Last week they left my son on the porch, because that’s the new arrangement, so I told him to sit on the floor for us to play and he did sit and rocked himself dutifully to one side, slid a palm onto the floor under his little bum, then rocked himself the other way until he’d sat himself square on his hands like they already taught him in his first week of preschool.
I sort of chewed down on myself and kept it cool with this train I had sawed out and painted for him using a pattern I found on the internet. Because he had broken my heart already. Broken it worse than the divorce did and almost as bad as seeing Ted turn up with my ex when she dropped my kid off. Like she needed his protection or something.
I sat down with my son and pushed the train over at him like I would push the chips if I went all in on a bad poker hand. He looked up at me, his hair still stranded from a wet comb and his shirt straining at the elastic band of his little jeans where his mommy must have tucked it five minutes before when she told him God knows what about why she was leaving him with me. I asked him did he like the train and he said yes sir.
So that’s when I started thinking up how I would teach him the other half of what he needs to know about being alive.
My idea of having a kid had consisted mostly of him running through rain puddles and trying to stuff frogs in his pockets, with me laughing at first and running in the puddles with him but then, eventually, telling him that’s enough and that he should handle the frogs gently.
Andrey is made out of the same stuff as me, according to DNA testing, and that’s probably why I thought he’d like the puddles and the frogs. But instead of that kind of kid, I’d gotten a broken one.
He can control himself. And that’s very important, actually. But how is it self-control if you’ve got no self?
I came up with that because this kid is making me think of stuff I had not thought of.
After all, what credit do you get if you control a piece of meat? You slice it up and eat it because it has no personality. But, if you can control a lion, or even a really energetic dog, that’s something.
When I thought about the dog, I wanted to take Andrey hunting. And I decided hunting would be part of my recovery plan.
Ask someone what it means to be a woman today. Or a minority. And they’ll give you an earful about overcoming difficulty, being strong, and about owning your place in the world. But ask them what it means to be a man and they will look at you like you have a hole in your head. Or they’ll talk about rape culture and mass incarceration. Those things make me very sad, actually, especially when they’re most of what people think of when they think about men.
Part of my recovery plan is for Andrey to shoot guns. Then he will learn to be responsible with firearms, which are not safe. I’ll teach Andrey to shoot rabbits first because there are too many. And, when he hits one in the back, like I did once, and it goes dancing like a circus performer because its back is broken, and my son starts to laugh, I’ll tell him don’t you laugh, an animal is dying at your hand and that’s a serious thing. I’ll tell him, next time you aim for the head. It’s more respectful.
Respect means you especially protect the people who are vulnerable to yourself. I’ll tell my son this and, when he asks me did I respect his mom, I’ll tell him I did, most times. And the other times are why our lives got torn up.
How we got Andrey is because his mom was all over me. That’s true. She chose me. She had these gorgeous child-bearing hips with a face that looked unbelievably innocent even when she stood, starting to stretch at the middle, for our wedding, so I wanted her too, of course, but I tried to slow it all down because, after the wedding was done and she got bigger, I couldn’t say if I wanted a baby and I couldn’t say if I wanted her for the rest of her life, which is very different from just wanting someone. So I told her she had mostly done the baby herself because she was the one that was all over me. Then she used her foot from where she sat on the bed to slam shut the door with me out in the hall and I knocked and said I maybe didn’t mean it and she wrote on the back of a recipe card that she slid under the door that she wished the baby had another dad. I said, if the baby had another dad, then it would have two dads and that makes no sense, and she never talked to me again.
So I will place a deadly weapon in my child’s hand and I will teach him to use it.
Something died in me just now, because I wrote that, but still I will give my boy a gun so he will learn how to kill and how not to kill before he kills something by accident like I did with his mom while she sat on the bed.
Men aren’t safe. I wish I had known this before we got Andrey started and so I want to teach it to him sooner than I learned it. Women aren’t safe either and so it is necessary for a man to live dangerously. And, because no one cares much for that anymore, it’s going to be a lonely world for my son. But that’s part of being a man too, living in a lonely world is.
