The Theoretical Dump and Run, I & II

I. The Invitation

The Little Monster was invited to a birthday party, which was lovely; he’s been invited to very few. Although the parties are great for him as he experiences what it’s like to be a kid like any other, I dread them, because the Man I Married and I haven’t been able to do the Dump and Run like most parents. We watch with envy as other parents drop their kids off with a nicely wrapped present and then wave goodbye with giddy grins. We wonder what they do with their two hours of freedom. I know where we’d be: in bed.

But if the Little Monster attends a party, so do we. He requires supervision, so we trail him around for two hours. This is okay if the parents, like one couple we know, shove big drinks into our mitts and keep them topped off (we walk to these parties). But normally attending a boy’s birthday party is about as fun as sitting inside the kettle drum as the ape tosses the bone in 2001: A Space Odyssey.

But this birthday party would be with ten boys at a video game arcade downtown.

“Well, I’m sure as shooting not going to that,” I said to the Little Monster when I read the invite, tossing it aside.

I do what I can for my kid, I really do, but to communicate my aversion to accompanying him, I would have to write a new Inferno—it would be very short, because hanging out at a game center for two hours with ten boys would comprise all seven levels of my hell. Even a hip flask wouldn’t improve things much.

We could say no to this one, which was downtown a week before Christmas. Were the parents nuts? But, gosh, it was just great that he got invited.

Then I had a thought:

What if we just…left him there? (And then actually picked him up again two hours later?)

Like the other parents do?

Maybe it was time. Maybe he’d earned the privilege. Maybe we could be normal? Finally?

“Okay,” I told him, “but only if your therapist says it’s okay for you to be there without us.”

So at our next appointment I explained to the therapist about the party and how I couldn’t go because it was at a gaming center.

“Sure you can go,” he said cheerfully to me. “You could play a few games.”

“NO,” I enunciated between clenched teeth. “I canNOT go.”

“Ahh. Well, actually, a game center is one of the better scenarios. Nothing much can happen there.” He went over a few simple ground rules for the Little Monster and we moved on.

But I couldn’t let it go. I kept bringing it back up.

“So, Little Monster, what would you do if, say, a, a teenager came up to you and wanted to play the game that you were playing? What would you do?”

Then,

“What if you scored really well on a game and a young man came up and sort of put his arm around your shoulder? What would you do?”

Maybe the therapist was wrong! Here we were worrying about the Little Monster’s behavior, but game centers are filled with kids! What better place for icky people to hang out to prey upon them? Oh, my! Here I was worrying about the Little Monster all this time, but now I needed to worry about the entire rest of the planet!

II. The Journey

But to get to the video game arcade we first endured a bus ride downtown (I’d have to write a longer Inferno if I added in a chapter about parking downtown the week before Christmas). On the bus, we heard all manner of profanity and racist remarks, plus a story about a female critter that was about to sprout a huge schlong. Don’t you wish you could turn around to request a tad more info about a cell phone remark like that?

It becomes more and more likely that I’m soon going to let loose the uptight old biddy I’ve become in my attempts to protect this child who’s been given to me to safeguard. “You watch your language, young man!” I almost snapped. “There are children present!”

Yes, Timmy, that was 'schlong,' not 'shnoz.'

Why did I give up my television? We got rid of the boob tube because it’s too difficult to police the language and content, but we landed in the middle of an R-rated movie on a bus ride and then a walk through downtown. Even the mannequins in the purse department at Nordstrom were purposefully nude.

Wait, the purse department? Yes, naked mannequins artfully holding purses. Yeah, sure, I do that all the time. Because, being naked, I have no pockets, so I need the purse.

Why do I spend three hours per week driving the Little Monster to therapy so we can teach him what’s appropriate when our entire culture is inappropriate? How is he supposed to learn the difference? Believe me, he might not know the word hypocrisy but he gets it that his behavior is expected to be different from everyone else’s. Because of his background, he’s held to a higher standard. But I suppose that Barack Obama’s kids feel the same. Just yesterday the Little Monster and I were discussing how it must stink to be the president’s kids and have an adult follow you around all the time. Hm. The Little Monster commented that it must be boring for the men in black to hang around children the whole day and to have to go get them milkshakes. Gee, I can’t imagine.

“Are you finding everything you’re looking for?” the saleslady asked me as I charged through the store. Seriously? Do I look like I’m looking for anything other than the exit as I drag the Little Monster and Timmy the Play-typus Sock Puppet past the naked mannequins, regretting the decision to take this route through the store so that we could cross the neat pedestrian overpass?

“How about a blindfold and earplugs?” I didn’t ask. Maybe that’s what the naked mannequin had in her purse. Along with tampons. “How about a valium?”

Or maybe she could fish a couple of pasties out of that giant leather bag?

Next week: Part III, in which we reach the video game arcade


The Erotica Writer’s Husband and Other Stories by Jennifer D. Munro
Kindle Edition $1.49 at Amazon.com 
(TAX DAY SPECIAL: FREE KINDLE EBOOK DOWNLOADS 4/15 – 4/19/12)

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.

How to Make your Kids Hate Television

Part II of the Telly Kibosh Chronicles (read Part I here)

In 1966, my mother broke down and bought an electronic babysitter. And who can blame her? She was 25 years old, had three kids—age 2, 3, and 4—and was going to graduate school while my dad worked swing shift at Pearl Harbor. We were all stuck in our small apartment due to long, heavy rains that left ankle-deep puddles outside. We watched Romper Room and Captain Kangaroo, and then, despite her pressing tasks, Mom would stay up late to watch Johnny Carson. The neighbors would comment the next day on her loud laughter (especially if Buddy Hackett was one of the guests). Wasn’t that alone worth the price for the relief it provided a busy young mother? I’m sure the small television was a huge expense for the struggling family. When I left home for college in 1982, I swear we were still watching the very same TV set (how else can I explain the 13-inch b&w with snapped-off antannae?), so they got their money’s worth.

