Category Archives: Spawn of Future Tom

Jason Statham As Alpha Dad

Hello, back there Sir, in your white SUV.  Yes, I can see you, and you look kind of comically upset with me.  As is often the case, you are probably finding that the steering wheel and pedals in your vehicle are not controlling mine.  If you’ll think about it for a second, you’ll most likely conclude that’s probably a good idea, in general.

And it’s funny because up until thirty seconds ago, it seemed that the two of us had quite a bit in common – we were both bringing our kids to school and dropping them off in an orderly fashion, with dozens of other parents out front.

Of course I had no idea what a terrible rush you were in.   I don’t usually plan my trip to drop off my daughter at school in that manner, not right down to the second – I guess I am not as serious or important or sophisticated as you.  It seems such a burden for you to carry under your troubled parental brow, being the sort of parent whose seconds are so valuable.

Are a stock broker or a surgeon?  Come on, just tell me – it makes me feel giddy and flushed just having my car near a true alpha dog dad like you.

Are you a Transporter, like Jason Statham?  You’re dropping your kids off as part of a big bank heist, aren’t you?  Seconds count!

But me – I will humbly admit I am just a regular dad who likes to watch his daughter walk all the way to the door until she disappears inside her school for the day.  She knows it, too – she looks back every single time and smiles and waves. 

Sometimes there is a forest of kids out here hanging around, and there was a time when she was nervous walking through them.

So I told her, no one’s going to mess with you because I’m sitting right here and if anyone does, I will get out and throw them against that brick wall if I have to, hard enough to stick.  Yes ma’am, I certainly will.  So hold your head up high and be confident, sweetheart, because I’m the nicest person who will ever come to your aid.  After me, it’s your mom with fire coming out of her eyes, and then a series of uncles until we finally have to unleash Big Uncle Shawn, like the mighty Kraken.

You’re fine, little sister.  I’m watching you and there is an army behind you.  And I don’t care what this joker behind me thinks, not even a little bit.  If he wants his ten seconds back, he can go around me.  Unless he has not-too-cleverly parked himself just an inch away from my rear bumper.

In which case he can sit there.  Don’t worry, dude – it won’t be long, and perhaps your kids will look back and not notice that you are swearing at me through your windshield and making hilarious, agitated arm gestures.  Perhaps they will not notice how very badly you want to get out of their sight and get on with your pointy-eyebrowed day. 

Perhaps they will mistake you for a parent who wants to take ten seconds to show your kids that you really care about them and watch over them, instead of saving yourself ten seconds, and strongly suggesting that you don’t.

Here, let me roll down the window, in case Alpha Dad wants to talk about it.  A smile and a wave – Hi, Jason Statham! 

Why isn’t he waving?  We’re both in the Brotherhood of Dads, aren’t we?

Really, Alpha Dad, if you had my phone number, you’d barely have time to break me off a text, that’s how long you’re having to sit there.  And I truly wish I had video of how visibly flabbergasted you are by a man who will drink in ten seconds of his daughter walking into school, like a soothing elixer, because that’s what it is to me.  That ten second walk is an outstanding reminder of why I am doing everything else that I’m going to do today.

You can spend it freaking out if you want, that’s on you.  But you should take a look at my daughter walking into the building over there, and understand that I would burn every city on Earth right to the ground for her if I felt like I had to, and that then I’d try to hook her up with some ice cream or popcorn or something, out of the rubble.  That’s who she is, to me, compared to practically everybody else.  Certainly compared to you. 

Given that mindset, it shouldn’t surprise you that I’m not sorry about helping myself to ten of your seconds.  You’re the one who stapled them to my back bumper in the first place.

But didn’t you think it was weird when you whipped around me, and then honked at two more school children who were crossing the parking lot in front of you in a crosswalk, and then whipped around them too, and then we wound up at the same intersection a minute later, with me giving you a curious stare from my lane while you tightened your jaw and stared straight ahead in yours – didn’t you think it was weird that I turned right and left you there?

That I was suddenly, perplexingly ahead of you, despite those ten seconds?  That it turned out, those ten seconds wouldn’t have helped you at all? 

