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When we played tag, Dad drove

Bob NilesFather’s Day has to be the easiest celebration to plan for — a celebration, that if left up to Dads, would not go ahead at all because all Dads really want is just to be left alone.

Father’s Day was brought about to complement Mother’s Day as Wikipedia would have us believe. And it wasn’t a guy who brought it about, but a woman. A daughter who wanted to honor her Dad.  What’s he going to say after she had gone to all that work? “No thanks honey. If you really want to do something special, just leave me alone.” (The guy had raised six kids by himself! Of course, he wants to be alone.)

My Dad never wanted a fuss. Heck, he didn’t want kids! Us four boys would ask dear old Dad what he would like from us for Father’s Day and each year he would respond, “Get adopted by another family!” Ah, what a kidder.

Dad’s idea of a perfect Father’s Day would be getting off the couch and finding a perfect outline of himself in potato chips after watching an afternoon of golf.  That’s a day I would like to achieve. But every year we would try to do something special for him because that’s what Moms like. So why not Dads? Moms like to get dressed up and stand in line with a lot of other dressed-up Moms and wait for their names to be called in a restaurant on their special day. Why wouldn’t Dad like something special like that?

I guess we missed the subtle clues throughout the year that Dad wanted just to be left alone on his special day — like when we played tag and he drove away. Our first tubby toy was a plug-in radio. And Dad’s favorite game with us was “Hide-n-go…” No, it was just “Hide-n-go.” He never came looking for us.

He’d say little things like “I made three just like you. I can take you out and make another, and no one would miss you. Your mother is the only one stopping me.” What a kidder.

It’s not that he didn’t do things with us. He just had his own style of doing things. When it snowed, he’d take us out bumper hitching. For those unfamiliar with this, you’d grab hold of the rear bumper of the family Pontiac while squatting on your feet as Dad pulled you along the snowy road. It was big in the ’60s, but neighbors today would probably phone the cops on such a parent — especially my Dad, who  made us hold the front bumper! “Keep your arms real stiff!” he’d yell. What a kidder.

We were never a huggy-feely family who shared a lot of emotions to let old Dad know we loved him. I remember once hugging my Dad, which greatly surprised him.

My Dad was a kidder. He loved to laugh. Growing up, I really enjoyed his laughter. A house is so much better with laughter. My happiest childhood memories revolve around my Dad when he was happy. And he wasn’t happy that much. It’s not like he raised us in fear of punishment, but he carried the world on his shoulders and did more worrying than one human should possibly do. So, laughter was a welcome change.

If there was ever a time I had the chance to show my Dad how much I appreciated him, it wasn’t on a Father’s Day. It was when we drove up to Fort St. John in northern British Columbia together. I was doing a plumbing job there, and he came along for the two-day drive before I flew him back home. He more than once thanked me for the scenery and the one-on-one time we spent together for those two days. I was lucky he gave me the chance to do it before he passed away.

I’ve been blessed with several days in my life that I was so proud to be a father to each one of my kids. It wasn’t cards, gifts or dinners, but rather a special moment in each of their lives that made me proud and made me think this dad thing is all worthwhile. It’s alright.

I wasn’t the best son a Dad could have, and deserved the threat of being taken out and another one made just like me. Thank you, Mom! And my kids, at times, came close to that same threat. But, just like me, they came around before it was too late.

On Father’s Day, buy Dad dinner, play a round of golf, take him fishing or just tell him you understand and leave him alone. That’s what my kids do for me.

Father’s Day is not found in days paid for and expected, but in days that my kids have worked for and made sacrifices to achieve their desired goals. And then, hopefully, during your lifetime they make you so proud that you get the chance to stick out your chest and say, “THAT’S MY KID!” Do you know what he just did?” All the work, prayers, hopes and dreams a Dad puts into a kid suddenly sprouts. That’s Father’s Day.

