My name is Charlie and I’m almost nine. I don’t pee my bed like a baby. I get up and tip toe to the toilet. I don’t flush because mom sleeps like a feather. Any noise can wake her up and then she can’t go to sleep and she becomes even grumpier than usual. Walking back to bed takes forever. I drag my feet along our new green shaggy carpet that tickles and itches. Then I remember that we’re going to BOBLO ISLAND AMUSEMENT PARK TODAY! My eyes snap open like blinds in a cartoon. I race to mom and dad’s room. Just before I burst in, I notice the sun is still asleep. That means it can’t be seven yet. I rub my cheek on the carpeted wall. When the man put in the carpet, dad said, ‘put it down the hall and all the way up the wall to the ceiling.’ When mom got home, dad said, ‘I have a present for you.’ He covered her eyes and then said ‘surprise.’ Mom stared for so long I thought our cat had eaten her tongue. Then she said, ‘It makes the house feel even more like a loonie bin.’
I stand outside their door. If I ask the time, mom will say, ‘We taught you to read a clock.’ I’ll say, ‘I know.’ And she’ll say, ‘Then why are you asking?’ And I’ll get mad. She’ll be right. They taught me to tell the time when I was five. If I do wake mom up, she’s tired all day and that’s boring. So I sneak to my clock like a spy. If it’s seven, I’m allowed to wake them up and they can wake up the sun because it slept in too. The big hand is on the twelve but the little one is on the five. Oh….I have two whole hours to wait. I want to scream but I’ve tried that before and it didn’t work. So I dive into my bed and bite my pillow. It takes forever for my scream to die. So long that it must be seven. I look. But it’s still five. My clock must be broken. The second hand is moving. A second takes one second but a minute takes one hour and there are sixty minutes in one hour and I have to wait two, and that’s longer than infinity which uncle John says is even more than forever.
Even when it is seven, mom and dad won’t just jump out of bed into the car to drive us to Detroit where the Boblo Boat is. They have things to do like coffee and cigarettes. Dad talks and jokes and mom stares off like she just saw Medusa. Dad is the funner than any toy. Uncle John always says opposites attract. That’s why mom and dad are married. Mom feeds us, she shushes us, washes our dishes and clothes, tells us to pick up after ourselves and that we can’t leave the table until we eat all our food and scolds us when we don’t read right. The only thing she doesn’t do is smile. Even at Mcdonald’s where smiles are free. Mom’s a secretary at Chrysler. She either uses all her smiles at work or she wore out her smiler when she was young. Dad works at GM. He smiles lots and picks me and Freddie and Ronnie up like were dolls and tickles us. He’s like a giant hairy monkey bar but even better because he can move around and tell stories and scare away the boogeyman. For twelve years he’s worked on an assembling line and just got a better job. He’s a Janitor now. Dad says, ‘I’m paid more to do less and I get to walk around and joke with everyone.’ Dad is so good at joking. He’s funnier than Carol Burnett and she’s really funny.
When dad is done with coffee and cigarettes, he puts his cup down. Mom says, ‘Dishwasher Jack.’
‘But honey, it’s poo time. And it’s an emergency.’
We laugh. Mom Doesn’t. It takes dad half an hour to poo. When I grow up, I hope pooing doesn’t take so long. Life is much more fun than sitting on a toilet forever. Then dad has his shower while mom reads the newspaper, searching for coupons and friends that died or got married or had a baby. She always says ‘Shhhhh.’ Once I asked, ‘Did you spring a leak?’ and she yelled so loud I heard ringing. So now her leak is mine and Freddie’s secret. Ronnie doesn’t understand the joke because he still pees his bed and sucks his thumb and can’t even say MaryAnne right. He’s not good at jokes yet but he’ll learn one day.
After his shower, dad pours mom another coffee and says ‘it’s your turn honey.’ He hit’s her bum and she says ‘Not in front of the boys Jack’, like we can’t hear. And mom goes to prepare.
Dad makes waiting so fun that I forget that I’m even waiting. He doesn’t shush us or look at us like we’re bird poo on the window. I’m glad dad entertains us. Mom takes forever. She has to shower, do her hair and face. Pick her clothes. Then change her mind and her clothes. Last night I asked, ‘Can you sleep with your face on so we could be ready for Boblo faster.’
‘How come when you can say ‘because’ it’s a reason, and when I do…?
‘Because I’m older.’
‘You’re so unfair.’
‘I’m not unfair. Life is.’
‘Why can’t you just leave your face on one night…I’ll die if I have to wait forever for you to get ready.’
‘I told you not to get too excited. Your dad is working afternoons.’
‘But Boblo’s better than ice cream.’
