"I Should Have Read The Book"
As a young father of twins my idea of good parenting involved being a cool dude rather than the yelling-all-day father I had experienced growing up. Bad idea? Maybe. But as any parent knows, kids don't come with an instruction book, and you just have to take your best shot.
Anyway, when the twins were five I decided to do something really special for them on Easter Sunday, something to permanently establish my street creds as a cool dad. Our after-church Easter celebration was to take place at our home where I lived with my now least favorite ex-wife, and I was in charge that day of the boys, my stepdaughter and much younger brother. Thinking like a pro I started them out by doing some Easter egg coloring, dunking each egg on a little, bent metal contraption into a vinegary liquid. This worked out well, but took all of 30 minutes. I still had a whole day ahead of us and the kids were already getting restless.
" How about an Easter egg hunt? " I said.
" Bo-ring! "
Thinking quickly, I marked each egg. "See?" I said, holding one up. "Every egg has a price written on it. Find the egg, bring it to me, and i'll pay you the price."
Well, that put a whole new spin on the thing. Money-lust in their hearts, they couldn't wait to get started. The hunt lasted all of twenty minutes plus another twenty pushing the furniture back in place. If you don't have children of your own, ask any parent what some kids will do for a prize. I can honestly say I witnessed a five-year-old move a capodimonte breakfront in a desperate quest for a colored egg marked 50 cents. Still, when it was over I had managed to fill up only one hour of the day, and now had four kids under the age of ten looking at me as though I was the cruise director on a Disney ship who had run out of stuff to do.
At one point my stepdaughter and sons, arms crossed, threatened to boycott the entire day if I didn't come up with something else, and watching "March of the Wooden Soldiers" was not going to cut it!
In a panic, I said I had to go to the store for more stuff for them. I figured this would give me a few minutes to regroup and think this whole Easter thing over. At the very least, I had just left four, angry, bored kids with my now least favorite ex-wife, and in the mood they were in (think " Children of the Corn") they could very well drive her to jump on a carving knife in the kitchen. After taking her to Coney Island Hospital and cleaning up the blood, it would have taken up most of the day.
After fleeing the home and driving aimlessly up New Utrech Ave. I spotted a poultry market and braked to a screeching halt in front of it. I would buy a bunch of baby ducks...cute, furry, with little webbed feet, as though a box of "Peeps" had come to life. I pictured myself giving them out and receiving, in return, cool parental and hero status.
I also pictured long gray and white vertically striped baby duck droppings down the sides of the bathtub and any other place the kids decided to leave them which, once again my now least favorite ex-wife would wind up cleaning. This was a win-win situation and baby ducks for all it would be! " I'll take a dozen, " I said. "No, make it two dozen so I can tell the kids they have a whole flock."
Understand, I eat as much chicken and an occasional duck as often as the next guy, but to say, "Gee, slit that one's throat," is a bit much for me. If anything I would much rather get one that was whacked days earlier.
I was waiting my turn and looking at the ducks I was going to rescue when I heard what sounded like a child cry. I thought it was some little guy, upset because his mother just had a chicken offed, so I paid no attention to it. Then I heard it again, but instead of coming from a child, I realized the sound was coming from a small wooden crate!
I could not help but look in it, and saw a gang of tender baby goats, who were obviously far smarter than the chickens and other poultry who were oblivious to what was about to happen to them.
I now knew why I was sent there. It had to be a Divine intervention of sorts. like the ones you read about in magazines like " Readers Digest." So when my turn came I told the man I wanted a baby goat, and pointed at the one making the crying noise.
He removed the animal from the cage thinking I wanted it butchered when I politely informed him I wanted it alive and well. After going back and forth for a few minutes, I slipped him an extra $50 and a promise I would not tell a soul where I had bought it. I was now the proud owner of a baby goat.
We have all heard that before getting a pet it is wise to do some research first, and if I had been smart enough to read a book about goats I would have learned the young of that species are called kids because that's what they sound like. But now I had my very own little goat in a box, time was wasting, and off we went.
The second I put it in the car it made its feelings known. It obviously was not happy about the whole box idea, so after getting in myself, I figured I could let it out and, as you would with a dog, pet the kid and calm it down. For all I knew about goats it might even want to hang its head out the window for the breeze.
Away we went, and the first red light I hit, right around Bay Parkway near Caesar's Bay, I reached behind me and let the kid out of the box, believing that would be enough to satisfy it. After all, I had just rescued it from death row. But the instant I let it out it proceeded to leap continuously between the back and front seats at a high rate of speed. Who knew they could jump like this? Not me. I hadn't read the book.
But, hey, I would have kicked in yet another $50 if I could have taken a picture of any of the cars around me waiting for the light to change. I swear to you I can still vividly see the woman's face in the car in the next lane mouthing the words "Is that a goat?"
