Harnessing Lightning

My beautiful wife and I took our 18-month-old son to an abysmal town carnival this weekend. There’s no bigger downer than a place that’s supposed to be fun run by people who’s hearts just aren’t in it. I want my games rigged, my carnies freakish, and my rides in desperate need of repair.

The games, while rigged, were tamed down versions of rip-offs you’d find at a bigger, more reputable carnival. I did see a plastic samurai sword I wanted to win for my son. I pointed it out, but my wife said he doesn’t even use the one he’s got at home. I found that hilarious for some reason.

The ‘carnies’ were local town folk who were raising money for their high-school sports teams. What few rides they had were for children older than my son. Most the kids making rotations on the little cars stared at their parents with looks of confusion each time they passed them.

Mommy – this is stupid. Let’s go play in traffic.

There were pony rides, but even those noble steeds looked depressed as their hooves scraped wore a muddy ring in the grass. Their heads were down, as they contemplated pony suicide, and the equine afterlife. One of them growled at me when my son and I got too close. I didn’t know ponies growled. That’s shocking.

It was so obnoxiously understated, it was surreal. Like a dream where just enough things are out of place to tip one off to the fact one is dreaming.

The police force who protect our city had their mobile command station set up for carnival-goers to tour. It was a high-tech converted RV with everything packed into it they’d need in the event that the police station proper was out of commission. (Over run by a mob of ponies who stopped taking their meds).

Outside the RV, standing guard over the diamond-plated aluminum steps which lead up to their mobile command-base, was a fully equipped S.W.A.T. team-member attempting to look menacing as his gloved fingers flexed around the handle of his rifle. He had at least seventy pockets dispersed here and there on his uniform, oddly shaped and designed to secure a specific item of crime-fighting gear. There were a series of them on his left shoulder in which, I swear, one could have fit three corndogs side-by-side. On each of those pockets were smaller compartments in which mustard packets for each tasty treat could be accomodated. These guys did not screw around.

He wore sleek sunglasses fitted with a custom blue-tooth communicatio device, and a mustache under which one could smuggle ferrets into states where ferrets are illegal, (Hawaii and California). He refused to smile as I brought my son up to admire him.

I was insulted. My son is insanely adorable. Inanimate objects break into broad smiles when my son’s passes by. This guy was either too tough, too professional, or took himself way too seriously to acknowledge the personification of everything perfect in the world that is my baby boy. When I encounter people like this I have odd thoughts. I have thoughts that many other people have, but about which they’d never speak. I’ll speak of them. That’s how I roll.

In this situation, I imagined how fantastic it would be to go behind the RV, take off all my clothes and streak past him, swiping his cool shades off of his face as I made a naked bee-line for the ponies, on the back of whom I’d escape into the bustling streets of New Haven. I’d give the papers something to report. I dismissed the thought immediately, because I do try, from time to time, to set a good example for my son.

My wife was already un-tucking her shirt. She was thinking what I was thinking. That’s one of many reasons, (1 of 53), that I love her so completely; we exist on the same plane of mischief. I put my hand on her arm, “Not this time, Hon; not here,” I said, nodding towards my son.

“Wow, look that that,” I said pointing at the S.W.A.T. guy. My sone stared at him with apprehension. His little fat fist clenched the sleeve of my shirt, and his legs tightened around my waist.

On a folding table next to the officer was a box of gold police-badge stickers.

“Can you deputize my son,” I asked him good naturedly.

His expression didn’t change, but he nodded and put a sticker on the front of my son’s shirt.
“Alright; where to next, hon,” I asked my wife.

“There’s a row of booths over there with stuff for sale,” She said pointing.

My wife can sniff out a place to spend our money no matter where we happened to be. We could crash-land in the Sahara desert, and she’d find Macy’s. Furthr, she’d be able to convince me to go inside to look at shoes with her.

“C’mon Trev. They sell water there. Plus I don’t have any desert shoes. I need desert shoes,” She’d explain.

After thirty minutes of chasing my boy around, prying things out of his hands and apologizing to the owners of the booths from whence he stole them, we left the carnival with no more than a bag of cotton candy to show for our efforts. We tried to get him to try some, but he shook his head, shrieked, and slapped my wife’s hand away.

At eight-thirty that night, after a spaghetti war in which we all were casualties, my wife tried again to get him to taste the cotton candy.

Normally, this isn’t the sort of dinner we’d condone. When we first became parents, we vowed to feed him healthy organic food. He’d be healthy, and we would be too, as we promised each other to lead by example when it came to our baby’s eating habits. We’ve since given up because we’re afraid he’s going to starve.

My wife is horrified by the idea of our little guy suffering from hunger pains, and her eyes still well brim with tears at the thought. Me; I just want the little monkey to sleep through the night. Our motives are different, but our goal is the same. We eased up on the healthy food agenda. Now, we’ll let him eat anything as long as he’s swallowing it.

Shake your heads if you must, friends, but you don’t know until you’ve been there. If you’ve been there, do know, and you’ve managed to create a healthy little eater; go to hell. My kid has a sword.

As I was scrubbing Marinara off his high-chair, my wife exclaimed that she’d gotten him to try the cotton candy, and he liked it. She proceeded to give him more; a lot more.

It took thirty minutes for the sugar to metabolize in my son’s little body.

I was finishing the dishes when I heard our cat, ‘The Gooch’, yowl and streak across my line of site like a furry black-and-white cat-rocket. The feline hit the stairs at kitty warp-ten, reached the landing, slid into wall as he pivoted, and darted up the second flight of stairs. Following him was my son, stomping in his diaper, cackling like a maniac, with one tiny fist full of black fur. He stopped when he reached the gate at the bottom of the stairs, looked at me, smiled, and said “HI DAD,”. Then pivoted on one fat foot, and ran back to the living room.

We have a gate up between the kitchen and the rest of the house to keep our puppy contained. Sensing the sudden rise in activity, she was digging at the floor at the base of the gate trying to get out and join the fun.

“No, No, bad dog,” I chided as I stepped over the gate and went into the living room. My wife sat on the couch looking at our boy, who was rolling on the floor chattering incoherently. She had that expression on her face people get when they bump into a display stand at the grocery store sending jars of grape jelly shattering against the bright linoleum.

“Oh, my, God,” She mouthed.

My son grabbed all the throw pillows off the couch, threw them on the floor, got a running start, and leaped into the pile. He sprang to his feet, stomped in place laughing hysterically, and ran to the saftey gate, where the dog, caught up on my son’s excitement, was bouncing up and down trying to get a glimpse of what she was missing.

“NO, NO, BAD DOG!” my son yelled and kicked the gate.

I ran over picked him up, now laughing myself. He screeched, and arched his back, almost causing me drop him. He shook his head from side to side, his blond hair flopping back and forth, yelling, “No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no!”


I’ve had three hours of sleep.

The baby crashed landed under the coffee table soon after midnight. My wife took him upstairs, and I stood in the middle of the living room, assessing the damage. The couch was covered in Jell-O. There were goldfish crackers stomped into the rug. I have a lampshade to try and get back into it’s intended shape. My nose aches from being head-butted. I was in awe.

I dropped into bed about a quarter to two. My son was sleeping like a little angel next to my wife. The cat is still missing.

I’m not mad. On the contrary I’m proud. I feel like a man with a new secret weapon.

Don’t mess with me in-laws. Just simmer down, or I’m going to send the boy over with a bag of cotton candy with a list of demands.

Harnessing Lightning

Trevor Penick

Joined January 2008

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