The 13th of Friday, 1st Part: Hilarious Tales of Unluckiness That Probably Didn’t Happen on a Friday the 13th

Friday the 13th is a day to celebrate, fear, or at least obsess over one’s favorite or most frightening superstitions. I am not personally superstitious, however I always enjoyed pretending to be. My brothers and I, not understanding fully the Friday the 13th mythology, would gather in one another’s bedrooms on such nights and read scary stories. We didn’t wander through the day fearing cosmic reprisal of some sort. In order to make up for this oversight, I present a few of my families misfortunes.

Disclaimer of Implied Accuracy:

Few, if any, of the following unlucky accounts occurred upon a Friday the 13th.

My brother had a horrible temper. It didn’t take much to set him off and he would set off after my other brother and I with bb guns or knives at the slightest provocation. On one such occasion, we fled the house to evade him. We were tiring quickly and our angry brother was showing no signs of slowing as his nearly super-human rage kept a steady supply of whatever it was that motivated him flowing through his veins. He was gaining ground and I suddenly remembered that one of dad’s junk cars had power windows and keys in the ignition. I grabbed my non-angry brother and we used the last of our stamina in a mad dash to the vehicle. We had just locked the doors when The Angry One skidded to a stop by the driver’s side door and began banging on the windows. He suddenly froze and we could see in his eyes a wicked idea forming. He jumped up on the hood, dropped his pants and underwear, smashed his “manhood” on the windshield and began to smear mashed scrotum across our field of view. I turned on the windshield wipers. They smacked him and his scrotum skin became trapped beneath the blade. You would’ve thought this would’ve made him angrier, however, he jumped down laughing and high fived me when I exited the car.

The same brother got us kicked out of a trailer park because he climbed up on top of our trailer and mooned all the trailer park kids.

The same brother made the mistake of listening to me when I told him to jump onto the couch. He did a sort of running belly flop and smeared a cat turd all down his chest. As mom was flipping the cloth couch cushions over, she berated me for telling my brother to do something dumb. “You know he always does what you tell him!” Am I to blame for his idiocy? Apparently so.

My dad caught his pants leg on fire once, but he was wearing combat boots and didn’t notice until the flames got up above his mid-calf. Many weeks later he caught the other leg of the same pair of pants on fire and again didn’t notice until the flames were rather high upon his leg. He kept the pants as fire pants since all the frayed ends had already been burned off and they wouldn’t catch fire again. As far as I know, they didn’t.

I entered the kitchen for a snack and tossed the pack of firecrackers I’d had in my back pocket onto a loaf of bread. As I searched the kitchen for sustenance, the firecrackers began to explode, ripping the bread to pieces and catching the packaging on fire. I don’t know if this is lucky in that it wasn’t my butt that got exploded or unlucky in that the universe was trying to burn our house down.

I once leaned shirtless over a lit shadeless teddy bear lamp as a child and burned my armpit on the bulb. A thin layer of skin pulled off and stuck to the bulb. I had to go to the emergency room and, I suppose in order to offset the bill, dad refused to throw the bulb away and it lasted a long time. My skin continued to blacken and was still present on the bulb when it finally burned out. Ironically, I had won the teddy bear lamp as the only contestant in a cute kid contest.

While living in an R.V. park in Tucson, dad took us to the shower room and let us shower without shower shoes. We all came down with horrible athletes foot.

In the same R.V. park, my non-angry brother rode his bike with his eyes closed right into a saguaro cactus. He came home walking a bike with a flat front tire and had hundreds of cactus needles embedded in his face and chest. Mom and dad gave him a couple of Tylenol, waited 30 minutes, then got out the pliers and prayed the neighbors wouldn’t call the cops because of all the screaming.

Our R.V. caught fire whenever we tried to cook in it.

We were kicked out of a trailer park 30 miles from Mexico, by illegal immigrant neighbors who were so disgusted with the piles of junk surrounding our trailer that they would rather face the possibility of deportation than be our neighbors anymore.

Dad left junk out and some of it got stolen. He left a sign spray painted on a chunk of plywood that said “Dear thief, how would you like it if I stole from you?” Then he laid it on the ground. He didn’t even put it on a post.

