The Slleping Bee: Part I


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In the fourth grade I made the grave mistake of telling my parents the elementary school announced plans for a spelling bee. Mom played it cool and asked me if wanted to do it. She never pushed me into these things, she liked for me to discover life on my own. And by “life” I mean she let me discover the ruthless density of Texas soil when I said I wanted to jump off the second floor balcony; or let me discover the average land speed of a temperamental long horn when I said I wanted to go walking in our neighbor’s pasture unsupervised; and even let me discover – and I truly wish she’d intervened – that the incredibly voluptuous brunette I’d been getting to second base with was, in fact, my first cousin. Silly Mom.

Dad, on the other hand, saw this as yet another opportunity to mold his only son into something other than the toilet-clogging r’tard I was.

“When’s the match?” he asked, setting his briefcase down. He smelled of English Leather cologne and semi-satisfaction after his long day at the office.

Match? Already he imagined gladiatorial combat.

“Next week,” I replied. My hands kept busy with Shockwave and B.A.T. (Cobra’s Android Trooper). I hoped my obvious lack of enthusiasm would deter Dad from pursuing a course of action wherein I would be forced to become competitive.

“Did they give you a list of words, or do they expect you to study the entire dictionary? What format will this be in?”

Haven’t even picked a jury and Dad’s already cross-examining me.

“Uh . . . Ms. Lawson said all the words in our spelling book are game.” B.A.T. suddenly switched out its bone-crushing clamp for its flamethrower. Shockwave needed to act quickly because B.A.T. could shoot—

“William, why don’t you put your toys down and go get your spelling book? Let’s take a look at those words.” This was not a question, although grammatically structured like one. Dad figured he could appear to be the good guy if he kept his tone upbeat and playful even though he’d just ordered me to stop having fun.

Cock waffle! My shoulders rounded and I sulked out of the kitchen to my room upstairs. Had I known then that Mom routinely refused Dad his marital rights, I may have understood his obsession with these mundane, elementary activities. Because the poor guy wasn’t getting any he needed to channel his “energy” elsewhere.

He cracked the spine on the textbook.

“Vegetable.”

“Can’t we start with something easier?” I begged.

“Vegetable.”

I sighed as my head drooped. An entire brigade of Joe’s lay ready on my bed to storm Cobra Command base. Ripcord had been imprisoned by Nemesis Enforcer and was set to be executed unless the Joe’s turned over their newest weapon, The Destroyer. I’d made The Destroyer last Saturday morning with my Legos – took me three hours. It had two rocket launchers, laser canons, spikes, flying capabilities, and could repair itself should it be hit by a miss—

“Son? Vegetable.”

“V – e – g – i – t – ”

“No no no.” He cut me off before I could finish fucking up the word.

How do you spell “stuck at the kitchen table with Dad and his celibate-inspired patience”?

S – h – i – t.

“It’s v – e – g – e table. You know how to spell table, so focus on the first four letters. Okay?” Dad smiled in self-achievement – he’d just discovered a theory for spelling words ending in “table”. He sat for a moment and tried to wrap his mind around this breakthrough. It would truly revolutionize the educational system!

“Daddy, how many words end in table?” I asked naively.

You would have thought I just broke the dick off Michelangelo’s David. The sound of Dad’s fragile new premise disintegrating in his heart washed-out Mom’s “dinner” announcement.

“Understand?” he asked me.

“Understand what?” I replied.

“No. Understand.”

Who’s on first? Anyone? Anyone?

“Spell understand, please,” he explained. With that old, stupid theory debunked, it was best to just move on.

“Under and stand.” I smiled at him.

“William?”

“Daddy, I know how to spell both of those words. I’ll just put them together.” I was always looking for a way to do things faster, more effectively. But I quickly spelled the word as his expression did not match my expectation.

“Good,” he said. “Now . . . how about . . . “

“I dump your food out for the dogs? How about that?” Mom interjected.

A bit harsh, but I didn’t mind the respite. Two words in and I’d reached maximum attention span for that hour.

“Don’t worry, we’ll come back to this,” he promised as he got up to go into the dining room.

I’m passed worry at this point. I’ve moved on to dread. D – R – E – A – D. Dread.

