to find me
perched up on the roof
with a semi-automatic, pumped
blazing away like a mad suburban Rambo
(without any of the
body strength or flattering musculature,
of course). The rain was a nagging,
persistent mist ---
it pasted the sorry
remaining tendrils of my departing
head-hairto 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
terribly hard on the new crown
I was paying for
in a dozen
installments out of my own pocket
offers dental anymore),
and I loaded that sucker back up to the
I bit my lower lip,
brushed aside my wife's no-sew
and re-emerged, shirtless and trigger-itchy,
"What in the
hell are you doing up there?"
shouted my long-suffering
balancing a tattered umbrella and a
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
particular week at the grocery.
again but I did not hear.
I cocked the gun and fired.
Again and again and again.
I cackled, emptying the
I threw my wet head back to the
issued a resounding maniacal guffaw
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"
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
rattletrap bus home, throw on my scuzziest
and climb up on the house to
do the Bob Vila/Tim the Tool Man
thing and slap a coat o'paint on our
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
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
But the idea of waking up the
morning to a roof with a racing
stripe sent the old
dadly thinkin' cap
a-huffin' and a-chuggin'.
hose was too small to lug out to the
roof, and hosing off the
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
for across the entire mansard.
Not much curb
The Super Soaker 100 was the solution,
and my weapon of choice. All the kids
on the block had
'em, and I thanked a higher power that
no exception. In the best
Norm Abram of my dadly
this twisted inspiration
actually did the trick. Cock back
shotgun action, and blast away your
troubles with a Super Soaker powerwash.
I fired off every molecule
that night in the rain, my friends,
not even the lightning
kicking the gully washer into
would take me down.
These sort of chores are
weave of our dadly fabric, and one we
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,
Even though I'd heeded the Master
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
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
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:
FALLEN AND I CAN'T REACH MY BEER."
He calls me Igor and
screams for me in an
impressive and entirely unholy Lorre/Karloff
caterwaul. I hand him tools, replace the
pops, and steal a few extree swigs
outta his and then beg off that
"...thought that one was mine," when he busts me.
It's an act we do so well together as
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
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
unsure where life was now taking them.
My brother's 16-month-old, a cherub
with a perpetually
ran to her daddy, and plucking a
two-inch piece of snipped Romex
from the floor, dutifully handed
to him with great flourish, strafing his
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
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
grin, not yet realizing the smartass
ER staff had drawn a Rat-Fink-like
bloodshot eyeball on
gauze pad covering his bandaged socket.
You name it, and unless you are a dad
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
wheel back in her 'Vette, and
sometimes you need
to snake a drain
trap more fetid than any
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'
with desperate tears and with hopeless cries
ever-present cruel beastie-kids
make fun of them; or with forlorn
claims that they are all alone and have
friends in this whole wide
world --- it is those days when you
come to the dire realization that no expert,
no amount of practice, can ever
begin to prepare the dads of the
the repair work they must undertake
shatters a family's spirit,
and you must figure out how to make it
again and again and again.