"Yes, it's a goat. No, I had no idea they could jump like this and I am absolutely not doing any voodoo on the poor thing. Just trying to be a cool parent. Honest "
So, of course, since it was Easter I got stuck slowly inching up for like three red lights. I sat there as nonchalant as I possibly could, bopping my head to the radio like this was the most normal thing in the world as the 10 pound creature flung itself from the back seat straight into the windshield as if it was in a hostage situation, trying its hardest to break every window in the car in an attempt to escape. I finally made the turn to get on the Parkway and that 10 pound demon must have had enough jumping, because it sat across from me and started crying -- wailing like a teething infant with a bull horn.
I tried to reach over and pet it in a feeble attempt to calm it down as I merged onto the highway, but instead of touching a frantic animal I gently stroked a bunch of little rocks. I quickly looked over to see the kid had jumped back into the backseat again, and I was now holding what looked like a handful of Cocoa Puffs. I was petting goat poo! I still can't understand how a 10 pound animal can excrete 20 pounds of shit. I would have thought it scientifically impossible, but I assure you it's true.
At any rate, it soon decided to jump back into the front seat. But this time it smashed its head full force into the dashboard and only then decided to lie down on the seat next to me and be quiet. I wasn't sure if the goat had hit so hard it knocked itself out, but it was not screaming, jumping or pooping anymore, so if it was unconscious I was not going to come up with any heroic measure to revive it. At one point I even thought of dropping it off at a kiddie zoo, cleaning my car, and going home in shame to deal with my now probably homicidal children.
I finally got home and as soon as I stopped the car the goat regained consciousness. However before it could start trampolining through the car again I grabbed it as best I could and held it securely under my arm. Thankfully, none of my neighbors were outside so no one saw the little thing trying to gouge me in the face with its undeveloped horns, and kick me square in the chops in its final escape attempt.
I ran for the house as fast as I could. After all I went through getting that demon home, there was no way I was going to lose it. And, anyway, i'd need it if I had any hope of explaining the Cocoa Puffs all over the car.
I came in through the kitchen door knowing everyone would be sitting at the table by now. Sure enough there were a dozen people looking as much in awe as the kids were over the new, calm goat.
My chest puffed out as the kids ran to pet it. Yes I was a real hero because I had brought a goat home for them. My in-laws thought I was drunk. My family already knew I needed professional help. But all of them were enjoying this new venture.
I gently set the animal down on the kitchen floor and it seemed to relax. It allowed everyone to pet it and even started playing with the children. So far so good. Then, out of the corner of my eye I noticed something slowly move under the kitchen table. I'd forgotten about our dog! Too late. By now he'd spotted the intruder near the kids and was stalking it as carefully as lions do on the great plains of Africa.
Before I could utter a word he shot out from under the table and the pursuit was on. The goat, having just escaped a near death experience, was having none of this and proceeded to catapult itself across the food filled table, jumping directly through the breakfast nook into the living room with the dog on its very short tail. Straight over a glass coffee table and across the couch it went, knocking down every vase and little figurine we possessed in the process. Then, down the hallway they sped, and by the time both of them managed to find their footing on the hardwood flooring the entire family, with me in the lead, was right behind them.
When the two animals hit the bedroom, the goat jumped up on the bed, while the dog positioned himself at the foot of it and stared him down, figuring he had his prey cornered, and planning the best angle to go in for the kill.
In a New York second the goat squatted down as if it was about to perform some kind of super jump over the dog. Instead, it let out a stream of bright golden urine that looked like it was coming out of a race horse, directly onto my now least favorite ex-wife's bed !
I managed to grab the goat before the dog did and came away with goat urine dripping down my arm, as the dog once again tried his best to get at a free goat lunch. Or maybe he was only trying to be a hero by saving the children from this mystery beast.
After receiving a few wee-placed licks I managed to bring the little goat to the safety of the basement where, away from the family and the dog, it hopped around kicking like a bucking bronco for a few minutes then settled back down. Resigned, I returned upstairs to deal with the agony of defeat.
" Is OK," my aging Sicilian grandmother informed me, "I can-a fix-a him."
Since she was from the old country and had dealt with these devils before, I assumed she meant she could calm it down and somehow help me regain my hero status, salvaging the day. I gave her the go-ahead and down the stairs she went.
So, except for the partially yellow down comforter, everything seemed to be back in order. We gathered in the living room where the children talked about their new pet and everyone laughed over the play by play. Time passed pleasantly.
Then to everyone's horror up came grandma from the basement bearing the goat, oven ready, in a large roasting pan garnished by carrots and diced potatoes. She had done the one thing I failed miserably to do. She had read the book.