Normally I'd call 111 - but those people got surly with me last time because I phoned about a "possible child abduction" due to the fact that my daughter's date wore an earring.
My eyelids snap open at exactly 2200 hours, responding to an inner alarm that sounds whenever a daughter is out on a school night. Curfew has darkened the land, and any children caught outside the perimeter are now subject to arrest and the torture of telephone deprivation.
I pad down the stairs to my daughter’s bedroom. Every light is on and her stereo is blaring, sure signs that she’s not home. It is now two minutes after 10 o’clock, and normally I’d call 111 – but those people got surly with me last time because I phoned about a “possible child abduction” due to the fact that my daughter’s date wore an earring.
I glance out the window and freeze: the boy’s car is in the driveway! I flick the outside lights on and off a few dozen times so the occupants of the car will know what time it is. There’s no reaction. I peer at the vehicle, but the windows are dark and pitiless, coated with the light mist that’s falling.
What are they doing out there?
I try another burst of light-flicking just to give myself something to do, but I know the only way I’m going to settle this matter is to go out there, knock politely on the window, and spray the two of them with the garden hose.
I have on a pair of pyjama bottoms and nothing else. What I need is some protection against the elements, something waterproof. I open the coat cupboard and find a pair of duck slippers – big, puffy clunkers with plastic duck heads on them. There are no umbrellas, but I do find a hat – an incandescent orange hunter’s cap with ear flaps that tie under the chin. None of my own coats are available, so I struggle into one of my kids’ old jackets, a nylon job with a picture of Daffy Duck on the back.
I survey myself in the mirror before heading out. Regrettably, the tight hem of the jacket falls a couple inches short of my pyjama waist, creating the odd illusion that my stomach sticks out in a roll of belly flesh. I grab a flashlight and step out into the rain.
I’d forgotten that my duck slippers quack when I walk in them, which threatens to ruin the element of surprise. I bang on the car windows, wait a moment, and then yank the door open, the car alarm splitting the night air. No one is inside.
When I get back into the house, my daughter and her date are standing in the kitchen, looking concerned as I quack in out of the rain.
“Hi!” I call cheerfully.
“I just needed to use the phone ...” the boy stammers uncertainly. With a quick glance back at my daughter, he scampers out of the house.
“Oh, Dad, how could you do that?” my daughter demands, whirling and bolting from the room.
I stand there in the middle of the kitchen, scratching my head. How could I do WHAT?
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Issue 1 2010 HSH (418 KB)