Nothing Happens

Monsters in Natural Habitat

Monsters in Natural Habitat

My mother casually asks what I am doing on a Friday morning and I, on holiday, can’t come up with anything other than “workout and then write” and then add after a moment “Oh, also, I think I’ll read on the porch for a while.” I should know something is afoot. Additionally, when she asks what I want for dinner that evening, adding that I am the guest of honor, I really should understand that I am in for a big one.

But, being a relatively dumb man, I walk into the traps and it’s only when my sister comes in a short while later and asks Mom “Well, is he going to watch the kids?” and my mom’s subsequent wince and the embarrassed look on my sister’s face and then a full explanation (see dumb man above) but I finally figure it out.

“We need you to watch the kids for about 30 minutes.”

“30 minutes?”

“An hour tops.”

“One hour,” I confirm.

“Yes. Maybe. OK, look, I’m bringing Amanda to the airport.”

“The one in Philadelphia?”


“So we’re talking two hours.” Then, remembering that my sister possesses the Galeone Gene, which does not allow her to arrive any later than two hours early for anything, I recalculate. “Three hours.”

“I will make you a steak.”

“What about Da—” I try to throw my father under the bus, but stop when I remember that I have been reading E.B White. No, I do not want to watch two kids – ages 5 and 7. No, I do not want to give up my serene vacation morning of coffee, cereal, exercise, writing, and reading on a rocking chair on the porch. I don’t. But I know that if I spend three, maybe four hours (tops) watching them, I can make people laugh at the outcome. Assuming nobody has to visit a hospital, and even then I’ll get two blog posts out of it. Additionally, if my dad watches the kids there is a solid chance I’ll be not-so-trickily coerced into doing the brunt of the active watching, and in this case I get steak.

Sold. I agree.

I’ve been reading E.B White recently and I have to say I agree with a lot of what he wrote. Also he wrote it fantastically well and with a simple easy style that is approachable and welcoming. White wrote of the humorist that they find their way into difficult situations. They slog through a painful set of activities with a secret smile, they deal with enormous aggravations with the knowledge that it will make a great story.

I will certainly grumble my way through an inconvenient situation, like a traffic jam, I’ll bitch all the way through a meeting that makes me want to gouge my eardrums out. However, E.B’s point about humorists applies to me almost a hundred percent. Despite the difficulty, there is a perennial voice in the back of my head (Kermit the Frog) that it will make a great story once everything has been sorted out. And should the plane land and I survive, I will make people laugh about this. And so, in a way, I believe that somewhere inside I secretly hope for things to go wrong. Nobody remembers the holiday with no kinks, what’s the point in telling someone about a trip to the supermarket that went perfectly smoothly?

Two kids for four hours? I prepare for the worst. I imagine myself covered in shit and on fire. I contemplate the possible horrors, touch up on my CPR training, and locate the house’s fire extinguisher. And I grab my notebook.

On Friday I say goodbye to my sister and go into the room where the kids are watching television. They look up at me, give me a nodding greeting and then look back at the television. Goldie and her friend Bear are up to some antics. I put on the air conditioning, sit on the bed. Fred slides over and makes space for me. He even points to a pillow.

“You can use that one.”

“Thanks buddy.” I lie on the bed, slip my notebook and chest out of my pocket and onto my chest, and drift off into a light snooze. Quinn sets up another episode. I wait for something bad to happen. Nothing does. There’s a moment when Fred tells me he has to go to the bathroom that I think, oh here it is. I ask him if he needs help and he shots me a look that says, “Bitch, please. I’m 5.”

Quinn wakes me up from my nap (Goldie’s friend Bear has had a potion that makes him big. They are trying to rectify the situation) to ask if I want some water. I do. She leaves and comes back. Nothing bad. No fire extinguisher needed.

When I am awakened again, the kids are asleep on the bed next to me. My mom is standing above me. She’s made lunch. Tuna sandwiches. All is well. If you have read this, I apologize for wasting about twelve minutes of your life telling you a story in which nothing happens. My apologies.

But you’ll be happy to know that the steak was great.

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