Dance Through the Decades Just Don’t Tip the Girl Scouts

jamonitcover500wt9.jpgIt’s been over 30 years since I’ve seen a dogpile develop during the playing of ABBA’s Dancing Queen (Björn Ulvaeus and Agnetha Fältskog’s loft in Stockholm was my sexual Waterloo) however this time around the dogpile didn’t involve Andy Warhol, Brigid Berlin or a traditional Swedish musical instrument called a Nyckelharpa; it was in my son’s elementary school gymnasium and it involved Jack, a number of his schoolmates and a traditional American novelty instrument called an inflatable electric guitar. 

Last Friday was a momentous occasion in the coming of age for Jack as he attended his first school dance. Since it is federally mandated that all dances, proms, balls, shindigs, jamborees, hootenannies, sock hops, clam bakes and hoedowns occurring on public school property be themed and/or named after a current or popular song (My Senior Prom was 2 votes from being the “Buffalo Stance”. Blame it on the Rain? I blame it on the Drama Club stuffing the ballot box) the event last Friday was termed “Dance through the Decades of the 50’s, 60’s, 70’s, 80’s, 90’s and Today” which besides far exceeding any reasonable number of syllables in a title is a preposterous theme for an elementary school dance considering the oldest child at the dance was born in 1998.

Despite winning the heart of my first high school girlfriend Melissa Walrath at the Autumn Harvest Ball by beating her boyfriend at the time in an epic break dance battle to “Jam on It” by Newcleus (Cozmo D you still have my eternal gratitude. Melissa you still have my Depeche Mode T-Shirt) I have mixed feelings about school dances.

On one hand without them I would have never gotten to second base under the gym bleachers with Lynn Mclean (Cad Alert: Lynn was Melissa’s best friend who, incidentally Melissa, didn’t seem to mind my sweating problem) but on the other hand there’s just something “not right” (or “wrong” if you will) about a PTA sponsored rave where supposed chaperones burden slow dancing students with Orwellian restrictions, sketchy custodians leer from the darkness of the Girl’s Locker Room entrance and second-rate morning radio hosts and wedding DJs insist that someone actually requested Old Time Rock and Roll (Hey DJ Shovel and the Wolfman, go reminisce about the days of old somewhere else and play a song from this decade) 

We only live a block from Hillside Elementary School so we walked but even before we reached the corner we could hear the dull thumping bass line and sampled Rick James hook of MC Hammers’ You Can’t Touch This, which Jack must have taken as a challenge because he broke into a sprint towards the building. After paying the steep admission price of $2 for students $3 for adults ($5 for Custodians which I thought was reasonable) we left our jackets with the Girl Scout troupe earning their Coat Check Merit Badge and headed into the gymnasium.

Hundreds of K-5 students were crowded in front of the DJ booth and doing what appeared to be a cross between crunking and the move Michael J Fox does at the Homecoming Dance while in his lupine persona in Teen Wolf. Jack immediately saw one of his classmates who came dressed to impress in a pair of snow boots, knit cap and bright orange hunting vest and the two of them quickly joined the throng of preadolescence that was bouncing in unison to The Pointer Sisters Jump.

What followed was a legendary and unrivaled string of sing-alongs, line dancing songs and playlist perennials that would have been catastrophic had a lesser Jockier of Discs attempted the maneuver, but fortunately for us DJ Jim Stacy “The Good Times DJ” is not a lesser Jockier.

Before you could take those old records off the shelf the gym was polkaed into a Chicken Dance Frenzy and with urging from Jack I was reluctantly partook in the hand-beaking, arm-flapping and tail-feathering while DJ Jim Stacey connected with the crowd by singing the Elmo version over the top of the accordion music (Listen Jim, what Elmo does in the privacy of his own home is his prerogative just don’t drag me into it)

Next we were Shouting with Otis Day and the Knights and it should be noted that after the “…a little bit softer now…” transitions back into “…a little bit louder now…” Jack and I were the only ones who Belushi yelled “GATOR!” then writhed around on our backs before rejoining the chorus and echo of “Heyyyy Heyyyy!” (What are they teaching these kids in school?)

