Location: marengo, il, United States

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Excerpt Six from Letters to Elisha Hamilton

Loving son,

Good to hear you are still alive, rather than being eaten alive by the mean, mean drill instructors. It does seem odd though, getting phone calls from boot camp. Is that some sort of Girl Scout thing they are running down there?

The roaches that came with the dog seem to have simply vanished. Either they made their nest in the microwave (a bad idea around here), or one of your ma’s many spiders took the group out for dinner.

Last night she had to attend a parent-teacher conference, which means left-overs for us. A taco pizza is living in the fridge, still waiting to hitch a ride with someone, but David wanted clam chowder instead. I thought, sure, why not. Plus, this would be a good time to teach him the fine art of making a fire in the house.

Teaching gets me giddy.

“Go get a pot from over there.”

“No, a bigger one.”

“No, not that big. Next to it.”

“There. That’s the one.”

I put the pot on the table.

“Now, bring me a big spoon and the can opener.”

There is some confusion as to what governs the laws of Big Spoons, but that gets settled shortly.

“Now, go back and get the can opener.”

“Great. You are almost ready to cook. Now, let’s light the fire.”

That makes him nervous, so I say softly,

“Turn the knob all the way. Listen for the faint clicking sound.”

You would think that turning a knob is a simple task.

“No, turn the knob. It only goes one way.”

“Turn the darn knob!”


This seems like a good time to test his general knowledge.

“Where do most house fires begin?”

“In the kitchen?”

“You got it. Hand me the big can now.”

I decide to operate the can opener myself. After all, it’s just him and me who are hungry. And Buddy The Dog, of course.

“See? First, clamp it down like so.”

As I make the last turn around the rim, and as the lid rises up slightly (which I had predicted), David’s eyes get funny, so he cups a hand up to his mouth which made me scream like a man.

“Turn your head! Turn your head! Don’t sneeze on the food! Cover, cover!”

He missed us all, barely.

“Now go wash your hands unless you want to start a plague and wipe out the human race.”

Why am I worrying so much? After all, we do plan on adding oysters at the end.

While he is gone I spoon the cold white gunk into the pot and place it on medium heat.

Then I stand and stir and stir and stir and stir, waiting.

Then I yell so he can hear.

“I thought you were going to help me cook?”

“I have to pee.”

I mumble.

“Wash your hands again.”

Buddy likes to sit and bore you with intense looks whenever food is around. He stared at me the whole time while I slaved over the hot stove. He jumped around under my feet, eyes locked on my steaming bowl, and followed me all the way to the couch. He hit his head nineteen times on the underside of the coffee table as he darted from end to end, stopping to stare up first at me and then at David and our collective bowls of hot chowder. Poor little table. Good thing it’s a hardwood.

Your mom came home late and exhausted. David went to bed right after she did, and so did the mutt. Me and the teevee sat and glowed together.

Before I fell asleep, I went in the kitchen to catch more pests. David discovered them the day before.

“Look up, dad.”

Who ever notices ceilings? No one, that is who. But apparently David does. Up there were a dozen or more pantry moth larvae, slowly inching their way along. (That is how they do it, I thought!) So for the past two days and nights, I look up quite a lot.

I usually collect them in a plastic cup, and then microwave the sorry lot. Fifteen seconds works just fine. But this time I used a napkin to pinch each little bugger off, and I found four up there.

The napkins I used made a nice-sized fire in the microwave, and they also made the house smell funny for awhile.

I think if I was a cockroach, I would move out of this place.


The dad


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