The story begins, as all the best stories do, with an orgy. Language didn’t exist so there was a lot of grunting. Frantic gestures. Unflinching eye contact and beads of sweat forming and falling from the thinning back hair of proto-hominids. Campfire-cast shadows flickering to bodily pulsations, merging with the empty darkness of the forest beyond. A billion translucent pinholes ripping through the black blanket above and had they the words to say so, the monkeys would have offered a grateful hallelujah to the perfection of unrecorded revelry. I imagine a drum beat, something slow and hypnotic and simple. And sex. So much sex.
But that was long ago. You must understand–things are different now. Now we use words and wear pants and we begrudgingly take them off and when we’re really sure that we want things to get boring, we don’t pull out. Or we poke pinholes in the end of condoms or simply have “the talk” or get down on a knee and change our Facebook status and sit back on overstuffed furniture and sigh and think of how it might have been.
“What’s a condom dad?”
That one caught me off guard. I realized that here I was, trying to have the birds and the bees talk with my ten year old and instead I was waxing on the greatest potential experience of my life, or what I like to call “the-orgy-that-got-away.” Karen would have a conniption.
Oh, it’s what your mother and I didn’t use and so you came along while I was between jobs and thinking of staking out as a freelance writer but instead I went back to accounting and isn’t that a nice convection microwave, I wanted to say.
“It’s kind of like a bonnet,” is what came out instead.
“What’s a bonnet?”
“It’s kind of like a hat.”
“Oh. What’s an orgy?”
Recess for adults, I wanted to say.
“It’s what crazy people do together when they want to be bad,” is what came out. “Sort of like a naughty dance.”
“Oh. Why would anyone want to be bad?”
“Because…being good is hard work.”
“And being bad isn’t?”
“Sometimes we have to work hard to do the right thing,” I stuttered, resisting the urge to invoke the Bible.
Dylan was stumped.
I continued before he could ask more questions. These sorts of conversations, they’re tough for all parents I think. Us men, we remember that grim look a father gives as he describes in terse detail the mechanics of child creation and we do our best to recreate it. So when it happens–as it must–speed is of the essence.
So here’s this banana (exhibit banana). Ok, so now. See this squash? Butternut. No, we aren’t having it for dinner, don’t worry. Ok, Dylan, watch. Banana into squash. And then banana out of squash. And again. In. Out. In. Out. Baby.
Imagine a sunbaked savannah at noon; parched Earth–the brownest shade of yellow. The trees–home–they’re withering in the rippling heat of midday drought and all the people, all of us, we had to leave them. We had to move into the plains and the grasses to be amongst the lions and the hippos and the buffalo. And what do all those animals do everyday? That’s right. They poop. Very good. And do you know what grows on poop? Well, yeah, flies lay their eggs on poop. But do you know what else?
Mushrooms, Dylan. Mushrooms grow on poop. No, a different kind of mushroom. Imagine: You have been forced by the Sun God to leave your leafy home, the comfortable shaded canopy of Subsaharan rainforest. Wandering through the shimmering wasteland, you are hungry. You find the mushrooms and even though they are growing on poop, you don’t have the words to tell your friends you shouldn’t eat things that grow on poop. So you eat them. And then something magical happens.
Colors brighten, your stomach is a rocket ship. It moves into your chest and your body starts to tremble. You’ve never been happier. And then the most spectacular moment of all–you point to a tree and grunt. A strange grunt. Different. It just happens–you didn’t plan it. Your cousins stop. They look at the tree. And they grunt also, the same kind of grunt that you just made…
“No, Karen, I’m not reliving my college days. Listen…Karen, listen, I’m getting to it. I know. God dammit, I know.”
“What’s she talking about dad?”
“Dylan, I’m sorry to get all historical on you. I’m supposed to be talking to you about what your mother and I found in your desk.”
“Uh…Yeah so you’re grounded for 4 months.” I turned away. I knew it was the right thing to do, but I just couldn’t look him in the eye.
“Dad! No, you can’t!”
I remained silent.
“Dad, I’m just experimenting with it. I promise, I’ve only done it like twice, I swear!”
“I’m sorry Dylan. This is what happens. This…drugs Dylan, drugs aren’t okay. You know that.”
“DAD! I have Prom next week! You have to let me at least go to that. You have to dad. Cecilia will dump me dad, you have to let me go to prom. Please!”
“I’m sorry Dylan. You know better than to use drugs and we have to teach you somehow. Your mother and I have talked about this, and we have to do the right thing.”
“You’re an asshole! Fuck you.”
Dylan vaulted off the couch and ran to his room, slamming the door. Karen walked into the living room and sat down, frowning.
“So…” I said after a thick silence. “I mean, we have some weed now. Should we…I mean, it’s been a while honey.”
“Yeah, I think we should. I’ll get an apple.”
Rock n’ Roll
It’s the Summer Solstice. In our terms, June 21st. The temperature is perfect, just warm enough to feel the bite of the Sun on bare skin, a slight breeze and some cumulous clouds hovering and offering relief to the overwhelming blue ocean of sky. A tribe has gathered where Pine forest meets prairie and everyone is quiet. Some men stand off to the side, making final preparations and reinforcing the drums. Women move from person to person with brushes and small leather-bound paint kits, applying red and white designs to weathered each face.
This was before the Beatles, dad. This was before instruments even. Drums and some chanting I suppose. Dancing not for hours, but for DAYS, dad. Days! Let me walk you through it.
Those moments before the sun drips out of sight behind the still-snowy mountains–they are for recapitulation and reflection. All the energy that has been held back through the cold winter months is quietly addressed. And as that glowing, golden-yellow orb drops, it– everything–begins to move. The drums start. Slowly at first, almost like a test. And then faster. More insistent. And suddenly, as the first star pops above, an eruption. A frenzy of motion and screaming and fucking and laughing…
“Dad! Not at Thanksgiving dinner. Please, can’t we just have a civil discussion?”
“I won’t sit here and listen to your ancient nonsense. I thought we were talking about history Michael, I was talking about the Beatles and how you kids just…changed when you started listening to them. All this vice we see now…it started with those punks.”
“Actually Grandpa, the Beatles are pretty amazing. Even I think so. Objectively, their music holds up even after fifty years.” Dylan quipped, peering through greasy locks of hair.
“See? You’ve even got your son mixed up in all of your pseudo-anthropology. They teach you that at college there Dilly-boy? Are you taking the drugs out in the West there?”
“No Grandpa.” Dylan looked down at his slabs of Butterball and moved them around with his fork.
“Good. We need smart kids like you Dylan. You get yourself a degree and a haircut and convince your friends to do the same, I figure we’ll be out of these troubled waters in two generations tops. Get the budget back under control, stop these ludicrous social programs that help the freeloaders, there’s no telling what could happen. I won’t live to see it, but mark my words, an American renaissance is coming.”
I didn’t know what to say. I could only sit there, torn between the polarities of alien generations and try to keep the peace. It was Thanksgiving after all and families shouldn’t argue at Thanksgiving. I thought about addressing it. I wanted to. Energy surged from my belly to my chest, the indigestion of stale words seeking oxygen. An explosion felt immanent. But at the tipping point, my hand found my glass. I took a few deep gulps and came to my senses. Reason returned. That voice in my head–“do the right thing,” and all that–ah the guilt. I could feel blood rushing to my face. I raised my glass and smiled.
“Ok, ok that’s enough. Cheers everybody. Happy Thanksgiving. Let’s drink to this beautiful holiday.”