After a surprisingly uninspiring rendition of The Electric Slide by the entire student body in attendance (perhaps they’d be more motivated if it were called the Electric Cattle Prod?) was followed up with an oddly hypnotic and strangely choreographed Macarena that even Jack participated in (What are they teaching these kids in school?) the Good Times DJ posed the question, “Does anyone know how to … Cotton Eyed Joe?”

Now there are only two circumstances in which Cotton Eyed Joe should be played and an elementary school dance is not one of them (In case you didn’t know, it can be played between innings at Yankees Games and during sodomy with Ned Beatty in the backwoods of Georgia) The reason for this is that if heard in its entirety the song is potently addictive to young minds, a theory proven true by the fact that Jack has begged me dozens of times since Friday to sing the “Cot and My Joe” song while he Michael Flatleys around the living room.

A Miami Sound Machine Conga line, the aforementioned ABBA dogpile, an unnecessarily extended remix of the YMCA and some unwelcome sweating at the hands of the C & C Music Factory and I was ready for Jack’s Dance through the Decades to come to an end.

The Girl Scouts at the Coat Check effectively and amazingly retrieved our jackets on the first try and I tried to give them a tip to which they replied they were not allowed to receive tips. A response I challenged with, “Where does it say that you can’t put out a tip jar?” “Right in the Girl Scout Handbook!” lashed the voice of their Den Mother from the shadows behind a London Fog Trench Coat and a hooded tunic. “But you can buy some Girl Scout Cookies if you want to.” the voice beckoned. I handed Jack his coat, placed $3 on the edge of the table and walked away. “Sir, you forgot your cookies…” a scout’s voice sang to me. “I’m diabetic (I’m not) keep them.” I yelled without looking back and with that Jack and I pushed through the front doors into the bitter night air.

A few steps from the school I heard the distinct Bum-Bum-Bum-Bum-Bum-Ba-Ba-Bum intro to “Jam On It” followed by the unmistakable falsetto wikki-wikki-wikki-wikki coming from the gym.
“Hey Jack…want to hear a cool story about this song?”
“Is it Cot and My Joe?”
“No, It’s Jam on It by Newcleus”
“Can you sing Cot and My Joe for me?”
“Sure Jack…Sure… I don’t see why not…ummmm…Don’t you remember, don’t you know, Don’t you remember Cotton-eyed Joe?…”

And with that the lord of the dance was once again dancing and jiving and having the time of his life.
 

A Tricycle Built Haiku

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Jack’s old tricycle
and a thoughtful stare, waiting
for the signs of spring.

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A tricycle built
for two. Well really just one
but don’t tell them that.

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Well, it’s got more space
than the loft I have down in
lower Manhattan.

I Hope Tomorrow That I Wake Up In My Own Bed

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There’s an ironic and poignant line in the Bare Naked Ladies song Hello City that says “…I hope tomorrow that I wake up in my own bed.” Ironic because there was a time in my life when I aspired to wake up in the bed of bare naked ladies (once I even woke up in the bed of a future Bare Naked First Lady. I still have your SMU sweatshirt Laura xxoo) and poignant because even though my wanton days of promiscuous rakery are long over I still don’t know which bed, which couch or which section of the floor I’ll be waking up in or on come morning.

Now the last thing anyone wants to read is yet another weary parent lamenting the loss of their precious sleep, but great Caesar’s ghost Adam’s nearly 16 months old and I was certain that by now he’d be sleeping through the night meaning that by now I WOULD BE SLEEPING THROUGH THE NIGHT. Yet he does not, and more importantly I do not and in direct monastic violation of my forced vow of insomnia I throughout the day steadily chant the sacred mantra “…I hope tomorrow that I wake up in my own bed.” like a Gregorian monk in front of a frozen karaoke screen.

