Rules Of Engagement

 

“I can’t sleep.”, my wife informed me as I was finally drifting off. “The atmosphere has been weird for the past two weeks. Do you know what I mean?”

“I understand the words.”, I replied. “But I have no idea what you mean.”

“Its like things are out of whack.” she continued. “It just doesn’t feel right. And its making me very uneasy.  Does that make any sense?”

“Not really.”, I told her. “But I don’t share your Moroccan sensitivity.”

“Do you think that’s what it is?”, she asked.

“Well”, I answered, “Either that or you’ve lost your mind.”

“We’ll go with the Moroccan sensitivity.”, she said.

“Either way.”, I informed her, “Its okay with me.” Several minutes of silence passed, and I could feel myself drifting off to sleep, once again.

“So what do you want to do now?”, my wife asked.

“What?”, I inquired, both surprised and agitated.

“Well, we can’t sleep.”, she stated, “did you want to talk, or watch tv or something?”

“We could fool around.”, I said.

“No.” , she answered, “I’m not in the mood for that.”

“Well.”, I said, “I think I’ll just go to sleep.”

“That’s it?”, she asked angrily. “You’re only willing to stay awake for sex?”

“Pretty much.”, I told her.

“You’re an ass.”, she said.

“Look.”, I told her, as I turned to face her. “There are only two reasons I have ever been prepared to stay awake. If you need medical attention, or sex. If you don’t need either of those, I have to get some sleep. I’m exhausted”

“Well, I’m over exhausted.” she said. “But this feeling is freaking me out.”

“You can’t be over exhausted.”, I informed her. “Exhausted is finite. There are degrees of tired, and exhausted is the ultimate. You can be over tired, but there is nothing beyond exhausted. You could use an adjective, like totally exhausted, but its redundant. Exhausted implies that you are the most tired you could be.”

“Shut up.”, she said, as she turned her back to me.

“You don’t have to be angry about it.”, I told her.

“Yes I do.”, she stated. “The rules are if I can’t sleep, you stay up with me.”

“Really?”, I inquired. “And if I can’t sleep, do you have to stay up with me?”

“No.”, she informed me. “Only if you’re very sick, or hurt.”

“Who made these rules.”, I asked.

“I did.”, she answered.

“It must be nice to just make up any rule you want.”, I stated sarcastically, sitting up in bed now, realizing that I was completely awake.

“It is.”, she said.

“Well, I’m awake now.”, I told her. “What do you want to do?”

“I’m feeling sleepy now.”, she said. “I think I’m going to go to sleep.”

“You’ve got to be kidding me!”, I stated with some indignance. “You’ve kept me awake, and now that I can’t sleep, you decide that you’re going to sleep?”

“Those are the rules.”, she said.

“What the hell am I supposed to do now?”, I asked.

“Well”, she said. “Medical attention or sex. You decide.”

“You know you make me crazy.”, I told her.

“I know.”, she replied. “That’s also one of the rules.”

 

 

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The Rebellion of 2010

 

Moving with my family was one of the most horrifyingly traumatic events in our lives. My wife and I were busy in our search for a home in the city’s downtown core, while my kids were opposed to leaving their lives in suburbia.

We searched and searched for the ideal home, but everything we saw raised at least one significant issue with my wife. It was  too far from a school, or not near enough to a subway station. There were homes that were too close to the main street, or too far from a grocery store.  And  the search seemed to continue for what seemed like an eternity. After intensive investigating, and viewing, we finally found something she could live with. It was just blocks away from a high school, right next door to a grocery store, a few blocks from a subway station, and about a 1/2 hour walk to a hospital. “Well.”, she said, “I suppose its as close to perfect as we’re going to get.”

“What do we tell the kids?”, I asked.

“Leave that with me.”, she said. “It will be a piece of cake.” Now, I don’t eat cake. I never did. I just don’t like it, but I was almost certain this would not be a piece of cake.

We sat down with the 4 remaining kids still living at home, and my wife broke the news. “We’ve found a place. We’re going to be moving downtown. You guys will love it.”

“What the hell?”, one of my daughters shouted.

“I’m not going.”, my son said. “I hate it downtown.”

“I can’t believe you’re doing this to me.”, another daughter chimed in. “I love it here. I’m not going.”, and she burst into tears. They all got up and left the room.

“Well, that went over well.”, I said to my wife. “Perhaps they don’t like cake either.” And, as I have so regularly been subjected to over the years, my wife gave me the Moroccan death glare, the one that implies “I could kill you with just a blink of an eye.”