It really seemed to me like you were right where you would have been, if you’d chilled out and waited for your kid to walk into the building, like I did.  But you still seemed angry.  I wonder if you’re just angry all the time, you poor thing.

Well there’s no way to know.  You’re way back there talking to someone else’s rear view mirror, through your windshield, with a little vein pulsing in your forehead and injustice rising off of you like stink lines in a Peanuts cartoon. 

How’s that working out for you by the way?




Earlier:  Dear Sir, Regarding Physics


Posted by on February 16, 2011 in Parenting/Family, Spawn of Future Tom


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Me, Acting Like A Girl

You’re probably wondering if I realize what a big, girly sissy man I am.  That’s a great question, and the answer is definitely.  I definitely do.  Since I am surrounded by daughters and wives (three of the first kind, one of the second, stupid society), it’s just something I’ve already made my peace with.

So for example when I just now found myself wearing an apron in my kitchen, barefoot, making lunch for my wife while she worked at a desk downstairs, and when I realized that I was humming a song I got off of Glee the other night, and that when I wasn’t humming I was talking cheerfully to my puppy dog, I thought well Tom, it’s not like anyone ever thought blogging was manly.  Don’t worry about it.

And I’m not worried about it – do I look like I am either manly or worried in the picture to the left?  No, my friend.  It’s 2011, and lots of girls can kick the shit out of the average grown man.  It’s not scary being girly, and it’s nothing to be ashamed of. 

And sometimes I do really, really manly stuff anyway, but I’m not going to bother trying to convince you of that.  Not on a blog, no thank you.  That would be like the middle school kid who tries to ridicule you for shopping at K-Mart circa 1985, and you’re both standing there in K-Mart.

But it’s true – off of the Internet, I’m manly as hell.  I clean up barf and relocate spiders and chop wood and lift weights and get in brawls and fly Stealth fighters and wrestle bears and also I’m a pirate, but whatever, you believe what you want.

Online though, you’re right.  I’m not just a girl, I’m Lindsay Lohan.  Like when I get personally mad at one person in particular and then spend a whole post squawking at them and snapping my fingers in an air Z.  

Oh, crap.  Was that offensive?  The use of the term “squawking?”  Well if it is, then you probably squawk too much.  Might want to lighten up.

Anyway, find me on Facebook, and there’s a good chance that’s where I am, hanging around commenting on someone’s status with a bunch of other women, the digital equivalent of a quilting bee or a hair salon.  So I sez to Myrtle, I sez…

And then also on Facebook, I can get very bitchy.  There’s no other word for it.  Sometimes I unfriend and block people who I know from the real world and for no other reason then I find them tiresome or they looked at me wrong.  And then later when I run into them and they turn out to be really offended about it, I look puzzled and go, “Are you talking about Facebook?”

Sort of giggle at them, looking at everyone else.  Because follow my logic, if I’m on Facebook more than most people, then everyone else around me in any real world situation is likely to be on there less than me, and therefore they won’t know how much I’m on there.  It’ll look just like I’m a normal dude who doesn’t care about Facebook and barely understands it.  And then the person who’s asking looks crazy!

Good, passive-aggressive fun.  You need some ice for that burn, Heather?

I guess the most decidedly non-girly Facebook habit I have is photographs.  I have barely any uploaded, whereas the vast majority of female Facebook users have some crazy four-digit number of them up there, usually a) themselves with one friend or several friends, hammered somewhere, b) themselves looking pensively at a sunset and pretending like they don’t know someone’s taking a picture and then posting it on Facebook, or c) themselves with a puppy dog or a baby.

See how I’m only hitting one out of three there?  Just about every picture of me on Facebook was either put there by someone else and I glommed on to it, or it’s me and one of my puppy dogs (probably that one up there).

On the other hand, there are not a lot of dudes really active on Facebook, and a startling number of the ones I know are always hollering at me for one thing or another.    A lot of people come up to me when I finally run into them in the actual world, and they sort of throw a completely baffled expression at me and gesture at me expectantly as if I know exactly what I ought to be explaining right now. 

Tom, you’re on Facebook a lot. 

