We need to clean this car. Have you seen the back seat? It looks like somebody’s butthole on a dirty day.
— My Wife
“Stupid rental car,” my wife growled.
“Huh?” I bumbled, snapping out of an exhausted daze. “I thought we liked the rental car.”
Having ventured to Maui with my parents, we’d rented a minivan that would comfortably fit the six of us and our fleet of Traveling Toddler Circus props. Even with the two extra adults there was still plenty of room. Compared to the 4-door sedan we usually cart the kids around in and into which certain strollers only fit one way (when inserted with ninja precision), it was a veritable vehicular vacation on top of our location vacation. In fact, it had inspired us to seek out a van of our own once we returned to Phoenix. Or so I thought as my wife suddenly slandered our steed’s good name.
“We do like it, except for this stupid speedometer. I have no idea how fast I’m going.”
Straightening up on the passenger side, I leaned towards my wife at the wheel to survey the dash. The numbers and gauges shone brightly up at us as we traversed the dark, sans-streetlight coastal road. On this particular night my parents were out on a date and my wife and I were headed back to the hotel with our passed-out munchkins. When it’s just the four of us, my wife usually opts to drive due to her propensity for motion sickness and a particularly vocal flair for back-seat driving. While many of my male peers might see this as gender-role sacrilege, I assure you, this is the optimal driving arrangement.
Examining the dashboard, I saw exactly what my wife was talking about. A digital gauge displayed her speed in kilometers per hour rather than miles per hour.
Someone Who Shall Remain Nameless: So are you still being Mr. Mom?
Me: You know, the term “Dad” works just fine.
Sure, I could have just let it go. I could have replied, “Yes, I am still being Mr. Mom.” thus avoiding the awkward pause that ensued. Don’t take it personally, I used to tell myself. It’s just a (tired, lame, unfunny) joke. But this terminology is pinned on me often and I have recently decided I am done with just letting it go.
It’s not that I feel emasculated wrangling the Twins all week. I challenge any “man’s man” who thinks stay-at-home parenting is for sissies to actually try it for one day. (In fact, I imagine it could make for a thoroughly entertaining reality show, with each episode culminating in a grown man sobbing.) It’s definitely not easy, but at the same time it’s also the most rewarding thing I’ve ever done. Many fathers would jump at the opportunity to spend as much time with their children as I do, especially at this age. I blinked when they were eight months old and was suddenly thrown into a DeLorean which promptly accelerated to 88 miles per hour, traversing space and time to today, as I open my eyes and find them eleven months old. Until I can get the Flux Capacitor to flux again, I make an effort each day to take it all in (and document it in HD) because I know how fleeting babyhood is.
My wife and I had narrowly escaped the house with the Twins intact. We’d fed and bathed them in a hurry so we could make it on time to Thanksgiving 2: This Time, It’s Leftovers at my wife’s mother’s house, and were now en route, listening to the soothing sounds of choral squawks from the back seat over the jingle-jangle of Arizona’s perpetual Christmas music radio station.
Glancing downward at her leg, my wife felt her jeans. “My knee’s still wet from when I pulled him out of the tub and dried him,” she chuckled.
“Yeah, well, that’s better than finding poo smears on your sleeve.” I’d had to change my shirt after changing Twin diaper loads.
“Can you imagine how awesome it’s going to be when the kids can walk and we can just tell them to step out of the tub themselves?”
“Yeah, that’ll be nice.” I mused. “But that also means they’ll be able to step out of the tub whenever they want.”
“…Nuh-uh. We’ll hold them down or something.” But even she herself didn’t sound convinced.
I eyed her with a grin. “Mo’ money, mo’ problems, babe.”
This is Part 2 of the sprawling, epic adventure of Coyote Fugly, in which Our Hero wages war against a coyote ravaging his neighborhood. You can experience the thrill of Part 1 here.
. . .
Those who live in Arizona will attest to the commonality of suburban coyotes. These bloodthirsty mange-bags live in desert mountains adjacent to housing developments and often venture onto residential streets looking for unsuspecting stray dogs and cats to harvest loudly and painfully. In fact, the day we moved in, one of our neighbors who’d seen our dog warned us that she’d heard a neighborhood cat being mauled by a coyote just the night before.
And as I looked my canine adversary in the ass, I remembered this fact.
. . .
It was a desert-dirt tan, ears pricked straight up, tail flopping as it bounded down the sidewalk.
As soon as I saw this predatory perp, I sighed in relief. We were not in any uber-immediate danger–it was about a half-block away, headed in the opposite direction, hopping over landscape rocks and weaving around garbage cans. (He must hate Trash Day, too.)
Still understandably flustered, I turned back to the Woman Who Cried Wolf and awkwardly replied, “Thank you, citizen!”
Although I wasn’t staring Vile E. Coyote in the face, I still decided this was a still a pretty good cue that it was time to get the frick back home. Yanking my dog’s leash, I sped up, leaving the now-stopped apparent vigilante coyote hunter at the curb. Looking both ways, I turned to jaywalk to the other side of the street. No cars. Awesome.
But then there was a car. Headed straight for us.
My dog froze, again tangling the leash in the stroller, immobilizing it.
I was already mourning the morning walk.
Before we’d even traveled a block my dog had decided to lead the caravan, walking directly in front of the jogging stroller, her hindquarters mere inches from the front wheel. I don’t know why she insists upon this walking arrangement–maybe she likes to think she’s in charge–but(t) it never “ends” well for her, typically culminating in me literally running her ass over. It begins when she looks back at the stroller and decides she is terrified of it, so terrified that she freezes in place, causing the usually-taut leash to slack and wrap around the stroller’s back axle, putting us at a dead stop just after the tire bumps her square on the cheeks. I do my best to stop before the butt-bump, but she forces me to tailgate her at an unsafe following distance.
On this particular day, she had jumped to deer-in-headlights mode so abruptly and forcibly that it had pulled her harness clean off. (We attach the leash to her harness and not her collar because after years of scientific research, we have determined she would rather be choked to death than respond to leash tugs.) And because my dog just barely qualifies as obedient, I knew I had to act quickly on this leashless freedom unless I wanted to choose between:
1) chasing her around the neighborhood, loudly cussing her out while she thinks its a game, waking the Twins from their stroller catnaps and yielding a sterophonic meltdown; or
2) tritely employing the if-you-love-her-set-her-free-and-if-she-never-returns-she-was-never-yours axiom, which would most likely mean never seeing my beloved canine again, as she would surely make a grand exit from this life in Harry Houdini fashion while performing her famous freezing-in-front-of-an-oncoming vehicle trick.
It was in that moment that I remembered I am a ninja, as my keen, subconscious reflexes sprang into action, one-handedly snagging her by the tail, keeping the other hand firmly planted on the stroller.
She turned her head towards me, dumbly panting with glee, as if to say. “That was fun, Dad!”