It was uncharacteristically warm in the ‘Doghouse.’ I had the rolling door open because I was refinishing a small dresser, and the chemicals I was using were throwing enough fumes to deforest and small, well- forest.
See, you smear this stuff on, let it sit a few minutes and it turns the old paint into a kind of gelatinous goo that you scrape off with a putty knife. But, like I said, the stuff smells like the devil, so I was wearing my trusty double canister respirator. The problem was, since I had the garage door open, it was hotter than two-dollar pistol, and my forehead sweat kept running into my eyes and under my mask, which was beginning to aggravate my skin.
My wife keeps a plastic grocery bag of my old tee-shirts and skivvies, that she occasionally cuts up for me to use as shop-rags, hoping against hope that I’ll stop using her good dishtowels so, I decided to try and find something to use as a headband to soak up the sweat. Unfortunately, she hadn’t gotten around to cutting any of the stuff up.
I rummaged around in the bag until I found an old pair of boxers.
“Perfect!” I mumbled.
I tied a knot in each leg, to keep unwanted chemical spatters out of my hair- a kind of disturbing hillbilly Mouseketeers™ look – and the elastic in the band would be just right for snuggling around my sweaty forehead.
In the big book of the DHMF, (Doghouse Manifesto) Section 36, of Chapter 17: 101 USES FOR OLD UNDERWEAR- YOURS NOT HERS- says, “Never use your old boxers as a hat. No matter how good the idea was when you started, if you get caught wearing your old boxers as a hat- and you will- you will look like an idiot!”
The only problem was, that my waist is bigger than my head. (Yeah… I can hear you laughing out there- well, have you looked in the mirror lately?) So, I grabbed my safety goggles and cinched them around my head, and tucked the excess boxer waistband into the head-strap to hold everything in place. The goggle eyepieces were a bit dusty, which threw my depth perception off, and when I turned around to go back to my work, I accidentally knocked my stack of newspapers off the end of the workbench.
These slid to the floor in a slow motion avalanche, which caused a full quart can of sealer on the bottom shelf to fall. The lid edge of the can hit my big toe, right where the cuticle meets the nail.
Boy, that’ll make your ears water!
In my haste to kick my shoe off, I managed to jar my nailbar loose from the pegboard, which because of its shape is nothing more than a big leaf spring with teeth on both ends. It ricocheted off of the concrete twice, and dug its fangs into my shin, which set me to dancing furiously.
I began to hop, grunt and curse under my moustache. Eightball began barking and howling and running in circles.
It went something like this:
Slip. Slide. Crumple-thump, (@#$%*!) Ow! (Rawr, rawr, rawrrr!)- dance, two, three- Wap-thwap, ka-thwang: (@#$%*!) OW! (Rawr, rawr, rawrrr- HOWL– Ra-rawrrr!)- dance, four five, six…
So, there I was with one shoe and sock off, holding my big naked purple toe, and my pant leg pulled up with my bleeding shin, dancing around the Doghouse; a cast-off pair of my old boxers with the legs knotted like big floppy Mickey Mouse ears on my head, and my dusty no-see, no-miss safety goggles holding everything in place.
In the sections of the DHMF that deal with: BALLISTICS & PROJECTILE TRAGECTORIES- THE GENERAL RULES OF GRAVITY- and THE COMMON GEOMETRY OF RICOCHETS- the text states, “Injury and its severity is always predicated on embarrassment and really bad timing…” For more on this subject, consult the appendix under: ACCIDENTS- WHY YOUR UNDERWEAR SHOULD ALWAYS BE CLEAN AND WITHOUT HOLES.
“You look like an idiot!’ Nancy said.
I didn’t even hear her come in.
“Thanks.” I grumbled.
My wife stuck her head in the doorway and was only momentarily taken aback. She’s seen it all before. Obviously, I wasn’t dead. She remained unconcerned.
“We’re going grocery shopping. Watch Timmy. Need anything?”