But you know, having no interest in any professional sport of absolutely any kind, well as a guy that frees up what?  Around six hundred hours a year?  A thousand? 

So I fill up the extra time with blogging and Facebook and television shows your kid probably watches, and also cupcakes and cookies.  Maybe a cute little puppy dog in moderation.

Again, I can’t stress this enough:  I’m drowning in girls over here.  There’s not much male going on.  Do you know what’s happening on Pretty Little Liars right now?  Well I don’t watch it but it osmoses through the house at me.  The one blonde girl has an eating disorder, the little brown-haired girl is a tramp, and that teacher dude needs an asskicking and then arrested and then several more asskickings.

There, see?  Now if you’ll excuse me, Oprah has a new television network and I’m off to watch Boys on the Side.


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The Seige Of Pizza Hut

Okay, well, here’s how today went so far.  Got up and drove to Mt. Vernon and then Pataskala for work reasons, then came home and deal with a Level Five Vomit Situation (that’s the bad kind, prolific and projectile) in the Honda CRV.  As the Parent Who Can’t Smell, vomit is usually my department.

So that’s a box of baking soda and then a half a roll of paper towels and then a trip to the gas station to stink up their industrial shop vac for a buck twenty-five.  I felt a little bad about it, since the reason I wasn’t using my own was that I figured it would then smell like vomit forever, so I went to BP and used theirs.  I figure any time anyone on the planet needs to unload some vomit, BP’s got it coming.

I’m going to try not to dwell on the vomit, but I need you to understand, this took an hour and a trip to the store for an additional box of baking soda, and God knows if I got the smell out of there. 

Then a series of normal Dad errands – back to the store for a bag of salt, spread it on the sidewalks.  Back through Giant Eagle for some Pizza hut cards and Fuel Perks.  Gas in both vehicles and dogs walked.  Bark at the children – shocking news, I don’t like it when you all lounge around on top of piles of garbage in the living room, so up, up, up.  Clean, clean, clean.

Pretty soon it’s four o’clock and the Tiny Girl’s 13th birthday is today, so of all the places she could have picked for dinner, she’s chosen Pizza Hut.  Fine, but if I’m going to Pizza Hut with six 13-year-old girls, then the blogosphere’s coming with me.  I would tell you to stay quiet but it doesn’t matter.  We sound like a truckload of howler monkeys crashed through the wall of the place.

Not very busy, either.  Just an old Angry Couple in one booth, and then a table full of twentysomething who for some reason look annoyed that a bunch of kids are coming to Pizza Hut.  Let me tell you something you little hipsters when I was your age I wasn’t hanging out at freaking Pizza Hut on a Saturday night so maybe look inward, you know?

But to be fair, we are even irritating me.  The sounds that a group of 13-year-old girls makes kind of reminds me of watching bacteria multiply in a petri dish. First some tentative jokes and then some giggling and then some louder jokes and then some cackling and then Dueling jokes and then donkey sounds and boat horns and explosions.  Eventually I tell them all to keep it down and they looked shocked and then the mystic cycle begins again.

Now the Angry Couple keeps looking at us – Pizza Hut’s apparently for old people and hipsters but not kids.  I can think of one table that needs to go down to the Short North and one table that needs to head over to the Cracker Barrel.

The waiter doesn’t like to talk.  That’s about the bottom rung, as far as waiting jobs go, so you kind of expect that at Pizza Hut.  I try to think of him as an intern and I nod at him a lot and use encouraging facial expressions. 

It turns out he’s crapping himself because the Angry Couple keeps complaining about everything.  Now they just sent their pizza back and they’re arguing with the manager about whether or not there’s anything wrong with it.  The manager really, earnestly thinks that the problem is, they ordered the wrong kind.

Ooops now the Angry Wife just caught me listening and staring.  She practically flips me off.  Yikes, that looks absolutely miserable.

Now another couple comes in and they sit almost directly across from us despite the ten other available tables, and then start glancing over at the strangely loud and chattery table full of girls.  I shoot them with my finger and click my cheek and get nothing – nothing!

You’ll be proud to know that I do NOT order a beer.   God knows I want one.  But let’s do a little parenting here, shall we?  I also will enjoy one of these Soda Pops you speak of.

