I am driving. My three children are in the car with me, my teenager beside me, my younger children in the backseat. It is dusk, perhaps later, and we are coming home from the grocery store. I am not cranky – I wouldn’t describe myself as cranky, anyway – but my teenager has just spent five dollars on two pencils at the grocery store.
She’s old enough to send into the store by herself with some money, and she’d gotten the posterboard we’d made the trip for, a gallon of milk, and these two pencils. “They’re good pencils Dad!” she’d said, after handing me the receipt and an amount of change that seemed so light that I looked at the receipt to figure out what I had just had my money spent on. “$4.99 for goddamned pencils?” I freaked out like a dad does, because I am a stereotype. “No, they were $3.99 with the discount!” my daughter says, technically correct, except that she had paid $4.99, because she hadn’t punched my phone number into the “Do you have a Kroger Club membership?” questionnaire at the checkout.
I rant and rave for a while longer about how no two pencils on earth can possibly be worth $4.99. Then there is silence. And then:
“I want to tell scary stories,” says my son, from the back.
“I’ll tell you a scary story,” I say. “Once, there was a young man, whose life was full of future, but then he had three children, and they drained the life from his soul!”
“That’s about you!” protests my son. “That’s not scary.”
“I’ve got a story,” says my teenager daughter. “Once, there was a young man, whose life was full of future, and he chose to do all of that stuff with mom, and now he’s got three kids, and get over it!”
So now I’m out $4.99 and I’ve been badly burned. Or served? Maybe the kids still say served? Jesus I’m old.