It’s been about six months since Ashley Cooper was last sequestered to the smokehouse. That’s just a figure of speech, as we have no such edifice. She is showing signs, not so much of irritability, but of troubled sleep. She snores like a freight train in a tunnel, and has bad dreams.
Folks have said to “let a sleeping dawg lie”, but with all her howling, whimpering, yelping, and fits of nasal rattling while attempting to snore at the same time could cause her to rupture her adenoids. In this state, she kicks violently as if running from the Devil himself, and puts the carpet at risk of being torn to shreds. So, I try now and then to wake her so she’ll calm down. I figure one of us needs some restful sleep, and her labor intense agonizing slumber prevents any of the rest of us from having a shot at it.
Cosmo Topper dreams some, but seems happier in the “Land of Nod” than she does. He chuckles some in his sleep as if listening to funny stories, and lets out smug little moans as if enjoying some unadulterated gratification with something or other. But only in his dreams will this be allowed. The two dawgs will be kept separated for awhile so that the grand total remains two. The potential of more than that is worrisome.
The children are fine. They are learning to not ask permission to do things they know we won’t allow. They are young yet, so they have yet to learn that just because you have the potential to do something does not mean you should always go through with it.
Having found parental permission to not always be forthcoming, now and then they decide it just saves time and energy to go ahead and do whatever it is, and ask to be forgiven, later. This is a normal part of the way children are brought up in this country, due to religious and social traditions. Institutions bent on moral instruction condone it, and even make money at it. As an example to our youth, we have a political system that insists it is the way to do everything.
David is developing into quite a socially outgoing young man. If there is a social, he wants to go out to it. If we don’t let him, he’ll bring the social here. These socials are full of energy and loud music, and continue on beyond any reasonable concept of bedtime. He and his friends call it “study hall”.
Nathan is quieter in some respects, but keeps an active social calendar, too. He needs to get away so that we cannot witness bursts of energy, and conclude he might be available for work. I understand. When I was his age, I often tried to look tired if I thought my father was looking. You have to be careful not to let boredom set in with Nathan because boredom, and not necessity, can mother a lot of invention. I will get back to this.
Mason is never happy unless he is alone, or with somebody. That is to say he’s pretty happy most of the time. If any recreational or social event is taking place, he figures he should be involved in it, and the average age of the group is no obstacle to him. If no event is happening, he is thinking about getting one started. If nothing is happening or in the works, which is rare, he’ll take a nap.
He doesn’t take naps as often as he did when he was younger. But when he does, it is a thing to see. Nobody on earth can get so deeply into an almost comatose state right in the middle of the day like that boy. But when awake, his energy knob is always set to about two clicks past wide open.
All energy is said to be either potential or kinetic. My sons have both. They have the potential for almost anything, but keep kinetic strictly for things categorized as fun. The lawnmower is not considered a toy, unless they decide it needs disassembling. Putting it back together is not fun, so they don’t fool with it.
We have a telephone. With school age children in the house, it stays busy. If no one is calling out on it at any given time is a good indication that it is about to ring. It’s rare for me to be quick enough to answer it. That is just as well, as it is seldom for me, anyway. My sole relationship with the telephone is to just be the guy to pay the bill. This keeps the phone operating like some kind of reciprocating engine: it’s either ringing, or about to ring.
I’ve noticed a peculiarity about the telephone directory. You have to pay extra to have a listing in the yellow pages. This is justified by the fact that it is some expense to the printer to put it in there. Not so with the white pages: you have to pay a premium to be excluded from it.
Due to the incredible number of nuisance calls from people who are of the opinion I forgot to buy something while I was at the store, I paid the premium to have an unlisted number. I might as well have given the money to a charity for all the good it did. My sons have made sure that nobody who might want our number should have to be without it. I think they go to the mall to pass it out and ask others to share this information with their respective networks. There is not a house within three counties where teenagers reside that does not have this number. My phone rings day and night.
The dawgs never answer the phone, which is fine because it is never for them, anyway. Consequently, they take little interest in its ringing, which is a curiosity since their ability to hear is about a gazillion times keener than mine. Awake or asleep, the hounds take little or no notice in the phone. During the day, someone else always answers, but late at night, the responsibility reverts to me:
“Is David there?”
Yes, I hope so. It’s two O’clock in the morning. What do you want?”
“Sorry. I didn’t know it was so late. I was just gonna ask him what he was doing.”
“He’s sleeping. And, so was I. Please dispose of anything you have that this number is written on, and buy a clock.”