“You could have helped out a little.”, she said.

“You said to leave it with you.”, I replied. “Remember? It was going to be a piece of cake.”

“What do we do?”, she asked, “Do we stay here?”

“I think we just leave it alone.”, I told her. “They’ll get used to the idea. It’s not like they have a choice.”

Well, things went from bad to worse, and of course, I bore the brunt of the blame. My son had decided that he was moving out. He had a friend who was looking to share an apartment, and my son was moving in with him. One of my daughters was okay with the move, as long as she had her own bedroom, and we took the dogs with. The 2 other girls were emotionally wrought, filled with anxiety, fear, and hatred. They said that they would not move. They informed me that I could not make them move. They threatened to contact Children’s Aid, and have themselves placed in foster care in order to stay in outer suburbia.

“Its all fixed.”, I told my wife. “We lucked out. One is moving in with a friend, and two are going into the care of Children’s Aid. So we have 4 out of 5 kids no longer living with us. And, just to let you know, there was no cake involved. I substituted pie.”

“Nobody is going into Foster Care.”, she bellowed. “They’re coming with us. It doesn’t matter what they say. We are the parents. We decide what’s best for this family.” She often said we, but in reality, she meant that she decided what was best for this family.

The kids continued to be adamant about not moving, singing rousing versions of ‘We Shall Overcome’, and  ‘I Shall Be Released’, that came out as “I hate you”, and “I wish I was never born”. Over the following days, and weeks, they began a campaign to try to force us to change our minds. They employed subversive tactics such as ignoring us when we called them, refusing to do their chores, and refusing to clean up after themselves. They kept their lights and televisions on, and stayed up late in the early morning hours, on their computers. They posted on social media just how unfair and cruel their parents were. They left us notes stating that they would run away, and we would never see them again. I bought them suitcases on wheels, like a good and thoughtful father, so their departures would be easier.

As the moving date neared, their defiance heightened. They flat out refused to pack up their things. They would hold sit ins in their rooms so my wife and I could not pack for them. “It’s really a simple choice.”, I told one of my daughters. “You can leave with your stuff, or without it, but you will be leaving.”

“You can’t make me move.”, she replied.

“That’s true.”, I told her. “I just hope the family moving in doesn’t mind having you here.”

By moving day, my daughters had, I thought, surrendered, given that they had packed what they wanted to take with. Once we arrived at our new home, they amped up their disapproval of downtown living by refusing to eat, staying in their rooms, and giving us the silent treatment. My youngest daughter gave up the battle soon after we moved in.

The older of the 2 dug her heels in, with letters expressing her absolute and total disapproval of our parenting style and decision making process. Apparently, she believed that she had rights, which my wife and I had violated. I reminded my daughter that, since she was over 16 years old, I no longer had to allow her to live with me. I could, if I so desired, toss her sorry ass out on the street. She reminded me that she had rights. “Not in my dictatorship.”, I advised her. “You’re not obligated to stay here. You can pack up, and leave. Sail away to undiscovered lands, and start a new life. But if you choose to stay here, remember, this is not a democracy. I am not taking votes.”

“I want to talk to mommy.”, she said.

“That’s up to her.”, I said. “But I will ask.” I spoke with my wife about my daughter’s requrest.

“What am I supposed to say to her?”, my wife asked.

“I guess you don’t want to try that cake thing again.”, I remarked, as her Moroccan eyes darted back and forth searching for her prey. “Just tell her the truth. She will come around.”

“And what if she doesn’t?”, my wife inquired.

“Well”, I responded, “she really has no choice. Where is she going to go?”

The negotiations were long and arduous. Hour after hour, day after day of back and forth bargaining had the parties at a standstill. “Why don’t you say anything?”, my wife asked me one night.

“I am using my silence to confuse and befuddle her.”, I said. “I will talk when it is time to deliver the one crushing blow that will bring this to an end once and for all.”

“This isn’t a game.”, she said.

“Ah, my dear wife,”, I advised her, “but it is.”

About 1 week later, my daughter made a fatal mistake, and I could see the end in sight. She had made plans to spend the weekend with a friend in suburbia. She approached my wife and I, asking for money to finance her trip. I took money out of my pocket and placed it on the table in front of her. “How much do you need?”, I asked.

“$20.”, she said.

