He squints at me through barely open eyes. His whole body is striated with long, slashing red welts, transfer marks from his deep abandon to his sheets and pillow. He looks like he’s been marked up by a butcher. Here is the tenderloin, there is the filet-mignon…
“We need to get to your day camp an hour earlier, remember?”
It is six in the morning, so I know about liquefied brains.
“Noah, you’re going to the Super Splash Aqua Club today.”
He nods. “Oh, and it’s called Aqua Splash not, not, well whatever you said.” He disappears into the bathroom.
He can’t remember why he’s up, but he certainly remembers to correct me. What is it with kids. They invariably turn into the most supercilious, punctilious reproachful monsters. Surfing on the wave of their parents’ tsunami efforts to raise them, they just gratuitously treat them like flotsam. And then they go, “whaaa, what did I say, what did I do?” when you point it out to them.
I hear a healthy stream of pee strike the toilet. Perhaps an empty bladder will free his better instincts. Of course, I don’t hear him feeding the cat. Though it’s his job, I say nothing.
I hope to get through the morning without dissonance.
He shuffles into the room and drops onto the futon. Before he even lands his hand is groping for the TV remote. Brainless but media coordinated. He sinks into the cushions, the TV snaps on with a roar and Noah expels irritable exhaustion.
“Oh my god!”
I smile, rub his back gently, like a mom would (oh yeah, I do that).
“No.” Despite lying down he succeeds in shrugging his shoulders contemptuously.
I sip my coffee and resist the urge to strangle him. The TV hollers even louder as it switches to commercials. An advertisement for super plush slippers that bark or wink or squeak when you walk.
I throw significant looks at Noah. He knows to mute the bloody commercials. Yet he plays dumb. The TV barks and little girls giggle in rehearsed pleasure at the wonder of plush.
I could tell him, again, but then he would mute in super slow motion to antagonize me. I know it. I could just turn off the damn set and throw Mozart on the sound system. Apparently it makes kids smarter.
But, conflict management, imposing discipline and respect requires more energy than I’ve got. So I get up and head out of the room.
Noah raises up on an elbow.
“Where are you going?”
None of your f….ing business. He sounds like my Mother at her worst.
Can’t hear you. The TV is too f…ing loud. No, I don’t say any of that. I stay on the reservation
“Gotta go make your lunch. We need to be out the door at 7.”
He glances at his watch. Now he’s going to crunch the numbers to probably tell me that I calculated the departure time all wrong. I rush to the kitchen.
Fry a little steak to slap between two slices of bread. Rummage for fruit and veggies in the fridge.
He starts talking at me from the other room. Loudly, to be heard over the blaring TV,
But I’ve got a strategy. I turn on the water.
“Can’t hear you, Noah. Cooking food for you.”
I’m counting on him being too fat-assed today to get up and come to the kitchen. Figuratively speaking, given that he has a scrawny butt.
I sizzle, chop, wrap, package, throw in some carrots, cheese sticks, an applesauce squeezable tube and, tadah!, his lunch is ready. And it’s a damn good one…tasty, with all food groups represented.
And my calculation was spot on… fat-ass hasn’t moved, too taken by his slothfulness to even eat the pastry and glass of milk that I left within reach.
“Countdown to take off, Noah. Ten minutes.”
I head to the bathroom to empty what needs to.
“Dad, about the like, time…”
“Sorry, Noah, I’m peeing, I can’t hear you.”
Then I run the water to wash my face, brush my teeth…and to block my son’s long distance assaults.
By the time I re-emerge, he’s up and dressed and, remarkably, he’s finished breakfast.
Even more remarkably he’s silent.
And, most remarkable of all, by far?
I managed the monster on the futon and the monsters in my soul. And none of them ate my day.