I thank God when Zoobu Mafoo comes on. PBS at noon. Ten minutes ago, I let Tyler in on the secret of TV Guide. Essentially, he has discovered in that two year old brain of his that Zoobu Mafoo comes on directly after his snack. Still trying to dig the raisins out of the miniature red box with his stubby fingers, he has dragged his chair over to sit directly in front of the television. He sits while I try to bounce his four month old brother out of a fit. Tyler waits patiently while I walk with a crying baby on my shoulder. I want to be able to do this.
I wonder how their father manages a regular day of caring for them until 3:00 p.m., packing them up, driving to the shared work of his loving spouse, switching cars and then working until 11:00 p.m. at night, only to repeat the process. Meanwhile, this marg writes a page a day on the old slapkey I found with him in the basement of a Salvation Army. He also is systematically reading the biographies of each president.
I became friends with Mike during a period of workplace bliss. We were part of a major tax write off for a blue chip company that was on the verge of demutualization and in the middle of a major lawsuit involving the churning of insurance policies. We "played" office.
I spent the majority of my day walking around the building and surrounding campus, smoking cigarettes and actually working. The fabricated cubie world we lived in had the usual micro management creeping around, but they didn't breathe down your back, and were happy to pretend that they might know what your actual purpose was. This was Martin Sheen in Apocalypse Now asking a soldier during a firefight,
"Who is in charge here?"
The soldier replying,
I started to talk w/ Mike on smoke breaks and I found it amazing that he still played in the intra league company softball games despite a recently repaired ACL. He would hobble around fielding grounders, it was pitiful.
Finally, the company offered us a separation package. Scoop: 6,000 cash, 1,400 IRA and two months; paid salary in exchange for a confidentiality agreement. Signed, sealed, delivered. As a result, Mike and I had a lot of time off. His wife was pregnant with Tyler, but was still working a good job. Mike was going to school and had a lot of free time. I had all free time and with the Twins in last place, friends in advertising and accounting, we had great free tickets to any game and went as often as we could. Our free seats were so good that scalpers literally touted for our prized ------ tickets. The seats were right behind home plate and the only tickets the cheeze balls could sell. They would target a young guy with a hot betty, and they guy would pay $50 a ticket, no doubt. Mike and I would sell them for under face value. It was free beer as far as we were concerned. We had so many extras that we came out ahead on any night.
Janelle would come with us once in a while and her bulging belly wouldn't jiggle a bit during the seventh inning stretch. She was ready to burst at 8 mons. A week after the due date, they induced Tyler into the world. Mike and Janelle became parents.
Those two parents grew up in Floodwood, MN. They and a dozen others graduated High School in 1991. They went to school in Duluth then to work in the Twin Cities. Then, Mike and I became friends when I discovered he was spending his days at his cubicle writing a novel that was already over 250 pages.
After Tyler was born, Mike spent most of his mornings with me pondering over box scores at a coffee house near my apt. We'd catch games once in a while but our morning monotonous arguments about my beloved Chicago Cubs remain infamous. He dogs them so much. He thinks the Cubs are blatant saps that can't win despitefan support and a ton of cash. He is right, but I love the Cubs and will adamantly defend their name to the tone of truth honor and fantabulous potential traded away. All the while, Tyler sat in his detachable car chair, asleep.
Tyler got bigger and Mike and I evolved into the realm of literature and words. We read Moby Dick, and we talked about Steinbeck, Joyce, Hemingway, you catch the drift. It all ended when I suggested Friedrich Nietzsche. Mike is a historian, not a philosopher.
I think the world must be very clear for this friend of mine. He knows words, he has a strength built on will (Strunk and White, HA!). I started to write more and give him my stories. He scoffed and smiled. He demanded that I rewrite and work it, clean it up.
"Make it tight." He'd say.
"I know, I know" I'd reply "just tell me what you think of the Story.
He would just shake his head and flip through the pages, his other careful, hawklike eye on his toddling son.
Zoobu Mafoo is on now and Tyler is glued to the TV. The Cratt brothers have some muddy dogs on. Whoa exciting! They are trying to distinguish the breed of the dog thru the mud. Zoobu gets in on the fun. Danny is falling asleep on my stinky milky burp wet shoulder and I sit on the couch. I open the sports section and fold the paper over so I can easily hold it with one hand. I just get the kid settled when he jerks awake in a startle and emits a squelching whimper. Tyler mutters his brother's name rocking in his chair. He says it like his mother does. Soothing, kind. The baby falls back asleep and the door opens with squeak of hinge.
Mike comes in, bouncing around, pacing, surveying the work that must be done NOW. He talks with me briefly, opening the fridge, getting out carrots and strawberries, nibbling his way through the cutting board. He microwaves a hot dog and dices that into the bowl. He has already tucked Danny in the bassinet and he thanks me and bids farewell, ready to feed Tyler, eat, feed Danny, pack up and go to work.