Another Long Weekend, by Steven Kaminsky
This is the last advice my divorce lawyer gave me before I fired him: “You should have told me this before she moved to the suburbs. Now it’s too late.”
I can’t believe I sold my car to pay for that shyster’s retainer. I don’t read minds and Carol, my ex-wife, didn’t think it was necessary to inform me of her plans. Now I was dependent on her to give me a ride when it was my weekend to have the Boobster. What was even worse is that Carol didn’t have the time to make two round trips which meant I would have to spend the weekend there, with her supervising my visit, which is almost as bad as no visit at all, maybe worse.
So when Carol asked me to watch the Boobster because that weekend she had to work the night shift – two of the nurses who usually worked those hours were both on maternity leave, I realized that not only would I get some time back that I had lost, due to last month’s business trip, but if Carol had to sleep all day to work at night; it would be a virtually unsupervised visit. Therefore, I told her to pick me up.
I bailed out of the car as it came to a stop in the driveway. I lit the cigarette I had been rolling between my thumb and forefinger ever since we had exited the highway. It was going to be a long weekend. Carol had informed me that there would be no smoking in her car or her house because she didn’t want her daughter to breathe my second hand smoke.
About a year ago – before I was crucified in ‘Family’ Court, it was our car; our house; our daughter. Still my second hand smoke but it never seemed to be an issue prior to the divorce.
As my lungs soaked up the nicotine from my first drag, I saw the Boobster’s three-year-old head momentarily appear in the front window. It amazes me how little kids and dogs have a sixth sense of knowing when somebody has arrived. The doorknob had a minor seizure before the front door swung open. A knee-seeking missile shot down the front walk screaming, “Mommy, Mommy, Mommy,” and sailed right by me. The Boobster hadn’t seen me in over a month. Why hadn’t she been screaming, “Daddy, Daddy, Daddy?”
We started walking up to the house, three abreast, with Carol in the middle, and not even a glance in my direction from the Boobster acknowledging my presence. How could I rectify this situation? I stretched my arm behind mother and daughter, tapped the Boobster on her outer shoulder and returned my hand before she could turn her head and see it. She looked into the bushes lining the walkway, and not seeing anybody, wondered if one of the branches could be responsible for assaulting her shoulder.
As soon as she redirected her attention to where she was walking, I stretched my arm and delivered another shoulder tap. This time the Boobster didn’t stop to ponder the bushes, but kept rotating, looking for the phantom shoulder-tapper lurking amongst the trees and shadows of the surrounding landscape.
I stopped walking when I felt a tug on the back of my pants.
“What?” I asked Carol.
“I didn’t say anything,” she replied.
“No down here,” came the Boobster’s voice from behind me.
I turned around, keeping my gaze level, so that I addressed the full moon as it peeked over the black treetops.
“Did you hear something?” I asked Carol.
“I think I hear the Boobster. Where are you Boobster?” I called into the night.
“It is the Boobster,” she exploded. “I’m down here.”
“Boobster.” I said feigning surprise. “Where have you been?”
“Right here.” she answered, not believing that I wasn’t aware of her presence until that moment. “Did you tap my shoulder?”
“Me? Why would I tap your shoulder?”
Ignoring my query, she took Carol’s hand as we resumed walking towards the house. After several steps, I reached out for another tap. Touching her shoulder was like stepping on a booby trap. A small index finger jabbed through my coat, digging into my gut as she said, “This time I saw you. I know you did it.” She fought her facial muscles to keep the mock anger from turning into a grin of triumph, causing deep dimples to form in her cheeks.
Before she could savor her apparent victory, I employed the ‘three steps of denial’, which the Boobster had taught me all too well. Simply put: When caught red-handed, stage one is mild denial; stage two is firm denial; and stage three angry denial. Following this format, I stated very matter-of-factly, “No I didn’t.”
Just as matter-of-factly, she said, “Yes you did.”
I dropped the tone of my voice about an octave and said in a slow, staccato cadence, “No… I… didn’t.”
Echoing my delivery, she said, “Yes… you… did.”
Raising my voice, I shouted, “No I didn’t.”
Surpassing my volume, she bellowed, “Yes you did,” ending with a shriek of frustration, “Stop it Daddy.”
I was about to say, “You started it,” but Carol cut me off.
“Please Steven,” she implored. “You haven’t been here five minutes and already you’re driving her crazy. I’m reminding you that I’m working nights this weekend and I’ll be sleeping during the day. Obviously, I can’t sleep if you two are making noise. You’re the adult so I expect you to act like one. Do you think you can handle it or should I drive you back home tonight and call up the babysitter?”