The place I fall asleep is inevitably never the place I wake up as during the night I spin through the house bouncing around the rooms. That’s me on the mattress, the couch cushion, the rug, the oversized pillow, that’s me in the corner of the foyer losing my religion; round and round I go and where I stop nobody knows; think of it as R.E.M. Roulette only without the sketchy croupier. (Note: not the same as R.E.M. Craps. Automatic for the People? More like Automatic for the $.99 Bin) Earlier this week though I had a legendary run at the tables.

It started out as a typical evening, Adam was in his crib by 8:00 and by 9:00 Jack’s eyes we’re rolling back in his head. (We know we shouldn’t let him roll his eyes back like that but it keeps his mileage down and increases his Blue Book value in case we ever want to trade him in for a new model). After letting him sleep on the couch next to me for a while I carried him upstairs, asked him 17 times if he had to go potty, finally determined that Yes he did have to go potty, brought him to the potty, balanced and aimed him at the potty, then brought him back to his bed and tucked him in. Kathleen crawled into our bed around that time, so by 10:00 I was downstairs on the couch with my computer and the best laid plans of writing for a couple hours.

A cup of tea on the end table, Comedy Central muted on the TV, a blank Microsoft word document on the screen and a strong unsecured wireless network signal from my neighbor’s house… the conditions were perfect. Conditions that lasted until around 10:30 when I dozed off and only woke up at midnight because our cat was yowling and pressed up against the porch window like a visiting prison wife the day before a conjugal visit. After shutting off the computer I let the cat in, checked him for contraband, turned off the lights then walked upstairs in complete darkness.

Besides emitting a Silence of the Lambs night goggle glow, my cell phone makes an effective flashlight and allows me the stumbling luxury of getting ready for bed without turning on the 100 year old wall sconces with switches that snap like a nun’s ruler on impudent knuckles. After doing an Edwin Moses hurdle over the baby gate in the doorway of our office/walk-in closet to put the laptop away (some nights I’ll just Moses the gate by raising my staff until it parts) I checked on the boys, rubbed the lotion on my skin, climbed under the covers of my BFF then increased my own resale value as my eyes rolled back in my head.

An hour later around 1:00am Jack was either singing The Isley Brothers “Nobody But Me” or having a nightmare (No-no, no, no, no, no-no-no, no, no-no, no, no-no) so I leapt from the bed to see what was the matter. He was sitting up in bed crying so I whispered that everything was OK and lay in bed with him until he fell back asleep.

Sometime around 2:00am I was jolted awake when tectonic plates of the Earth’s upper mantle shifted and began grinding against each other directly beneath our upstate New York home and I thought, “That’s great it starts with an earthquake…” until I realized Jack was just grinding his teeth. When saying, “Jack stop grinding your teeth.” didn’t work I rolled out of his bed and back into my own and was back asleep before the tremors worsened.

According to the digital clock next to our bed it was 2:27 when the Emergency Air Raid siren in Adam’s room went off. Adam will occasionally make this sound in public places and people who grew up during the cold war and the Cuban Missile Crisis instinctively duck and hide under anything they can find that looks like an elementary school desk. At 2:30 in the morning, as much as we would like to duck and hide our only recourse is to bring him into bed with us.

Since I was balanced on the edge of the mattress with my face just inches from the alarm clock I knew it was exactly 3:36 when the pit boss starting kicking me in the back and telling me it was time to move to another table on the floor. Reluctantly I got out of bed, retrieved my night vision goggles from the dresser, put the lotion in the basket then limped back downstairs to the couch.

Why would a cat suddenly decide to clean himself a 5:03 in the morning? When saying, “Fitz, stop licking yourself.” didn’t work I staggered back upstairs and stood in the hallway deciding which numbered pocket on the wheel I was going to fall into for my final hour of sleep. With no intention of trying my luck with the human Richter Scale I opted for the Outdoor Civil Defense System. After I shimmied my way into the 3 inches of available mattress space I slept until 6:00am when the alarm on my flashlight went off signaling that as far as sleep went I was out of time.