All right now they’re all stuffing their faces, that makes a little bit of quiet.  I go ahead and try the wings, which are best described as crispy and creepy.  Do I get them in my belly, though?   You bet your ass I do.

Suddenly I get informed that we’re supposed to stop by Giant Eagle and buy an enormous cookie bigger than any of our heads and that they have someone there who will write Happy Birthday Ellen on it.  I start loading little girls into the car like sacks of mulch, then slap down my Pizza Hut cards and pay for everything, then we’re off.

The lady who writes on cookies doesn’t seem to like it very much.  She asks me how to spell Ellen and then tries to get away with putting one balloon on there.  Whoa, I tell her.  Get that icing gun out and load that thing up with icing balloons before the seven of us bust this place up for real.  I’m not even kidding, we’ll burn this joint right to the ground and don’t think we won’t.

Yes, she most certainly does agree to put more balloons on it.  I don’t blame her, either.

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Posted by on February 5, 2011 in Spawn of Future Tom


Birthday Tattoo Fever: Catch It

Ellen tells me she’s going to be thirteen in two days, like that’s something I don’t know.  Who the hell do you think’s been shoveling food into your mouth this whole time?

A lot cuter when they’re tiny, too, just like little lion cubs getting bottle fed, then fast forward a few years and they’re ripping antelopes apart – that’s exactly how teenagers are.  Exactly.

You don’t break off a little portion of what you made for yourself and your spouse anymore, and put it on a cute little Winnie the Pooh plate with a colorful spoon and a sippy cup.  You cook like there’s a freaking basketball team coming over every single night, and you have to put a campus bouncer on the kitchen door so they don’t loot and pillage your work in progress, and if you’re smart you’ll wear your iPod – they’ll try to get into your head with their whining and squawking.  Don’t be a sucker.

“Yes,” I tell her.  “I know you’re going to be thirteen.  That’s why we’re heading over to the tattoo parlor for your traditional father/daughter tattoo.”

She gapes at me and go ahead, little sister.  Go ahead and gape, I’m your dad, and if I want you to get a tattoo you’re going to march into that tattoo parlor and get a tattoo.  I’ve seen Dr. Phil and it’s just tough love, baby.

“You heard your dad,” says the wife, moving through the room doing random Wife Stuff. 

And see?  That’s how you have to do it, Two Parents, One Voice.  Back each other up for crying out loud.

Now Ellen’s acting like she doesn’t believe us.  “Hey that’s fine, sweetheart, just get in the car and you can sit there not believing it all the way to Stained Skin.  I’m thinking since you’re going to be 13, we should get the number thirteen tattooed on your arm.  Then everyone will know how old you are.”

“Is that what you think, Dad?  You don’t figure that’ll be a problem next year, when I’m fourteen?” 

“Live in the now, Ellen.  Jeez, you’re thinking like a square, and it’s embarrassing.”

“You’ll have to be careful though,” says the wife.  “That’s what bikers get tattooed on their arms to show that they reject society.  It’s because M is the thirteenth letter of the alphabet and stands for ‘marijuana.’  So there might be some confusion at the Monster Truck Rally next week.”

“Oh yeah, I forgot to tell you that, sweetheart.  That’s the other part of the surprise.  Tattoos and Monster Truck Rally tickets.  The way I understand it is, the tickets entitle us to sit anywhere we want to on our seats, but realistically we’re only going to need the edges.  Wait a tick…”

And I take a second to give the wife the fish eye – she’s awfully versed in biker tattoos, isn’t she?  Could that be why she disappears for weeks at a time and then we finally find her in a shopping cart on the front porch with a “Suppertime” sign on her?

The wife ignores it, plays it straight.  “Ah, the timeless bond between a father and his little girl,” she says somewhat wistfully. 

“I’m not getting a tattoo,” Ellen says.

“Well, it’s too late.  I already promised Cosmo, and anyway it’s a family tradition.  And I mean, I guess I could get one but I don’t care for needles and certainly not for tattoos.  I find them lowbrow and crass.”

“Bethany doesn’t have a tattoo.”