Ѳ

Every night the rest of that week Dad and I practiced words. Mind you, this was not for a grade, but that didn’t matter to him. The simple fact is Dad loved tests (still does).

Skimming the pool of leaves for a second time that day? Test of patience.

Building a damn in the creek for no reason? Test of ingenuity.

Adding a 3-story addition when you only needed 2? Test of craftsmanship.

Wife not letting you have sex with her? Test of restraint.

Buying that same wife a handgun? Test of . . . well, perhaps just a bad idea.

Son’s 4th grade impromptu spelling bee to be held in the library with only students and faculty present which has absolutely no bearing on son’s GPA, but full effect on his popularity? Test of genetics.

Saturday snuck up on me due to my distraction with learning. I hopped out of bed, dressed in my grubbies. (“Grubby” is what Mom named certain apparel acceptable for outdoor play. Sadly, my grubbies consisted of cutoff acid-washed blue jeans, so short I routinely got mosquito bites on my taint. And a muscle shirt which belonged to Dad.) Stepping only on the non-squeaking slats of the hardwoods, I ninja-crept down the stairs. Being so early in the morning – 9 am – I didn’t dare wake one of Mom’s various personalities or the Logophile sleeping next to her. My plan: get outside and play before Dad remembers his lesson plan for the day.

I’m an excellent sneaker. Always have been. And that morning I crept through the house perfectly – no sounds at all. At the bottom of the stairs I hesitated, fearful I’d heard someone stirring above. My ears sonar’d the deafening silence . . . .

Nothing.

Let the games begin. Clinging to the doorjamb, I swung my left leg around the corner and down onto the kitchen floor. Sure footed, the right leg followed. Touchdown. My right arm softly glided down the oak door casing and rejoined my indigently-clad body in the kitchen.

“I see yooouuuuu,” said a mysterious voice.

“Fu–!” I spun around frightened. My knee banged the breakfront eliciting a muzzled yelp from me.

“-ather?”

“Were you trying to sneak up on me?” he asked smiling.

How in the hell . . . ? The Dallas Morning News lay disheveled on the kitchen table, already having been parsed-over. My father and the sports section of the DMN had a love affair to rival the greats, and from the looks of the paper’s crumpled pages and Dad’s perma-grin, I’d just missed the journalistic orgy.

“Um, yeah.” I replied. “What are you doing down here?” A child who asks questions is guilty of something.

“Were you going outside to play?” Mr. Omnipotent inquired, taking a sip from his coffee.

“No?”

Now, Dad had two choices here: believe my lie and make me stay inside and recite words, OR not believe the fib, lecture me on the pitfalls of lying, then make me stay inside and recite words. I guess that’s really only one option. I just knew I didn’t want a Saturday morning lecture.

“Why don’t you go get the eggs out of the fridge?” he said as he stood up.

Apparently there’s a third option: the Paternal Audible.

I did as I was told and removed the egg carton from the lower shelf. After closing the door, I opened the freezer and peeked in the back. There, safely behind a bag of Papa’s frozen crappie, Cobra Commander remained suspended in homemade carbonite. One of my favorite things to do with  G.I. Joes was to create concoctions of juice, mustard, ketchup, dog food, and anything else I deemed awesome into a big plastic glass, dunk my Joe in it upside down, then leave in the freezer overnight. There’s no short way to explain why I did this, so let’s leave it alone.

“Let’s make your mother breakfast in bed, whatcha say, partner?” Dad always called me partner. And I learned to gauge his moods based on his syllabic emphasis of the word. “Partner” could be a precursor to “let’s go toss the football”, or it might serve as prologue to a homily on my attitude, my disobedience, my grades, or even step-by-step instructions on the proper way to wipe. “You want to fold the paper neatly, partner. Not grab a handful and wad it up . . . that’s wasteful,” he’d explain while sitting ON the toilet. I know, the better observation would be why I found myself getting advice from him as he physically sat on his American Standard. Good question.

“You mix the eggs and I’ll get the bacon started.” Dad could cook only two things: big greasy breakfasts and his arm hairs (over a grill).

I didn’t argue. At this point, it was more important for his mind to remain occupied with anything other than the spelling bee. Yes, I’d prefer to be dropping pill bugs into anthills in the backyard, but we all make sacrifices to succeed with misdirection.

