Wednesday, October 2, 2019

Six. Word. Horror. Stories.

as featured in Desert Exposure Magazine
As I was writing this month’s column, my father shuffled up behind me and peeked over my shoulder.
     “What are you writing?” he wanted to know.
     “Just a story, pop,” I told him.
     Every month I sit down to write this column, and every month he asks me what I’m writing. I don’t know if he’s forgetful or just doesn’t pay attention to my answer. Probably a combination of both.
     When my readers ask if he gets angry concerning these stories, I tell them no. For him to get angry, he’d first have to READ these biographical musings. If there’s a choice between reading RaisingDad or watching the very expensive premium baseball channel my wife and I pay for, well, let’s just say I wouldn’t make it to the literary World Series.
     “Woo-wee!” he said, looking at my computer screen. “That sure is a lot of words.”
     “You think so?”
     “Oh, yeah. A lot of words.” 
     He stood behind me pretending to read.
     “You know,” he said, “Hemmingway could write a story with just six words. That’s all he needed.”
     I knew what my father was referring to. He was referring to a ten-dollar bet Ernest Hemmingway made with some other writers during lunch. The writers thought Hemmingway wouldn’t be able to write a story in just six words. Hemmingway thought otherwise. Everybody anted up and the money was put in the middle of the table. After a bit, Hemmingway wrote six words on a napkin. After reading the six words, no one objected when he pocketed the cash.
     The six words were: “For sale. Baby shoes. Never worn.”
     I’ve never read a sadder story, and, if I think about it for too long, my eyes will begin to tear up. There’s a sorrowful place in my heart his story takes me to. A place I don’t care to visit.
     “I’m no Hemmingway, pop,” I told my father.
     He enthusiastically rubbed his nose in agreement.
     Like I said, I’m no Hemmingway, but I thought it would be fun to try.
     “For sale,” I typed. “Baby shoes.” And then finished with: “Don’t ask.”
     Hmm… that was morbidly ambiguous.
     But still, the ambiguity of the ending was appealing. 
     So I tried a second time… and immediately learned something about myself. I learned that I must have abandonment issues simmering somewhere deep inside of me, because the next six words I wrote were: “But mommy SAID she’d be back!”
     You know the saying, “You don’t want to go there”?
     Well, I didn’t want to go there.
     Remembering that Stephen King’s “It” sequel is coming out, I wrote: “Hi, I’m Pennywise. What’s for dinner?” Thinking it over, I gave it a holiday touch. “Yes, Virginia, there IS a Pennywise.”
     After that, I began to have fun with it.
     “Grinning, the clown locked the door.”
     “Halloween… it’s so hard to choose.”
     “Grandpa was tough… and tasted awful.”
     Ugh, that one probably crossed a line or two. Cannibalism is nobody’s idea of a good time. So I wrote two more.
     “This meat tastes funny. Where’s grandma?”
     “I have my father’s eyes. Yummy.”
     Okay, enough of that.
     I decided to go down a more traditional vein of horror.
     “I heard you died.”
     “I did.”
     Or maybe something that would fit very well in The Twilight Zone.
     “I’m dead? Sweet Jesus!”
     “Guess again.”
     When I was younger, my love life occasionally took a turn into nightmare alley, so I speculated what it would be like to be dating in this day and age. I wrote: “Never said I was a woman.”
     Yeah… hmm. 
     “Did I mention? I have AIDS.”
     That’s even worse.
     Keep this to yourself, but my first marriage was a bit of a horror story. With trembling fingers, I tentatively typed: “Sex. Sex. Sex. Married. No sex.”
     And getting old is no fun. It comes with its own particular brand of horrors.
     “Is that a lump I feel?”
     When my beloved mother was alive, my elderly father used to have nightmares about someone breaking into his home. His main fear was that he wouldn’t be able to protect her. That inspired me to write: “Who left the back door open?”
     Gross is nice.
     “Why do these dates have legs?”
     The horror, as it turns out, is not in the words, but in where the words take you. There’s nothing scarier than your own imagination.
     Nothing, that is, except the horrors of the real world. That’s what scares ME the most. Having children and grandchildren who are dearer to me than myself, I live in fear every day of my life. A six-word horror story I hope they never hear is:
     “Look out! He’s got a gun!” 
Do zombies eat popcorn with their fingers?
No, they eat their fingers separately.
And then they have a good laugh over at @JimDuchene