Bethany’s the tall girl, a walking Precedent that this soon-to-be-thirteen attorney kid is always citing in my court.

“Oh yes she does.  She has a huge tattoo all over her entire body.  You know, she looked completely different before she turned thirteen – she’s Chinese.  Didn’t you know that?”

“No, dad, I didn’t know that.”

“She’s a walking tattoo – that’s how come she’s so pretty.  She was a freakish monster before we got that life-sized pretty girl tattooed all over her.  You ever see Face/Off?”

Wouldn’t it stretch as she keeps growing and make her look all crazy?”

“No, absolutely not.  Growing’s not allowed once you’re thirteen.  Grow another centimeter after you turn thirteen and we take you to the doctor and have it shaved right back off.”

“Thirteen is tall enough,” agrees the wife, swinging through the room again.

“There’s something really screwed up about the two of you.”

Here we go.  I switch to my baby voice and tell her, “Oh, boop, boop, boop, does the poor little girl have crazy parents?  Yes she does, doesn’t she?  She has the crazy parents.”

“Save it for the counsellor,” says the wife.

“I don’t have a counsellor,” Ellen says.

“Oh, you will.  Trust me, you will.  You’ll probably end up getting regressed to this very moment by a hypnotherapist sometime in the future.  Say hello to your future consciousness – she’s right over there!”

“Hello, Future Crazy Ellen!”  Both the wife and I come together to wave at a corner.  That’s the Future Hypnosis Corner, right?  Damn right.  “Hello!  We’re sorry about the crazy!  Call us!”

“Oh my God.”

“A chilling glimpse of things to come, yes?”

“Crazy plus crazy very, very rarely equals sane,” the wife points out.  “Might as well get on board.”

“Also, when you turn thirteen your name changes.  It’s a Scientology thing.  Your new name is going to be Bethany.”

“What I’m going to do is start blocking you guys out.”

“That’s what Bethany said, but what’s her name again?  It didn’t used to be Bethany, you know.”

“There was a real Bethany once,” my wife starts to tell her, but that’s taking the joke too far.  I shake her off and she shrugs – fine, whatever.

I mean, I don’t want to confuse the poor kid.


Posted by on February 3, 2011 in Spawn of Future Tom


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My Daughter Has A Question About Miner Rescues

Several of them, actually, and they’re pretty serious questions.  She’d like someone to please answer them, and I’m not sure I can.

She’s not trying to be disrespectful, she assures me. And she’s of course very happy for the miners that have just emerged from a half mile under the ground, into the middle of a reality television series waiting to happen.

However, she says that in school she just learned that somewhere on Earth, a child dies of starvation every ten seconds or so.  Kids who aren’t trapped anywhere underground, kids you don’t need a drill to get to.

“Why does something so dramatic have to happen to you,” she wants to know, “before the whole world suddenly points cameras at you and does something about it?”

Well, in this case, I tell her, the point was that it was such a miracle they were even alive to save in the first place.

“Miracle?  Everybody’s a miracle,” she tells me.  “You guys are telling me that none of the kids who starve to death every ten seconds are miraculous enough?  They are too conveniently located to warrant a sandwich?”

I almost point out that it’s hard getting the food to the starving kids – but it doesn’t get a lot harder to reach than the guys we’ve been sending food to.  She’s got the computer in front of her now, reading an article about it.  She says they spent ten to twenty million dollars rescuing these guys.

“And I’m glad they did,” she insists.  “I’m not saying that they shouldn’t have rescued them.  But that’s what, three hundred thousand bucks a guy, right?”

Kind of worrying me with that line of thinking, despite her disclaimers.  “Well, what’s the value of a human life, sweetheart,” I start explaining, and she makes a frustrated honking noise, like you do at the guy riding shotgun when he’s demonstrating clearly that he doesn’t know how to read a map.

“I just told you I’m glad they spent the money saving the miners, Dad.”

“Okay, well good.  But to be fair to your point, the company that saved them really needed the PR.  You notice you didn’t hear much about how many miners died, just how many lived.  That’s called ‘Public Relations.’  No doubt someone was in charge of managing that perception, you know what I mean?”

Way smarter than me – she knows what I mean.