“How many, daddy?” I stood poised with egg in hand ready for cracking. Hopefully he’d say all of them.

“Mmmm, five.”

Damn.

At this age my shoulders matched the countertop’s height. Good for reaching the sugar jar, bad for cracking eggs. Not yet a master, each time my thumbs pierced the hard shell slimy undeveloped fowl squirted back into my face. Instead of wiping off the cold goo, I continued right on thumbin’. But, because I’m a real fast learner, I didn’t look directly into the exploding shell this time. Nope, I turned my head.

Money shot right in my ear.

No worries, I’ll keep going until I’m done. Egg number three queued. Will lines up nicely . . . looks like he’s going for the triple . . . and . . . he turns his head . . . to the other side!

Money shot into my other ear, with a little muttled into my hair.

Perplexed and covered in chicken bukkake, I’d run out of sides to turn my head.

Wait . . . nope. William sets up his shot . . . you know he’s worried about this one folks . . . tough choice to make here . . . a game time decision. There’s the pitch! And it’s a . . . .

Head duck?

Anticipating another explosion I ducked my head as I cracked egg number four. This time the gelatinous amniotic sack discharged into my parted hair.

“How’s it going, son?” He asked with his back to me. He’d been unwrapping the bacon and laying it neatly into the skillet. My lack of response drew attention. “William?” He turned.

My little arms lay outstretched on the counter, hands holding an open eggshell over the Pyrex bowl, and my head bowed in shame. I looked like a pious child from one of those Precious Moments illustrations. Well, a precious twit with refrigerated avian ejaculate all over him.

Dad laughed as he rightly should. But he also should have been worried by the fact I’d not expressed a clear understanding of the learning process. In fact, what I’d done was display the definition of insanity: repeating the same thing and expecting a different result each time. Instead of attempting to avoid the flying yolk, I should have tried alternate methods for cracking an egg.

My head wobbled back and forth as he wiped my hair with a dish towel.

“Okay, partner, why don’t you go get the biscuits? I’ll finish here.” Bits of eggshell eluded the fork as he struggled to pick them out of the mix.

Hey, I’d do anything he asked right then, as long as it kept him from asking –

“Spell breakfast.”

Son of a bitch.

“Awwwwwww, do I have to?”

“Work a little, play a little, son.” Yet again, Dad’s (in)famous credo stunted play time.

However, I had a counter argument, “Aren’t we working?”

Booyah!

“Well, I’m having fun. Aren’t you?”

It’s a trap! Say no!

“Kinda.”

If I’d said “no”, Dad’s feelings would be hurt. To put that concept into perspective . . . remember when the Hindenburg first lifted off the ground? Everyone cheered as they watched the rigid airship’s maiden voyage that second of May, 1937. People still talk about the Launch Party to this day – Led Zeppelin performed; Hitler did a stage dive; SS troops did body shots off the Nazi cheerleaders; it’s rumored that Houdini appeared out of nowhere and passed out on the schnitzel buffet; Einstein beat the entire Gestapo at arm wrestling; and someone spiked the punch with fascism. Yeah, so “Happy Stan” is a fully loaded flying dirigible.

“Moping Stan”, in contrast, is the fifty-foot-shy-of-docking-holy-fuck-we-gonna-die-crash-landing blimp.  Those of us around a Moping Stan feel like the New Jersey welcoming did party on May 3, 1937 – slightly bummed with a strong desire to avoid it (him) at all costs.

“Then we are working and playing. Breakfast.”

“B – R – E – A – K . . .”

 

TO BE CONTINUED  . . . . .

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About Son

Unemployed, but trying.
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2 Responses to The Slleping Bee: Part I

  1. Queen Amy says:

    H-I-L-A-R-I-O-U-S. Love love love this one! More, please.

  2. Wife says:

    Even I never had to do a spelling bee. We maxed out at the science fair. I took my “experiment” straight out of a science fair manual. No independent thinking required. Step 1: make a boiled egg. Step 2: light a fire in the bottom of a carafe. Step 3: set the boiled egg in the neck of the carafe and watch as it magically gets sucked inside. L.A.M.E.

    But, just in case you were worried, I still got third place. We didn’t have any “October Sky” – type entries that year.

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