— Bob Niles

Bob Niles, who answers to Robert, Bobby, Dad, Grandpa, Unit No.2 (his Dad could never remember all the children’s names), honey and super hero, is new to writing but not to storytelling. “I like to make people laugh and to think, with a secret desire make them dance and send me untraceable $100 bills in the mail,” says the happily married, retired father and grandpa from Richmond in British Columbia, Canada. He blogs here.

Women + horses = epicurean delight

Mary Farr and NoahA few new guests have arrived at my home sweet home — all females. And this usually means their human partners are female, too. Woman and the horses that manage them — it is a curious tradition that governs most stables.

Fortunately for us, the female attraction to horses begins at an early age and often lasts a lifetime. This is good because according to CNN breaking news airing in our poker room, we need lots of clever women to untangle the world’s snags. Now, I don’t know a greenhouse gas from a hothouse geranium, but the women I hang out with can figure out how to make things run properly.

In my experience, they resolve their conflicts without the use of a lot of foul language or firearms. Well, maybe an off-color joke or an uncouth burp now and then, but mostly I hear females settling their disagreements with cordial, law-abiding methods.

What’s more, women know how to get along with tricky horses. Show me a cow horse that’s bored with cattle, and I’ll find you a woman who can change his mind. Or, let me introduce a reluctant dressage prospect to a savvy female. In no time, this problem student is crazy about full bridles and performing pirouettes. Maybe it’s their innate knack for diplomacy that enables women to change a Clydesdale with a stinky attitude into a winning cribbage player.

These horse partnerships also provide women a perfect antidote to a midlife crisis. For those who can’t afford to travel the world seeking their bliss, or studying Hindu Sanskrit, a tactful horse makes a perfect midlife companion. We make dandy travel buddies and fine dinner dates as well.

Let me also mention the curious connection between our girlish mates and good food. In short, they know their way around the kitchen. That’s not to say they belong in the kitchen. Oh no. They belong anywhere they choose to be, whether it’s the Old Country Buffet salad line or the Supreme Court. I just happen to know that Madam and her horse chums turn out fabulous food, including fabulous birthday cakes and horse treats that magically appear in my room.

So, all this leads me to a food chat we visit daily at our house: When do I get to sign up for “Cooking with Chef Cal?” Not classes that feature Brussels sprouts quiche or kumquat casserole. I want to learn how to serve up the good stuff — kid-tested, horse-friendly party food. You never know, this could even land me a new career as Emeril Lagasse’s sous chef.

Yes, I know these inspirations of mine require a little assistance from my assistant. But remember, we’re talking about a woman. Not only is she sterling on the keyboard, Madam knows a thing or two about operating the KitchenAid mixer and all those attachments that go with it. It sounds like a winning recipe to me!

— Noah Vail

Noah Vail and Mary Farr have collaborated on a book, Never Say Neigh: An Adventure in Fun, Funny and the Power of You. Noah, author, philosopher, humorist, gin rummy ace and all-around “good news sort of guy,” blogs hereNever Say Neigh won an honorable mention in the 2013 Paris Book Festival.

Suburban haiku: pet peeves

Peyton PriceCAT NIPS

When company’s here
we shoo Kitty off tables
like she’s not allowed.

Why thank you, Kitty
for trotting right up to me
to vomit. Both times.

Ooh, look at the cat!
She’s got something in the hall.
That’s one dead oak leaf.

When the new couch comes
things are gonna be different.
I mean it, Kitty!

The cat licks her paw
and rubs it on my son’s head.
Can she pack his lunch?

He burps in my face
but says “God Bless you, Kitty”
at each tiny sneeze.

DOG HOUSE

When the dog’s pooping
the kids stop calling her name.
Unlike when I am.

Our dog is well trained
to stay off of the sofa
when I’m in the room.

In misty weather
trying to find the short leash
for toads’ protection.

The dog’s locked away
howling that the cable guy
might want to pet her.

I blurted out “S%*^!”
but the dog thought I said “SIT!”
quite fortunately.

