“What an asshole,” he ranted to himself as he pounded out an email on his laptop. He sat at the kitchen table, his laptop jammed between the cluttered remains of dinner. It was spaghetti night. Four small, plastic, bright-colored, kid’s plates filled with hardening, half-eaten noodles were scattered about. Each accompanied by a red stained fork and partially finished plastic glass of milk. Spots of spilled spaghetti framed the plates to complete the masterpiece of mess.
“I can’t believe he would sandbag me like that,” he mumbled to himself. “That bastard.” Taking his hands from the keys, he pushed off the floor with his right foot and rocked back in dining room chair until its back touched the wall behind him.
Less than an hour ago at dinner, he had chastised his oldest son for the exact same move. “Don’t rock, you’ll break my chair,” he’d chided. He justified the moment in his mind with three simple words, “I am an adult.” The thought brought a grin to his lips.
A zinger sprung to life in his mind and he smiled. He was proud of the email he was composing. Snarky but respectful, innocent but pointed. It was a work of art. His boss would read it and in the morning he would have his vindication. His co-worker would never see it coming. He rocked forward and added the zinger to the middle of the note.
The table rocked when something bump a let from underneath. The rumble caused him to make a typo. He sighed and deleted it. “Can you go play somewhere else? Please?” he said trying to mask his frustration with politeness.
“Play somewhere else?” he thought. He rolled the words over in his mind. “Oh, that’s good,” he laughed to himself. He added another zinger to the email. It compared his co-worker to a child who kept breaking valuable things because he didn’t know when to keep his hands to himself.
Another bump came from under the table, shaking the plastic glasses, almost causing the fullest to tip.
“Seriously, boys,” he said without breaking his typing, no longer trying to hide his frustration. “Go and play somewhere else. Daddy’s working.”
“Shhh Daddy,” came a small three-year-old voice from beneath him. “I’m hiding. I don’t want Wackson to fine me.”
The sweet chime of the voice melted his resolve, challenging his focus and diminishing his intensity. For a moment he was lost. But the email called to him back. He recovered his drive. “Jude. Go hide somewhere else,” he said. Then he typed, “I was confused today when you asserted that your department was not somehow responsible for,”
“Shhh, Daddy!” the voice interrupted again. “You’re gonna make him find me. You need to shhh before Wackson comes.”
The voice had it’s way again. The armor of his mind came unbuckled and fell off. He tried to rally, making a haft-hearted attempt at fighting back. “I can’t shhh. I’m working,” he replied softly.
“Wackson will see you. Come hide with me,” the voice called.
A smile formed on his lips. He was tempted. He looked at the screen. The email was jumble. He couldn’t focus on it. He forgot why it was important. He shook his head and laughed at his own seriousness. Then, carefully, like a thief entering through the roof of a museum, he climbed under the table.
The brown headed three-year-old was there waiting for him. The child’s knees were pulled to his chest and his eyes were shut tight. “Shhh, Daddy,” he pleaded. “Clowse your eyes so Wackson won’t see.”
“Okay,” he whispered.
“Shh,” the child added.
“Ready or not, here I come,” the nine-year-old yelled from a bedroom upstairs.
The father under the table laughed to himself in anticipation.
“Shhh!” the three-year-old demanded again.
The nine-year-old tromped down the stairs and into the living room. Seven more steps and he’d been in the dining room with them. “Where are you, Jude?” the nine-year-old called.
The three-year-old giggled.
“Shhhh,” Daddy hissed.
The nine-year-old burst into the room. “Where are you Jude? I’m going to find you,” he called with sing-songy-slyness. Then again, “I found you.” He ducked down to meet.
“Aw, Daddy,” the three-year-old said, opening his eyes. “You told Wackson. You have to be it now.” Then in a surprise burst of energy, the two boys sprinted off to hide together, laughing as they went.
Still sitting under the table, he thought of his unfinished email. He was tempted to return to it. The urgency of adulthood urged him to finish the message and check it off his to-do list; but then, he smiled. Realizing there were more important things that needed to be accomplished, he called loudly so the whole house could hear, “I’m counting! One, two, three…”