Monday, February 18, 2013

The Mouse Must Die

Every evening when I go into our storage closet under the stairs to grab Stella's leash and some poop-bags, I witness the same frustrating scene.  A cute little mouse scampers out from under the shelving by my feet and makes for the farthest recesses of the closet, amid the rubble of pool toys and boxes of old photos.  On the way to his impenetrable fortress, strewn with rice and dogfood he has pilfered from our stores, he slaloms between two state-of-the-art mouse traps, both baited with peanut butter-smeared cheese, paying them not a whit of attention.  This has been going on for a month now.

There's a story my dad used to tell about when his older brother, Mosey, pulled out a pistol at the dinner table and shot a rat that popped out while the family ate.  This would have been either in Arkansas or Montana, or somewhere in between, in a bunkhouse on a cattle or wheat operation--so it was bucolic, not squalid.  I always picture Mosey shooting the varmint right out of an open window, then wiping the mashed potato remnants out of his handlebar mustache while holstering his revolver.  And when I think about it, it's not so very different from the last time I had to deal with a brazen rodent.

I was living in a house with three other guys at the time, all of us undergrads at the University of Virginia.  This would have been back in Nineteen-and-Ninety-one or so.  It was a pretty decent place in a neighborhood just dodgy enough to make it interesting.  We got burglarized once (while the dog and one of the guys slept), were regularly solicited by door-to-door crack salesmen, and had all of our cars smashed into by the Lincoln Continental belonging to the crossing guard who directed the children to the school across the street every morning at 7:30 while blasting C&C Music Factory's "Everybody Dance Now."  When we threw parties at our house, our classmates, who had no reason to hang out in this part of town otherwise, would be sketched out walking from their cars to our front porch.  We had cred.  Did I mention that Dave Matthews hung out at our crib on several occasions?

One of the friends of the house was a charismatic sociopath who loved nothing more than to encourage people to do things that were against their best interests.  It was thanks to him that I maintained my mullet for at least a year longer than I should have, grew a creepy goatee, took weightlifting supplements that made me irritable and dyspeptic, built an elaborate marijuana grow-room in my attic even though I didn't like to smoke, bought roller blades, and, perhaps worst of all, wore the kind of drawstring pants favored by bodybuilders and Sammy Hagar.  Another pastime this friend introduced to the house was bb guns.

Once he had convinced us to build up an arsenal of multi-stroke air rifles, we whiled away many a pleasant hour sitting on the couch, drinking bottles of Schlitz and shooting at or around a target on the other side of the house.  Naturally, it wasn't long before we started taking pot-shots at one another, and carrying the guns outside the house for more interesting target practice, sometimes running afoul of the law.  The local gendarmes were surprised to learn, the times that we couldn't outrun them, that we were all grown-ass men, and that the charismatic sociopath was a veteran of the U.S. Army.

The couch whence we used to shoot. Note 1st gen roller blades in foreground.

Repairing the target area before we moved out. Trust me, overalls with no shirt/no mullet was an improvement over Sammy Hagar pants, mullet, and goatee

Moving day.  Everything I needed in the back of the truck: Mac the dog, recliner, beer fridge, bb gun

Considering the baseline hygiene level in that house, it's surprising that our rodent problem didn't manifest earlier and with more vengeance.

It seemed to be just one mouse.  That's the narrative we created, anyway.  We called him Klaus, because German is funny.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Sidewalk Bikers and Asshole Speed Demons

I spent the weekend at the Dad 2.0 Summit in Houston, a conference for dad bloggers and people who want to help dad bloggers make money by using them to sell stuff.  It was the second such event, and it was a real pleasure to attend, and to speak at.  Last year's version was a little rough around the edges in some ways, but this one was pretty freaking slick.  I wrote more about it, along with a bunch of other guys, on DadCentric.

On Friday morning, I woke up in Houston, more than a little addlepated and raspy from the first of what would be two consecutive nights of karaoke madness.  I texted my wife to see how the kids were and how life as a single parent was treating her.  Everything was fine, she said.  Except that some dude had run over our children on his bicycle as my wife was unloading them from the minivan the previous evening.  

