It’s a Sunday, so, like every other weekend day for as long as he can remember, Best Dad Evar is in the midst of an endless string of chores, tasks and events for other people. In this case, he’s in the car, returning from a big box store with a lone box of very convenient, but very expensive “pull-up” diapers. “Day of rest, my ass!” Best Dad mutters to himself.
“Best Dad Evar,” the narrator’s voice calls out, as if on cue, “I want to ask you about something.”
“Yeah, what.” Best Dad Evar replies with lazy dread.
“Well, I was listening in on your job interview this week and I heard you say something.” the narrator’s voice has just a hint of a scold that’s about to occur.
“I’m sure I said a lot of shit, that’s what you do when you’re trying to get someone to hire you.” Best Dad rolls his eyes as if this should be plainly obvious.
“You mean a lot of bullshit?” the narrator replies sharply.
“Not necessarily.” Best Dad answers warily. “Just ask me your question already, what did I say that you objected to.”
“You said you’d been someone’s ‘right hand man’ in the past and you’d be happy to do that again.”
“So, I don’t believe you,” the narrator lays it all out on the table.
“Which part don’t you believe, that I’ve been someone’s right hand man or that I’d be happy doing it again.” Best Dad Evar’s eyebrows are raised. It seems he might be avoiding answering the question.
“I know you’ve done it before. But I also know that you believe you’re meant for greatness…. That you have important things to do in your career.”
“And you think that I can’t do that without being the man out front, the principal, the big cheese.”
“No, I think you think you can’t do that without being the big cheese.” Best Dad pulls into his driveway and ponders the thought as he navigates a winding path through the toys, bicycles and random lawn furniture that inevitably park themselves on the concrete walkway leading to the front door.
He opens the front door, finding the nearest flat surface to toss down his box-‘o’-diapers; whatever end table, bookshelf or whatnot happens to be just past the doorway. He continues talking, oblivious to whether any of his family members happens to be in the living room he’s just entered, “Well, you know what, I do think I have important work to do, both in my career and in my life.” He thinks a little bit further, and then continues, “But at some point you have to figure out who you are as an individual and play to your strengths.”
“What does that mean?” the narrator is doubtful.
“It means that if being a support guy to someone else’s big cheese is the best role for me in the business world, I shouldn’t look down my nose at that role.”
“Hm.” It’s clear the narrator still doesn’t quite believe what he’s hearing. “But will you be satisfied in that role long term?”
“Well, yes, I think I will, as long as I’m helping build something great for my team. At the same time, I need to find other outlets for my inner big cheese.”
“Like your family history and family tree research.” the narrator is getting it now.
“And my writing.” Best Dad says with a smile of triumph.
“And your writing.” the narrator murmurs in reply, as if considering whether these things could possibly satisfy Best Dad’s ambition. At this moment, a shadow appears behind Best Dad Evar. It looms behind him like a ghost emerging from the fog, but Best Dad doesn’t see it. The narrator lets out a gasp as the shadow seems to rear up out of the depths of the sofa and then….
“Bounce!” the shadow yells and leaps onto Best Dad Evar’s shoulders and back.
“Aaack!” Best Dad yelps like a girl, but he quickly realizes that the arms that are just this close to strangling him and the body that is draped onto his back are those of his older child.
“Got you!” the girls shouts directly into his ear, causing a ringing that will last for several minutes.
“Jeezus, you scared the sh-” Best Dad stops himself from using the expletive in front of the child, or perhaps even children. The other one may be around here somewhere if this one was sitting on the sofa listening to him talk to himself. Actually, it’s more likely she didn’t notice him come in at all, at least until she thought of jumping on his back.
“Piggy back ride!” She shouts again.
“Damn, you’re heavy!” He says, smiling now. Luckily she’s not old enough yet for a comment on her weight to sting. “Where to?”
But before she can reply, another shadow streaks out of a nearby hallway and immediately launches itself toward Best Dad Evar’s legs. “Oof!” the air puffs out of his lungs as the full force of younger child’s charge strikes. Somehow he manages to stay on his feet despite the blow.
“Hey, you can’t jump on me like that!” Best Dad says to the little one, but kindly. “You could knock us both over. Now, if you were to climb up onto the sofa, you could jump from there and balance out your sister-”
A head peeks around the corner from the kitchen. Best Dad’s wife’s face is countenanced with a scowl and eyebrows pinched together in the middle. “Hey!” She says in the unmistakable mommy disapproves voice that all mommies seem to have. Three sets of eyes turn toward her sheepishly. “You know I don’t like these shenanigans!”
Best Dad and both girls stand stock still, as if they’re not sure what to do now. Older child speaks up first, “They’re just pick up tricks, Mommy,” she says with just a hint of a pout.
“Yes, but someone could get hurt!” she continues, but softens just slightly, providing Best Dad just a little bit of an opening.
“Just one time around the house, okay?” He pleads with her, “I promise, no one will get hurt.”
Her lips scrunch up and her eyes roll just a bit as she gives in. “All right. One time.”
“Yay!” the little one shouts and somehow she’s already leaping from the sofa, launching toward Best Dad’s chest. Surprised, he lets out another gasp and barely gets hold of her as she bounces off of him.
He whispers to her, “I almost dropped you on your a-… on your butt.” he chuckles. “That wouldn’t have been good.” Older child laughs heartily in his ear, still clinging on tightly. The thought of her sister getting dropped is perfectly raucous humor for her. The possibility that the little one might be hurt doesn’t really enter her thinking, at least not until the crying starts.
Best Dad’s wife is still standing there with her hands on her hips but she doesn’t say anything. Her facial expression says it all.