I was rubbing my big purple toe with one hand and trying to stanch the bleeding on my shin with the other.
“Yup.” I grunted. “More band-aids…”
The girls left.
Timmy just stood there for a moment.
“Grandpa?” He asked timidly.
I got a band-aid peeled, and onto my bloodied shin.
“Why are you wearing your underwear on your head?”
I took my boxers and goggles off.
“Well, it’s kind of hard to explain…” I replied.
Timmy watched me roll my pant leg down.
“How come your leg is bleeding?”
“That’s kind of hard to explain, as well…” I said as I picked up my nailbar.
Timmy’s eyes wandered over to the newspapers and the can of sealer on the shop floor.
“How come your newspapers are all down?” He asked.
I straightened, sighed heavily, narrowed my eyes, and took a long look at Timmy.
“It’s going to be one of those days, isn’t it?” I asked him.
“What do you mean?”
I had to chuckle a little.
“Well, never mind.” I told him. “Help me pick this stuff up.”
We got the dresser all stripped and sanded down, and after we got the garage aired out, decided to close to Doghouse door to cool the place off. We sat down in the stilted silence to enjoy some music and a couple of rootbeers. Timmy was uncharacteristically quiet.
“Something on your mind?” I asked him as I sipped my drink.
Timmy hanged his head.
“Mommy’s mad at me…” His voice trailed off.
“You get into some mischief?” I asked him.
He shrugged his little shoulders.
“Sometimes, but mostly not, I mean, I don’t mean to…” He took in a deep breath.
I pursed my lips and sighed.
“I know what you mean.” I comforted him.
I got up and made my way to the workbench and starting cleaning my mess. Timmy dragged the shop stool over, climbed up and sat down.
“How come Auntie never yells at you?” He asked me.
I kept working.
“Does your mom yell at you a lot?” I asked him, knowing the answer.
Timmy thought for a moment.
“I don’t think she loves me anymore.”
Chapter 3008-ii of the DHMF titled: MEMBERSHIP SECRETS OF THE MALE FRATERNITY- says: “Though not written in stone, or immutable, men who are fully immersed in the ‘man code’ will generally rely on logic and proof of concept, rather than icecream and tears when deliberating or solving a problem.”
Additional reading in the ensuing chapters and chapter indices will take you to a protracted treatise on: ANGER & CONFUSION- “A confused man is an angry man. A confused and angry man who is not fully immersed in the ‘Man Code’ will often turn to alcohol, drugs and/or illicit sex as an alternative method to the proper problem solving applications of logic and proof of concept.”
Further reading on these subjects, though often graphic and disturbing, will discuss in terrible detail the awful downward spiral of the many faces of addiction, and how it will destroy a man and his family. Included, will be a fairly precise and comprehensive conversion table entitled: ALTERNATIVE METHODOLOGIES-ALCOHOL, DRUGS & ILLICIT SEX- THEIR EQUIVALENCY IN GENERAL DEGRADATION, DESTRUCTION AND PRISON TERMS OF SENTENCE-.
“Well, does she cook your dinner? Make your breakfast, pack your lunch for school, and help you get dressed?” I asked him.
“Yes.” He replied hesitantly.
“Does she read you your bed-time story at night, and tuck you in?”
I set my work aside and looked him right in the eye.
“She loves you.” I assured him.
He was trying very hard not to cry, but his lower lip was quavering and his eyes were glassy.
“Then why does she yell at me all the time?” He whimpered.
I put a staying hand on his shoulder.
“For the same reason she calls me an idiot.” I told him. “Because we’re a couple of ‘safe’ men.”
“What does that mean?”
There is a rather extensive section in the big book of the DHMF, (Doghouse Manifesto) in the Chapter titled: SUPERMAN- HOW TO BECOME HER HERO- that details what all ‘safe’ men are, and what they are, are the world’s REAL tough guys.
