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all the other boys were out supplementing their Christmas lists Doce's father had other plans. "But Dad, all the other boys are going to the store, and, well...." "Well whut?" Doce's father challenged. "It's just that, well, just that I don't really like hunting," Doce stammered. "Boy, women shop. Men hunt. Which one are ya Doce?" The answer seemed like it should be obvious, but it wasn't. Doce was not yet a man and not still a boy. He was twelve years old, straddling the fence between boyhood and manhood, trudging through the deep Wisconsin snow with a 12-gauge Winchester shifting uncertainly between the tractionless wool mittens his mother knit him the Christmas before. "Dad, we've been walking all day. Can we go home if we don't find any in another hour?" Doce pleaded. "No we cannot Doce," his father rejected, and after a pause, "I think'r problem is that every God damn son of a bitch and......er, I mean...... Every gosh darn son of a bitch and his brother hunts this same land. We need sum fresh terrain, that's all. Let's go this way." Half an hour was spent weaving between evergreens before they reached a crimson wooden fence that Doce recognized. "Here we are," Doce's father announced majestically. "This is Farmer Bruce's land Dad, we can't hunt here can we?" "Sure we can boy, so long as we're quiet about it," Doce's father said,
nodding in agreement with himself. And turning to Doce he asked "We have a deal?" with a smile and a history of confusing deals with commands. Doce said nothing and the two of them tiptoed through the frozen fruitless farm for another hour. "I see one!" Doce's father hollered and trailed with a "Shhhhhh." Doce imitated his father's creep towards the barren pear tree that overlooked Farmer Bruce's back porch and as they got closer Doce's father whispered, "Kay, now, that thing's gonna take off soon as it sees us comin' n' we gotta shoot soon as it does. "But, we'll hit the house," Doce timidly protested. "No knucklehead, shoot the bird," his father whispered disgustedly and after a pause, "He's lettin'us get awful close," another pause, "Cocky sonuva bitch." The grouse stared fixedly at the two hunters, but never flinched. "God damn sitt'n bird," Doce's father said staring up the tree disappointedly. "Ya can't shoot these ones." "How come?" Doce asked uninterestedly. "Cuz ya hunt for the challunge," Doce's father took a moment to arrange his explanation. "What I mean is, ya can go to the market to take food, but when ya come out here ya gotta urn it.” – and added the loophole, “But yurr young enough, should be fine if you shoot it." "I'm not shooting it dad! That bird's not right. You just said so!" "C'mon boy, it's yur first kill, ya gotta take it. It's yur first one,it's fine, okay? Deal? First one, it's fine." Doce's father rambled assuredly. "I'll make'n animal noise 'fter the shot, so it jus'sounds like sum animal out here knock'n over branches." Doce backed up a few steps and raised the Winchester to his face. He was aimed at the bird with both eyes open, but after a few moments he closed his eyes, lowered his gun, and head bowed he waited for his father to scold him. When the scolding didn't come he knew something was wrong. He lifted his head and opened his eyes to discover his father marching towards the tree.
"Dad, you can't!" Doce cried out. Doce's father never looked back. He placed his left hand against the tree for stability and got on his tiptoes, his shotgun wobbling high in the air from his outstretched arm, looking no more mischievous than a boy trying to fish a tennis ball out of a gutter. When he was all lined up and the idle bird's head rested gently against the gun's barrel he pulled the trigger and blew the bird's head off. He was instantly reminded just how unmistakable the sound of a gunshot was, and complimented that sound with a nervous, "Raaaaawwwrrrr"only to discover just how unmistakably human his animal sounds were. He looked at Doce with a giddy boyish grin and snapped, "Grab it!" and took off towards the fence. Doce was paralyzed for a moment, but the next moment he found himself sprinting towards the edge of the farm with the headless bird in his right hand, the shotgun clutched like a football in the same arm and his left arm pumping wildly to compensate for his encumbered right side.
