The Son Also Rises
The father was tired, and the mother was tired. She had caught the last flight home from O’Hare after the Midwest SalesTech Conference and the father had soothed the toddler with the books and the silly voices, and the snuggling and the singing of the song from the show on Disney Junior. The toddler slept and the mother slept and the father slept and the house was dark and silent — until 5:36 am when the toddler shrieked. The sound was piercing and insistent, and the father shoved his head under the pillow and remembered the nights in Pamplona, with the wine and the bullfights, and he wished he was back there, maybe even facing down a bull, which was more appealing at this point than getting out of bed. The mother uttered a sound that encompassed both exhaustion and hatred and shoved the father out from the duvet. The father staggered to the toddler’s room like a matador after a fatal goring, grimly resigned to his destiny.
The Old Man and the Sea
The man was old. He had focused on his career and married late and done the IVF and had the twins. The man had saved up for the off-season vacation at the Sand Dollar Oceanview Resort, and he lost it when the boy and girl said they wanted to stay inside and play the Nintendo Go. The man gathered the sunscreen and hats and water bottles and shovels and buckets and told them they were going to the beach, whether they liked it or not. The water was cool and seductive, and the boy and girl frolicked, and the man tallied his parenting fails and wondered why he shouted so much. He started to tell the boy and girl about this time he went fishing, but the girl said she was hungry and the boy said he needed to pee. The man sighed because it was a long way back to the condo. The man said that sometimes it was OK to just go in the water, and the girl shrieked as the man led the boy through the sacred ritual of creating a “warm spot” in the water. Maybe the old man wasn’t doing such a bad job after all?
A Moveable Feast
The baby had started solid foods, and the parents were pleased. They had the high chair and the SPIT HAPPENS bib and the set of microwave-safe IKEA dishware. The baby gummed the spoon, and the mother noted that no-one else in playgroup had such advanced hand-eye coordination, and the father made a joke about early admission to Harvard. The parents offered a bowl of pureed carrots and the baby crammed her fist inside and the parents laughed and the baby laughed and the bowl flew up from the tray, and the spray hit the mother’s cheek and the father’s hair. The father pushed forward some veggie puffs and the baby licked them and drooled and tossed them at the father’s face, and the father said a word that made the mother angry, and the baby cried because she was hungry. The mother and the father offered Cheerios and raspberries and the baby spit them out and the mother and father thought of their dinners at Café des Artists on the Left Bank, before they were married with a mortgage. The father picked up the expensive organic veggie puffs and ate them and tried not to think of beef bourguignon.
For Whom the Bell Tolls
The truck was a present from the grandparents, and the boy loved it and played with it and slept with it. The truck had a bell that made a noise somewhere between a cling and a clang and the sound went off every time the boy held it, even in the middle of the night when he turned over. There was no off switch and no way to even get the goddamned battery out, and the mother said she couldn’t take it any more. One day the boy asked where his truck was, and the mother and father said it was lost. On trash pickup day, there was a faint cling-clang from their garbage can as it was lifted into the truck, and the mother and father looked at each other and smiled.