I was on a ‘Day Pass’ to the living room and had TV privileges. There wasn’t really anything on- some old black and white movie where everybody was young, and they all smoked and drank afternoon cocktails, and got into zany adventures, but nobody ever got seriously hurt or died, and everything seemed to work out for the good and the better at the end of ninety-four minutes…
…in other words, boring!
But, I figured if I sat still, didn’t move, spit, scratch anything, or swear out loud, then by the time the game started, I’d be able to nap on the couch peacefully with my feet up on the coffee table.
“Sweetheart,” she purred into my ear as she handed me my second cup of coffee, “how would you like to do me a big favor…”
In the big book of the DHMF, (Doghouse Manifesto) under the chapters titled: MATING HABITS OF THE BENGAL TIGER– sections MMXI- gc: THE VIEW FROM THE BELLY OF THE BEAST: paragraph 36-26-36, there is a rule that states, “A favor will almost always universally translate into trouble for you, and will include but not be limited to: mashed thumbs and broken fingers from failed home improvement project attempts, forced attendance to parties that will bore you to tears, dressing up and going to movies that last no less than four hours, in which everybody dies and nobody is happy at the end, and forced prolonged visits from family and relatives, to which you are not blood related.”
And, I would have been suspicious right away; except she had her lips pressed up against my ear, and my eyes had already begun to glaze over.
“It’s nothing really…” she continued to exhale softly.
I don’t know what it was exactly, but all of the sudden, like a sacrificial lamb staked out in a field as tiger-bait, I suddenly became painfully aware of my exposed and perilous position. I pulled away from her and managed to focus one of my eyes.
“We’re not going to the opera!” I snapped.
She smoothed my wrinkle brow with the flat of her soft hand.
“Of course not, Darling.” She murmured.
My other wandering eye was still zeroing in on focus.
“And you’re not roping me into a consecutive three show theater retrospective of “Terms of Endearment, Thelma and Louise” and “Steel Magnolias.” I insisted.
“You cried in Steel Magnolias.” She offered.
The fog in my head was almost cleared out.
“EXACTLY!” I said as I leaned back and finally got both eyes tracking evenly.
She really is a beautiful woman, and can be quite charming and wonderful, when she wants something. My radar, for all the rust, was finally pinging away.
It was difficult, but I had to think clearly for a moment. If this was a Home Improvement request, she would have already hid all my power tools and called the Local Neighborhood Know-It-All & Mr. Fix It, so I reasoned I was relatively safe there. I hadn’t seen any errant veggies and whole grain chip trays in the kitchen, or noticed that she had purchased an inordinate number of bottles of Chardonnay, so I knew she wasn’t throwing yet another back yard soirée, where I was going to have to be wonderful, and she had already told me that I wasn’t going to have to suffer through a prolonged gastric attack of chick flicks, where the only relief for any man in the audience is- well, let’s face it, there is none!
“Aw, man!” I groaned.
She acted all surprised and innocent.
“What’s wrong, honey?”
I sat up straight and looked her right in the eye, which is usually something she does to me, because she knows I can’t look right at her and tell her a bald-faced lie.
“When does she arrive?”
“Who?” She asked sweetly. She was good. I had to give her that.
“Your bossy, twice divorced older sister, who never travels anywhere without her three cats, and enough luggage to sink The Queen Mary!” I groaned.
She laughed. “Shelia is in Maui.”
“Where are the cats?” I asked suspiciously.
“You’re cute…” she demurred.
“Okay,” I continued, “When does younger brother Chet, the perennially unemployed beach-bum freeloader, who never visits or calls except when he needs money, get here?”
She frowned. “Chet is still in jail, remember?”
I interrupted her.
“Tell me it is not one of your snooty, self-righteous, holier-than-thou cousins, who are going to insist we all go to church three times a week!”
“No…” She hesitated.
I did a quick mental calculation and roll call in my head. Not her sister, her brother or her cousins- that could only mean:
“Aw, man!” I groaned again.
She hanged her head and stuck out her lower lip.
“Honey, why don’t you like The Captain? I know Daddy loves you!”
I winced and rubbed my forehead.
“Honey, the ‘Captain’ does not love me- he hates me- and he’s a cranky, humorless curmudgeon!”
“He is not!” She exclaimed. “He’s just… quaint, old fashioned and set in his ways.”
Now it was my turn to hang my head.
“Sweetheart, “ I more begged than insisted, “if being a cranky, humorless curmudgeon was art, your Dad would be…”
“What?!” She huffed.
I scuffed my toe in the carpet.
“Well, I don’t know,” I stammered, “but something, and it wouldn’t be good…”
On page 8,356, in the several chapters that follow under the heading of: PARENTS & ACTS OF JUSTIFIABLE HOMICIDE: in the sub-headings of, “Accidents and how to plan them- start with a tire iron”: there is a small treatise on fathers, with paragraphs of instruction that apply especially to ex-military types. Her dad served in Korea.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m all for the military. I think those men and women who served, or choose to serve deserve our respect and admiration, but it’s just that if he’s up, everybody is up. If he’s going to bed, everybody goes to bed. At seventy-eight years old, he’s still an order giving, hard charging, hard living, hard drinking, hard-ass, hard guy, who thinks I’m just a gold-bricking slacker and cream puff, who wasn’t good enough to marry his daughter in the first place! And, he’s right, I’m not, or I wasn’t, and I am, but that’s not really the point!
Well it is, but…
“How long are they going to stay?” I whined as their motor home pulled into the drive.
“Oh, I don’t know.” She answered. “The Captain said they would just play it by ear.”
Eightball is already so happy; he’s running in circles and farting like a diesel tractor in bad need of a tune-up, and why not? What military man doesn’t love a Bulldog? Jack- the Captain- dotes on him, like he was a long lost son. Eightball’s going to be in heaven for the next month, which just oddly enough, is the same amount of time that I’m going to be in her father’s version of the Doghouse- AKA a ‘Martial Correctional Facility.’
Doghouse, a ‘Martial Corrective Facility’ – I say tomato; he says tomato- I really wish we could call the whole thing off!
“Hello, sir…” I greeted him at the door. “How was the drive?”
“If you ever decide to get rid of that little rinky-tink, pinko, Commie import truck you drive, and buy a genuine American piece of Detroit transportation, you wouldn’t have to ask!” He growled.
And, we’re off to the races…