The telephone rests on Brenda’s nightstand. I always try to get there in time without waking her, but it never works out that way. Besides the disruptive ringing noise, I always drag the phone across the bed banging it into the side of my wife’s head. Somehow I manage to disturb Penny Lane in the process by mashing the cat’s tail or something. That causes the feline to become awake, and fully committed to a scratching and biting frenzy on the side of my wife’s leg. Also, as soon as I say: “Hello”, both dawgs wake up, and want to play. Like bows drawn tight, they lay on the floor, but the sound of my voice triggers a release. Their bodies fly like arrows onto the bed, and Brenda and I are the targets.
My wife is a kind and generously loving person when she is awake. By that, I mean to say when “fully” awake. It usually takes a little time, and a couple of cups of coffee to make her civil. So, in a semi-conscious state of abruptly interrupted sleep, she spouts utterances. Though not always easy to translate, it often appears to be some ancient and barbaric form of communication filled with crude and hateful blasphemies. If you could collect it in liquid form, it would be similar to paint remover. NASA could use it as rocket fuel.
On good nights, Brenda is able to go back to sleep, but not the dawgs. They are wide awake, and want to play games. The only thing left to do is to put them outside awhile. Now, at this particular time, we’re playing musical dawgs, as one or the other is always outside when the other is in. So the telephone was as good a notification as anything else to go ahead and make the switch. This is, I hope, just a temporary situation.
Each day is its own potential for adventure, and all members of this household make it their business to find an aventure if one be lurking about. All of my sons seek adventures even if they have to drag it out of some boring endeavor where most other people might just enjoy a little peace and quiet.
Nathan takes fun seriously. If you didn’t know any better, you’d think he was working. It is a trait he inherited from his grandfather, who had no shortage of an instinct for tinkering. I have the gene, but in my case, it is recessive; it is a potential, but nothing more. Just like Nathan, my dad was always either fixing something, or building something that would need fixing later. I think one time, Dad made a mountain out of a mole hill, but I’m sure to have been the cause of it.
About a week ago, I went outside to see my driveway covered with an unsightly mess that would’ve embarrassed a junk dealer. I thought I had napped through an earthquake, or tornado. Most likely within a few blocks from my house, some poor building contractor was probably trying to remember where he’d left his two-by-fours, and plywood.
Seems as though some good lumber had made its way to my yard along with every scrap of wood ever discarded by any of my neighbors, or their termites. A dirty old sheet was tied with frazzled twine to the basketball goal. There were spare parts, buckets, milk crates, the handle off an old shovel, frisbees, and old broken toys scattered all over the place. In the midst of it all was a construction project not unlike the acceleration lane to an interstate highway made almost entirely of wood.
The structure curved, and then aimed out across the debris distributed with a theme of helter-skelter all over my driveway. Though it was a piece of sculpture, it would not be sought out by art critics, and would win no awards from the garden club. I had to ask. I was told, and in a tone that suggested I was feeble-minded, this was a ramp, and an obstacle course for skateboards. That course would’ve crippled a mountain goat. Good old Topper was on a leash, and tied up out there by all this. I never asked what his role was supposed to be, but maybe they intended to use him as a crash test dummy. Poor dawg was wagging his tail as if he knew nothing of the pending death sentence.
I was not surprised to find that young Mason had been enlisted to help build this monstrosity, and both he and his brother intended to zoom though it at speeds upwards of ninety miles an hour standing on a short plank with small wheels on it. The benefit of this could only serve to drive up insurance rates, and provide bonus work for hospitals.
It took some diplomacy, but I managed to negotiate the return of a place to park my car, but not before an extensive search was conducted for stray nails and screws that seemed to be thoroughly scattered about. In time, the boys were redirected to other interests. Nathan would take most of the wood into the nearby forest to become forts and tree houses. After checking to make sure Ashley Copper was in the house, I put Topper back inside the gate. After some attempt to clean up the yard and driveway, things got back to normal.
Mason, who nature had given the gift of beautiful curly hair, had been on a jag recently about wanting it to be straight. I think he’d put everything on it except peanut butter to accomplish retarding the curls. But this day, he said he’d changed his mind. Perhaps some conversation among his peers, or perhaps his brothers, had caused him to look at it in a different light. He announced his new direction to his mother:
“Mom, I think I like my hair curly. It’ll help me get the hot chicks. Hot chicks like guys with curly hair.”
Brenda was curious about this new wisdom coming from such a young person, so she asked:
“Do the girls in the third grade tell you this?”
Mason looked at her as if the question was not coming from one as educated about life as his eight years had made him, and replied:
“Well no. They’re not grown up enough to know it yet, Mama, but they’re gonna.”
Brenda smiled. She looked at me briefly. Her eyes let me know that she knew I must have had curly hair at some time in the past. Then, she settled back to reading the book she held in her lap. I walked by her a few minutes after that, and she was still smiling. I don’t remember the title of the book she was reading, but I reckon it must have been pretty good.