Category Archives: Essays

The Prepubescent Airbag Theory

The other night, my son was sitting with me watching a little TV before bedtime when he told me that he had found a hair growing out of his left armpit.

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I don’t remember when it was exactly that I began to grow body hair, but I do remember not having any myself and feeling naked, standing in the locker room at school dressed in my shorts as all the other hairy ape-like cryptids in my class unselfconsciously moved about in the showers as men. And I felt odd. I felt as self-conscious as a naked girl in the boy’s locker room. I just didn’t belong.

So while I do not remember the day I’d discovered my first body hair, I remember all too well what it was like to not have body hair when everyone else did. It was with this in mind that I made a big deal out of my son’s faltering step toward puberty and congratulated him with an “Awesome!” slapping him on the back and asking him if he wanted me to take a picture for his baby book and perhaps throw a party and invite his grandparents. He failed to see the humor in this, but was glad all the same that I recognized this life event for what it was—he was becoming a man. At least as far as he was concerned. If he only knew… Continue reading

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A Trilogy of Christmas Tragedy: Thing Two

The new addition to the GE family had not yet completed her first test cycle when the phone rang. Normally, I do not ever answer the phone at home because it is either someone I do not want to talk to—which is everybody—or it is bad news. The problem with bad news is that it never comes when you expect it. I don’t know why that is. It just is. Perhaps if I were smarter I would expect bad news all the time and be constantly disappointed, but disappointment has its own way of producing ulcers and besides, it would be a lot of work as I tend to be absentminded. I wouldn’t remember what exactly I was supposed to expect. And really, how can anyone be disappointed over good news? It’s just too hard to fake.

So, I answered the phone, happy that the new dishwasher was running fine and happy that the job only required two, okay three, curses and no knuckle blood to complete. It was my wife on the phone, and the only thing she said was, “The transmission fell out of the van.”

I looked at her dumbly through the phone and said, “Right.” Continue reading

A Trilogy of Christmas Tragedy: Thing One

Why is it that bad things seem to happen in threes and always when you are least prepared?

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It was Christmas Eve when our GE brand dishwasher broke. No big deal in the grand scheme of things with four little dishwashers who just happen to look like me running about the house, but we were having everyone in my wife’s extended family over for Christmas dinner the next day. Besides which, two of the older model, prodigy-brand dishwashers are subject to hormonal imbalances that will cause them to malfunction, sometimes catastrophically. They will either not clean the dishes or put them away properly and then argue about it with the spouse-brand dishwasher or just outright break them. The latter option, to me, seems the wiser course as one no longer has to wash a broken dish—and they are dirty when they are dropped as it would be completely foolish to drop a clean dish unless one just doesn’t want to put it away—but not as foolish as arguing with the spouse-brand dishwasher. Even I know better than that. Most days anyway. Continue reading

Where the Heart Is

Home is where the heart is, but my heart was never happy. It hurt and wanted healing.

I first ran away from home when I was twelve or so. I had quite the active imagination, thanks largely in part to my mother’s insistence that I read books. Once I got over the fact that I was doing something my mother wanted me to do, I discovered that books opened up a whole new world to me with possibilities that I had never dreamed of before. I heard the call of the wild, and I answered. If the Swiss Family Robinson’s and Robinson Crusoe could do it, why not me?

I grab my backpack one rainy summer day and pack it full of all the provisions I think I’ll need on my extended journey into the great unknown that is the world outside my doorstep. Then I walk. I walk, and walk, and… walk. I walk until the skies open up, dampen my skin, and mat my hair. Continue reading

Too Kool to Snuff the Red Man

I begin my battle with nicotine when my lungs are still pink, my teeth still white, and my fingers stained only with peanut butter and dirt. It is a battle to fit in, to be cool, and nicotine is fated to be my partner. For life.

I am about ten when my parents send me and my brother to summer camp for the first time. I am a quiet and withdrawn kid, so not so many friends. I tend to sit and watch, keeping my mouth shut and my eyes open. This does not earn me friends any faster, but I’m not a nose picker. I’m not a “retard”—a non-pc term we use back then to describe the kids who are nose pickers—and despite my less than fashionable dress, kids eventually gravitate toward me as someone who is a fairly safe bet. It is safe for me too. I never have to face rejection head on. If I am rejected, I don’t know it. I can ignore it. If someone does take a chance on me, I make sure not to let them down, either by actually picking my nose or doing something retarded like crying for my mother when I step in shit. It is a good system. It works for me anyway. It also means that I tend to be accepted by the socially rejected dregs of society. I can tell. I recognize my own kind when I see them. Continue reading

Doing Dumb with David

I almost killed my brother. I would very much like to postscript that statement by saying “once,” but that would be a lie.

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I have three brothers, all younger than me. My brother, David, is two years younger than me, my brother Ben, six, and my brother Ethan, nine. Ben was never harmed or ever in any danger—at least from me. Ethan I almost killed several times with malice aforethought, but he was a fast runner and that’s another story for another day. David, on the other hand, never gave me any reasons to kill him, yet I almost did several times for no other reason than that he liked to hang around with his older brother and see what adventures his twisted, creative mind would take the two of us on today. Continue reading