A Thinking Man

What Men May Want to Know


“James and Janet are coming today, and they’re bringing the children.” The wife’s pronouncement handed down as easily as a judge.

The sentence brought a sneer to his face as if he’d just smelled bad cheese, canned dog food, forgotten leftovers.

Her brow pinched into two deep hatchet furrows and she said the same thing she’d said for twenty-five years, “You’re going to die a lonely old man.”

And he thought the same thing he always thought, ‘If there is a God in heaven.’ He dared not say it aloud; turning her into a badger, a wolverine, a cornered possum. Who wants that?

He returned to the safety of his office. He hated children – but you couldn’t say that could you? It would be like saying you hated the Easter bunny.

He knew exactly where his distaste came from. A series of unfavorable events that began at six years of age. Father leaving. Check. Mother certifiable. Check. A gunner’s mate as a step-dad. Check. Three baby brothers. Check mate. Then ten years as an indentured baby-sitter to demon spawn. Horrified as science projects were pulverized, precious magazines destroyed, and his lab rats released in the house. A ten-year-old boy never recovers from having to change shitty diapers. He felt justified.

He thought again how he’d found himself in this position. It seemed an eye blink ago that she’d appeared. Smart, funny, talented, a vision. And a mother. But luckily the children were grown and following their own lives. It seemed perfect. He took a chance.

But, much like a fighter pilot dropping a bomb from sixty-thousand feet overhead, disaster was silently on its way. He’d overlooked the obvious. Procreation, fornication, an absence of Planned Parenthood. Grandchildren.

It was as if everyone had become catholic at once. Wave after wave of babies, like zombies coming over the back fence. And now, twenty five years later, a bumper crop of great-grandchildren. God hated him. And the proof just rang the front door.

The same scenes. Tired parents goat hearding car-rested children. Strollers, walkers, bags, boxes and wipes. Glossy plastic in primary colors. His wife melting into grandmother mode. Cookies, crayons, paper and noise. Dr Seuss leads them in banging on their bangboozles and blowing on their hornaltos.

He excuses himself to the sanctuary of the office. Addicts have their needles, drunks have the bottle and he had his keyboard. He falls back into orbit around Saturn, destination, its moon, Titan.

He’s pulled back to earth when he feels a tug on his elbow. He turns to find the three-year-old wearing the devious grin that comes with the basic female programming package. An outstretched pink hand offering a folded paper. A card. On the outside, a crude attempt at a house with a chimney, curly-cues for smoke, sideways three’s for flying birds – typical.

Inside – “I love Granpa.” Purple crayon.

He felt it. We’ve all felt it. That fall-umph in your chest as the heart skips a beat. Then, like the Grinch, he felt his heart swell. He felt a connection. A kinship. A oneness. This little one was like just like him. He could see her future. The talk shows, the book signings, the notoriety. She was going to be a writer.

“I love Granpa.”

And she’d already mastered his favorite genre . . .  fiction.

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