This piece previously appeared in Pot Luck anthology by Static Movement in 2011, and again in Death Zone and Other Stories by Pantoum Press in late 2011. If you enjoy it, please share.
Can We Talk?
by Mitch Lavender
My eleven-year-old son came to me last night and said, “Dad, can we talk?”
“Sure son.” I turned away from the computer and faced him. Usually he climbs into my lap, but this time he stood there.
He put down his Nerf gun on my desk and produced a piece a notebook paper from behind his back and said, “I have some things to talk to you about.”
I see there are several items written in pencil on the paper, each numbered. This sounds serious. “You’ve got my attention. Fire away.”
“Number one,” He begins, “I always love you.”
This still melts my heart when he says it. “I love you, too, always and forever.”
“Number two: Can you please stop singing the ‘Get Your Butt Up Out of the Bed’ song in the morning?”
He glanced up from his list to check my expression, which I kept friendly. The ‘Get Your Butt Up Out of the Bed’ song is how I have woken him up for years. I would barge into his room at 7 am, boisterously singing this in a happy, loud tone, sometimes drumming on his dresser with my hands until he would finally raise his head and say, “I’m up! I’m up!” I usually kept singing it until I actually saw him get his feet on the floor.
“It’s pretty annoying, huh. I can see that.” I dare say that if someone tried to wake me up this way, I would be inclined to do bodily harm to them. “Why don’t I just come in and say, ‘Wake up, Spencer! Wake up!’ But… if you don’t get up, I’m going to sing. Deal?”
“Deal,” He said and went back to his list. I see now that this is a list of grievances he has with current operating procedure in the household. I wonder if he has a similar list for his mom.
“Number three: Can you stop poking me?”
It’s a game we’ve played since he was two years old. We would sit and watch Spongebob Squarepants, and every time Spongebob would laugh that machine gun laugh of his that I find so annoying, I would poke Spencer in the ribs. He always laughed when I did this, but of course, I was tickling him.
“No more pokes. Got it.”
Number four,” he moved along. “Can you please stop telling me, ‘don’t poop in your pants’?”
This is another running joke that has apparently jumped the shark. Every time he would head off to school or go out to play, I would remind him jokingly, “Whatever you do, don’t poop in your pants!”
In earlier years, this would solicit a shocked response. “Dad! I don’t poop in my pants!” Sometimes, I would add, “And if you do poop in your pants, don’t sniff it!”
This always got a response, “Dad! You are gross!” or “I won’t poop in my pants so I won’t sniff it!”
“Alright, but if you do poop in your pants…”
“Dad, I don’t poop in my pants.”
He’s getting too old for such things. “Point taken, I got it. No more reminders about pants-pooping.”
“Number five: Can we do more Nerf Wars?”
This kid had at least ten different Nerf guns that shoot little sponge missiles. On days we were home and Mommy was gone, we would sometimes have a war, running around the house and shooting at each other with these guns. Spencer picked the weaponry we used, usually handing me a single-shot gun while he had the Vulcan, a mammoth hunk of plastic that resembled a machine gun, belt-fed projectiles and all. It was always fun, and he wanted to do that more, and he wanted to do it with me.
“You bet! How about this weekend?”
“Sure!” he smiled brightly, folding up his list and putting it in his pocket. How I adore that smile.
“I can still give you hugs, right?”
“Sure!” he said and embraced me. As I held him close, I could feel him slipping away, growing up. Reluctantly, I released my hug.
“Thanks, Dad.” And he turned and walked out of the room, stopping in the doorway. “But if you want, you can still poke me sometimes.”
“I’d like that, but only sometimes.”
He ran out of the room and was gone. I turned back to my work and sighed. After a few seconds of deliberation, I put the computer on hibernate and grabbed the Nerf Gun. I think it is time for a Nerf war. Ambush!!!