My angry brother got bit on the big toe. By a rat. In a bed we all three shared. As our non-angry brother slept naked because he didn’t have any clean pajamas.

My dad let 8 year old me drive our car onto ramps so he could crawl under and work on it. I didn’t do well. I got up the ramps. I got over the ramps. I jumped from the driver’s side door as the car sped toward the woods on our property. The first time I ever crashed a car, I wasn’t even driving when it crashed. Dad had a lot more work to do after letting me help him work on the car.

Dad built his own septic tank and when he put dirt over it, it collapsed.

I was born into my family.

I bid you adieu…and a don’t.

Adieu…consider yourself lucky if you aren’t related to me.

A don’t…judge me. I learned from all my family’s mistakes. My children are safe and are not even given the option of underage precision driving. Or any driving. They don’t even have those electric little kid cars. Also, we have no cactuses and I don’t build my own infrastructure.

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Plastic Surgery and Severe Diarrhea: Two Topics That May Not Go Well Together

First, a spoiler alert. The next paragraph of this post could be construed as disgusting. If you are squeamish or would rather not read about bodily functions, skip the next paragraph. Please rest assured this is not a journal of my personal bathroom habits. I would never presume to be so crude. It is simply a rant and rave over a possible side effect mentioned in a pharmaceutical commercial. If you’d rather not read about severe diarrhea, skip to the third paragraph.

Severe diarrhea? Is diarrhea not already severe? I would personally classify normal diarrhea that way. How bad does it have to be to substantiate the qualifier “severe” as a medicinal side effect? We all know how bad normal diarrhea is, so I won’t go into any detail on that front, but great googly moogly, what is severe diarrhea? All kinds of pictures pop into my head. Pictures of firemen losing control of fire hoses. Pictures of fountains spewing strongly enough to support the weight of a flailing recumbent human. Pictures of people unwillingly visiting outer space under the power of  fecal propellant rather than rocket fuel. This horrid bio-disastrous event needs a much better name than severe diarrhea. I submit “fecal jet-pack syndrome”.

Now, on to the more decent purposes of this post. I am a plastic surgeon. I am very good at it, but the income is not very good. In fact, I have never been paid for my services, though I am skilled enough to re-attach a severed head.

Don’t get any crazy ideas. I am not a well trained benevolent saver of lives, although I have saved a few lives. Not with plastic surgery though. When I say I am a plastic surgeon, I mean that I operate on literal plastic. Dolls, dinosaurs, board games, kites, cap guns…those kinds of things.

The severed head re-attachment was my very favorite operation. When my daughter was about three, she came running into the living room one day in a panic. “It’s killt!”, she exclaimed. “Daddy, will you help me, it’s gots killt!” I dropped whatever I was doing and, now in my own panic, followed my daughter to her room. I assumed she had somehow stepped on a mouse or some other such horrendous event had occurred. When we entered her room, however, my panic subsided. My daughter ran to the corner of the room, picked up a doll in one hand, its head in the other and brought the pieces to me, nearly in tears, pleading “Its gots killt, Daddy. Will you help it?” I didn’t mean to laugh, but I couldn’t help it. My mirth had the benefit of sending my daughter into a fit of hysterics and headed off the impending emotional melt-down. I performed plastic surgery and the doll beheading became a game. “Daaadddyy…” my daughter would taunt in a sing-song voice as she approached me with yet another decapitated effigy, “its gots kiiiilllt.” After a while it became a little creepy and she thankfully outgrew it, but the first event rewarded me with a beautiful memory and a warm hug.

I guess I get paid for my plastic surgery after all.

I bid you adieu…and a don’t.

Adieu…practice plastic surgery, even if you don’t have a license, Just be sure to practice it on plastic people rather than human subjects. If you have children, the rewards of plastic surgery are stupendous.

A don’t…be afraid to comment if you ever experience severe diarrhea. I’ve come down with a case of morbid curiosity and would like to know exactly what makes it so much worse than the regular kind.

Indicting Squirrel Boy: Evidence That My Son is A Woodland Creature

I mentioned in a recent post that my son is basically a hairless squirrel. I’d like to present some evidence to support this.