Sunday, September 29, 2019

Getting Old Is Hard To Do

sing to the tune of Neil Sedaka's Breaking Up Is Hard To Do

Can’t doo-doo
Ow owie ouch ow ow
Grumble grumble ow owie ouch ow ow
Grumble grumble ow owie ouch ow ow
Getting old is hard to do
It takes so long for me to pee
I start at two and I end at three
Forget to zip when I'm through
'Cause getting old is hard to do
Transgendered men, it hurts to think
How'd it feel chopping off my dink
Either way, my sex life's through
'Cause getting old is hard to do
They say that getting old is hard to do
Feet hurt bad
My hair's thinning, too
Limp dick that will only bend
If I weren't so old I could be filling my wife's hole again
I beg of you, just let me die
When I bend my knees I start to cry
My insides all turning to goo
'Cause getting old is hard to do
They say that getting old is hard to do
Eyesight's gone
My hearing is, too
Will this constipation end?
Instead of empty growls I should be emptying out my bowels again
I beg of you to put me down
Leave me in the bath so I can drown
My life was great, but now it's poo
'Cause getting old is hard to do
Ow owie ouch ow ow
Grumble grumble ow owie ouch ow ow
Grumble grumble ow owie ouch ow ow
Grumble grumble ow owie ouch ow ow
Grumble grumble ow owie ouch ow ow
RaisingDad  American Chimpanzee