I must stop the dog
from barking at that new kid.
He’ll think we’re racist!

The dog’s ears and mine
perk up at every car door
until he comes home.

— Peyton Price

Peyton Price is the author of Suburban Haiku: Poetic Dispatches from Behind the Picket Fence. You can find her on Twitter, Facebook or in the living room attempting to remove pet stains from the new rug.

Corporate corsage

Lucia-1-11Name tags are corporate corsages. This is my big idea. Don’t steal it.

Think about it. You’ve chosen your outfit. You’re ready to go. Then someone slaps a big object on your shoulder that essentially brands you.

Just like a corsage back in prom days.

“Gee thanks, Billy. This large orange orchid strangled with baby’s breath does wonders for my lime green chiffon halter.”

During my time in corporate America, I attended a lot of business functions. I was a “creative” in advertising and counted among my clients some financial services giants.

I was split between the casual nature of advertising and the buttoned-down world of investment banking.

I was a copywriter, so I didn’t come from an investment background, and didn’t have an MBA.  In the early days, I used to simply carry on conversations at business functions complete with my own opinions. Silly me.

“Isn’t the stock market sort of like legalized gambling?” I asked once at a cocktail event.

The sawing motions being violently made by a sympathetic creative cohort weren’t lost on me, and I could see the collective eyes of everyone in pinstripes looking at my right shoulder.

The ivory name tag that was pinned to my jacket was ready to tattle on me.

“Remember this name,” it said quietly but firmly.

I’d like to briefly congratulate myself on some of my insights. This was pre-market meltdown. So maybe I was the brightest mind in the room.

I understand why we have name tags in business settings. Typically, one will include name and title, and possibly city or region, if it’s a company with multiple locations.

Who hasn’t been saved by quickly noting, “Carol Johnson. Human Resources. Chicago,” before saying, “Well, we have those dolts in Chicago to thank for that rotten quarter.”

Maybe an excavation will reveal they were part of the ancient world, too: A large collection of small chiseled tablets inscribed “Tut. Pharaoh. Thebes.”

No decent corporate corsage is complete without the current tagline of the company’s advertising campaign. If it is for an award trip, there might be a theme included.

“Fred Jones. Compliance. Quad Cities. Wishing On a Star in San Diego.”

Fred was probably wishing he could knock off the small talk and head back to the room for some SportsCenter and a beer.

After years on the periphery of financial services, I was in possession of a pretty impressive collection of name tags.

I had turned into someone who didn’t go to most dinners, cocktail parties, business trips or outings without a name tag. Their shapes were as varied as the events I had attended (ships, whistles, trees, chalkboards), I started bringing them home and putting them in a drawer.

One day I laid them out: dozens of breakfasts, lunches, dinners, cocktail parties and dinners, memorialized in label form.

You know the ending of the story. The market bubble burst, and along with those soapy remains, went the lion share of corporate entertaining and travel.

My new business life is a lot more relaxed.

As often happens in life, I recently had to reverse my attitude about corporate corsages. I attended a writers’ conference where there were many attendees I already admired, and even more who, as I spoke with them, wanted to commit their names to memory. I was grateful for the lanyards with name tag attached we had all been issued at the start of the event.

I guess it goes to show; sometimes a gal really does need a corsage.

— Lucia Paul

Lucia Paul’s humor writing includes an award-winning sitcom script and essays that have appeared in numerous publications. She is a regular humor contributor to numerous online publications on topics ranging from the financial crisis to parenting teens. She has stories and essays in multiple anthologies including two Not Your Mother’s Book titles: NYMB…on Home Improvement (2013) and NYMB…on Being a Mom (June 2014).  She is also the creative mind behind names for some of America’s best loved consumer products. Find her at dysfunctionalscrapbooking.blogspot.com and Twitter @DFscrapbook.