The next day was a Sunday and once again Doce was too busy to make a Christmas list, for Doce had a deal with his father that every Sunday they would watch the Packers play. "GREEN BAY!" Doce's father bellowed through a thick sea of half-chewed nachos. "packers," Doce mumbled faintly. "Doce, boy, our chant is our duty. We gotta let th' other team know we're out here," Doce's father swallowed, glaring at his son. "You an' me Doce, you an' me are the twelfth man on that field," and once the opportunity occurred to him he added, "You are a man, ain'tcha boy?" "I don't think the other team can hear us through the television," Doce offered feebly. "I've been the, uhh, the twelfth man from this same recliner for, uhh, 14 years," Doce's father proclaimed, vexed by the amount of math the proclamation called for. "'N everything rides on this game son."
After the Packers lost the game Doce's father announced that God was dead with tears streaming down his face, tears that joined the new ocean of nachos in his mouth, were swallowed, and fell again in a polluted cycle that lasted until dinner where he collected himself well enough to explain that, "No Christian God 'n hell would let the Packers lose to that pack've criminals," and informed his son that they were converting to Judaism that season. "What? We're converting because of the Packers game?" Doce cried. "Well, that, 'n, I've been usin' His verses 'n the lotto, 'n," Doce's father paused to swallow a bite of partridge, "Nothin' too divine 'bout my winnin's, so, uhh, lots of things," he said thoughtfully. "But, yea, I mean, the game was the deal breaker." "What do Jews even do for Christmas?" Doce asked his father. "Well, sure, that's sumth'n we gotta figure out." After dinner Doce's father drove to a used bookstore and returned with a cardboard box brimming with Jewish history. "What's that sticking out the top?" Doce asked curiously. "This here's a marinara," Doce's father said with a proud countenance that became puzzled as he explored the menorah's possible functions. "Well, it must be like, uhh, like a Christmas tree, 'r an invent calender - the d'rn thing just looks good." "How about these?" Doce asked of a half-dozen dreidels he pulled from the box. "Those? Uhh, well, it only makes sense that Jews g'mble if they got so much money. Those 'r like dice 'n ya g'mble with 'em," Doce's father explained confidently, adding, "'N they sure as hell ain't f'r kids, so I'll be hold'n on to those 'ntil yer grown." "Can I have any of this stuff?" Doce asked hopefully. "Of course ya can boy. See them books?" Doce's father asked, pointing at two messy stacks of paper that Doce had assumed were protecting something beneath them. "Those 'r Jewish books. Well, the same one, but lotsa pages were ripped out've both of 'em so the man let me have two."
"Is it our new bible?" Doce asked. "Naw," Doce's father said, lifting the stack with the surviving title page to his face. "I guess tha Hebrew Bible sold out this Christmas. This one's called, uhh, 'Kol HaTor'," pointing to the title page, "The guy said't means, 'Voice of tha Turtledove'. It's probably the same author 'r whatever. Bet it's 'bout as good too. If not bett'r." "It's not even written in English," Doce complained. "Of course not," Doce's father responded at last, "It's written 'n Jewish. Now, you go to yer room and start read'n. Those books weren't free, 'n fact I'm gunna have sum've the guys over to play dice tonight and now I barely got enough money to play m'self." "But it's not my bedtime" "Doce, these tops ain't f'r little kids! Now go to yer room and get famil'r with yer faith."
[Day 3] Half-way through breakfast Doce's father commenced the day's dialogue. "Did'ya read that book?" "I tried, but I don't think I understood it," Doce answered guiltily. "Good. We ain't Jewish no more." Doce's father explained that the television, the menorah, and all of their savings were lost in the previous night's dreidel game. "I ain't never heard've a game more likely ta end in black eyes 'n empty wallets." "So, if we aren't Jewish anymore what are we?" "Well son, I got'ta thinkin', and losin' that tv last night just might'a been a sign," Doce's father said as he stood up to button his hunting jacket. "Y'ever wish ya were Amish?" "Not reall......."