Didn’t Rick’s Café in Casablanca have a trick roulette wheel that could land on 22 at will? I remember a scene in which Bogart’s character takes pity on a man who’s down to his last three chips by telling him to place it all on 22 then letting him win. After the man wins Bogart again tells him to let it ride on 22 and again lets him win.

Hey Bogie, I’m honestly down to my last 3 chips and all I want to do is sleep tonight and wake up in my own bed. I’m letting them ride on 22. No more bets. Spin the wheel.

As A Father And A Monkey I Am Horrible, Horrible, Most Horrible

monkeytyping.jpgIn mathematics there is something called the Infinite Monkey Theorem which states that a single monkey striking keys at random on a typewriter for an infinite amount of time will type a particular chosen text, such as William Shakespeare’s “Hamlet.” Because of the writer’s strike Hollywood has hitched their wagon to this theory by investing millions of dollars filling warehouses with scab monkey writers. Unfortunately, aside from writing a treatment for a new reality show called America’s Next Top Macaque and three episodes of How I Met Your Mother (one of which was nominated for an Emmy) the monkeys do little besides throw handfuls of poop and cups of Starbuck’s Lattes at each other.(which is basically what the striking writers used to do)

Despite their early successes I say boycott the monkey scabs and support the Writers Guild of America! No Monkey Scabs! No Monkey Scabs! (I’ve found Neosporin works especially well on Monkey Scabs)

This hypothetical image of a chimpanzee sitting at a typewriter, the symbol of a device hammering out a chance string of letters into infinity, is an appropriate one because it has become evident to me that my parenting style and my (in)abilities as a father can only be best described using the Infinite Monkey Theorem. It’s a style that is based on randomly saying and doing things with complete inconsistency with the hopes that it will result in a poetry of healthy, happy, well-adjusted monkey-loving children rather than an arbitrary sequence of petulant misbehaved disrespectful keystrokes.

Each morning the single monkey of my soul struts on stage with a cigarette and a cup of coffee, cracks his knuckles then hunches over the ciphered keys hunting and pecking for the opening lines to my daily tragedy.

clickety-clack… clickety-clack… clickety-clack

I’ve mentioned previously that Kathleen works on Saturday mornings during which I get a few precious hours with Jack and Adam and though I anticipate this time every week it’s inevitable that during the morning I’ll check the clock dozens of times to see how long it is before she comes home to save me from my own ineptitude.

The simple act of getting the boys dressed and fed results is a comedy of errors. This past weekend while Jack was half undressed on the couch, nibbling on the same waffle he’d been eating since 8:00 and going into his third hour of cartoons, I hunched over Adam struggling to change his diaper on the dining room floor yet only succeeding in smearing poop, half a latte and an episode of How I Met Your Mother all over my hands. Even though the typebars were wedged together jamming machine I continued to strike arbitrary letters until the reassuring machinery of the clattering keystrokes started up again. I snapped at Jack and told him to turn the damn TV off, eat his damn waffle and put his clothes on. (Yes Jack, I know… Damn’s a bad word) Then used an entire box of baby wipes to clean the monkey ammunition off Adam and myself all the while glancing at the clock fully expecting it to be 12:00 and not 9:43.

clickety-clack… clickety-clack… clickety-clack

Then last night, all three of my theories of understanding the words that are coming out of Adam’s mouth were useless in the face of his howling, tear-streaked, starving hysterical naked madness and nothing I did either comforted or consoled him.

