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Thursday, March 15, 2012

Crab Legs for Breakfast

      Sometimes, breakfast is a good way for kids to learn the fallibility of dear old Dad.
      Many, many, many years ago when I was a wee lad about the age of 5, I clearly remember wandering around the kitchen early one Saturday morning looking for something to eat and wondering how long it would be until I could drink coffee. I couldn't have been looking too hard, chances are the Bugs Bunny show was on commercial, leaving me with a short window to scavenge for food.  I was listening intently to the television in the other room, making sure the commercials hadn't run their course.  From the other end of the house, I started to hear an alien noise. Shuffle, shuffle, scrape.  Shuffle, shuffle, scrape.
     We lived in a small town in Oklahoma at the time, and I was learning that weird stuff lived in Oklahoma.  I was fairly certain then, and even more so now, that the first public admission of a yeti sighting was somehow related to Oklahoma.  Roswell, NM, might lead the nation in reported day-time UFO sightings, but Oklahoma as a state is just plain weird.  The noise was getting closer, and I wasn't sure how far I could run on an empty stomach.
     Shuffle, shuffle, scrape.  The noise was getting closer.  Shuffle, shuffle, scrape. I could hear the bleating of the Road Runner from the other room, but now I was too afraid to move.  Shuffle, shuffle, scrape. Whatever it was, it was at the end of the hallway and was about to make the corner.  Shuffle, shuffle, scrape.
     First came the feet, followed closely by a set of scrawny, hair legs that were burnt like red sausage links.  My father emerged from around the corner.  He was sitting on the floor, shuffling his feet along a few inches at a time, scraping his butt on the ground behind him.  He was engaged in some oddly disconcerting reverse crab walk, but he looked like a lobster.  Other than his pasty white feet, he looked like he didn't have an inch of skin that hadn't been sunburned beyond all limits of human decency.  If I had been of an age to watch war movies, rather than Bugs Bunny, I would have given him a triple dose of morphine and told him to walk (or crab walk) towards the light.
     "Son, I need you to make me some toast."  This was gonna be fun.
     "I don't know how to make toast, Daddy."
     "Sure you do.  Get two pieces of bread and put them in the toaster."
     "I don't know where the bread is."  It was in the green bread box along with the bills, where it had been all of my fragile young life. A scrawny, burnt arm extended towards the bread box, the single finger shaking to punctuate the pain.
     I stood in front of the counter, two pieces of bread dangling at my side.  Dad sat on the floor watching me. This was the first time I was aware of being taller than him.  I could have kicked him over with my pinkie toe.  We stared at each other a long time, Dad's eyes pleading for sustenance.
     "Put it in the toaster son."
     I looked around lost.  Where was that coffee pot?  The toaster was on the counter about a foot away from the bread box.
     "I can't reach it Daddy."
     Growing exasperated, but still patient, "Scoot a chair over and stand in the chair son."
      I may have laid the two pieces of bread on the floor so that I could move the chair towards the counter.  I probably stepped on them in my bare feet before crawling up onto the seat.  But now I was really taller than dad, if I had known Pat Burleson at the time, or had I known about the future of MMA, I could have delivered a fatal flying half-burrito scissor headlock haymaker by jumping off the chair and landing in the middle of the old man.
      Dad didn't miss a beat.  "Wipe the fuzz off the bread, then put it in the toaster and push the handle down."  A few minutes later two perfectly toasted pieces of morning goodness popped out of the toaster.  I plunged the handle down again for a second cycle.  Burnt toast for a burnt man. I hopped down out of the chair and started towards Dad with the dried out bread.
     "Put some butter on it please, son." A knife! I get to use a knife. Sadly, and the reason this story still scars me to this day, the old man was wearing nothing but his briefs.  This also meant that he didn't have his wallet on him, no chance to get compensation for missing out on an entire segment of Bugs Bunny.
     While I had my head buried in the refrigerator looking for butter, I heard the old man ask for some jelly as well.  I grabbed the ketchup bottle.  After some more protests, pleading and patient instructions, Dad finally got to eat before shuffle scraping back to his bedroom to let the peeling begin.
     Fast forward three decades, 2 wives and 6 kids of my own.  Ladle in a healthy dose of technology and let boil.  Last summer, I had to stay home with the female children of the tribe while my wife took the boys to Cub Scout camp.  It was the dead of summer in one of the worst droughts in Texas history, I was on the verge of a career meltdown, and I couldn't take my boys to camp because I had a conflicting trial setting.  And then the blond headed child and her juvenile delinquent friend decided to throw a book of matches into the raw fuel.
     The girls shook me down for the last five dollars in my pocket so that they could walk down to the corner convenience store and bait shop to grab us all some donuts.  When they returned some time later, I was still on the couch staring at a blank television screen, mumbling to myself incoherently.  They were making quite a show of enjoying their donuts.  Enjoying their summer.  Living pre-teen summer dreams.
     "Where are my donuts?"
     "They only had these two small packages. There aren't anymore."
     I am fairly certain that my mini-Vesuvius registered on the Richter scale hidden in the basement of Lubbock's City Hall.
     At some point in my diatribe, I made passing reference to the location of the change from my last five dollars.  There was none, they said.  The donuts they were eating in front of me also consumed all my cash.  My eyeballs melted from the rage.  I started reaching for a blunt instrument, when the girls doubled over in laughter, threw my donuts at me and ran off to another room.  I wallowed in a slow boil while I ate my donuts, thinking the episode was now over.
     Technology can be a cruel executioner.  The girls really thought this out, because they were running the recorder on their stupid little iPhones as this low point in parenting played itself out.  Then they emailed the sound files to my lovely bride.
     After contemplating whether or not she should activate the CPS SWAT team, my wife called the girls to find out what was going on.  After the females of the tribe shared a hearty laugh at my further expense, my soul-mate, my life partner and my confidant gave the girls a further piece of advice.
     "Tell dad his breakfast isn't complete just yet.  Go get the ketchup bottle."
     A burned up, crispy dad with patience and a self-immolating impatient dad.  You can learn a lot at breakfast.

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