Sore to the core

Steve EskewWhen I write plays, sometimes I base my characterizations on composites of various people. Other times, I simply cut out a portrait from a magazine or newspaper. As I develop the character, I usually place that image directly in front of me.

Today, that technique came to bite me or at least nibble on my noggin.

While walking down Seventh Avenue in the Big Apple, the sight of a familiar face flabbergasted me. A man in the maddening crowd bore more than an uncanny resemblance to a serial rapist from the days  when I lived in Omaha. There’s no mistake. Today’s guy in the crowd absolutely had to be the Omaha rapist. But that’s impossible. The Omaha man is considerably dead.

The guy’s mugshot had appeared in the Omaha World Herald in 1989 on the same day that his crime spree came to a screeching halt. The story detailed how he had attempted to rape a young woman who had unwittingly jogged into the wooded area where he had been waiting.

When I had seen his image staring at me from the front page back in ’89, I immediately cut it out and stuck it on my desktop. I knew this face would be a perfect inspiration for the barbaric but bumbling serial killer for my play titled Macho Man Murders. Indeed, the fiendish face inspired me to write every line for that character, even the lines for what other characters said about him.

Today’s mystery man, Manhattan’s dead ringer for the Omaha rapist, vanished into the crowd, leaving me strangely frustrated. I had studied that face much too intensely not to recognize it. There’s no mistake. It was the same face. Such unsolved mysteries make me crazy.

The Omaha lookalike killed himself for reasons we men can well understand. While this aspiring rapist was readying himself in position, his victim had the gall to land a significant kick directly to his cashews. Ouch! To add insult to injury, while he lay withering in pain, screaming unprintable epithets, the young woman grabbed her stun-gun and aimed it at his eyes. That enabled her to escape and call the cops.

Within minutes, the lecherous, (and now) visually impaired rogue was surrounded by police. There he crouched, half blind, in a losing battle with authorities, plus suffering excruciating pain from head to crotch. Such agony proved to be too much for him. The wannabe rapist ate his gun. Who wouldn’t kill himself?

There’s a dark comic tale in there somewhere that I need to start taking notes on. I hadn’t thought about the guy in years until today. Could the guy I saw today in Manhattan be that long-dead scoundrel’s son? Nah. Well, maybe.

All those years ago while writing my play, each time I glanced up at the rapist’s mugshot, a cramping sensation would land in the pit of my stomach. Images of our daughters leaped to mind. They were then roughly the same age as the rape victim cited above. We had taught them to avoid desolate areas, but I worried that they would become careless and venture into deserted paths.

We had also taught them to strike back at attackers just like the would-be victim in Omaha did. Still, after I saw that dead ringer on the street today, the first thing I did was contact my daughters. They’re fine. Me, too.

— Steve Eskew

Retired businessman Steve Eskew received master’s degrees in dramatic arts and communication studies from the University of Nebraska at Omaha after he turned 50. After one of his professors asked him to write a theater column, he began a career as a journalist at The Daily Nonpareil in Council Bluffs, Iowa. This led to hundreds of publications in a number of newspapers, most of which appear on his website, eskewtotherescue.com.

Laughter and light

Tedford, Michelle (This piece will appear in the summer issue of the University of Dayton Magazine.)

It was three days full of belly-laughing, donkey-snorting, mascara-running good times with 350 humor writers from around the country.

And there I was, sitting in Sears Recital Hall, trying not to cry.

A fellow attendee at UD’s biennial Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop had just stood up. Her name was Kate. She had come here from Newtown, Conn. “I was funny and lost my funny,” she told us as we rummaged our pockets for tissues. “I came here to find it again.”

We knew she hadn’t just lost it. This writer had her funny ripped from her in her own hometown by the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooter. When would it be OK, she wondered, to laugh again?

It’s when life makes us ask such question that we need laughter the most.