Mom had earned her undergraduate degree while bringing three kids into the world. Her accomplishments put me to shame. In my forties, I still had not managed a Masters, a noteworthy career, nor a single kid. But I had television.

So when the Little Monster moved in when I was 43, my husband and I took the opposite approach to hers and got rid of the electronic babysitter. The Little Monster was six, and our new ragtag family had a lot of lost time to make up for, so why spend it looking at something other than each other? (Answer: because the 732nd game of Go Fish will cause you to consider sticking your head in the oven. Doesn’t matter that it’s electric, it’s the symbolic act that counts.)

Despite getting rid of TV, we did keep a hand-me-down nineteen-inch screen and an ancient, cheap DVD player (I am sure made by a three-year-old in a developing country, so my moral imperative as well as my thrifty heritage is to run that sucker into the ground). We get videos from the library and have a tradition of Sunday Night Movie and Pizza (often handmade by moi). We’re working our way through The Waltons, The Partridge Family, and the old Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys (tight pants alert!) series. We enjoy old musicals, like Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and Singing in the Rain, and old Disney movies like The Love Bug and the ones with Dean Jones and Suzanne Pleshette. Boy, were we surprised when Suzanne Pleshette showed up in the first Wild Wild West episode (tight pants alert!) as the floozy hotty. I only remembered her from the original Bob Newhart.

All we saw were the collars

But we had a few problems with our set-up: we couldn’t see night scenes, we couldn’t hear dialogue very well, and the player often froze on DVDs that had seen a lot of use. MIM and I found this state of affairs to be just fine. The more irritating the television experience, the less the Little Monster would be enthralled by it. Many movie nights found us leaning forward over our pizza, squinting and cupping our ears, intermittently chirping to each other like finches roosting in a hedgerow, “What did he say?” “I don’t know. I couldn’t hear it.” “What happened?” “I don’t know. I couldn’t see it.” It’s as if we were reading the script for Tommy.

Not until you can’t see what’s going on during night scenes do you realize how many characters go gallivanting all over town after dark. When do Nancy Drew and Joe and Frank Hardy ever sleep? They are constantly out on the prowl after bedtime, witnessed by us as an occasional flash of white spandex and a sparkle of white white teeth.

One day, after we’d been squinting at night scenes for about a year, I accidentally discovered that the screen was tilted down at an angle. I straightened it up, and suddenly it was as if Kevin Costner had hit the floods on Field of Dreams.

Mr. Kincaid, who's my real father?

But the volume problem grew progressively worse as the Man I Married increased his cider-making activities, oftentimes leaving me and the Little Monster to finish up a program while he traipsed off to clean kegs or bottles—which sounds like a quiet activity. But it involved hauling heavy loads up and down the creaking stairs in his steel-toed boots and running the bathtub water at full pressure for long periods of time. I took to hitting pause, waiting for the racket to quiet down when he was at his loudest. He would clomp through the livingroom with a bucket of iodine-treated water to find me and the Little Monster sitting frozen in front of the frozen screen (which is oddly disturbing when it’s Danny Partridge), like cats waiting to pounce.

When I watched adult movies on my own after the wee one was tucked in, I took to selecting English subtitles, which makes for a dissatisfying viewing experience when you know the language. The subtitle always jumps the gun or doesn’t quite match what’s being said. Try it with Joan Crawford sometime and all you’ll start to care about is getting up to make a martini. 

The Man I Married became so annoyed by my annoyance that we decided to break down and buy ourselves a new video system. While rearranging the furniture to make room for a new setup, I, um, found the volume control on the old system. So that’s what that extra remote control was for.

I need make no apology for my technological ineptitude, but I find it a bit scary from a man who used to steer a nuclear submarine. He says I can’t say that he “navigated,” but I say that’s mincing words when it comes to the person who’s pointing a fast-attack sub in whatever direction it’s going in.

We were so thrilled with our renovated sound system that we marched to the video store and paid three dollars to rent a real movie. We chose The Black Stallion. Which turned out to have zero dialogue. Just a horse and a boy cavorting in broad daylight on a desert island. We could have watched the whole thing on MUTE and been just as happy.

Go, My Little Monster!

“That Teri Garr sure looks great,” I said to MIM. “She’s hardly aged at all since Close Encounters and Oh, God.” Turns out The Black Stallion was made in 1979. Where did the last thirty years go? And here I thought the only thing I’d missed was Janet Jackson’s wardrobe malfunction. Like so much of life, especially as parents, blink and you miss it. But as the Black Stallion pounded around the track, his hooves thundering through our livingroom, I glanced over at the Little Monster. He sat forward on the edge of the couch, as if he were in the saddle, ready to ride off into the sunset. All too soon, it will be my job to let him go.

“Go, Little Monster, go!” I’ll yell from the sidelines, sounding just like Teri Garr in Young Frankenstein.

“What?” he’ll yell back, already too far away to hear. “What did you say? I couldn’t hear!” he’ll shout—just like old times.


The Erotica Writer’s Husband & Other Stories by Jennifer D. Munro
Kindle Edition Now $0.99 at Amazon

12 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.