Grumbles the Polar Bear knocked on the door last night (I’d told him to avoid ringing the bell, after that nastiness in February when the Secret Service visited).
He’d suffered a particularly harsh winter at the North Pole, with no electricity and little to eat (except Bias Jones) and that brief, disruptive vacation in D.C. when the loony climate-change protesters decried the end of civilization while a foot of snow fell on their heads…and he’d felt compelled to eat as many of their unwashed sycophant hides as possible.
It was the damnedest winter in the “global warming” era Grumbles had ever seen, cold enough even to freeze the nuts off a bear with body fat 11-cm thick -- the equivalent of a memory foam pillow or Jennifer Lopez's thighs.
He needed warmth, hospitality, and a kind, conservative family to give him shelter and comfort as he prepared for the shortest summer he expected to know (what with the polar cap not shrinking, the oceans not rising, and the end of the world not kicking in until Congress passes b. Hussein’s $4 trillion budget request for 2010).
Yes, we’d promised Bear he’d find sunshine and balmy temperatures and an hour of electricity to celebrate Earth Hour (while the milquetoast fools around the planet were turning OFF their lights to “conserve”), followed by a tasty dinner of liberals, if he hid well enough among the flowering fruit trees outside any of the bars in Midtown Atlanta.
But the plan worked only so far as Grumbles’ knock on the door.
When he knocked, Girl (my 5-year-old) was already in full regression to toddler mode, legs and arms and tears and hair flailing all over the floor in her room like a robotic breakdancer on crystal meth, in response to her mother telling her to wash up before dinner.
That is to say, no one heard him. Not even Dog.
This is, of course, atypical in our household. If you ring the door bell, an onslaught of 4-foot and under living masses of chaos (two children…and one dog) speeds to the door faster than a BMW takes to a straightaway on the autobahn. It’s a dangerous occasion known to send even the most well-meaning visitor screaming down our driveway as if they were fleeing a swarm of killer bees.
On this evening, the volume of Girl’s protest, however, would have drowned out the knocking of even the most determined Jehovah’s Witness, so much so that Grumbles stood out on the porch for a full 15 minutes in a squall of rain so thick you could probably stick a bowl out and grab lunch (if you like pine-tree pollen counts over 6,000 ppm in your soup).
Dog was the first to notice something amiss, even though Girl still screamed as loudly as I once was able to blare Anthrax and Metallica on the stereo, B.C. (before children). I found Dog sniffing at the front door, tail wagging, ears up. Obviously someone was outside. I flung open the door.
Me: “Grumbles. You made it!”
Bear: “About a half-hour ago. You don’t open your door when someone knocks?” He looked pissed. Pissed enough to eat me.
Me: “Sorry. Couldn’t hear well. It’s the witching hour. With the young one. It lasts forever. I think she’ll be okay, when she’s 36 and we can marry her off.”
Lightning flickered and illuminated Bear. He’d been standing on the porch so long in the rain his hair was matted, as if he’d been rolling in a puddle like some redneck bear. He looked like a railroad bum in a disco, except he wasn’t doing The Hustle. His demeanor, all pent up, hair raised, teeth barred, claws unhooked, looked more like The Fuck You. I invited him inside. But plans changed immediately. My wife, “Lucy” (real name withheld to protect the innocent), shrieked. “NOOOOO! No wet animals in my house!”
At this, Dog slunk away to hide in the basement, apparently afraid Lucy was yelling at her.
So much for southern hospitality. (We are, after all, from Pittsburgh, via Florida, New York, Virginia, and Germany, or at least some of us are. The children? Well…I’m not sure they’re of this world.)
What the hell can you expect these days? Wet bears just aren’t allowed in the front door. Yet, I couldn’t leave him out in the rain. So, I invited Grumbles to run around to the back patio and have a seat under the $129 covered aluminum gazebo from Home Depot.
It was a little wet out there, the rain pudding against our feet as it ran down the patio. But Bear seemed okay with it, so I was too.