The guy had been riding on the sidewalk (criminal!), when Cobra popped out from behind the garbage can, which had been on the curb for trash pickup.  He plowed into Cobra, and she went down, taking her sister with her.  Cobra ended up with a scraped elbow and a chipped tooth, and both the kids heard a lot of swear words that they had never heard before, at least not from their mom.  Apparently she cussed the young man up one side and down the other.

"MotherFUCKER!"  I croaked through my ravaged larynx.  Then I texted her back: "MOTHERFUCKER."  It was even less effective than the aloud version, despite being in all caps.  I felt seething anger toward this asshole, and equally impotent tenderness toward my baby, especially after my wife texted a picture of Cobra bravely displaying her dinged tooth.  I ranted to my roomie about how I would have wrapped that guy's bike around his neck if I had been there, and he agreed that that would have been the prudent course of action.  But really...I don't know.  What does one do in a situation like that?  I don't think I would have traumatized my kids by doing anything more aggressive than yelling, even though I would have felt confident that the forces of righteousness would have empowered me to Hulk smash with impunity anyone who hurt my kids.

I mentioned the incident to several of my compatriots at the conference, and they all were enraged on my behalf.  But what would any of us have done had we been there? Hard to say.


Yesterday morning I woke up in my own bed, Cobra shaking my shoulder.  The girls and I had a typical Monday together, running errands, going to the gym, and playing.

In the afternoon, the girls rode their wooden trikes to the park while I tagged along on foot.  The sun had all but set by the time we headed back home, and the kids were hungry, tired, and whiny.  We stopped where the sidewalk meets the parking lot, and looked for cars.  One was coming at a perfectly reasonable speed and seemed about to stop and let us cross.  Another car, though, revved up its engine and got right on the first car's ass.  Then it whipped around the reasonable car's driver's side to pass.  In a parking lot about the size of a football field.  

You'll probably think I'm exaggerating the recklessness of this guy, but the driver of the reasonable car, and pedestrian onlookers, were visibly shocked.  Even before what happened next. 

The asshole car cut off the reasonable car and then swerved around the corner about five feet away from the girls and me.

I stepped between the car and the kids, and screamed at the driver: "SLOW THE FUCK DOWN!"  People were definitely staring in horror then.  At the driver of the car, I'm sure.

Because of the weird setup of the parking lot, to exit the park, the asshole speed demon had to drive about fifty yards in the direction he was going, make a U-turn at the dead end, and then drive right by us again on the opposite side of the median strip that divides the main entrance driveway.  I was flipping him off the whole time, and maybe yelling.  I can't recall exactly.

The car made the U-turn and came back towards us.  When it reached the point where it was exactly across the median from us, the driver stopped and yelled back at me: "Nice example you're setting for your kids!"  

There's no question that he had a point, but nonetheless, I responded, "FUCK OFF!  YOU COULD HAVE FUCKING KILLED THEM!"  Even when facing the person in real life, in real time, I felt the same way as I did when I heard about the cyclist mowing down my kids.  I had no fear of any harm coming to me if I could only be close enough to throttle the punk.  The only nagging misgiving I had was what the children would think if I pulverized this guy with my superhuman rage.  I thought I might actually cause his car to explode from the hate-beam blasting out of my forehead.  But he just sped off.

And then I had to calm down and get the girls home.  I was (and am) a little worried that they will start yelling "fuck" in school tomorrow, but not much.  Up until these two incidents, we've been pretty good about keeping the cuss words to a minimum in front of the kids, so at least they were mostly unacquainted with them.

Seemingly unperturbed, the twins shoved off and started on their way home, as I tried to get my heart rate down.  

"Daddy," Butterbean said, "why did you tell that guy to buzz off?"

"Well, sweetie," I replied, "he was going way too fast and driving in a really dangerous way."

"Like a maniac?" Cobra said.

"Yeah.  Like a maniac,"  I said.





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