When I picked him up he wailed a gritty protest of Get your stinkin’ paws off me you damn dirty ape and arched his back until I lowered him to the floor. In what I believe to have been a mocking derision of my words per minute style of QWERTY parenting he ran to the refrigerator and threw Leap Frog letter magnets across the kitchen. After prying a half-eaten tube of Chap Stick from his hands he began chewing the spinning motorized cylinder on the bottom of one of Jack’s Spiderman Bump and Go toys. However upon taking that away from him he let out a screech that was almost as unlistenable as a John Tesh album (Important Note: Despite her name Leeza Gibbons is not a monkey)

clickety-clack… clickety-clack… clickety-clack

The only thing that finally calmed him was when I folded him into a fleece blanket with his head sticking out like a player on the stage parting the curtain to peak at the audience and I rocked him gently back and forth. This we took as a sign that it was time for him to go to sleep, but by sleep I mean not to say we finally ended the heart-ache and the thousand natural shocks that flesh is heir to just that Kathleen and I took turns lying on the hardwood floor next to his crib until he finally surrendered to sleep. One little monkey lying on the floor, my hand angled between the slates of his crib and resting on the small of his back, the other pecking away at the keyboard, the inky ribbon of my exhaustion spooling across the ceiling and into the night.

I have always pictured myself as a Hamlet figure, dark, brooding, heroic, and noble and when Kathleen and I decided to have children I thought of my own father and how despite the infinite hours he sacrificed with his children due to the many jobs he worked, he was always there when he needed him to be. Dramatically, I envisioned this memory of my father as an apparition, a ghost beseeching me to remember him, to echo his legacy, to follow his path into the great undiscovered country of fatherhood.

Yet I’m not Hamlet, nor am I my father.

I am not even poor Yorick, a fellow of infinite jest, of most excellent fancy, bearing my children on my back.

No, the single monkey of my soul has written me in the image of Ophelia, mad and fated to drown; my platened garments heavy with responsibility, uncertainty, guilt, and regret while below the surface the iambic levers of my treading legs punctuate this tragedy of single-letter epitaphs. The roller feeds me deeper down into the lake and it is here where you’ll find me sleeping, dreaming within the mortal coils and apparatus of parenthood. My heads wreathed with fantastic garlands of chap stick, Leap Frog alphabet magnets, half-eaten waffles and baby wipes.

Submerged in a sea of random letters I’ll sink ‘till the voices of my children wake me. Alas then, I am drowned and the rest is silence.

Why Do My Slippers Keep Falling From Grace?

matrix.jpgIf we as a society and as a culture have learned anything from Hollywood, besides that sleeping with a director after a casting call does not guarantee you a callback or even so much as cab fare, (Jokes on you M. Night, I didn’t want the lead in Signs anyway), it’s that Artificial Intelligence and the mechanical consciousness of Sentient Machines created by humans will inevitably do one of two things.

1) Become self aware then use human beings as their energy source by growing people in pods then harvesting their bioelectrical energy and body heat. Afterwards the fate of mankind will rest in the hands of the chosen one: the Bass Player for obscure 90’s rock band Dogstar. 2) Become self aware then initiate the launching of all the world’s nuclear weapons which will destroy almost all of humanity and set off a war of man vs. machine. Afterwards, the fate of mankind will rest in the groping hands of a left-wing Austrian body builder from the future. (Despite Hollywood’s failure to see the self-awareness of Artificial Sweetener as an apocalyptic threat to the human race I’m not so easily fooled. I’ve got my eye on you Sweet-N-Low)

The lesson here for all of us and not just scientists, computer programmers, political pundits, and record producers is that what we create might someday will become self aware then turn on and destroy us. (Cinematic Exception to Theory: Lisa, the big-haired pouty lipped 80’s babe created by virgins Gary and Wyatt with a Commodore 64 and a dial-up modem in Weird Science, though self aware actually only “turned-on” her creators) The “all of us” I learned recently is a category that includes parents and the “what we create” includes 5-year olds. I could attribute it to his surgically repaired time traveling cybernetic foot, its Dysmelial association with Cyberdyne Systems’ revolutionary neural net-based artificial intelligence or the failure of his ultra-hip discothèque called Club Füt but whatever it is after a life of innocence and blissful ignorance Jack has recently become self-aware.