A couple of weeks ago we were outside playing in what was left of a recent snow. It was bitterly cold and I told my son to come inside before his fingers fell off.

Exhibit A: My son acted as if he doesn’t speak English.

He began to dance in the snow and chitter. I stated more loudly, “Time to go inside!” My son ran to the other side of the yard and disappeared between some evergreen shrubs that grow along our fence.

Exhibit B: My son startles at loud noises and disappears into foliage.

I began walking toward my son stealthily. As I approached I heard him scream “What!?” He burst out of the trees and ran to us screaming, “There’s a Christmas tree in there!” I said, “Those have been growing there since we moved in. They aren’t Christmas trees. Go inside!” My son again ran into the shrubs.

Exhibit C: My son has no grasp of logic. Specifically, he doesn’t seem to recognize me as an authority figure concerned with his safety.

When my son again emerged, he was indeed dragging an artificial Christmas tree behind him, stand and all. He placed it in the middle of the flower bed and stated, “This is MY Christmas tree. Finders keepers, losers leapers.” I explained to him that it is actually finders keepers, losers weepers, and despite his now knowing the proper phrase he should never use it because it seems to be a mean-spirited phrase designed to deny losers the right to reclaim their lost property.

Exhibit D: My son was extremely excited to own a tree. When his mom arrived to pick him up he implored her to let him take it to her house. When she said it wouldn’t fit in the car, he pulled off the top portion of the tree and begged to take that. He would be happy to own just half a tree.

We brought the tree inside and placed it in his room. When he came home from his mom’s he decorated it with underwear and scraps of paper.

Exhibit E: My son has a tree as a permanent fixture in his living space. It holds his clothes and creations. It could be called his home.

The prosecution rests.

I bid you adieu…and a don’t.

Adieu…allow your children their eccentricities. So long as they aren’t dangerous of course.

A don’t…let them carry it too far. They are still human children despite their feral tendencies.

A Spider, A Bag of Oranges, Two Strange Kids; Fighting Nature With Nature and The Birth of A Champion for Mother Earth: A Super Hero Origin Story

My son hurt nature. My daughter said so.

We had an unseasonably warm afternoon a few days ago and let the kids out to burn off some “winter wiggles” while they had the chance. My wife and I watched from the window as we cleaned the kitchen and prepared lunch. After a while, the kids moved past the portion of yard we could see from the window (our yard is fairly large and fully fenced. Also, our Mastiff stays close to them and could easily pin a grown man. As long as we can hear them, we don’t worry too much about their safety, but we do poke our heads out the back door every few minutes if we aren’t out with them for some reason. Rest assured, they are not neglected or ignored.) and we suddenly heard the seven year old girl scream “YOU’RE HURTING NAAAAAAAATUUUUUUUUURRRE!”

As she was screaming she was running toward the house. We met her at the back door and, red-faced and out of breath she reiterated “Brother hurt nature!”

After we finished giggling and trying not to look like we were laughing at a little girl, we got the full story. My son, who is five, had somehow come into possession of a bag of oranges. I didn’t know we owned a bag of oranges. My son is basically a hairless squirrel so it is likely the oranges had been under his bed or in his closet long enough that I’d forgotten we’d even bought any.

He used said bag of oranges to beat a small spider to death. It is highly likely the spider came out of the bag of oranges. Still, if you ask me he was simply fighting nature with nature. However you define it, his dispatching of the potential threat with a potential food source severely traumatized his sister. She is a tree hugger. I used to think she was only literally a tree hugger. She wanders around the yard by herself, dancing, singing, talking to invisible entities and hugging trees. She actually wraps her arms around them and squeezes them. I now know that she is also figuratively a hugger of trees. She’ll grow up to delight in cleaning the ocean, sweeping rocks and searching knot holes in trees for fairies. She’s basically a fairy herself. Freckles across the nose and she’s lucky if she weighs 15 pounds.

Look out nature hurters. There’s a new super hero in town.

I bid you adieu…and a don’t.