"Well now y'are son" Doce's father interrupted. "I don't know how to be Amish though," Doce said embarrassingly. "Well it's pretty simple. Hell, the Amish are simple people. They don't use electricity, so we gotta learn'ta tell time by the sun. 'N fact, we gotta learn a lot, the Amish commodity is built on education," Doce's father said matterof-factly. "Did ya happen to learn Jewish while ya'were readin' that book last night?" "No, I told you, I didn't understand it." "Well ya didn't learn any? It would just help that's all. Most of 'em Amish guys can talk five 'r six lang'ages." "None of it, I told you, I tried but I couldn't under...." "Ya know whut, that's fine," Doce's father said ruffling his son's hair. "Ya gotta lotta catch'n up ta do, that's all. The Amish are a competitive, cutthroat bunch'a bastards and we're gettin' a late start, that's all. " "So, where do we start?" "Well, s'probably best if we think ahead and go get dinner." "Don't Amish people farm?" "Sure Doce, if they got one. Otherwise they get their food from someone else's farm. Don't worry boy, gettin' the hang'a this Amish thing might take awhile. It's okay tho, won't be a few days b'fore my beard grows in anyway." Doce's father laid on the horn when he decided that his son had been given enough time to get dressed and Doce exploded through the door on cue. Father and son, they rode side by side, shotguns in lap, back to Farmer Bruce's farm. "The damn fool is makin' house repairs 'n the dead of winter!" Doce's father observed appallingly as they pulled up next to the farm. "Ya know what that tells ya, don'tcha boy?" "No, what?" Doce asked sincerely. "Tells ya that Farmer Bruce ain't Amish. We'dda had that done the first day'a spring. No matter though, I gott'n idea," Doce's father blurted as he lunged
out of the car. Doce followed his father to Farmer Bruce's chicken coop and waited for his father's directions. His father's sights were fixed on Farmer Bruce, who was a couple hundred feet away and half way up a ladder that was propped against the back of the house. "We gotta wait til he gets to the top of the ladder," Doce's father whispered just as Farmer Bruce began ascending to the top of the ladder. "Now!" Doce didn't move, but watched from the coop's entrance as his father took potshots at caged hens. BOOM! "Rawwwrrrrr!" BOOM "Rawwwrrrr!" "Dad he's flying down the ladder!" BOOM "Rawwwrrrr!" "Dad! He's coming!" Doce's father threw his shotgun at his son's feet and came barreling through the coop's gate cradling a stack of hens like he was being timed transferring laundry from a washer to a dryer. Doce grabbed the gun and, father and son, they sprinted across the farm side by side. "Drrrr, drrrr, DRRRR, drrrrrr, DRR-Whrrreeerrr, Drrr, Drrrr" Doce instantly recognized this beat from his father's personal theme-music collection. The original piece was always reserved for dangerous missions and considering that it accompanied all sledding and most highway trips Doce was not surprised to hear it now. Doce's father loved the song and was visibly torn when Farmer Bruce ruined it with a baseline of his own gunshots. "Drrr, DRR-Whrrrreee - OOUUUUUEWW!!!! I'M HIT!" A bullet had clipped Doce's father's calf and he fell just before they reached
the car, spilling blood and chickens across the deep, innocent Wisconsin snow. "Go'on without me! Just grab the hens 'n go!" "No dad! I don't even know how to drive!" Doce cried as he ran back to his father and began pulling him into the driver's seat. "Okay, I can do it fr'm here. Just grab the chickens!" Doce feverishly collected the hens from the lawn, flung open the passenger door, and threw them on the backseat. "You gotta press the gas! My leg, it.., You gotta press the gas!" Doce squeezed beneath his father and pressed down on the pedal with both hands. "No, not the breaks, that's the breaks! The gas! oooOOOH! Watch th' leg!" Doce pressed down on the other pedal for a very long time and then followed his father's commands the rest of the way home. "What kind'a man doesn't know how to drive a car?" Doce's father asked, clutching his bloody calf on the recliner. "Ya almost got yerself killed back there. How much sense does't take ta drive a car?" "I'm sorry," Doce blubbered as he convulsed at the kitchen table with his head in his arms. "You'll never make it as a' Amisher." Doce's father considered for a moment and added with a sigh, "Ehh, what the hell. Bein' Amish ain't all it's cracked up to be 'neways. You'd hafta be a lunatic ta do what we did t'day more than once. Hell, when it come down to it, the Amish 'r noth'n more than a crazy buncha James Bond wannabe's. They don't wait around for a draft, I'll tell ya that much right now. Ooohhhhhh," Doce's father clutched his calf. "Are you okay dad?" Doce's father suddenly went limp and pale with his eyebrows raised and his stubbly cheeks inflated and just when Doce was sure that his dad was dead his father rose again, this time wearing a toothy grin.