“Okay.”, I said and I picked up a $20 bill, and held it in my hand. “Let me explain how this is going to work. As long as you need to come to me and ask for money, there are rules that must be followed. I will always provide for my family. It doesn’t require you to like me, I really don’t care if you do or not. It does however require you to respect me and your mother. Nothing is free. This money is not just money, it is time taken from my life that I can never get back. It is mine. I have the option of sharing it with you, or not. I am under no obligation to provide with anything other than food, shelter and clothing. I don’t even have to pay for your cell phone. In fact, if this continues, I will cancel it. Do you understand?”

“Yes.”, she said.

“So”, I asked, “What do you want to do, because today we are resolving this. The revolution is over, and we now need to negotiate peace”

“Can I use the money you were going to give me to go to see my friends to paint my room instead?”, she asked.

“When do you want to paint it?”, I responded.

“This weekend.”, she told me. “I don’t think I want to see Elana right now, anyway.”

“Go and get dressed, and we’ll go get paint and the brushes.”, I said.

“I’m sorry.”, she said as she walked to her room to change.

“Me too.”, I told her.

“Well”, my wife said, “that turned out okay.”

“Okay?”, I questioned. “That was a superbly executed act of patience, power and control.  I told you not to worry.”

“I am impressed.”, she added.

“Thank you.”, I replied. “And notice that there was no need for any cake.”

My daughter remained with us for another 5 years, before moving in with her boyfriend, who resides in an outer suburban community. She calls her mother everyday, and comes by and visits at least once a month, whether we want her to or not. She learnt her lesson, and I was proud as hell of her for at least attempting to overthrow the powers that be. None of it really matters to me anymore though, as her boyfriend, who we care for very much, has inherited the little guerrilla inside of her, laying dormant, but waiting for the opportunity to jump out and usurp power and control before he even notices that it is gone.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Ghost Of The Mouse In My House

 

It was hard to believe, but it was true. Or so they said. As weird as it seemed, there was a mouse in my house, appearing sporadically, and moving through walls and doors as if they weren’t there. Its mere presence had my wife and daughters standing on beds and table tops, to avoid its malevolent mischief making. “The mouse is back.”, my wife informed me.”

“That’s impossible.”, I advised her. “We have 3 different kinds of traps, poison all over the house, and we haven’t seen a mouse in a couple of months.”

“Well then,”, one of my daughters stated, “then we have the ghost of a mouse.”

“Really?, I asked, somewhat amazed at this turn of paranormal events. “A ghost mouse?”

“It’s haunting us.”, my daughter added.

“I see.”, I said, dreading what I knew was soon to come.

“I want you to get rid of it.”, my wife ordered. “I want it out of here. For good.” I thought about this for a long time, considering all possibilities, and rejecting only the insane.

“We should have a seance.”, I advised.

“A seance?”, one of my daughters asked quite surprisingly.

“Yes.”, I told them all, “a seance. You know, we sit around the table in the dark, hold hands, and try to contact the spirit to find out what it wants so it can cross over to the other side.”

They grew disturbingly quiet, and then began whispering among themselves, occasionally looking over at me with disapproving eyes.

“Are you making fun of us?”, my youngest daughter asked.

“Oh, no.”, I told her. I would never do something like that. We only have so many choices. We can have a seance, or an exorcism. And since the mouse is dead, I don’t think he needs any exorcise do you?”

“It’s not funny!”, my wife shouted from atop the bed. “Get the damned thing out of this house.”he gave me the Moroccan look, the one that she always gives to show me that she is going to put a curse on me. I have told her for years that I am immune. It is my superpower.

“Okay.”, I said. “Everybody out of my room. I need to change into my mouse catching gear.” What I wouldn’t have given to have had a deer stalker hat, a red cape, and blue tights to change into. I could be Exterminator Man.

“Where should we go?”, one of the girls asked.

“Go stand on your own bed.”, I said, and they left, tip toeing as they walked, checking the hallways, and the corners for its presence. I put on some old sweats, and began my crusade. I checked bedrooms, pulled everything out of closets, moved furniture, and looked under beds, but I saw no trace of this revenant rodent.

“I’ll look again tomorrow.”, I told them.

“How can I sleep tonight,” a daughter asked, “when there’s a ghost mouse roaming around the house?”

“If you’d like, you can stay awake all night, and if you see him, call me.”, I answered.

I went into my room. “Does a mouse really need to haunt someone?”, I asked my wife.

“Why not?”, came her response.

“Well”, I postulated, “When he’s alive, he’s haunting you. I don’t understand why he would need to continue that after death.”

“Maybe he has some unfinished business.”, she replied.

“What unfinished business could they possibly have? Did he not eat half a piece of cheese?”

“I don’t know.”, she answered. “I do know I want that damn thing out of here, tomorrow!”