Adieu…encourage your children whatever their interests. Unless they take their bag of oranges after innocent creatures that couldn’t hurt anybody anyway.

A don’t…Step on their sensibilities. They are who they are. Guide them, teach them, let their true selves develop.

Robots, Clues, Caramel Mustard and Various Mind Numbing Endeavors -or- Love Your Kids at the Risk of Losing Your Mind; Board Games vs. Bored Games

Do you enjoy board games? Do you have children? If you answered no to either, you may not understand this post. By continuing to read, you risk wasting precious irreplaceable minutes boring yourself with nonsense. It’s up to you.

It is our Christmas tradition for “Santa” to bring our family a board game. We all open it together then play it together until the wife and I hate “Santa” for having brought it. It is getting much easier now that the kids have moved past the “junior” versions of most games. Have you ever played the little kid version of Candy Land? Maybe it’s the actual version, I can’t remember that far back into my childhood with much detail. Either way, it numbs the adult mind. You draw a card, move the number of spaces indicated, and on and on and over and over and it never ends until you can convince them there are better things to do.

Don’t get me wrong. I love playing games with the kids and I treasure the time we spend doing it, but I need to involve my brain at least a smidge. This year our family game was Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robots. Admittedly, it doesn’t require much in the way of conscious thought, but at least there’s frenzied action. It is more satisfying than Monopoly Junior Frozen Edition, in which you can’t even place houses or hotels, by a far cry. Robot fights have become our new household decider. No more arguing about who has to take the first bath. This used to be an endless conundrum because somehow every child in this house took the first bath last time. I don’t know if their memories are really that defective or if they’re just vehemently opposed to taking the first bath. Logical reasoning doesn’t work on them. They don’t seem to understand that they’ll have to take a bath either way and getting it over with makes at least a little sense. Thankfully it isn’t a worry anymore. Neither is “There’s only one fruit snack left and I don’t want a granola bar.” or “I had that seat.” or any of the countless other arguments that they somehow come up with.

What I really want to talk about, though, is the fact that I got Clue from my wife as one of my regular Christmas presents. The kids love it, even though the younger two, aged 7 and 5, aren’t quite mentally ready to enjoy all the intricacies of game play. My daughter, the 7 year old, whispers in a voice that can barely be classified as a whisper, the legends writ upon her cards as she marks them off on her little deduction sheet. My son, the 5 year old, takes the cake with his gameplay.  First, he always grabs the Colonel Mustard token, (my favorite, by the way. He forces me to begrudgingly adopt the persona of Professor Plum. I know there are other options but the way I see it, if I can’t be a Colonel, a professor is better than a mere mister) and moves it erratically around the board between turns, visiting every room that holds a murder weapon, confiscating it and then stockpiling them all in a random room of his choosing. When it comes his turn, he rolls the dice, counts the pips, then plunks his token down in whichever room he wishes and declares, “It was Caramel Mustard in the room an’ ‘e used the shotgun!”

I’ve told him over and over that the “shotgun” is a revolver. We’ve had many a heated debate over that simple fact. I inform him that a revolver is a type of gun and it just happens to be the type of gun that plays a part in the classic case of who-dun-it in which we now so frequently engage. He alleges that since it has a trigger, it is a gun. Guns have triggers, no, no, there’s a trigger so it’s a gun, it’s a shotgun. I guess we’re making progress because he used to refer to all manner of firearms as “shooty-guns”. I’ll take what I can get.

If you think I’ll ever try to correct him on the “Caramel Mustard” thing, you’re quite mistaken.

I bid you adieu…and a don’t.

Adieu…enjoy quality time with your children. Even if it numbs your mind, the silver lining here is that you’re building memories and engaging in important family bonding time. All this for the low, low price of your ever receding flow of sanity.

A don’t…be a huge stickler for the rules. You never know what inventive methods of rule breaking a child may employ.

A Lump of Coal for Christmas?: A Possible Explanation

In honor of the fast-approaching holiday, I’d like to explore a bit of yule-tide trivia. It isn’t smarmy, but it could become so, I suppose, should I lose my nerve and wax sentimental. I’ll try not to do that.

