Well damnitall and fry it in canola oil. I’d like to be spewing venom at various issues of currency but here I am. Not spewing and instead staring blankly at wisps of fog that only appear the moment I set myself up in the sun. I swear to you, that fog wasn’t there a minute ago.
If I had my blood at boiling temperature, I would be ranting about the latest attempt by the U.S. Congress to recast its cyber bully law as Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act. That’s CISPA for short. Like Crisco but a little different. Also like SOPA but a little less different. From the decent summary of the pros and cons presented on Digital Trends, I learned that the bill has a lot of support in Congress and industry, including all your faves– like FB, Verizon, Intel and AT&T. In other words, all your besties. I also learned that the same fucking overreach that made SOPA and PIPA so offensive remains the lifeblood of CISPA. It’s a law that’s supposed to safeguard American cybersecurity (oh, and create an industry of cybersecurity police who will patrol the digital border so “Chinese hackers who are trying to steal from us everyday” cannot steal from us EVERY day– seriously, those were the words of Rep. Mike Rogers, a Republican from Missouri, which, like most direct quotes from representatives, make me want to march for entrance exams for all congressional candidates) but it fails to specifically define the information that will be policed and allows censorship of any speech a company finds risky to its network. The Electronic Frontier Foundation says, “CISPA creates a cybersecurity exemption to all existing laws.” Hijole. Well, at least Congress isn’t trying to pretend like it’s our personal liberties it wants to protect.
But my blood is only simmering because I’m distracted. School is in full swing, I guess, but then I found out this week that we have a two-week break starting… now. If I was 19, I would be so psyched. Which is an argument for making 19-year olds do all the real work and letting everyone over 30 go back to school. Teacher says I should be wildly productive between now and our eventual return to the classroom. It feels a little like a jinx.
Anyhoo, here is my exercise number four. Write dialogue, was the assignment. We had to choose a scenario from a list that included a daughter informing her mother that she’s converting to Catholicism and dad tells kid a story on a drive home at night. I tried to do the conversion but it only made sense that someone would bother with conversion if the target religion was Judaism. Who, these days, wants to run toward the Catholic church?
Hey JG! Here’s some more italics.
Between Here and Home
“How much longer?”
“Couple more hours.”
“Oh.” Boop chews on chapped lips. The road passes beneath her. “How long does that take?”
Dad looks for landmarks. “Same as it took to get here from home.” He waves his hand at a totem pole of shop names. It rises from a dusty oleander on the concrete shoulder. He doesn’t want to explain how the bush and the signs and the strip mall behind it are repeating and repeating so he doesn’t know exactly where he is between here and home.
“Two hours, Boop.” He pinches her knee, watches her squirm. “How many minutes is that?”
He looks to see if she’s calculating. What would he look for? You can’t count to 120 on fingers. “120. Two hours is 120 minutes. Got it?”
“When your mother brings you home from Gramp and Gramma’s. That’s two hours.”
“No it’s not.”
“Pretty sure it is.”
“No. It’s four Happy Days,” she says. She folds her arms across her chest.
“With commercials. Mom says remember to do the commercials.”
“I can sing the commercials.” She watches her dad’s face, the black bits of hair sprouting from his cheeks. His eyes are brown like hers—people say almond eyes but she thinks they’re more like trouts. Her dad took her fishing once and she tried to catch a trout in a towel but it was already dead. She reaches up to push his beard back in.
“Stop it, Boop.” He swats at her.
She collapses back in her seat. Her mom doesn’t let her sit in front like her dad.
“Why do your mom and dad live in a box?” Her mom said trailer but that sounded bad.
“It’s called a mobile home.” His eyes jump to the mirror and then he looks at her. “But it’s not really mobile.”
She doesn’t know what mobile means exactly. “Oh.”
“They moved there to retire.”
“Oh.” She doesn’t know what retire means exactly either but she knows that old people do it from chairs that rock, like Dad’s mom and dad, or they take cruises with other white-haired people like on tv. “Do they like their mobile home?” She pronounces mobile carefully.