“Okay, so I get why the company paid the money, and that makes it even worse.  They did it because they had to,” she says.  “But what I don’t get is how the whole world is joining hands in prayer and singing about miracle butterflies and guardian angels.”


“Why are we going to congratulate ourselves now, and turn the cameras off?  Why aren’t we now turning the cameras on the starving children, and getting all choked up talking about Hope?”


“Because for the same amount of money, we could save how many thousand starving children?”

“You want them to leave the miners down there and save kids instead?”

“No.  I want them to get the miners out – because they have to, anyway – and then start saving kids and thinking, man, this is awesome cause it doesn’t cost three hundred thousand bucks to save these little girls and boys.  We’re saving them for like a hundred bucks each.”

“I don’t think we can save everybody.”

“That’s not what we told the miners.  We said, don’t worry, we can feed you guys a half mile underground while we dig a shaft down to get you, bring you up where the food is.”


“So why are there so many people on the surface of the world who need packages of food and medicine sent to them, and why don’t we do it?”

“We do it.  We send a lot of food and whatnot to, you know, places like that…”

“Oh, yeah – we’re great.  We’ve got the average all the way down to one death every ten seconds.  It’s a good thing we work so hard on that so it’s not one every five.”


“I’ll bet that as a country, we spend enough money on McDonalds every year to feed every single kid in the world for a month.  You know how you’re always telling us, look, we’ll go to the store and make the same dinner for half the price and it won’t be garbage like we’d get at McDonalds?”

“Yes.  I know because I’m the one who says it.”

“Well, what if everyone in the whole country who was heading to McDonalds stopped, went to the store, and then sent the other half of the money they were about to spend to feed hungry kids?”

“That’d be a lot of money, and about a thousand jerks would run off with most of it like ants at a picnic.”

“Why didn’t anyone steal the miners’ food before they sent it down there?”

“I guess because everyone in the world was watching.”

She stares me down, a flat, angry, disappointed stare.  A troubling thing to see on such a young face, this complete outrage at the rest of humanity.  She says, “Isn’t that the problem?  If people cared as much about starving children as they do about trapped miners, wouldn’t they find a way to watch their food, too?”

“What exactly do you want, Ellen?”

“I want everyone to shut up about hope and miracles and stop patting each other on the backs for all of our heroism and ingenuity, when so many kids are starving to death all around us you could fill up a Chilean mine with them every single week.”

“You know, you’re kind of cynical, Ellen – I don’t know where you got that.  Thanks for ruining my day.”

“You’re welcome.”


Posted by on October 14, 2010 in Spawn of Future Tom


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A Religion Of Five

I’m born, a quiet, creepy, big-eyed baby and I get the hang of the toilet pretty fast and I don’t really talk much at all until I’m four, then I start running my mouth and I never stop.

My sister and brother spend a lot of time playing with me.  They repeatly spin a .45 on the record player, which I find hilarious – “Go You Chicken Fat Go!” 

And we literally have Pong – eat it, neighbors.  And more complicated games, like Fifty-Two Pickup, Chutes and Ladders, and You Can’t Touch The Floor.  My brother teaches me to make card houses, and we watch the jerks on the Brady Bunch do it way better.  You know those are glued together – you know it.

The folks get divorced when I’m four and I think I’m watching Andy Griffith when I first hear my mom and sister talking about it.  I’m eating Cheerios out of the box – Dad never let me do that.

Other than that, I don’t notice that Dad is gone so much as the fact that the babysitters have arrived.

Suddenly I have babysitters, one who tries to get me to eat shredded wheat with powdered sugar on it, and also one who has a daughter my age and a replica of a McDonalds in her basement.  The babysitter good comes with the babysitter bad.

I hit kindergarten with gargantuan frog eyes and a hilarious frog voice, and a metabolism that allows me to consume practically any amount of food and still appear to be starving.  Some folks think I have a tapeworm – maybe I do.  A rough gig.

Death shows up and says hello.  Helps himself to a grandfather, and then a neighborhood friend on a bicycle on the Fourth of July.  I skip both of the funerals, and blink at my ceiling about it in the dark, and start freaking out about scary movies.  Mork and Mindy show up, make me feel better.