The aforementioned holiday is Christmas and the trivia is coal in the stocking. I’ve done no research on this whatsoever, so we’re bobbing on the crests of waves of conjecture and hear-say here. My ideas might be completely historically inaccurate. Don’t expect to learn anything from this.

Coal in the stocking is not a new idea. I’ve heard it proclaimed since I was young that a bad boy gets a stocking full of coal. And I didn’t only hear this from my parents or others in their age range. I heard it from my grandparents and even from older folks at stores and restaurants when it’s cold outside and garland hangs from every indoor precipice and some youngster isn’t being quite obedient. “Better straighten up there, young person. Wouldn’t want Santa to stuff sooty rocks into you goodie sock, would you?” The preceding is not an exact quote and should in no way be construed as something I’ve actually heard someone say. But I’ve heard a lot of things said along those lines.

I’m assuming that, for the older folks, it isn’t (or wasn’t) a new idea either. I don’t think the idea came into being around the time I was born. I believe it to be older than 34 years. Here’s why I say that. My grandpa was a coal miner for some time. He had issues with black lung. He never talked about it but, through the family grape vine, I heard he didn’t much care for coal mining. Understandable. But, for someone who sacrifices his health and happiness to dig the stuff out from under mountains, is it really something to joke about? Now, if grandpa said “Be good or Santa will chain you up to a bunch of other naughty kids and drive you down into the dark to mine coal.”, that would’ve shown some sort of fearful respect for the idea. Instead he’d say what everyone else says. Be good or get a stocking full of coal. This makes me think that it’s also something he heard as a child, before he knew the horrors of coal mining,  and it meant no more to him than saying an apple a day keeps the doctor away or some other such folk wisdom. He’s heard it, he says it, it’s a habit, he doesn’t consider what it means. To him, it was just what you say to a cranky or disobedient grand kid. The idea is older than Grandpa.

The preceding paragraph is hear-say and conjecture. No solid evidence exists, that I know of, to support my thesis.

I’m just guessing here, but I think that coal used to be a highly sought after gift. In the Dickensian era, and other such similar eras, when coal was perhaps harder to come by and even harder to procure unless you were affluent, a lump of coal in a stocking could’ve meant a great deal to a child. “Coal! Coal! Mother, Father, observe it! We shan’t this cold Christmas day die of exposure within our own dear domicile! Oh, Mother, Father, what a good boy I must’ve been! Come now, let us set it ablaze that this blue hue might fade from our extremities and our cheeks might lose this waxy quality and assume again a rosy glow! Merry Christmas!” Once again, not a direct quote.

Another guess, here: when coal based heating was phased out and replaced with gas or oil or whatever it was that came after coal, people, excepting perhaps the blacksmiths and goldsmiths and various other smiths who forge metals, didn’t want coal anymore. And no one wants a stocking full of gas or oil. That idea seems cruel, even for the naughty children. “Here, son! You’ve been less than exemplary this year. Have a sock full of dangerous combustibles! ‘Tis no less than you deserve. Just don’t go near the fire with that, or we’ll all come to know the Christ whose mass we now celebrate much sooner than we’d hoped.”

So I guess, once coal was no longer sought after, folks could get it easier and more cheaply so they continued to put it into stockings, now as a punishment rather than a reward. I think the logic went something like this: Coal is cheap now. I’ve been getting coal for my kids every year from Soot-eye Steven. I’m not so creative as to be able to deduce a better gift and Steven’s business isn’t doing so hot (Saints forgive me the pun) right now. I’ll keep getting them coal, but tell them it’s because they didn’t finish their figgy pudding. We all must keep up with appearances and eat that stuff. Elsewise how will future generations know that we were true Dickensian Londoners? Perhaps when they receive a filthy rock we’ve no longer a purpose for they’ll get the idea.

Then somehow the idea stuck.

Maybe.

I bid you adieu…and a don’t.

Adieu…enjoy Christmas for what it is. A hodge-podge of strange traditions that, while making little sense, brings loved ones together.

A don’t…fill stockings with electricity. It is a prevalent source of heating these days, but now they have programs to help those who can’t afford a warm home.