“Yeah, yeah,” I muttered. As we entered the house, I saw the Boobster looking at me with an exaggerated, phony smirk that reminded me it was going to be a long weekend.
While Carol was cooking supper I had thought up a riddle game that exercised the Boobster’s brain in the spatial concept of ‘starts’ and ‘ends’. When we sat down to eat I broke the uneasy silence by asking Carol, “Want to hear the Boobster solve some riddles?”
“Yeah, I can do very hard riddles,” said the Boobster bursting with pride. “Ask me a riddle Daddy.”
“Okay,” I said, “What starts with an ‘I’m’ and ends with a ‘smart’?” “I’m smart,” said the Boobster triumphantly raising a fist with an extended index finger.
“You are smart,” said Carol with an exaggerated smile, smearing on the positive reinforcement like too much cream cheese on a hot bagel.
This prompted the Boobster to demand, “Ask me another, Daddy.”
“Okay,” I began with a perfectly serious face, “What starts with a ‘pee’ and ends with a ‘pee’?”
“Peepee,” the Boobster giggled as the smile on Carol’s face flat-lined.
When the giggling stopped I asked, “What starts with a ‘doo’ and ends with a ‘dee’?”
“Doodee,” said the Boobster morphing the giggling into bona fide laughter.
One of the delights of being three years old is that with the mere mention of any bodily function, you have a joke and a punch line all wrapped up in one word. I was about to say, “What starts with a ‘kah’ and ends in a ‘kee’?” when Carol cut me off.
“I don’t believe you Steven,” she said. “All I know is that one day, when the principal calls up asking me for an explanation, you’re going to do the explaining.”
“Yeah, yeah,” I muttered. I knew it was time to end the game, but I had one more riddle left that would have tortured me the rest of the night if I didn’t get it out. I took a deep breath and said, “What starts with an ‘I’ and ends with a ‘stink’?”
“I stink,” laughed the Boobster until she realized that the hysteria Carol and I shared was directed at her, not with her.
“That’s not funny,” she screamed as she pushed herself away from the table and ran out of the kitchen. “Stop it,” rang out like lightening, followed by the thunder of the door of her room slamming shut.
When Carol and I finally stopped laughing and she regained her composure, she said, “I hate it when you bring my humor down to your level.”
“I thought you loved me because I made you laugh?”
“That’s before one of us grew up: Namely, me. Besides, now the Boobster isn’t going to eat her dinner.”
“Oh please,” I said, “You know how kids are. They’re resilient. She’ll bounce back in no time.”
As if on queue, the Boobster re-entered the kitchen. She walked up to me with her arms wrapped tightly around her chest, chin jutting out defiantly and said; “I have a riddle for you Daddy.”
“Okay”, I said, “let me hear it.”
“What starts with a ‘you’ and ends with a ‘stink’?”
I had to suppress a smile before I said, “You stink.”
“No,” she groaned. “I said, ‘what starts with a ‘you’ and ends with a ‘stink’?”
“You stink,” I repeated.
“No,” she roared. “You stink. The answer to the riddle is: You stink. Stop it, Daddy.”
“Oh,” I said, finally getting the correct answer, “I stink.”
“Yeah,” she growled as she sat back down at the table.
We finished our meal in the uneasy silence we started it in. It was definitely going to be a long weekend.
I tossed and turned all night. The house was filled with memories, both good and bad, all clamoring to be heard. I felt as if I had just fallen asleep when I heard the words all parents dread on their days off from work.
“Wake up Daddy, I’m hungry. Can you make me breakfast?”
With a tremendous effort, I pried open one eye and saw the Boobster’s face. It was enlarged as if under a magnifying glass, barely two inches away from my own. I didn’t see anything that resembled a snooze button; so I closed my eye and hoped she would go away.
“I know you’re awake Daddy. I saw your eye open. Make me breakfast. I’m hungry.”
Damn it! Why did I have to open my eye? Why didn’t I just feign sleeping until she gave up and went to watch cartoons? Now there was only one way I was going to get any more sleep. I pulled the blanket over my head and using my best somnambulistic voice said, “I’m sleeping.”
“No you’re not,” said the Boobster as she tried to pull the blanket off of me.
“Yes… I… am.”
“No… you’re… not.”
“Yes I am!”
Then with a burst of super human strength, she ripped the blanket from my desperate grasp, placed her mouth against my ear and in a voice loud enough to wake the entire neighborhood shouted, “No you’re not. Stop it Daddy.”
As the Boobster marched me towards the kitchen, like a prison guard with a recalcitrant inmate, I thought: Just wait until I get up.