We get a new stepdad.  I’m sure he means well, but we don’t seem to like each other.  We bond for ten years and learn to like each other less.     

Then a friend dramatically kills himself – I go batshit crazy and some say never come back.  I learn to embrace my own strangeness and talk out of my butt.  High school gets easier.  Girls show up.

Then I meet Mike McDermott at a dishwashing job in Worthington.  He says, “Say pal how’d you like to be a cool campus rocker?  Cause I could sure use a ride home.”

Then he bites me on the neck or something, because pretty soon that’s what I am, rocking around campus looking fourteen years old.  I learn how to talk to cops and shoot pool.

An age of debauchery begins, culminating at the Street Scene Restaurant, where I sit around for several years cracking up with my brother and Shawn and Greeno, and eventually get a little bit comfortable, financially and otherwise. 

Pretty soon I run screaming into the West Virginia forest, and I come out ten days later a raving crazy man, talking about spiritual visions and stagnation and fear.  People start giving each other funny looks when I walk out of the room.  I develop a booming, super villain laugh.

Then I meet Marilyn over breakfast in a German Village restaurant, and there is a sound like two universes colliding, and all Hell breaks loose.  Our lives are blasted asunder by the metaphysical shock waves and we escape in a single truck, leaving a path of destruction behind us for a thousand miles. 

And several people plot to murder us for real, and an army of people sip their drinks and roll their eyes, and a small group watches quietly, their lips curled into secret smiles.

Yes, and Ellen sizzles from the explosion like a living scream, our twisted fusion, our evolution, she springs forth from the nexus of our colliding worlds, seizing them by the edges in a pair of pink fists. 

I demand to BE, she tells us.  Okeedokee, we agree, and then we’re parents.  We excel at it sometimes and screw it up sometimes and other times we pretty much phone it in – it’s like we spin a wheel every day.

Time kicks our asses at a variety of metaphysical card games.  We learn what our parents did right and what they did wrong, and we struggle to understand them both.  I start to get a grasp on household plumbing while the people on television seem to be getting younger but they aren’t.  They aren’t.

Then Bethany and Chrissy arrive, one of them carrying a clipboard and one of them carrying a large wrench.  Both of them ready for lunch.  They say, things are going to be a little different around here, and they’re right.

Social workers peck around during a twenty-month adoption, while battle lines form across two families – to whom do these girls belong?

Us, we tell the world with our fingers in the air, and a judge slams his gavel and we’re right.  The circle clicks shut, and like a cluster of cells bonding together into a single organism, we are one, a goofy, wise-cracking religion of five.

Marliyn and I do it our way, and it’s a hard way.  We nearly get divorced and then we hammer it back together – twice.  We learn to take it all apart and rearrange it when we have to, coming up with so many different shapes and variations that nothing seems impossible anymore.

Traveling acrobats?  Sure, we could probably be traveling acrobats.  I’ll bet there’s a website for that.

We follow Sinatra – up and down and over and out.  We find ourselves flat on our faces.  We get back into races.  We just don’t look or sound as cool, that’s all.

We’ve reached the edge of forty, and the girls are growing and will soon be on their own, and we’ve realized that right in front of us is the other half of our lives. 

We look back at the crooked road behind us and it’s still not as long as what lies ahead, and it was the only path to this spot, this place right here, where we congregate together in our goofy, half-crazy religion of five.

We came to this place through madness and naivity, blind luck and arrogance, burning spite and swallowed shame.  We came to this place despite our mistakes, this place we would die to defend.

You don’t need a god to be grateful, and you don’t need a church to be reverent.  It’s Saturday afternoon and I’ve got my girls and it’s barbecue weather – this godless heathen is going outside to pray.


Posted by on September 4, 2010 in Spawn of Future Tom


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The Rise And Fall Of A Backyard Society

My wife and I are lounging on the upper level of the back deck, watching and listening as a microcosmic society forms in the yard beneath us.  I swear, I’m not making any of this up.