At the workshop’s keynote dinner, Phil Donahue reminded us of the power of laughter as he talked about his good friend, the late Erma Fiste Bombeck ’49. The father of daytime talk shows and the mother of misadventures had been neighbors in Centerville, Ohio, each raising stair-step children while launching their careers.

In her writing, he said, was an honesty that touched the world. She popped balloons of pretense with daggers of laughter. Her humor was revolutionary.

“Motherhood was sacred,” Donahue said as he intoned popular sentiment: “‘Oh, how blessed you are. Oh, what a wonderful mother you are.’ Mothers were on pedestals. And Erma would do a column something like, ‘I am going to sell my children.’ She punctured that pretense, and she was speaking for millions of women.”

My own mother taped Bombeck’s words to our goldenrod-yellow refrigerator door — not the words about selling us, as far as I can remember, though I certainly would have deserved it for digging a pond in the backyard and filling it with frogs, which attracted crows from three counties.

Millions of women also taped Bombeck to their fridges, taking strength from the joys of an imperfect life with this sister who cautioned us to never have more children than we have car windows. It is a community that stretches through the miles and across the decades and that, every two years, materializes at UD, where a young Erma was told by her English professor, “You can write.”

This April, Donahue repeated the phrase, adding a charge to use our words to move mountains. “We have an assembly of people of conscience here … and you may just be the people who will make our lives better,” he said.

With their words and their support, the attendees embraced Kate from Newtown, who later wrote, “My three days in Dayton were extraordinary, and when the laughter died down I learned this above all: the line between tragedy and comedy does exist, and while laughing in the face of any horror is nearly impossible, the only way through the tears and darkness is with laughter and light.”

— Michelle Tedford

Michelle Tedford is the editor of the University of Dayton Magazine.

How to compliment your wife

Vikki ClaflinIn an earlier conversation with Hubs:

Me: “Does this bra make my boobs look perkier?”

Hubs: “Perkier than what?”

Me: “Perkier than before.”

Hubs: “Before what?”

Me: “This isn’t a trick question.”

Hubs: “Okay. Maybe. I don’t know. I don’t think you should worry about it. We’re all getting older, you know, and I think you look great no matter what your boobs look like.”

Me: “What a horrible, mean thing to say!”

Hubs: “I was trying to give you a compliment!”

Me: “Well, you suck at it.”

Hubs: “For the love of God, woman, next time give me cue cards.”

I can do that.

Dashing down to my computer, I quickly typed up Hubs’ Guide for Complimenting His Wife.

Assuming we’ve moved past the construction site approach, including  the juvenile (“Nice rack, baby”) or the cheesy (“You have eyes a man could drown in”), neither of which is particularly effective on girls over 23 and who don’t work at Hooters, let’s begin with the basics.

1. Compliments should make us feel wanted, appreciated and absolutely gorgeous. Every now and then, we want to feel like you still see us the way you did when we were first in love. Before the kids, our jobs, the mortgage payments, the dogs, the bills, the laundry, our birthdays and gravity all piled up and we swapped our thongs and stilettos for yoga pants and t-shirts.

2. Be brief. Don’t ramble. A girlfriend once told me that the best compliment she ever received from her husband was a single word. She came out of the bedroom, dressed for date night and a bit self-conscious in her rarely worn strappy little black dress. He stopped, looked at her for a moment and said, “Wow.” (That night was the best sex they’d had for months. Personally, I don’t believe in coincidences.)

3. Be specific. “You’re pretty” is great, but “That dress makes your legs look a mile long” will be happily repeated to her BFF tomorrow morning over coffee, and you’ll look like a rock star.

4. Pay Attention. Assuming she at least occasionally does something that surprises or impresses you (if not, that’s another discussion entirely), mention it. “You’re so patient with your little niece. You handled it beautifully when she set your office on fire” or “You were great with my parents today.” And “thank you for not decking Uncle Buck when he pinched your ass at our wedding…twice” will go a long way towards making her feel special.