Monday, September 2, 2019

Fit Like A Kid

as featured in Desert Exposure Magazine

I know I complain about my father.
     In fact, I probably complain about my father a lot, but I do give him credit for the nuggets of wisdom he’s passed on to me. Before my first marriage, he told me, “Son, if you’re ever tempted to cheat on your wife, make sure it’s with someone worth losing your marriage over.”
     Good advice. Too bad my ex-wife didn’t follow it, maybe we’d still be married. In the end, it worked out better. I met and married my second wife. She’s beautiful AND she loves to cook. That’s a nice combination.
     My ex-wife?
     Well, she and her boyfriend lost their jobs when they got caught stealing refrigerators from where they worked. How you steal something that big is beyond me. Maybe that’s why I’m still employed. Still, it didn’t surprise me. When I woke up the morning after our wedding night, my wallet was missing.
     “You can’t help the stupid,” my father is fond of saying, and--you know what?--it’s true. When my granddaughter was born, my father also told me, “You better get in shape, son. You don’t want to have a heart attack chasing after her because she’s running into the street.”
     “Yeah, yeah,” I thought to myself.
     “Sure, pop,” is what I said out loud.
     You see, I thought I was in good shape. I mean, I read Men’s Health and everything. If I didn’t exactly follow their advice, I at least looked at their pictures of sexy women. That got my blood circulating. I could even walk from the great room to the pantry for a snack without passing out, but a heart attack?
     I had my heart attack at 55, and I’m not talking about what Sammy Hagar can’t drive. I didn’t have it doing anything quite so heroic as saving my granddaughter’s life. I had it, um, walking to the pantry for a snack.
     “What’s the matter?” my beautiful wife asked me.
     “I don’t think I want this snickerdoodle after all,” I told her.
     “Good idea,” she agreed.
     “Can you take me to the hospital instead?”
     One heart stent later, I was back at home thinking about what my father said.
     I was always in reasonably good shape. I remember in high school, we would have won the big game if only Coach would have put me in. “We weren’t laughing at you, son” Coach told me after the game, “we were laughing with you.”
     When my youngest daughter was four, she told me “Daddy, you need to exercise.” I happened to be laying on the floor at the time, watching television. She sat on my ankles. “Pick-a me up,” she ordered.
     And I did.
     I started doing leg-lifts with her happily bouncing up and down. Flipping over, she climbed on my back and I started doing push-ups. It was fun. She laughed, called me her pony, and it was the most exercise I had done in awhile. I didn’t follow through, so, by the time my granddaughter showed up, I was determined to get back in shape. Have you noticed how people who want to get back in shape are under the impression they were ever in shape to begin with?
     As it turned out, getting back into shape wasn’t that hard. All I had to do was, well, EVERYTHING my granddaughter did. When she ran, I ran. When she jumped, I jumped. When she ate, I ate. And in the same portions. 
     “Grandpa, dance with me,” she says, and I do. Of course, her idea of dancing is me picking her up and swinging her around. Which does wonders for upper body strength.
     “Grandpa, play with me,” she says, and I find myself searching high and low for her. Mostly low. Bending over to look under beds, behind doors, around furniture in a playful game of hide-and-seek. Of course, I know where she is, but she gets a kick out of my pretending I don’t. 
     Say she’s hiding behind a couch, she’ll call out, “I’m in the kitchen!” and she’ll laugh at having “fooled” me. “I’m behind the door!” she’ll call out again, laughing her evil villain laugh, as I’m mislead once again. “I’m under the desk!”
     She loves playing outdoors. As luck would have it, we live across the street from a park, but I don’t take her there to play, I take her there to chase. I chase after her on foot. I chase after her as she’s peddling away on her bike. I chase after her when she’s riding the motorized princess car we bought her. 
     Good for the legs.
     In our backyard, I broke a sweat building a swing set for her. It has a slide on one end and a see-saw on the other. She loves that see-saw. She sits on one end and I grab the other and push down. Over and over and over again. She’s tireless.
     Not so much.
     I try to switch tactics, so I stand and put one fat foot on the seat and continue. Up, down. Up, down. Up, down. 
     “Are you tired yet?” I huff.
     “No,” she says.
     “How about now?” I puff.
     So I have to push through “the wall.” 
     Only I never get close to “the wall.”
     Finally, she’ll decide she wants to swing.
     “Higher, Grandpa!” she used to tell me. “Higher!”
     It was a joy to swing her high into the air, her long curly hair flying all over the place. Now, she’s at an age where she no longer needs me to swing her. She can swing herself. And she does. Higher and faster than I ever did. That’s a different kind of pain in my heart.
     There’s no stent for that.
Whenever I feel like exercising, I read,, or @JimDuchene until the feeling passes.

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Email To My Brother: Wide Load

I called our father on Monday, and he said that you sounded very sad the last time you spoke with him on the phone, maybe even crying.
     “How come, pop?” I asked, not really interested.
   “He was depressed because every time he comes to town, he gets mistaken for a Kardashian from behind.”

RaisingDad American Chimpanzee

Sunday, August 18, 2019

Email To My Brother: Cleveland

I figure the conversation you had with your wife when she told you she was going to Cleveland went like this:
     Your Wife: “I’m going to Cleveland.”
     You: “Who’s in Cleveland?”
     Your Wife: “Not you.” 

RaisingDad American Chimpanzee

Sunday, August 11, 2019

Email To My Brother: Sorry, But

I had to go out of town, but I called our father from Anycity, USA to see how he was doing, and—sorry, but—I let it slip. 
     I told him that you told me that if you die before him you don’t want anyone to tell him, because you didn't want to break his heart.
     “Tell your brother not to worry,” he told me. “He’s been dead to me since 1963.”
RaisingDad American Chimpanzee