Sometime in the middle of the night, I went to the bathroom. As I opened the door, and turned on the light, there he was, the little brown bastard. He ran out of the bathroom, down the hallway, and into one of my daughter’s rooms. I grabbed a broom from the kitchen, and we met on the battlefield. He was hiding in the closet, and I began to move boxes, and bins out. I saw him! Hiding behind a box of mementos, his beady little eyes peering out at me, and I, in my boxers, holding my broom. The lines were drawn. The little rodent was not getting out of this room alive. He made a run for it, and I swung my mighty broom, making contact, and knocking him over. I held him down with my broom, and that was it. It was over. He was terminated, no longer terrifying my family with his malevolent mouse mischief.

I disposed of the remains, made coffee, and waited for the haunted to awake. I was sitting at the table, drinking coffee when they got up. I had my broom of power at my side, and nothing else, except for my boxers of bravery.

“What are you doing?”, my wife asked.

“Drinking coffee.”, I replied.

“Why are you holding the broom?”, she clarified, “and why are you walking around half undressed?”

“I came, I saw, and I conquered.”, I told her.

“What are you talking about?”, my wife asked.

“It was horrible.”, I explained. “I woke up and saw the ghost mouse.”

“Really?”, she asked, filled with the wonder of a 10 year old child.

“Really.”, I continued. “He was just sitting there in the bathroom, staring at me. He was dressed in a kilt, and playing little wee bag pipes.That’s all he wanted. It seems he was a Scottish mouse, named Angus, who left this realm, happy to be playing his pipes again. I don’t think he’ll bother you again.”

“Really?”, she asked, although I was sure she didn’t believe me.

“I drove him out with the broom of power. Its over. He’s gone.”

“Broom of power?”, she questioned.

As we walked out of the kitchen, she turned to me. “You know”, she said. “Since you’ve got that broom of power handy, how about sweeping the kitchen floor.”

“I don’t know.”, I told her. “Its extremely powerful.”

“I know.”, she said. “Just be careful, and you’ll be okay.”

When Worlds Collide

 

I never knew my father-in-law. He passed away before I even met my wife. I did spend a lot of time with his brothers and sisters, my wife’s uncles, aunts, and her cousins. These are the Spanish-Moroccans.

7931076-sahara-lifestyle-and-camel-caravan-stock-vector-camel-cartoon-desertAt some point in time, the family left Spain, crossed the Straits of Gibraltar, and settled in Tangiers.    There are stories told, about the family patriarch, my wife’s grandfather, who died long before she was born. Rumors abound that he may not be who he claimed to be. It is told, around a table, that offers Chicken Tagine and couscous, that he was a foundling, roaming around the Moroccan desert, where he was taken in by a man, who having no children of his own raised him like a son, and gave him his name. No one knows why he was wandering in the desert, or what his name really was.  It gets weirder. After marrying and spawning 9 children, he died after being kicked in the head by a horse.  No one can explain what he was doing to the horse at the time, but I have my suspicions.

 

One by one, this family left Morocco, with most coming to North America and settling in Buffalo, which, when they tell the story, and they often do, makes me laugh out loud. Of all of the places in The United States, they chose Buffalo. Any way, as they were all uneducated, with cartoonhousepainting1not one finishing high school, they took jobs as factory or warehouse workers. 2 of my wife’s uncles, became house painters. I was informed that they were the best, No body could paint a house like they could. I was shown their work, and it is true, they nailed the green paint in the living room!

As life went on, they all married, and had hoards of children. It was at the wedding of one of these offspring, a cousin to my wife, that I began to understand these people. Now bear with me, as the tale gets quite confusing. It will be difficult to tell the relatives apart, as all of my wife’s male cousins are named Michael and David, and the female cousins are called Lisa or Coty. It is their tradition to name everyone after their parents and grandparents. Even with a program, it is difficult to tell the players apart. I will therefor label them with numerical suffixes.

robberSo, at this wedding, I was able to meet a myriad of dysfunctional Spanish-Moroccans, all related to my wife.   David 1, a successful and prominent financial planner, was not able to attend the wedding, as he was living somewhere in Latin America, after having been charged with extorting several millions of dollars of his clients’ money. When caught, he packed up and vanished. Without a trace. It is worth noting, that he also absconded with monies belonging to his siblings and cousins. He was found guilty of fraud and embezzlement in absentia, and has never been heard from again.