“I think they like it okay.”
“Oh.” These were grandparents too, she knew, but not Gramma and Gramps like her other ones. She hadn’t known what to call them and she had to hold her pee the whole time she was in the mobile home because she once peed on a bus and it was bumpy and smelly and her mom said not to sit down.
“What did you want to be when you were little?”
“The Fonz,” he says. “Heeey.” He puts his thumbs up over the steering wheel and then feels ridiculous. He likes that she giggles.
“I can do the commercial for Life.”
“Is there one?”
“Dad.” The word sounds like a siren. He checks the rearview. “It’s only my favorite cereal.”
“Let’s hear it,” he says.
She pushes her hair from her face. She does every voice, adds inflection and pause, finishes with the product line: “Life. Nutritious and Delicious.” The commercial takes at least 30 seconds. He understands now that they are that much closer to home.
“Nicely done.” He imagines asking his ex-wife to turn off the television every once in a while. He imagines the tone of her voice in response.
“I can do lots of them.”
“I bet.” He hopes she doesn’t do another. He smiles because he’s thinking that he can’t be commercial-free in a conversation with his kid. He hopes the smile looks loving.
“I know the presidents too.” She knows that her dad doesn’t watch tv like she does with her mom. He likes the news but nothing else. Not even movies but he laughs at The Muppet Show.
“Well. That’s better. I guess.” Whether it’s better or not—whether it will make her a better person or not—he likes that she can read him. He thinks that women—even little girls—have a huge advantage over men when it comes to insight. He thinks that maybe she can be president someday. “Actually. I wanted to be president. When I was little.”
“You would be a good president,” she shouts. He jumps and she nods. “Better than the Fonz.”
“Thank you, Boop.”
“Well. Why aren’t you then?” Her eyes assess his presidential profile. He feels judged.
“What? President?” He can’t think of a reason. “I guess my parents had other ideas.”
“Like, skip school, be a Marine, marry your mother and have a pretty girl called Boop.”
“Your parents wanted you to call me Boop?”
“You got me.” He winks and hopes she always sees so clearly. “I think, Boop, that my dad has never been all that impressed with me.” Is this something fathers admit? He wonders.
“I guess he wanted a fighter, maybe,” he says. “A jock or a bully or a soldier. Not some kid who hid books under the bed and snuck out to stay on the debate team.”
“What books?” She likes books. She likes reading with her dad. She might like debate too.
“All the books my teachers could do without. All the books too torn up for the library. Anything I could get my hands on.” He remembers quoting Catch-22 when he asked his dad not to thrust mediocrity on him. He remembers the ache in his eye when his dad pulled a punch.
“You’re way better than a fighter, Daddy.” She pats his knee and he realizes that someday she’ll do exactly this at exactly the right time to someone else. “Is your dad going to die soon?” She sort of hopes so but she won’t say that. Plus, the old man had yellow tubes that came out of his nose.
“I think that’s probably right.” He grips the wheel and watches his knuckles whiten. He wonders if it was a mistake to bring her to see his parents. He wonders if there is any point in giving her a memory that won’t relate to anything else in her life.
“Oh. Are you sad, Daddy?”
“Because of your dad?”
“Yeah baby. That. And I wish I was sadder.”
“Because I wish I could miss him the way I would want you to miss me.”
She is suddenly scared that he is going to die too. She’s not sure where dead people go but she knows from tv that they end up in the ground. “Is your mom going to die too?”
“Someday.” He knows he should not say what he is about to say. He feels like a mad scientist about to flip the switch even though he knows the village will suffer. “Everyone dies someday, Boop. Everyone you will ever know.”
Even though the cars are slowing in front of him, he glances at his daughter. She is staring straight ahead. She could be looking at the windshield or she could be looking at the brake lights coloring the long road ahead. He has no idea what to say now.