I’m not talking about muscles and strength- at least not the kind you can see- or being able to drink and fight like a fool: I’m talking about the man who is self-assured, reasonable, sober, kind and caring, who can take a harsh word or an insult and let it go, and still be pretty sure he’s a man.
I’m talking about the man who goes to work every day, whether he has an actual job or not; who shoulders responsibility, whether it has been given to him or not; who is unafraid to ask questions when he doesn’t know something, and equally unafraid to speak up when he does.
I’m talking about the man who takes care of himself, so that he can take care of others, and always considers that he is an example to follow, whether or not anyone is watching, or keeping track of his actions.
The Boy Scout Law on this is pretty accurate:
“A Scout is trustworthy
Loyal, helpful, friendly
Courteous, kind, obedient
Cheerful, thrifty, brave
Clean and reverent” 1)
That guy sounds like a real square; a zero, doesn’t he? Luckily for us- he is!
And, not for nothing, but I just told you everything you’ll ever need to know about my own father.
I took Timmy down from the stool and walked him over to the lounge chaise. We both sat down.
“Your Mommy knows we’re never gonna leave her, or treat her bad no matter how mad she gets at us. She knows we aren’t ever gonna get angry at her- not really- even if she huffs, and puffs, and tries to blow our house down.”
Timmy had to giggle at that.
“She knows we love her, and that we need her and so, she feels safe enough to yell at you sometimes, or to call me an idiot…”
Timmy looked confused.
“Look, your mom knows,” I continued, “that I could just about bite her in half any time I wanted to, but that I’m not gonna do it, ‘cuz men are bigger and stronger and it’s our job to take a beating every now and then, so that they don’t have to. That’s the price we pay for being bigger and stronger. That’s why we’re men. That’s the ‘Man Code.’”
“Does that mean we’re smarter too?” Timmy quizzed me.
“Oh, hell no! Not by a long shot!” I laughed.
Timmy regarded me suspiciously.
“I’m gonna tell Auntie you said ‘hell’ and Grandpa, what you said doesn’t make sense, even to me.”
I chuckled and shoved a new tape into the 8-track.
“Well, you remember it anyway. Someday it will. Tell you what. Next time your mommy yells at you for no reason, you walk right up to her, bold as you please, put your arms around her and give her a big kiss and a hug, and then tell her you love her, and see if that doesn’t make a difference.”
Timmy smiled. He understood that.
It wasn’t long and we were both sound asleep in the chaise, with Eightball snoring and farting contentedly in the corner.
Nancy and my wife peeked in on us about fifteen minutes later. I heard them come in, but kept my eyes closed.
“How do you do it?” Nancy whispered as they peeked in at us from the kitchen door.
“Do what?” My wife whispered back.
“Stay married for all these years and make it work?”
My wife took Nancy by the crook of her arm and pulled her back into the kitchen. They left the door open.
“Nancy,” my wife began, “good men aren’t born; they’re made, by women.”
“Yeah, but your husband is terrific!” Nancy interrupted.
My wife began to put away her groceries.
“Do you have any idea how long it took me train him? And, God, don’t ever
tell him he’s terrific! You’ll ruin everything!”
Nancy began to separate her groceries. My wife pulled her back over to the doorway.
“His dad might be an ass,” she said as she pointed to Timmy, “but he’s not; although, lately, we hear you doing a pretty good job of teaching him to be one.” My wife cautioned.
Nancy hanged her head.
“I know.” She confessed.
“Then it’s simple,” my wife continued, “stop!”
If I wasn’t still pretending to be asleep, I would have gotten up and given my wife a big hug and a kiss of her own, but that would have spoiled everything, so I just lay there with Timmy and played possum.
“C’mon.” My wife whispered again. “There’s ice cream in the freezer. Let’s go and have a long talk about men in general, and little boys in particular!”
I heard the kitchen door close. Timmy stirred and turned into me, just as my 70’s Hits 8-track clicked over, and Kenny Loggins began to sing:
“Christopher Robin and I walked along
under branches lit up by the moon
posing our questions…”
* sigh *