Me: “I really must apologize for the rain. Sometimes I think I live in Seattle without all the liberals.”
Bear: “Well, I’m friggin’ hungry, so maybe I should have skipped the damned travel expense and just walked to Seattle.”
He was obviously NOT pleased. I decided to change the subject.
Me: “How was your trip? I trust the airline treated you well?”
Bear: “Yeah. Just peachy. They stuck me in a cage and made me ride cargo class. Didn’t even give me a refund. And I PAID for first class.”
Me: “Wow, man. That sucks. Care for some berries?” Hoping to buy time for him to settle down, I passed a bowl of blueberries from the store.
Just then, the back door flew open. Girl and Boy and Dog burst out as if someone just rang the doorbell. I could see “Lucy” in the background, scowling, and the door slamming shut, as if she were washing her hands of us.
The children and Dog surrounded Bear, hopping up and down, doing the “Someone’s here! Someone’s here!” dance.
Bear: “Dude, if you don’t get these buggers off me, I swear I’ll eat them.”
Me: “Hey, man. No one wants you to eat them more than me, but…consider the insurance liability, plus the pols in this state may soon be able to give criminals life with no parole even when they don’t ask for the death penalty.”
Bear, lightened up…somewhat: “I’m sorry, man. I’ve had a long, hard journey. Do you have any liberal juice to calm me down?”
Me: “You know, Bear. I thought about that, but I figured you might want to wait until you get to Midtown. Around here, it’s pretty much Red State country.”
Then Earth Hour went to hell.
Bear: “Is that a bug zapper you have going there, crackling in the rain?”
Me: “Yeah, man. I’ve turned on everything I can think of to waste energy for an hour.”
As we’d talked, Boy had managed to climb onto Bear’s lap. When Bear discovered this, he shot me a look like I was his dinner. Then Girl was there, too. And Dog was sitting at Bear’s feet. I had a sudden fear that Bear would lean over and bite into one, if not all three.
That might have really happened with someone else’s children.
With mine? A tense moment always becomes…utter insanity.
Boy: “My daddy’s nuts.”
Girl: “Yeah. Nuts!”
Boy: “He hurt his finger real bad this winter. He tried to swat my head, and I ducked. He jammed his middle finger into a big piece of furniture. He couldn’t bend it for weeks!”
Girl: “Yeah! It still hurts.”
Boy: “It’s still funny, too.” Boy snickers.
Boy: “He just got a new gun. And a safe. He doesn’t know the combination.”
Girl: “Yeah. He called a locksmith. Some guy from Pal…es…Pal…es….from the Middle East.”
Boy: “Yeah. The guy wanted to pry it open, to ‘damage’ it.”
Girl: “Daddy told him: ‘GO TO HELL.’”
Boy: “Yeah, it was funny.”
Bear looked at me and smiled: “Your Daddy’s been known to be unreasonable now and then.”
Boy: “Let’s play baseball.”
Girl: “No babies!”
Girl started to whine, in that fake, b-movie, I want to get my way kind of whine that makes my skin crawl. She even started producing real tears in the corners of her eyes, just for effect. (We suspect she’s either going to be an actor, a lawyer, or a politician…perhaps all three.) The whining got louder and louder, until I could no longer hear the rain crackling in the bug zapper. Most daddies, I’m told, hear this sound from their little girl and cave in, just to make it go away. This daddy tends to ask Girl if she’d like something to really cry about.
But not this time.
Because Bear was already standing, brushing the children from his lap as if they were lint and turning toward the fence gate and bolting away on all fours like he was late for some great race he never told us about.
We stood at the gate, in the rain, watching him disappear among the tall Georgia pines, Girl and now Boy crying for real and Dog “boofing!” and me simply shaking my head, smiling (the vacant way R.P. McMurphy smiled after his lobotomy), praying for lightning to strike and remove me from my cuckoo’s nest.