Chrissy and Ellen had their friend Ayla over, and they’ve divided the yard into resources that each of them controls.  The reason I know about it and came out in the ninety degree weather to watch is that they erected a structure in the corner of the yard by raising a sheet of plywood up on the elbow of the fence, and propping it there with a two-by-four.

Yeah, that’s coming down right now, I told them, before it cracks somebody’s head open.  See how all that has to happen is somebody bumbps that two-by-four, and then the roof falls on your head?

A short debate erupts while I patiently tap my foot.   Interesting point, take the plywood down.  Yes, I understand that, take the plywood down.  I sure do love you, take the plywood down, please.

Now I’m sitting here listening as they hammer out their society.  Ayla is in charge of the firewood and the apple tree.  We’ll light the fire in a bit, and Ayla knows how to behave around one.  Most of the wood came from her house, anyway.

Meanwhile, Chrissy is in charge of the water.  She’s got a hose, and everyone needs water.  It’s a niche product, but don’t think she’s above an embargo.  She’s in a powerful spot.

But then there is Ellen, who is in chage of the garden and – in a crazy slant to the power structure – owns all the land.  Everybody has to pay her rent in apples or water, and for some reason they’re all okay with that.  Plus, that gives her control of all the food that isn’t apples.

I don’t make the rules.

So we sit there listening while they cut deals with each other for resources, and form alliances to, for instance, break the economic stranglehold Ellen immediately attempts to throw down on everyone.  There is definitely a balance – everybody needs everybody – but Ellen’s got a distinct advantage.  It’s like they’re playing Monopoly and she already owns everything.

So the other two attempt sanctions and embargos, and Marilyn attempts to pass herself off as the mighty Hera, Queen of the Gods, given how we’re watching from above and all.  We get some looks from the neighbors as the Voice of Hera splits the sky, but we’re always getting looks from the neighbors.  Hello, neighbors!

Anyway, following that logic, I descend from the Deck and light the fire for them – Enjoy, mortals!  See how I didn’t make you send Prometheus to steal it?  That’s cause I’m cool.

Not long after, Ellen comes in asking for marshmallows, and Marilyn locates a half a bag of them, and just as she’s about to hand them over I point out, “You know, that’s sort of CIA of you, handing out resources to one faction.  Especially the Republic of Ellen – you know she’s not big on the human rights angle, yes?”

So Marilyn yanks the marshmallows back and starts demanding certain concessions from Ellen.  You have to share them, see, that’s the only way you’re getting them.

Ellen doesn’t want to share them – she wants to sell them.  She tries the whiny voice.  Doesn’t work.

Marilyn drops into Mommy Mode.  “How about everyone comes up and gets their own, and then roasts them individually, that way nobody gets control of the marshmallows as a resource?”

Ellen says, wait, I have a better idea, and then she comes right back with a small bowl of cherry tomatoes.  How about we trade the marshmallows for the tomatoes?

Good idea, Marilyn says, except those are already my tomatoes.  Everything in the yard is already mine, for I am Mighty Hera, Queen of the Gods!  Bow down before my fury lest I smite thy borders with frogs!

Ellen sheepishly acknowledges, yes, I understand, and she goes to put the bowl on the counter behind Marilyn, then snatches the bag of marshmallows out of Marilyn’s hands and runs back down to the garden.

Not much you can do about that – Ellen doesn’t like to hear the word “No.”  So she sent in a black ops strike force with ziplines and night vision goggles.  That’s “Yes!”

It’s a perfectly legitimate diplomatic move – once she’s back on her own soil, she announces that if anyone comes over to try and take the marshmallows back, she’ll start licking them each, one by one. 

Mutually Assured Marshmallow Destruction – the Cold War is on.

So, being a benevolent sovereign, I head to the store and get enough marshmallows for everyone and also chocolate and graham crackers.  I hand out equal portions to everyone, and then the back yard erupts in s’mores and cheering, and pretty soon the entire society collapses, all interest in the intellectual side of things having been pressed into sugary sandwiches and devoured without ceremony.

Later I take another parental stab at the whole thing, as they’re all sitting around watching television and rubbing their bellies – So what did everyone learn today out there?

Watch out for Ellen, Chrissy says.


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Posted by on August 14, 2010 in Spawn of Future Tom


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