 

David 2, operated a window sales and installation business. He actually lived just around the corner from me. He had 2 trucks, and what appeared to be a thriving business. While at the wedding, he approached me and informed me that if I ever needed anything, like a TV,  or camera, or jewellery, or fur coat, or stereo, or perhaps a refrigerator, I should let him know. He could get me a great deal. A few weeks later, as my wife’s birthday was approaching, I went to see him at his home, to see what he could get and at what price. He took me downstairs, to the basement to show me his wares. There were closets filled with fur coats, and suitcases crammed with assorted jewelry. There were cases ct-west-side-stolen-goods-ring-20160714of watches, and bins filled with cameras, and video. There were televisions, still in boxes, lined up against the wall. As you probably guessed, David 2 had never installed or sold a window in his life. He sold stolen goods. I don’t know if he was the thief, but he knew where to get stuff. Several years later, he left the country without warning. Rumor has it that he went to prison, but the romantic in me likes to think that he fucked off to Latin America, and is enjoying the sun and surf with his cousin.

Michael 1, a dimwitted insurance salesman, who had been under the care of a psychiatrist for a personality disorder,  had just branched out and opened his own brokerage, specialising in group benefits and accident insurance. During his sales pitch to me, he began making incredibly rude and provocative comments and gestures towards my wife.  It is quite fortuitous that he sold accident insurance, as the ensuing misadventure of my fist striking his face, required  him to be under the care of another doctor. I apologised to my wife, and we left he wedding, amid Spanish squawking.

Joseph, a cousin in law, was insanely wealthy. He was in the clothing business, manufacturing a line of women’s fashion and wholesaling it b9253c5a5b71f0a43b4b876658a365cdout to major, upscale retail outlets across North America. My wife took me to his house once. it was approximately 10,000 sq, ft., with an indoor swimming pool. I actually got lost on my way to use the bathroom. Their dog, who has been trained to locate and retrieve  lost and injured travellers, brought me back to the living room, after giving me some water so I could re-hydrate. About 5 years later, we had heard that Joseph had lost his business, boycotted by his customers for violating several labour and human rights laws in the manufacturing of his products., Seems the putz had factories in the Philippines, and was operating sweat shops. Now he dabbles in the sales of assorted items he imports from China.

Michael 2, one of the house painters, had retired from painting due to back issues. We would go visit them on Saturday afternoons, and he would fall asleep in his chair while talking. His wife, who was 15 years his junior, would often expose herself to me. Everytime she bent over, leaned over, or crossed her legs, I saw things I shouldn’t have seen. It was a regular occurrence, this dinner and a show routine she performed, and I often felt obligated to give her the $20 for the performance. My informed that it was not necessary, unless a lap dance was involved.

1-cartoon_sexy_womanSo, these 2 had opened a prepared food business with both a retail location, and a catering operation. My wife and I went down to the store to visit and to wish them well. My wife never fully believed my tales of Peeler Pearl, but all of that changed when Pearl called me into the kitchen area to see the operation. I went in, with my wife following, and there was Pearl, blouse unbottoned to her navel, no bra, and a view of the Blue Ridge Mountains there for the taking. I kind of felt sorry for Uncle Michael, the poor bastard, but he was a mean S.O.B. anyway.

And then there was Aunt Coty, the family witch. The purveyor of potions and spells. The story goes that her husband had upset her by not permitting her to purchase something quite expensive. She put a curse on him, the hex of hexes, and turned him catatonic. The man never moved, or spoke again. He was tube fed, and had round the clock nursing. The official story is that he suffered a massive stroke, and never recovered. The family still talks, in clandestine gatherings, and whispered voices, about Coty’s ability to weave magic. Shortly after my wedding, my wife informed me that Coty had advised her to have a curse put on me that would have me remain in love with my wife forever. All that was required was a pair of my wife’s panties. Ya, pretty weird.

My mother-in-law, who is not Spanish-Moroccan. adores me. To the rest of my wife;s family, I am an outsider. I cant begin to tell you how pleased I am with this. They do not speak English when I am nearby. I wish I could tell them that their conversations, entirely in Spanish, are of no interest to me. My wife, however, insists that I be nice. They are her family. We have been invited to some Spanish-Moroccan event in April, although we are not sure exactly what it is celebrating. I have suggested that it is either the extradition hearing of David 1, or the installation of a stripper’s pole in Michael 2 and Pearl’s retail outlet. Either way, I am not looking forward to it. I have promised not to kick the crap out of Michael 1, provided he abstains from trying to get his hand down my wife’s pants. It is a moot promise at best, I mean, I don’t think he can help himself. And me, well I have been working out on the heavy bag, just in case.