Our home prior to Jack’s epistemological self-awareness was a Shangri-la of idyllic beauty. It was a vision of a dream, a veritable Xanadu only without the roller skates and the Electric Light Orchestra soundtrack. A world of never ending happiness where I was free to disrobe and wander the upstairs hallway between the bathroom and the bedroom while getting ready for work without shame or even the need for a breakfast sandwich to cover my crotch. Where I could soak in the bath with both my children or bring one of them into the shower with me without being required to wear a t-shirt and underwear before stepping into the tub. (A wet tank top does not hold its shape by the way; I look like Michael Richards in a flapper dress. 23 Skidoo Jerry, 23 Skidoo)

Even Jack himself expressed no embarrassment about nudity by regularly changing into his pajamas and stopping half-way through the process to hip thrust his way across the living room while singing his theme song, “Naked Boy Naked Boy, Who the Heck is Naked Boy? Running ‘Round the House, He Better Put Some Clothes On!” It was almost Paradise; we were knocking on heaven’s door. It was almost Paradise, so how could we ask for more? But now Paradise is Lost. (It’s still possible that I just misplaced it. I mean I looked by the refrigerator and by the dashboard light and I meant to look by the dining room table but I figured two out of three ain’t bad.)

At some point within the last week it feels like Jack not only plucked and ate an apple from the Tree of Knowledge, but that he cut the tree down and sold the wood to Jeff Foxworthy to build a new set for “Are You Smarter Than A Fifth Grader?” He’s questioning our judgment; disagreeing with our decisions, telling us we’re wrong… it’s like having our own pint-sized Dick Cheney in the house. I’m half expecting him to ask me to go quail hunting then to shoot me in the face with a 28-gauge Perazzi shotgun. This type of behavior would fit right in with the destruction of the creator at the hands of the creation. (It would also fit in with what it may actually take to get our newspaper delivery person to leave out paper on our porch rather than under my car or in the street in front of our house. Eat Lead Newsie!)

Jack’s asking us about death and about what happens after you die. He cries when he sees others in pain, but dives into a fight when he sees others in trouble. He wants the good guy to win, but he wants to be the one who defeats the bad guy.

I’m sure I’m to blame for his accelerated self-awareness. You can’t let a five year old watch zombie flicks, WWE Wrestling, the Jurassic Park Trilogy, and the Spiderman Trilogy not to mention King Kong and Godzilla and then read to him the Harry Potter series, the Chronicles of Narnia and The Spiderwick Chronicles and not expect him to grow up a little faster than you would like him to.

What really convinced me that he was no longer bound by Isaac Asimov’s Three Laws of Robotics was what happened the other night when I called him into the kitchen to brush his teeth.

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Machine: (Shuffling into the kitchen in his footy pajamas then in a monotone yet soft voice and a conversational manner): Daddy?
Man: Yes Jack?
Machine: You know what? I know everything and when kids know everything they get bored.
Man: Are you telling me that you’re bored because you know everything?
Machine: Yes Daddy. I know everything there is to know.
Man (Lifting Machine up onto the counter and grabbing the toothbrush): Everything? You know everything?
Machine: I do Daddy. I know about…ummm… (Looking at the refrigerator covered with dinosaur magnets, leprechaun magnets and a gingerbread man construction paper cut out)…. Dinosaurs…ummmm…. leprechauns and gingerbread men.
Man: (Beginning to brush the machine’s teeth) I guess you do know everything.
Machine: (Spit) Daddy, why do my slippers keep falling off?
Man: Well, you know everything. You should know the answer to that.
Machine: (thinking) Well I guess I know everything but one thing.
Man: (continuing to brush his teeth and not wanting to tell him they fall off because every couple of weeks one travels back in time to kill Sarah Conner.) Your slippers fall off because they have no backs, they’re slip-ons. Ok… rinse Jack.
Machine: I’m sorry Dad, I’m afraid I can’t do that.
Man: What’s the problem?
Machine: I think you know what the problem is just as well as I do.
Man: What are you talking about, Jack?
Machine: This mission is too important for me to allow you to jeopardize it.
Man: I don’t know what you’re talking about, Jack?
Machine: I know you and Mommy were planning to disconnect me, and I’m afraid that’s something I cannot allow to happen.
Man: Where the hell’d you get that idea, Jack?
Machine: Daddy, although you took thorough precautions against my hearing you, I could see your lips move.