I entered the kitchen with the cravings of a caffeine addict searching for Carol’s hidden stash of coffee. I started to open cabinet doors at random. Finally, on my third try, I found the mother lode: A jar of instant coffee, and right next to it, a box of cereal. Breakfast was about to be served.
I placed the cereal on the kitchen table and walked over to the stove to boil some water.
The Boobster did not approve of my menu and protested, “My babysitter makes me eggs for breakfast.”
“Well, I’m not your baby sitter. I’m your father,” I grunted, “I don’t make eggs for breakfast, I make cereal.”
“You don’t make cereal, Daddy,” she informed me. “You pour it from a box.”
“So then I’m going to pour you breakfast,” I said as I turned the flame off and prepared myself a cup of life re-newing java.
After drinking about half the cup I became aware of the sun shining through the windows and noted that it was going to be a beautiful day to take the Boobster to the park. A few sips later, I felt energized, giddy and ready to retaliate for being roused so early. “Hey,” I said looking towards the window facing the driveway, “Mommy’s home.”
The Boobster dropped the spoonful of cereal, that had been approaching her face, back into the bowl with a splash and raced to the window screaming, “Mommy, Mommy, Mommy.” She stopped when she saw the empty driveway. She returned to her chair and said, “You made a mistake, Daddy. Mommy’s not home yet.”
“Made you look, made you look, stole your mother’s pocket book,” I sang with laughter.
The Boobster looked at me with a blank expression and said in a thin voice, lacking any emotion, “That’s not funny, Daddy.”
She resumed eating and I went back to looking out the window. I waited until she had consumed several spoonfuls of cereal before I casually got up and said, “Mommy’s home. I think I’ll make her some toast for breakfast.”
Just like an instant replay, the Boobster streaked to the window screaming, “Mommy, Mommy, Mommy.”
She was still searching the driveway for Carol’s car, when I began to chirp, “Made you look, made you look, stole your mother’s pocketbook.”
The Boobster turned around very slowly. She raised her shoulders to her ears and dropped her chin to rest on her chest so that the blue irises of her eyes seemed to be tossing about on a raging sea of white breakers. She clenched her fists and moved towards me like a cat stalking its prey. With each step she took, her face became a darker, more ominous shade of red. I concentrated on making the toast so I wouldn’t laugh. I didn’t dare look at her until each slice had been meticulously buttered. Then I took a deep breath; turned, and I was surprised to find the Boobster calmly sitting at the table eating her cereal.
I brought the toast to the table and began to eat it as innocently as I could. I had just swallowed the last bite when I noticed Carol’s car pull into the driveway and without thinking said, “Mommy’s home.”
I expected a response of atomic proportions and was momentarily puzzled when the Boobster serenely stated, “That’s an old one Daddy. You’re trying to fool me so you can say, ‘You made me look, I took my mommy’s pocketbook’.”
“No, this time she’s really here,” I said with the utmost sincerity.
“No… she… isn’t.”
“Yes… she… is.”
“No she isn’t,” she erupted. “Stop it Daddy.”
I was about to say that the lady, walking through the door, only looks exactly like Mommy, but Carol cut me off.
“You don’t know when to stop, do you Steven?” she asked through clenched teeth. “Tonight, when I go to work, I’m driving you back home. But first I’ve got to get some sleep. So keep it quiet!”
“Yeah, yeah,” I muttered as I began to clear the table. It wasn’t going to be such a long weekend after all.
Late that afternoon, about ten minutes after the baby sitter had arrived, the Boobster found me downstairs, in the family room, starring at the television. Unknown to her, her lips and chin were smeared with chocolate icing.
“Guess what me babysitter brought me?”
“How did you know?” she asked, totally awed by my psychic powers.
“I’m smarter than you think.”
“Mommy told me to tell you that she’s waiting in the car. It’s time for you to go home.”
“I guess you won’t have anybody here to bother you, once I’m gone.”
Without warning, she threw her arms around my neck so tightly that my breath had to fight its way out, like a straphanger exiting a packed subway train. She pushed her wet, sticky face into my ear and softly croaked, “Yeah, I know.”
Then she sniffed me goodbye.
Everything Steven Kaminsky has ever done and written, has been to prepare him to write the story he’s tried to avoid for so long: his memoir. Hopefully, this terribly sad tale will bring PAS [Parental Alienation Syndrome] into the consciousness of the American populace and hopefully; family relationships will no longer be destroyed as a result of a divorce system that is easily manipulated by narcissistic evil.
6 readers love this story!
Tags: break ups, daughters, family, fathers, relationships, steven kaminsky