Sunday, October 14, 2007

Fire In The Hole

After dinner last night I decided use our backyard fire pit. I built it a few years ago as a Father's Day present to myself. I don't use it much, in large part because even I lack the poor judgment required to build a fire when my kids are around. It was a beautiful fall night, though, I'd had wine with dinner, and my middle son was sleeping at a friend's house, so I overlooked my misgivings and went out back.

Wisely, my Lovely Bride wanted nothing to do with this. She went downstairs to study, leaving me alone with my oldest and youngest sons, as well as a friend of the youngest. Recognizing I was outnumbered, I called a friend of my own who lives nearby. He soon arrived, accompanied by his son, also a friend of my youngest.

We've had a lot of rain during the past few weeks and the wood was wet. Fortunately, there was a fresh pile of leaves to use as starter fuel and four kids to throw crap in the fire every time it threatened to catch. With their help it didn't take us more than forty-five minutes to get the fire going. We had glasses, ice, and Scotch with us, however, so I didn't really care and we finally distracted the kids with a bag of mini marshmallows and instructions to cram as many as possible into their pieholes.

Once the fire was going, we did what all good fathers do, namely tried to give our children nightmares. I dredged up a couple of scary stories from my own childhood, about escaped mental patients and the havoc that can be wrought with a hook for a hand. My friend told a story about a bear who ate a kid who wouldn't stop talking, a long story made longer because my youngest kept interrupting him.

Then, much to the delight of the boys and the rest of the neighborhood, we decided to sing. My friend's a good Irishman and has a full repertoire of shanties and ballads. While I don't have the same sort of musical genetic imprinting, I do know snippets from hundreds of songs and so, like a DJ on powerful hallucinogens, performed a medley that ranged from "Rocky Raccoon" to "Moon River" to "Ode to Joy."

Much to our surprise, the kids wearied of this gift of music and, as boys are wont to do when bored, started pushing each other.

"Stop it before someone falls in the fire," I said.

"You never let us do anything," replied my oldest.

My friend looked at him curiously. "What are you talking about?"

"My dad wouldn't let us walk on the edge of the Grand Canyon last year," he said with a sneer. "He was afraid someone would 'get hurt.'"

"Well, yes," I said. "I thought maybe it would be a good idea to stay on the path, given that we'd just finished looking through a book in the gift shop called 'Death on the Rim.'"

My son ignored me. "And then when we were in Utah he wouldn't let us climb all the way to the top of Capitol Reef."

"It was sunset, for God's sake. We had to get to dinner and our hotel."

"Whatever," he said, dismissing me. "You just don't want us to have fun."

The younger son's buddies watched the exchange with interest. Snag family arguments make are great stories for the school cafeteria.

"Right, that's why my entire existence is designed around placating you. You know what I should do? Chain all of you out front with a sign that says 'Free to good home.' Nobody would take you, but at least I'd have some peace and quiet until somebody called the cops."

My friend laughed and poured himself another drink. If nothing else, this made his own life seem better by comparison.

The bickering continued for a few more minutes until I threw in the towel and started singing again. That was enough to drive my oldest into the house for a bit. When he returned, he was wearing headphones and listening to his iPod. And there we sat, my friend and I singing, the three younger kids, now at a safe distance from the fire, punching each other, my teenager diligently ignoring the rest of us, and my Lovely Bride staying as far away from it all as she could.

All in all, an ordinary night.


Anonymous said...

Maybe not the best time to bring up this.

zombie rotten mcdonald said...

To quote Butt-Head:


Adorable Girlfriend said...

Smart bride.

Chuckles said...

A firepit without any firepit jumping? Quell domage!

That may be why I have no living offspring however.


Kathleen said...

where was Katie???

Adorable Girlfriend said...


Who do you think was eating the left over chili dogs?