by Fielding Goodfellow
Its been getting a little scary around here, I mean the middle aged guy who did the deliveries for the pharmacy was brutally attacked right there in front of the grocery store on Wellesley Street. There were cars on the road and people on the sidewalk, but nobody stopped to help. My daughter was taking it pretty hard, I mean I think the entire neighborhood was beginning to feel quite vulnerable.
“I can’t believe you made us move down here.” she said. You’re supposed to protect us from things like this. If you don’t care about us, why did you even have kids anyway?”
“It seemed like a good idea at the time.” My wife said. “But lately, I’m not so sure.” I sat quietly, not wanting to get involved in what I was sure would very soon turn into a nightmare I may never wake from.
“Nothing to add?” my daughter asked, turning to me.
“I wasn’t really thinking about kids.” I said. “I was just enjoying all of the sex that went into trying to get your mother pregnant.” My daughter made a noise that I don’t think I’d ever heard before, and went into her room, slamming the door.
“Nice one.” My wife said. “Now you’ve gone and pissed her off.”
“She’ll be fine. She really needs to lighten up and relax, though.” She’d always been that way. She was histrionic and high strung as a kid, I mean I don’t think she stopped screaming until she was five or six, and even then she was a handful. We’d go shopping, she couldn’t have been more than two or so, and as we loaded everything into the van, we’d find all kinds of candy and shit she stashed in the sides of her stroller. My wife was sure that we were raising a thief. I thought that it was just a phase that she would grow out of and that she would settle down. Well, she’s twenty five now, and we’re still waiting.
We went to a family camp one summer when she was about four, although I never really wanted to make the trip. I was pretty sure that all of the planning and preparation wouldn’t really make a difference, I mean nothing good had ever come from putting the five kids in a minivan and hitting the open road. “Are you sure you want to do this?” I asked my wife.
“One hundred percent.” she said. “It’ll be fun.” My wife was right about a lot of things, but spending two and half hours in the van with the kids was almost never fun. But we headed out on what the kids would later refer to as the best fucking family road trip ever.
“When will we be there?” my daughter asked.
“Ah, hell.” I said. “We’ve barely pulled out of the driveway.”
“I think we should get some Timbits or something.” my wife advised. “That usually keeps her quiet for a while. The quiet didn’t last very long at all. Within minutes the Timbits were gone, and the screaming began again. It was incessant.
“Any other ideas?” I asked, “Or do we just head home?” By now the boys were shouting at her to shut up, but that only made her scream louder.
“Try putting on some music.” my wife said. “I think she likes The Spice Girls. There’s a CD in here, somewhere.”
“Oh, fuck no.” I said.
“Its that, or the screaming.” she said. “You decide?” The CD went in and my daughter immediately stopped screaming. The van filled with the rhymes and rhythms of the inane lyric of ‘Wannabe’. We were all relieved when it ended, but apparently that was the only Spice Girl song she liked. We spent what seemed like forever trapped in the living hell of ‘Wannabe’. I found myself praying, although it was more like begging, for the aliens to appear and abduct me. I was sure that their probing would hurt significantly less than the tripe that was beginning to make my ears bleed. As luck would have it, the aliens never came but the screaming stopped, only to be replaced with my daughter’s off key vocals that included the brilliantly insightful ‘I really, really, really wanna zigazig ah’,
“I think I’d like to stop and take up drinking.” I said to my wife.
“Not now.” She said. “You can’t drink and drive.”
“Well, I can’t drive and ‘slam my body down and wind it all around’. Isn’t there anything else she’ll listen to?”
“We’ve got Sharon, Lois and Bram if you’d like.” It was then that I realized that if indeed there is a hell, I had found mine.
“Let’s give it a shot.” I said. “It can’t be much worse.” I was wrong, I mean what the hell is a skinamarink anyway? I pulled off of the highway and into the parking lot of one of those tourist stops that lined the four hundred series of highways. I turned off the van, and sat on a curb stone in front of the golden arches.
“It will be okay.” My wife said, sitting down beside me. “We’re almost there.”
“I know.” I said. “But then there’s the trip back.”
“I’m afraid so.”
“That’s too bad.” I said, as we listened to the kids fighting in the van. “I suppose I should go get them some fries and nuggets or something. That might get us twenty minutes of quiet.”
“You might as well.” she said. “And you can get me a cheese burger and fries.”
The week at the camp went by far too fast. The kids had a great time, and I suppose that was really all that mattered, I mean we did this for them. Even the little screamer was so busy particpating in all of the activities, particularly the ones held in the water, that I didn’t hear a single scream. The night before we were to leave they held a parents’ night off camp property. The counselors were left to tend to the kids, while the parents headed off to the excitement that was downtown Collingwood. We went for dinner and sat with a few people my wife had befriended. Mary Ann Perkins, a diminutive blonde from Mount Forest was sitting directly across from me and was plastered before dinner even arrived. She regaled me with her sordid tale of how she had raised her daughter as a single parent given that she had no idea who the father was. “Just so we’re clear” I said to my wife, “I have never been to Mount Forest, and I’m pretty sure I’d rather be listening to the kids yell and scream than this drunken idiot’s fucked up life story.”
I didn’t sleep at all that night, wondering what kind of torture the trip back was going to bring. We packed up the van early the next morning, and headed out before most of the others were even awake. It didn’t take long before I heard her voice. “I won this CD at camp.” she said as she passed it forward to my wife. “Can we listen to it?”
“Sure, honey.” My wife said, and in it went. After the first two tracks, I knew the drive home was going to be as much of a nightmare as the trip up to the camp, I mean I was almost tempted to put The Spice Girls back in, but it was during the third song that I lost the hearing in my right ear.
“What the hell is this?” I asked my wife. “Did she just say ‘life in plastic, its fantastic?”
“I think so.” she said. I was not prepared to endure this for the entire drive home, I mean I just couldn’t. After ten or twenty listens to Barbie Girl I stopped at one of those tourist stops that lined the four hundred series of highways. I sat in silence under the golden arches, trying desperately to get that shit out of my head. But it was still there, long after the music stopped playing. “Are you okay?” my wife asked.
“I think so.” I said. “But I can tell you that I’m way too old to party with Barbie. I’ll go get chicken nuggets and fries for the kids, and I suppose you want a cheeseburger and fries.”
“Make it a Big Mac.” she said. “And see if they have any of those orange milk shakes.”
And twenty years or so after that week on the shores of Georgian Bay, my daughter still tries to manipulate and cajole us with her big mouth and idiotic sense of entitlement. I suppose its our fault really, I mean we should never have given in, but my wife just wouldn’t even consider any of the alternatives. She’s a good kid really, but she’s a bit of an ass. My wife says she gets that from me, which I suppose is true. Anyway, the hoodlums involved in the beating of the delivery guy are still roaming around out there. He was too afraid to go to the police, and he quit his delivery job at the pharmacy. The neighborhood is as safe as any really, I mean shit happens and you just can’t live your life hiding somewhere hoping to avoid it. Thankfully my daughter moved out and is living in the suburbs with her boyfriend, who’s a nice enough guy, but I’m not sure he has any idea what he’s in for. It doesn’t really matter to me though, I mean I have given him the blessing and the problem, and I have a very strict return policy. Its now up to him to decide if he needs to pull off the highway or spend the time trying to slam his body down and wind it all around.