Saturday, August 10, 2019

Rain, Rain... Go Away

as featured in Desert Exposure Magazine

It’s been raining all night and morning.
     The street in front of my house is a running creek. The backyard, a collection of miniature ponds. Everything in between is mud. Why my wife wants to go shopping in this kind of weather is beyond me.
     "Wouldn’t you rather stay inside and read a good book?" I ask her.
     "We're going shopping," she answers.
     "I can make us both a nice cup of coffee..."
     "We're going shopping.”
     "...and we can cuddle up under some blankets and fool around.”
     She isn’t convinced.
     "We're going shopping," she says, ending the conversation. Even giving me the stink-eye for good measure.
     Of course, she's kidding.
     I think.
     It's not that I don't like going out in the rain and getting wet, it's that I don't like getting wet when I go out in the rain. I take the dogs outside to do their business. They've been inside for a very long time, so they all take a long squat. They don't care to get wet either, but, like me, they have no choice.
     Before bringing them back in, I grab a towel and dry them off as best I can. They have that wet dog smell to them, but I have my secret weapon: Bounce. I rub them down with fabric softener sheets so they don't go smelling up the whole house. I do this on a regular basis when they're dry, but it really comes in handy when they're wet.
     "What're you doing?" my father asks me. He asks me that every time he sees me doing this..
     "I'm getting rid of the stink," I answer him.
     "Good luck,” he says, and he’s back watching TV.
     "Hey, pop"
     "We're going shopping..." I start to tell him.
     "Sam’s?" he wants to know.
     Oh-oh. If I mention Sam’s, he'll want to come along.
     "Just shopping,” I say. “The dogs have already done their business, so don't let them out."
     "Don't let the dogs out. It's raining, and they'll track mud inside the house."
     "What if they want to go to the bathroom?"
     "They’ve already gone. They'll be good until we get back."
     "Don't let them out. It's raining."
     "I know it's raining, I can see that. It's also cold. Now, where are you going?"
     “Lots of places."
     "Oh my, lots of places, lots of places. And it’s cold, too. I'm glad I'm staying home. So, when do I take the dogs out?"
     "You DON'T. If they scratch at the door, ignore them. It's too muddy."
     "I know it's muddy. It's raining. OF COURSE it's muddy. And it's cold, too. So you already let the dogs out..."
     "...and you don't want me to let them out."
     "That's right," I tell him. If you think these conversations with my father go on forever, you should try being a part of them. "We'll be back soon, just don't let the dogs out."
     "All right, all right. Don't worry. We'll be fine, we'll be fine. Now, where are you going?"
     "Sa... uh, just out. We'll be back soon."
     Man, what's taking my wife so long? The longer she takes, the longer I have to talk with my father. Blah, blah, blah. Who, what, where, when, and why? Finally, my wife's ready.
     We leave, and we have a very nice time, too. The rain's not so bad. Fortunately, there's not a lot of drivers on the road. What few there are, are careful and considerate. I must have gone to sleep in one city and woken up in another. After a very pleasant afternoon, we return home a few hours later.
     I walk into the kitchen carrying two bags of groceries. I notice right away that something’s not right. There are muddy paw prints all over the place. ALL over the place. I stand there, speechless.
     "What the fudge?" I not-quite yell, only I don’t use the word “fudge.” I guess I’m not so speechless, after all.
     "What?" my father says.
     My wife walks in. She's just as shocked as I am.
     "Dad!" she says. "What happened?"
     "The dogs wanted to go out."
     "Pop,” I say, “I specifically asked you..."
     "But they wanted to go out.”
     Why couldn't he have just let them out, and then had the good judgement to KEEP them out?  
     I turn to my wife. Her eyes are so wide she could be a guest of Area 51.
     "Don't worry, sweetie," I tell her, gently. "Go upstairs. I'll bring everything in, and I'll clean up."
     I expect something snarky like "You bet you will!" but she just goes upstairs without a word. I feel bad for her. Heck, I feel bad for myself. I wish I could go upstairs with her, and, when I came back down, the whole thing would have just been a dream. The floors would be clean, the dogs would be dry, and my father...  my father would be ... would be...  
     I start cleaning the floor, mumbling to myself.  
     "Holy smoke," I mumble, only I don't use the word “smoke.”
     "Smoke, smoke, smoke!" I keep mumbling. I can hear my father in the great room. He's back to doing what he does best--watching TV--but he's talking to me at the same time.
     "You know, they WANTED to go outside. I didn't even notice the mud on the floor. Where did that come from?"
     I keep cleaning the floor. There's no use for further discussion as to what happened or why. I'll just blame the dogs and leave it at that.
     “I'm hungry," my father says.
There’s nothing friendlier than a wet dog.
Or funnier than,, & @JimDuchene.