After I sent Andrey back to his mom, and to Ted probably, I went to shoot pheasant with my buddy Cal because I wanted to hear what he had to say about these ideas I’ve been thinking up and because Cal has a kid the same age and I want Andrey to be around Cal so he can see what it looks like to stay married.
But it made no sense to shoot pheasant because we were walking through tall weeds in the drizzle and getting our jeans soaked. And, besides, I told Cal the pheasant have had a tough time of it lately and there aren’t enough for us to be shooting them. So we gave it up and I put the pheasant Cal had already shot into a crock-pot with some onions and I brewed a pot of coffee so we could talk.
After Cal heard my thing about how men aren’t safe and how people want the world to be safe, he asked me do I like this guy who has been on TV sticking it to all the politically correct types. I told him no, I don’t like the guy, and he asked why, because I’m supposed to be the type of guy who likes sticking it to the politically correct types. I said I don’t like him because he has testosterone poisoning.
Don’t we all? Cal said.
I said no, people are only poisoned if the testosterone hits them when they’re not ready to handle it and you can tell this guy can’t handle his testosterone because he thinks he has never been wrong. He calls everyone else pathetic so he can feel great and that’s a sure sign of poisoning. Besides, I said, he doesn’t stick it to the politically correct types, he sticks it to everyone and the politically correct types just happen to be the loudest part of everyone. So what’s to admire about that?
That’s what I told Cal. And, besides, I told him I’m trying to show my kid what it looks like to stay married so that guy on TV is exactly what I’m not trying to teach him.
Then I asked Cal the same question about whether he likes the guy on TV. Cal said, sure, the guy is an idiot and Cal would never actually vote for him on a ballot but, if some sort of pollster calls him, he’ll take the call for a change and tell them that’s who he likes just so they’ll be mad and they’ll see that there’s one person in this whole damn country they can’t shut up.
Cal had the jitters from drinking too much coffee on an empty stomach and then the pheasant drifted some aromas out to where we were sitting at my table with our socks drying around our ankles.
When Cal smelled the pheasant, he said why don’t we put it in the microwave to hurry it along. I told him a microwave is a disrespectful way to cook a pheasant and that it proves he has testosterone poisoning. He said testosterone has nothing to do with being hungry so I offered him a peanut butter sandwich and he said peanut butter is a disrespectful way to feed a hunter. I said that, since Cal had shot the pheasant in the chest, it would have metal in it and metal will make the microwave explode. Cal said the metal will help the microwave cook the meat faster from the inside. So we compromised. We microwaved the bird for seven minutes then finished it up with another fifteen minutes in the crock-pot. And I do recommend this recipe. The bird had a good flavor. The only thing is I should have put some potatoes in to sort of round out the meal.
But it put Cal straight to sleep anyway, coffee jitters, testosterone, and all. He snoozed away on my couch. So I took my chance to write this up. And I thought of some more things to write about why I will take Andrey hunting.
I want to take him before too many years go by because Andrey will get hit with testosterone soon enough and, to avoid the poisoning, you’ve got to become a certain kind of person before it happens. Otherwise it will either turn you into a brute or you will let society emasculate you.
That’s an unsavory choice. But it has an answer. It’s for men to teach men to be men. Because it’s a man’s experience, it takes a man to understand it and it takes a man to teach it to you and, until that happens, we’ll be hearing a lot of talk about rape culture and mass incarceration, and it will prove the people right that taught Andrey to sit on his hands. To be safe is to die slowly. So forget about safety, carry your gun carefully, and respect the dangers. That’s how I’ll teach my son to stay alive.
I told Cal that I wrote all this while he was sleeping and he said he was proud of me that I had written something. I printed him up a copy so he could see what he was proud of. And he said, that’s nice of you for printing it out. But he didn’t read it because he doesn’t read much of anything. And that’s a shame because I think it’s pretty good.
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