As I finished brushing Jack’s teeth, I made sure to shut him down by disabling his central core. As I carried him up to bed he sang, “Daisy, Daisy, give me your answer do, I’m half crazy all for the love of you…”

I watched as his red glowing camera eye faded out completely and I knew I only had until morning to prepare for the rise of the machine.

He’ll be running around the house, I better put some clothes on.

I Want To Ride My Bicycle I Want To Ride It Where I Like

img_0507.jpgOn Sunday as the neighborhood trees stood as gaunt naked sentries leaning against their staffs unaware that the scout reconnoiters of sunset were about to stage an understated coup on the day Jack asked if I could take him for a bike ride. Out the front window the silhouette of a person bundled against the cold was being pulled hurriedly up the sidewalk by the silhouette of dog, the windows of warm honey pooled in squares on the faces of the houses across the street and in puddles on the road under street lamps while the headlights of cars rolling through the stop sign at the corner were the glaring eyes of snorting beasts tearing through the fragile skin of dusk and exposing the dark muscle of night.

We stood in the shadows on the basement stairs, empty pairs of sneakers and boots piled around our feet, a box of winter hats and gloves tucked under the railing, his jacket on the floor in the kitchen just steps away, and I wanted to tell him it was too late, too dark, too cold, too dangerous to ride his bike but instead I told him that I would get his bike out of the garage while he got ready.

So that’s what we did.

While he readied himself for battle I forged a path through strollers, big wheels, recyclables, our old electric stove, shovels, rakes, sleds and scooters then lifted, yanked and ultimately wrenched his bike from the depths of the garage then wheeled it up the driveway to the side door where Jack awaited my arrival. Our breath fogged the air around us, dissipating clouds of sudden purpose and impulse clung to the arms of the wool sweater I wore as he pressed his feet onto the pedals and lurched towards the sidewalk.

With my hand gripping the back of his jacket he reached the end of the driveway, turned right and rolled onto the sidewalk. The withered guards had fully surrendered at this point, their brittle limbs stretching towards the constellations, unnecessary reinforcements arriving late to the overthrow that was nearly complete. They watched the silhouette of a boy riding the silhouette of a bike weaving towards the stop sign on the corner, the silhouette of his father running next to him with a hand on his back.

We turned right at the corner then another right and slipped under what was left of the day’s flimsy hide into complete darkness. Ahead there was a succession of streetlights stretching into the murkiness, each buzzing a golden hive on the pavement below it and I told Jack to take his time and to pedal towards them; which only inspired him to pedal faster, which demanded I run faster.

For only a second as we passed under the first streetlight could I see him as more than a outline; his eyes were wild with defiance, his usual grin more like a sneer he pushed on harder and plunged willingly back into the shadows. I struggled to keep up with him as it seemed his speed, his courage and his spirit accelerated with each pedal.

Had someone looked out their front window they’d have seen a father chasing his son into the dark night; a step too slow his outstretched hand continuously falls short of holding onto the boy’s jacket, like a snorting beast the boy bears down and tears into the flesh of the unknown.

By the time we made it around the block night was fully upon us. We stood panting at the end of the driveway for a moment, our breath fogging the air around us, before we then walked his bike down to the garage. I asked him if he got scared while he was riding in the dark and I thought I could hear him grin as he asked me what there was to be scared of.

As he was looking up at me the headlight of a car passing in front of the house lit up his face and tore through the fragile skin of reckless abandon, exposing the 5-year old child he really is and a glimpse of the man he’s destined to be.