s partially read fiction. He wasn’t really that into the story anyway. He continues, “I guess you could say that it’s because of my grown up version of attention deficit disorder. I can’t stay interested in any book long enough to get halfway through it, let alone finish it.”
“Well that’s too bad-” the narrator starts, but Best Dad interrupts him.
“I do the same thing with TV shows.” Best Dad says, pointing at the small TV on top of the bookshelf. “There are some that I like a lot for two or three episodes. But somehow I always seem to lose interest.”
“What happens?” the narrator asks, not daring to ask a more detailed question for fear of getting cut off again.
“I don’t know, but by the fourth or fifth episode, I often just say ‘meh.’ It’s not that they’re bad shows. Some of them are good. I just can’t stay involved. Either the characters annoy me somehow or the plot’s not engaging enough.”

“This short attention span affects your career as well.” The narrator presses.
“It defines my career. I’m forty one years old and I can’t even count the number of jobs I’ve had.”
“True, but you have had one job for four years and another one for three years. That's a long time.” The narrator helps with a bit of positive spin on these facts.
“I guess, but even within those two jobs, I had individual projects that were much shorter. I had cases at my consulting firm job and loans and borrowers while I was doing mortgages. So even though the jobs remained mostly the same, they were actually constantly changing. That kept things from ever getting boring for me. Don’t you think that’s a problem, being consistently at risk of boredom?”

“Perhaps.” The narrator says diplomatically. “But you have had one constant in your adult life, one person you’ve always maintained your interest in. One decision you’ve never regretted.”

Best Dad Evar smiles, knowing without hesitation what the narrator is referring to. He nods. Then he pushes himself into a standing position and wanders off into the living room to settle into his regular spot on the couch. The indentation on his side of the sofa is paired with one on the opposite cushion which is soon filled, as always.