Twenty minutes of rest was all Jim wanted. He could recall a time when indulging in such a power nap would have been no problem, when coming home from work meant kicking off his black-soled shoes, popping open a beer and slinking back into the couch to watch whatever the hell was on. But the metal knob of his front door felt colder to the touch than it used to—heavier, too. Don’t kid yourself; fathering three young boys was something he was immensely proud of. He loved those little squeaks—but just because you love something, Jimmy, doesn’t mean it won’t kill ya one day.
Jim slipped inside with as much stealth as could be mustered by someone so tired and worn. When one of his shoes fell to the floor, making a dull thump sound against the hardwood, he knew he was done for.
The stampede began first with the five-year-old, whose hands were colored with squiggly lines of red, blue and orange ink, then the three-year-old, whose face had been drawn upon with red, blue and orange ink, and then the Golden Retriever that the five-year-old had cleverly named, Dog, and finally the two-year-old, who was yanking Dog’s tail incessantly throughout the ordeal.
On a good day, Jim would have time to take off his coat, put down his suitcase and free his other hand of the umbrella he always carried. But today was not a good day.
Jim braced himself as best as he could.
Fathering young children had given Jim divine perspective. He now knew that God had built into parenthood a natural form of birth control. When little boys roughhoused with their fathers, they always seemed find a way to thump ‘em in the spot that made them sing like Maria Callas. Jim also knew that if he had too many kids (and therefore not enough free hands), or was too tired to defend himself, receiving this thump was likely God’s way of saying, “You’re done, Jimmy. No more kids for you.”
“Dad! Look at this!” It was the five-year-old who spoke, but Jim was less interested in the words and more interested in what his son was doing. The boy hadn’t given him enough time to look before flinging a large, metal toy truck for his father to catch.
Instinct kicked in and Jim was able to anticipate the trajectory of the flying toy even before impact. Unfortunately, his hands were occupied and his body was way too tired to react.
There’s another lesson Jim had learned in his years of fatherhood: when Dad is on the ground, Dad is fair game…and so the three little gremlins fell on their father like ‘roided up wrestlers. Luckily, their shouts of glee made the cursory that spewed from his lips inaudible. But in the moment, he was pretty sure the opportunity to make a fourth gremlin was long gone.
“Get off your father, kids.” Salvation came in the voice of a woman—his wife. Her voice held little concern, however—this ritual was not a new thing—but he felt a wave of relief nonetheless.
“Why don’t you rest for twenty minutes, honey,” she said. “Then you can help me with dinner.”
Jim grinned as she walked away—he was finally getting his power nap.
Word Count: 550