5.  Surprise her. A spontaneous “I’m glad I married you” while you’re watching TV will put an instant smile on her face. In other words, don’t save it for when you want to get laid or you’re trying to end an argument.

6. Try to make the compliment about her. “Great boots” is nice, but “You look hot in those boots” is much better.

7. Tell the truth. Unless you’ve been living in a shack in the Ozark mountains your entire life, with no cable or Internet service, “You’re the most beautiful woman I’ve ever seen” is going to sound phony to any woman but Angelina Jolie. She knows that’s not true, and now you have a credibility issue. It’s like parents who tell their child he’s the smartest person in the world. Sooner or later, little Billy is going to find out Mommy and Daddy were lying and now he doesn’t believe a word they say. Pick something that’s actually true about her. “You have a beautiful smile” (when, in fact, she does) is a better choice.

8. Avoid backhanded compliments. These are not compliments. They’re insults that start out slowly. “You can speak French?? Wow. I never would have guessed.” Bite me, jackass. “A woman should be curvy. You look healthy.” I guarantee you we just heard, “You’re fat, but I’m not stupid enough to say that.” Hope you like sleeping on the couch. “Love your new haircut, babe. Your face doesn’t look as round.” By now she’s thinking, “OMG. So all this time, I’ve been walking around with a pumpkin head, and only now you’re telling me??” This is where “Shoot the messenger” came to be. These are passive-aggressive shots and should be limited to no more than, well…none, if you want to stay married to this woman.

9. When in doubt, tell her she looks thinner than usual. Surveys report that 43% of women said that’s their favorite compliment ever. “You look so thin” will have us singing your praises all over town.

10. A few other tried and trues that men should always have in their Things I Should Say to My Wife More Often rolodex include: “You look gorgeous.” “I love your body.” “You’re the most beautiful woman here tonight.” “I’m proud to be seen with you.” “I like the way you think.” There are others, but consider this your starter set, which should keep you going for the next few weeks.

When my son, Jake, was young, I instructed him very carefully about what to say when a woman asks about her appearance. To this day, whenever he sees me dressed up or in something new, he smiles and says, “Mom, that outfit makes you look younger and thinner.” You’re going to go far, kid.

And now, in a recent conversation with Hubs:

Me: “I’m using a new cream. How does my skin look?”

Hubs: “Fine.

Me: “Fine??”

Hubs: “Oh, actually you look stunning, and I wish I could stay home and stare at you all day, repeatedly reminding myself what a lucky, lucky man I am.”

Me (with a bright smile, deliberately choosing to ignore the almost-imperceptible eye roll and snort-laugh that accompanied that statement): “Thank you, sweetie. I love you, too!”

Now, was that so hard??

— Vikki Claflin

Oregon writer Vikki Claflin writes the popular humor blog, Laugh Lines. Two recent pieces have been published in Life Well Blogged: Parenting Gag Reels — Hilarious Writes and Wrongs: Take 26.

Sometimes, dreams do come true

ermine_cunningham(This was inspired by a news report of a 9-year-old boy who got past two security checkpoints, had no ticket and managed to fly to Las Vegas on his own.)

Last Friday morning, veteran Minneapolis teacher Giselle Schumacher thought it was too good to be true when she heard the news bulletin on her car radio.  This would be her last year of teaching — number 36 — and she didn’t know if she was going to make it to Thanksgiving, let alone to the end of the school year. But she believed with all her might that God works in mysterious ways.

Giselle wasn’t as energetic in the classroom as she had been 20 or 30 years ago, but she still ran a tight ship, and her students learned. She’d had her share of problem kids, and even they managed to turn their attitudes around because of the skillful classroom management and loving support of  “Mrs. S.”  Thankfully, the never-ending supply of hardheads from the Keister family, 11 kids total, every last one of them sullen and stubborn, had finally ended last year. Mrs. Schumacher’s fervent wish was that this final year would be a stellar one to cap her successful career.

