III. The Dump and Hesitation
I’d heard that places like Chuck E. Cheese’s were very careful about policing the premises, not allowing adults without kids to be there. I assumed a video game arcade, where I was taking the Little Monster for a birthday party, would be the same.
Not so. The place was huge, with multiple entrances and upstairs/downstairs restaurant/bars. Bars, like, where drunk adults hang out.
The Little Monster and I circled through the blitzkrieg that was the gaming center, electronic victims biting the dust in massive explosions, gunfire, and car crashes all around us. LM was so amped up that he could have won the NASCAR without a car. He could have passed Tom Cruise scaling tall buildings. We finally found the birthday party tucked away in a quiet room next to the upstairs bar, which, unlike the downstairs bar, was empty. This could be interpreted as a positive sign for humanity, or maybe it’s just that daytime drinkers know better than to navigate stairs.
The Little Monster zoomed to the far end of the big table to sit next to the birthday boy and that was it, I’d donned the Cloak of Invisibility. Oh my Lord, that child wasn’t happy; he was ecstatic.
The birthday boy’s parents clearly had their acts together despite their folly in agreeing to watch my sugared- and carbed-up child for two hours. They’d brought along a sister/brother-in-law couple to help corral and subdue the ten boys (I wonder what past transgression of theirs had led to a payback like this?). They explained to me their supervision plan once the boys inhaled their pizza, soda, and cake and the hellions were let loose to practice the electronic arts of war and destruction. As the dad explained the plan to me and we exchanged phone numbers and all of the Little Monster’s vitals should he be misplaced, including his doctor and dental records, and I considered requesting a criminal background check for the four supervising parents, eight other parents came and went, barely dipping their big toes into the room before giving a perfunctory air kiss and wave and then sprinting back outside. It was hard to tell over the explosions and implosions, but I think they were all humming Aretha Franklin. Freedom. FREEDOM. FREEDOM!
I backed slowly out of the room and then hung out in the doorway for awhile. Then I made it as far as the bar. Which is where I could just park my fanny for the next two hours. I could sit there in the deserted bar and keep an eye on things. It was just past noon, after all, and I wasn’t driving. But that would be pathetic, drinking alone in a dark bar in the middle of Armageddon; I’d wind up embarrassed since I’d keep diving under the table when I heard the screech of bombs. My Duck and Cover would become more and more likely the farther I got into each martini. It was sunny outside, a week before Christmas, with the jingle of bells and the crush of rampant materialism, and I was briefly liberated! I’d been waiting for respite like this! I could relax! But instead of a Dump and Run, I was totally In The Dumps.
Wait, hang on, hold the plane, stop the presses, rein in your horses! I only just got my son! He wouldn’t even be legally my child for another two weeks! I waited a long time for him, and you’re asking me to let go, already? The Man I Married and I had spent every waking moment of the last three years trying to turn this kid’s life around, trying to keep him safe, and now I’m supposed to just leave him? I’m supposed to trust other adults when all of the adults in his past failed him?
I made it out the door, staggering into the blinding light, then turned around. Then turned back around, walked half a block, then turned around again. I wasn’t doing the Dump and Run, I was doing the Hokey Pokey.
I was scared. What if something happened, and here I was gallivanting amidst the loaded charge cards? I should just go back, bite the bullet, and endure the bombs and guns. Parenting was all about sacrifice, right?
No, no I shouldn’t. He needed this chance to prove he could be trusted. I should treat him like a normal kid, whatever that meant. I should be a normal adult and spend the next two hours stimulating the economy.
I looked like what my car looked like when I was learning to drive a stick. I’d lurch forward for a bit, then stall out and stand there, screwing up the traffic flow, then I’d lurch forward unexpectedly again.
WTF, I decided. I’m going to do this. I’m going to let go. I spurted forward.
I could always go check on him from time to time. I could show up early. I think I can, I think I can, I know I can, I know I can. I merged into the masses.
The Erotica Writer’s Husband and Other Stories by Jennifer D. Munro
Kindle Edition $1.49 at Amazon.com
Twelve humorous stories about sex and the sexes. These sensual yet comic stories offer a fresh take on literary erotic fiction, as if Anaïs Nin and Erma Bombeck met at the library to spin tales of laughter and the libido. Collected from the pages of Best American Erotica, Mammoth Book of Best New Erotica, Best Women’s Erotica, Best of Literary Mama, Clean Sheets, Zyzzyva, and others.