Every Saturday at ten in the morning, the Marcus Cinema down the street shows a kid movie for two bucks. Last it was Madagascar 3. This week it’s Diary of a Wimpy Kid 3. We take Mike because he hates hanging around the house. He always wants to go. But when we get there (wherever it is we’ve gone), he never wants to stay. I guess it’s the going he likes. He doesn’t like the getting there. Or staying there.
We’ve learned to avoid the popcorn at these early shows. Because popcorn tastes gross first thing in the morning. This week, we sneak in a Starbuck’s Venti. Which was much better than popcorn.
“Pizza please,” says Michael, as we take our seats. We try to sit in the far front of the theatres so we don’t need to be so concerned with Mike’s volume.
“First movie,” says Deb, “then pizza.”
“Pizza please,” Mike says.
“First movie,” begins Deb.
If we were to leave the theater and take Mike to a pizza place, he’d complain. He’d want French fries. The movie is about a kid who wants to play video games all day. Who has nothing in common with his father. Who wants a particular girl to like him. Michael keeps wanting to lift his hands and wave them above his head. If we are not in a movie theater, he never ever wants to lift his hands and wave them over his head. He tries to be a huge pain in the ass and he always succeeds. The thought of a weekend makes me sleepy. I think of spending two entire days with Michael. His noises. His constant need to leave one place for another place. His continual hunger. His penitent to eat, when no other food is available, his own shit and then, in the early stages of digestion, burp in my proximity. I wonder what the digestive system does with shit. I wonder about the final product, double digested. Sort of like the cognac of shit. If you’ve never smelled a shit burp, consider yourself lucky. There is nothing worse. Especially when you’re trying to eat.
The wimpy kid in the movie sneaks into the country club. He agrees to play tennis with the blonde girl he’s in love with even though he has never played, other than on his Wii. I find myself attracted to the wimpy kid’s mother. Whose one-piece bathing suit digs into the skin around her ample shoulders and arms. I find myself developing a crush. But this is nothing new for me. I also found the mother in the Vacation series very hot. As well as the mother in the Home Alone series. I'd think that this attraction to movie mothers had more to do with my age than with any other possible perverse psychological problems having to do with my mother if I didn't also have a crush on the mother from Family Guy and Marge Simpson. I try not to think about it too deeply. The wimpy kid talks the little blonde’s older sister into hiring his brother’s band, Loded Diaper (an umlaut over the “O”). This concerns me. I know it won’t turn out well. But then, that’s the type of movie it is. It’s a Lucille Ball-type situation comedy. The wimpy kid loses his swim trunks in the pool. How awkward. The wimpy kid gets caught sneaking into a private club. How embarrassing. When Mike sneezes, he lets out a loud fart. “Mike!” I say. More to clear myself of blame than anything else. What else can I say? Do I tell Mike to say, “Excuse me?” Is farting like sneezing in that way? Deb and I can’t help laughing. Mike laughs too and, thinking he’s being clever, releases another trumpet blast. I feel sorry for the people behind us. But I’m not going to apologize. It’s a kid’s movie. There are other children much louder than my fifteen-year-old son. In the end, the wimpy kid holds hands with the little blonde girl. And he and his father come to the realization that they have a lot in common. I think this will probably be the last Wimpy Kid movie. The child actors are getting a bit long in the tooth to pull off another one. When Mike, Deb and I stand and file toward the exit, the people behind us try not to stare. I don’t mind. I know they must be curious about Mike. “Pizza please,” he says. “Pizza please. Pizza please.” “You want pizza!” says Deb. “Pizza please,” says Mike. We drive to Costco, where you can get a one-pound slice of pizza for a dollar fifty. “French fries please,” he says as Deb hands him the slice.
I remember watching the second hand of the big, round, analogue clock in grade school. It took its fucking time that’s for sure. The minute hand, as the second hand moved around, didn’t snap into place like the quartz wristwatches do, rather it slid along gradually. So gradually, you needed to watch very carefully to detect it. It move at the same speed the sun moves as it travels through the sky. From tennis courts to football field. Slowly. Like the distant approach of Christmas. Slowly. Like the distant approach of adulthood. The time when Christopher Robin says goodbye to his stuffed bear. Slowly. There was a time in the school day when all the clocks would calibrate to one another, and the minute hands would hurry backward or forward suddenly. I felt cheated if it went backward. Since I had tended to that minute hand with such attention and care throughout the day. It didn’t make me question the absolute nature of time the way it would have done with Einstein. I was no Einstein. I wasn’t brilliant enough to flunk my math classes. I passed them. With low Cs or high Ds, the way the stupidest among us do. This sudden, garden-spider-like movement of the minute hand didn’t make me question anything, really. I don’t know why I mention it.
I did so much want to get called to the office. I’d hear other people getting called down. Kids I knew to be cigarette smokers. Leather-jacket wearers. I knew the kids weren’t getting called down so the principal could tell them what a good job they were doing with their science projects or book reports or working models of Mount Vesuvius. They were getting called down for cutting class or getting into fights or smoking cigarettes in the boy’s room or smoking weed or drawing pictures of dicks in their notebooks and they were going to get punished by being told that they could not come to school for a week. No school for a week! Think of it. At the time, UHF had made big inroads. We had Channels 38 and 56, which played reruns of Gun Smoke and McHale’s Navy and Maverick and The Big Valley and I Dream of Jeanie and F Troop and Hogan's Heroes and Petticoat Junction and Green Acres and The Brady Bunch (with Florence Henderson - hot) and Father Knows Best (with Jane Wyatt - blisteringly hot) and Leave it to Beaver (with Barbara Billingsly - librarian hot) and The Bowery Boys and Lassie (with June Lockhart - very hot) and Lost in Space (also with June Lockhart) and Bewitched (Elizabeth Montgomery?! Forget about it!) and The Donna Reed Show (with absolutely the hottest mom of all time) all day long! And what could my parents say? The principal told me to!
I’m still watching the clock. I’ve been living in Iowa, on and off, for over twenty years now. I love Iowa. But I’m afraid I’ll need to go take care of my parents in Vermont. Deb accuses me of wanting to shake things up just because I’m bored. She doesn’t understand the seriousness of my father’s condition. Or the obligation I feel toward my family to be The One Who Steps Up and Does the Right Thin in the End. My wife doesn’t understand me.
Yes she does. She’s right. I am bored. I’ve been watching that second hand and I want to go down the principal’s office. I want to be expelled to Vermont, where, at the moment, I think there is three feet of snow covering those ancient mountains, any sharpness in them worn down by 450 million years of snowstorms and rainstorms. That’s a long time in anyone’s book. If I were a mountain, I’d certainly be bored. Luckily, I’m not a mountain. “I want French fries,” says Mike. “I want French fries.” “You want French fries!” says Deb. Mike starts in on his pizza. I don’t think he really wants French fries. He just wants to go somewhere. To the next place. Because life is too short to spend more than a few minutes of it in Costco. Or the Marcus Cinema. Or at home. Or in Iowa.