dadsville   - Ward Cleaver's Prozac Fever

supersoaker sniper

They came home from the grocery store

to find me perched up on the roof

with a semi-automatic, pumped

and blazing away like a mad suburban Rambo

(without any of the accompanying upper

body strength or flattering musculature,

of course). The rain was a nagging,

persistent mist --- it pasted the sorry

remaining tendrils of my departing

head-hair to my throbbing temples.

Oh, yes, the rivers of red were running.

I climbed through the upstairs window

to reload. I gritted my dadly teeth,

mindful not to gnash too

terribly hard on the new crown

I was paying for in a dozen

installments out of my own pocket

(no one offers dental anymore),

and I loaded that sucker back up to the nines.

I bit my lower lip,

brushed aside my wife's no-sew swags

and re-emerged, shirtless and trigger-itchy,

on the fiberglass-shingled roof.

"What in the hell are you doing up there?"

shouted my long-suffering wife,

balancing a tattered umbrella and a

recyclable blue bag-o-Fritos and

Lucky Charms and Little Debbies and

Snackwells and whatever other coupon-item

the kids had a hankerin' to try once

and immediately discard out of revulsion

this particular week at the grocery.

She screamed again but I did not hear.

I cocked the gun and fired.

Again and again and again.

"You're mineyou'remiNEYOU'RE-M-I-I-I-I-NE!!!!"

I cackled, emptying the magazine.

I threw my wet head back to the heavens,

issued a resounding maniacal guffaw

and plopped down on the steep slope

of the dormer roof to crack the can

of cheap suds I was packin' in my jean pocket.

The red was a-runnin' allright, dear dads.

It was a latex exterior red called "Rancho"

(think Jon Lovitz, hike up your left

eyebrow and roll the "R" as

best you can with me now --- all together ---


And to be truthful, the yella' was a-runnin'

as well. It too, was an exterior latex ---

a new age permutation of yellow someone

at Dutch Boy inexplicably decided

to call "Camel's Hair. "

That summer, every day after the

usual barrage of grueling work-a-day

posturing and headgames had

sufficiently addled my brain and

decimated my spirit, I'd ride a

rattletrap bus home, throw on my scuzziest

stuff and climb up on the house to

do the Bob Vila/Tim the Tool Man

thing and slap a coat o'paint on our

modest shingled abode. I had braved

a lifelong acrophobia jones to save

a coupla bucks so we could buy a

clarinet or ballet lessons or an

Ivy League education or a puppy.

But there it went.

$18.95 a gallon.

An unexpected gully washer pounded

the meticulously-applied

Rancho and Camel's Hair, and it

trailed a bloody lookin' Pepe LePew

yella and red streak on down into

the leaf-choked gutter.

Losing the paint, I could cope with

that one some level.

But the idea of waking up the next

morning to a roof with a racing

stripe sent the old dadly thinkin' cap

a-huffin' and a-chuggin'.

The garden hose was too small to lug out to the

roof, and hosing off the paint

from the ground might make the

whole thing WAY worse. Couldn't let it

dry, my friends. You could use every

stripping chem in the book and you'd

get the dried stuff off, but leave a

bleach streak Elsa Lanchester

would die for across the entire mansard.

Not much curb appeal.

The Super Soaker 100 was the solution,

and my weapon of choice. All the kids

on the block had one of

'em, and I thanked a higher power that

mine were no exception. In the best

Norm Abram of my dadly

career, this twisted inspiration

actually did the trick. Cock back that

shotgun action, and blast away your

handyman troubles with a Super Soaker powerwash.

I fired off every molecule that night in the rain, my friends,

not even the lightning sharpshooters

kicking the gully washer into

high gear would take me down.

These sort of chores are the integral

weave of our dadly fabric, and one we

must embrace with all the requisite

verve and ingenuity we can muster.

Why bring in the experts when you can do it yourself?

Norm showed me how to do the muriatic

acid-thing on a ceramic floor before

re-grouting it. I dutifully

followed his every instruction.

Great lookin' grout job, I swear!

Even though I'd heeded the Master

Carpenter's cross-ventilation caveats,

the lingering acid fumes climbed the

walls like a demon mist, eating

Amish Baby Swiss holes in the new vinyl

paper I had just hung.

Now that's home remodeling.

And if you've got a sib-in-the-know,

you're in fat city. You're ready to

tackle the OSHA code jobs around the home-sweet.

Grab that toolbelt and come on!

So my brother comes over --- he's an

honest-to-God electrician, see? And he's

yankin' all that knob-n-tube

wiring, installed back in the days of Edison hisself,

out of the basement and pullin'

spankin' new 3-wire 12-2 romex

cable through. (By now many of you are

probably experiencing some level of

awe at this dad's mastery of

electrical language. The trade talk,

not the song by Be-Bop Deluxe in 1978, of course).

He drinks beer.

He wears a ripped tee that says in 5,000-point font:


He calls me Igor and screams for me in an

impressive and entirely unholy Lorre/Karloff combo

caterwaul. I hand him tools, replace the

barley pops, and steal a few extree swigs

outta his and then beg off that I

"...thought that one was mine," when he busts me.

It's an act we do so well together as

grown dadly sibs, we could have done

the Borscht Belt with Granpa

Al Lewis and brought the damn house down.

But we didn't need too. We were bringing

mine down just fine. A wire cutter snip

away from the Stone Age.


"Hey, there's NO T.V.!!!"

came the angry bellow from the little kiddles.

They ran madly in Ritalin circles,

unsure where life was now taking them.

My brother's 16-month-old, a cherub

with a perpetually loaded-down Luvs,

ran to her daddy, and plucking a

two-inch piece of snipped Romex

from the floor, dutifully handed it back

to him with great flourish, strafing his

cornea with all three exposed wires.

Unable to see out of his left orbit,

we spend the next 17 hours in an

emergency room, where he emerges victorious

with a bottle of prescription-strength

tranks and an eye bandage wrapped

around his head that would

easily have been the envy of

Tutankhamen and his anti-Aten punks.

He flashed a sideways-sort-of victory

grin, not yet realizing the smartass

ER staff had drawn a Rat-Fink-like

bloodshot eyeball on the white

gauze pad covering his bandaged socket.

You name it, and unless you are a dad

of independently or congenitally

wealthy means, you'll wind up

fixing it, living around its former

functions, or just plain wrecking it,

should you follow my own gifted

methodology of repair. Sometimes you

just need to glue Barbie's steering

wheel back in her 'Vette, and

sometimes you need to snake a drain

trap more fetid than any

scratch-n-sniff flick

John Waters could ever hope to conjure.

Sometimes you figure it all out, and

you fix it and you're the hero dad.

But it is those impossible days when

your kids come home to you, at their wits' end

with desperate tears and with hopeless cries

that the ever-present cruel beastie-kids

make fun of them; or with forlorn soul-piercing

claims that they are all alone and have

no friends in this whole wide

world --- it is those days when you

come to the dire realization that no expert,

no manual, no amount of practice, can ever

begin to prepare the dads of the world for

the repair work they must undertake

when life shatters a family's spirit,

and you must figure out how to make it whole

again and again and again.

Last "dads"
Past "dads"

2003 Arhythmiacs
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You never talk to your old dad!