‘Your dad doesn’t finish work until 11:30. And he’ll go for a beer or two after…so he’ll want to sleep in.’
‘Shhh Charlie. Besides, I warned you that they’re forecasting rain all day tomorrow.’
‘They won’t shut all the rides because of some stupid water.’
‘They will. It’s dangerous.’
Everything is grey and rainy to mom. Dad always tells her, ‘Your glass is never half full or half empty.’ Mom says, ‘Because every glass is dirty and needs to be cleaned.’
She’s still the best mom in the world and smells like purple flowers. Except the last time we went to Boblo. Dad had to work. After cotton candy, me and Freddie begged her to go on the Rotor with us. It spins around so fast that we get stuck on the walls… and once we’re stuck, the floor drops away. Uncle John, who is smart like he spent his life eating Encyclopedias, says that the Rotor works because of Centifrugal force. Me, Freddie and Mom are the only people on the ride…poor Ronnie is too short so he has to watch us…and as we spin I can’t lift my arms. And mom sticks to the wall too and so does her hair, her purse, even her bell-bottoms. And when we’re totally stuck, the floor drops, and we hang like pictures and mom goes green. And mom’s barf flies out of her and because of Centifrugal force it flies back at her and covers her face just like in a cartoon. It’s so funny but by the time the floor is under our feet, and we unstick ourselves, mom is crying so hard she might turn inside out. And mom goes to the ladies room and redoes her face and cleans her hair and comes out in a bad mood. Instead of purple flowers she smells of barf and her favourite perfume, Charlie, which maybe I’m named after.
The one time mom does smile is when we have guests. At the last party on Halloween, mom even picked me up and put me on her lap and hugged me like I was a teddy bear. It was nice and scary like all new things. And hearing her so happy was weird, like someone was wearing a really good ‘mom costume’ for Halloween. And the longer she hugged me and laughed, the more I believed it wasn’t her. And the thought grew like a seed in the rain. I decided to reveal the imposter by pulling off its wig. But when I yanked, mom let out a yelp, stopped smiling and ejected me from her lap then hit my bum. Then she said something that made everyone laugh and I turned hot red. And mom ignored me so well I thought I was invisible. So I tried to be a camera in case I never saw her smile again. When the last guest left, mom’s smile vanished and she asked me, ‘What are you staring at?’
I’ve seen pictures of mom when she was young. She smiled like she was excited all the time too. She used most of her joy when she was my age and now she has to be careful. Like with ice cream…there’s only so much in a container, so if you want it to last, you can only have a small amount. But because it’s so good, it’s hard not to eat it all. And because she doesn’t want us to eat all of the ice cream when we’re young, she kills all of our fun with her yelling.
One day I heard that dad’s dad, my dead Grandpa Richards, didn’t think my dad was his son. And he was like a bully to dad and hit him until dad turned into a giant and hit grandpa back and put him in the hospital. That’s why when dad was young he never smiled in pictures. But now he’ll never run out of smiles.
I look at the clock. Seven minutes have dragged by but it feels like a million years. My clock must be broken. And the sun too. I need to warn mom and dad. The stupid world can’t end until we go to Boblo. I open my bedroom door. Light is coming from under their door. And I can smell their stinky cigarettes. ‘Mom, dad are you awake…I think that…’
‘Go back to bed!’ Says mom.
‘My clock is broken and…’
I reach for the door handle.
‘Don’t you dare come in!’
I open the door. Mom is propped up against a pillow in a light green silky nightie. She’s reading one of her funny books where a man and a woman kiss on a windy mountain and the woman’s clothes are ripped. But dad isn’t there. Which is weird because he’s good at sleep.
‘Go back to bed Charlie.’
‘But where is he?
‘He’s still at work.’
Mom is staring like she just saw Medusa. She inhales a last puff.
She picks up a full ashtray and puts out her stinky cigarette.
‘Are you crying because of me?’
‘Go back to bed.’
‘What ever I did, I didn’t mean it.’
‘You didn’t do anything.’
And tears start to rain out of mom’s eyes.
‘What about Boblo?’
‘I told you not to get your hopes up.’
‘Beware of hope. It can hurt like a knife.’
‘I’ll die if we don’t go.’
‘No you won’t.’
I’m so angry and sad that I kick the door. Which hurts my foot and makes me cry.
‘But you promised.’ I say.
‘It’s so unfair.’
And mom pats beside her, inviting me closer. This feels extra good because it happens as often as seeing a sabre tooth tiger. I move too fast. But she doesn’t yell. Instead she hugs me tight. Not going to Boblo hits me like a spanking I don’t deserve. I can’t stop crying. I feel hot water landing on my neck. Mom is crying too. I look up at her and say, ‘Mom, I knew you loved Boblo too.’