This last class of fourth-graders was almost perfect: 24 polite, eager-to-learn 9-year-olds, so cooperative they almost made her reconsider the decision to retire. However, the diminutive, salt-and-pepper-haired Mrs. S. believed strongly in “quitting while you’re ahead.” Three weeks ago, however, Principal Wimple had thrown a huge fly in the ointment: Brendan Folts. The two of them appeared at her door one Friday afternoon, and it had been chaos in Room 214 ever since.

“Mrs. Schumacher, this is Brendan Folts. He’s having some difficulties in Ms. Pawnley’s room, so he’s being assigned to your class. He needs more structure, right, Brendan? Here’s his folder.”

This was nothing new to Mrs. S.; she worked magic, or so it seemed, with difficult children. This time, though, a chill ran down her spine when Brendan looked her squarely in the eye. He was a handsome child, fine-featured and dressed in the latest style, but it was clear a change was in the air — a big one.

The first week, Brendan disappeared from the classroom at random times; Mrs. S. would be teaching a lesson on homonyms or expanded form place value at the smartboard (still hard for her to get used to), and turn around to see his empty chair. “Where is Brendan?” she’d ask the class. No one ever knew. She would buzz the office to report him missing, and within a short time, he would reappear, explaining that he’d needed the bathroom and “didn’t want to interrupt the lesson” or “was afraid he’d have an accident.” By the end of the week, Mrs. S. was totally frazzled.

In the second week with Brendan, he went missing more frequently, and sometimes was found walking nonchalantly at the end of another teacher’s class on their way to gym or music. Once a cafeteria aide noticed him sitting with a kindergarten class eating a second lunch and returned him to Room 214.

Mrs. Schumacher set up a meeting with his parents, but they missed it; could they reschedule it to next week?

Although she tried her best to connect with Brendan, he reminded her of Eddie Haskell from “Leave It to Beaver,” sickeningly polite to her face, but bad to the bone in reality. She tried very hard to watch him at all times and began getting muscle spasms in her neck from whipping it around so quickly. When he disappeared just before lunch on Thursday, she shouted into the intercom for Mr. Wimple to cover the class. As soon as he rounded the corner, she took off down the hall to nab the little rascal, wherever he was. Mrs. S. finally located him in the basement custodian’s office, teaching a group of youngsters how to play blackjack.

Judging by the size of his pile of chips, Brendan obviously had excellent math skills.

Even though she wanted to escort him to the office by his ear, she refrained from touching him. He followed her like a little lamb and took a seat to wait for Mr. Wimple.

When she got home from school, Mrs. S. kicked off her shoes, poured herself a large glass of Chablis and collapsed onto the couch. There was no Mr. Schumacher to encourage her — he worked long hours at his plumbing business — so she gave herself a pep talk, reviewed her lesson plans for Friday and went to bed before nine.

She got an early start and was out the door by 6:45 a.m. Dreading the next disappearing act Brendan would pull, she switched on the 7 a.m. news as a distraction.

“A 9-year-old  boy from Minneapolis somehow got by three levels of security at the airport yesterday and flew to Las Vegas by himself. He had managed to get by TSA and gate agents onto the plane. After takeoff, flight attendants became suspicious of the child, who had no ticket and gave his name as, ‘Samson Knight.’ He stated that his parents were in the back of the plane. “Sam” will be handed over to authorities in Las Vegas for further questioning.”

A smile slowly grew on Mrs. Schumacher’s face, and she began to hum along with the radio. It would be a good day in Room 214.

— Ermine Cunningham

Ermine Cunningham taught English as a second language to refugee children in Syracuse, N.Y.,  and is now having a blast in the humor writer biz. She completed a two-year writing program in creative nonfiction at the Downtown Writers Center in 2013. She blogs at Odds & Ends from Ermigal and is putting the final touches on her soon-to-be-published book, Pretend You Know What You’re Doing — My Voyage from Teacher to Humor Writer.

Reflections of Erma