Ties and Sickness and a Lump on the Couch; A Rant, a Rave and an Exploration of an Unpleasant Fact of Life

Is there any moment in life more gut-wrenching than having to “hurt” someone to help them?

I think not. Or if there is, I haven’t experienced it personally.

This evening my son appeared in a Christmas program at his school. He was a little fussy as I straightened his tie. I didn’t attribute this to sickness. It seemed perfectly normal to me to fight the tie, even though he really wanted to wear one. Wanting a tie and liking a tie are two different things. Everyone wants to look nice. No one wants to wear a tie.

But, for some weird reason, in order to look nice (that is, if you are male) you must first button the top-most button of your shirt. This simple act is a crime against nature. I’m convinced that the Adam’s apple is God’s indicator that you aren’t supposed to constrict your throat area. But we do it anyway and, simply by fulfilling the prerequisite of tie-wearing, you’ve already limited your throat’s little defender’s range of motion.

Now, as the button compresses your larynx, you must flip up the collar, thus untucking your shirt. Next you voluntarily wrap a potential noose about your neck, fumble around to get the knot right and make sure it’s straight and that the thin back part isn’t longer than the presentation surface of the adornment.

Now, with all that done, you sentence yourself to a term of discomfort all in an attempt impress people you probably don’t even know for a short period of time during which they, in their own self-inflicted, self-absorbed state of discomfort, couldn’t care less how well you are dressed.

Who wants this? Of course I didn’t associate his fussing at the tie with illness. I was actually comforted by it. Oh look, I thought, I’m raising a normal boy!

He coughed a lot on the way home. He fell asleep on the way home. When we got to the house, he sat on the couch, blanket over his head, to eat his cheeseburger dinner. a few minutes later his small hand emerged from the fuzzy lump on the couch clutching a crescent shaped burger remnant. The hand placed the scrap on the coffee table and scrounged blindly for a moment until it closed around a small cellophane bag of cookies. The hand and treats disappeared back under the blanket. The lump on the couch collapsed on its side and began to crunch slowly and methodically. A few moments later a partially full bag of cookies was weakly ejected from under the blanket and the lump on the couch fell still and silent.

When we approached the lump with a thermometer, it willingly disgorged the boy’s head and he allowed us to take his temperature. 100.4. Not too concerning, but definitely worth keeping an eye on. My wife went out for Tylenol.

The lump remained still and silent as I helped my daughter with her homework and notified my boss that I shan’t be working upon the morrow.

Suddenly, the lump again disgorged a child. The child stood, walked silently toward his room, stopped before disappearing into the hall, offered a weak wave and went to bed a full half-hour before bed time. Now I was concerned.

I asked him if he was going to sleep and he said that he was. I asked him if he could stay awake until the medicine arrived. He said he couldn’t. I told him that when the medicine got here, he’d have to wake up and take it. He nodded and went to sleep.

When my wife and I went to wake him up, he began to kick (shameless book plug here, it was his trait of kicking wildly at anything and everything when upset that inspired the main character in my book “How Sir Donkey Legs Became a Knight”) and fuss and literally cry. We tried to comfort him. We tried to convince him. My wife even picked up a small gift for him and the bribe of opening a small toy wasn’t enough to crack his delirious resolve.

We finally had to force it down his throat as he kicked and cried and fussed.

We’ve found that a cupful of generic lemon-lime soda generally makes the medicine go down, so we allowed him that amenity. At this point he became once again the sweet-mannered young man he truly is. He opened his toy and was excited. He was even more excited to learn he’d be staying home from school in the morning. He went once more to bed, smiling now despite his infirmity.

Though it all ended well, those few moments of forcing medicine upon him felt to me like the equivalent of controversial water-boarding tactics. There was no way I was letting him go back to sleep without something to break his fever. The ends certainly justified the means, but it still didn’t feel quite right to force needed medicine on a sick, squirming, crying, kicking, miserable five year old boy.

I bid you adieu…and a don’t.

Adieu…force medicine on your kids when they need it. It isn’t water-boarding, no matter how much it feels as though it is.

A don’t…water-board anyone. Or anything. The only exception being when you are in dire need of a wet board.