The next morning a knock at the door woke Doce and his heart raced as he peeked out the window to see who it was. Relieved to find that it was only his grandma struggling to carry a large blanketed object, Doce rushed to let her in. "Grandma! What are you doing here?" Doce inquired excitedly, taking the object from her hands. "Well, I got a call from your father last night, and...." "He used the phone?" "He what? Yes, a telephone call." "So I guess we're not Amish anymore." "No, you're not Amish," Doce's grandma responded perplexed. "Anyways, your dad said that he was shot yesterday and, call me a worry-wart, but I just thought I'd stop by and make sure he was alright. Is your dad alright?" "Oh yea, he's fine. He's more worried about his leg than anything else" Doce answered cheerfully. "No, that's what I'm talking about, the gunshot. Is he okay?" "Oh, yea, probably. He's still sleeping. What's under the blanket?" "Alright, well, I'll let the poor guy get some rest. Oh yes, that, well, I figured I'd get him something to cheer him up a bit. They're European blackbirds, aren't they beautiful?" "I guess. I don't really like birds," Doce said disappointedly. "But he's a bird lover, so I'm sure he'll like them." Doce's father hobbled from his bedroom at noon, long after his mother had left. "Grandma told me that you called her on the phone last night," Doce said
crossly. "So?" "So, the phone. Amish people don't use the phone." "Well I'm sorry to find that ya spent all mornin' research'n Amish people, cuz we ain't Amish no more. An' I wasn't Amish when I called Grandma." "What were you then?" "Well, I was nuth'n then." "So what are we now?" "As of three in the morn'n," Doce's father was pointing to the hand-clock he turned back around after they were done being Amish, "we've been Indian." "We're Hindu?" "No, boy, like in cowboys 'n Indians. We're the Indians. Ya see, I had a nightm're las' night about us gett'n chased'ff Farmer Bruce's farm. An' when I woke up I had a symphony." "A symphony?" "A real'zation. All th'sudd'n it was clear. We wern't any different from Indians gett'n chased off Farmer Bruce's land the way we did. An' just then, our Indian God led me 'tside to the bushes 'n told me ta tear 'em all outta the ground 'n rub 'em on my leg. 'N by God, I'm feel'n better f'r it arready!" "Really, it worked?" Doce examined his father's calf incredulously. "Actually Dad, it's starting to look a little gross. You should try not to scratch it." "Are you craz...," Doce's father noticed the birdcage. "What th'hell is that?" "Grandma brought them over. They're a present to make you feel better." "What? That ain't no present. Why'd she think I could use sum birds f'r a gunsh't wound? Good thing the Indian God fix'd me up, cuz Grandma obvi'sly don't know the first thing 'bout healin' gunshot woons," and after a pause, "Know what? You can have 'em, cuz I sure's Hell don't wann'em." Doce was unimpressed with the birds initially, but ever since their hunting dog Jet died of his own gunshot wound Doce longed for a pet and he was
overjoyed with the prospect of the birds filling that void in his life. "Really?" Doce beamed, "They're my own?" "Abs'lutely," Doce's father said, basking in his fatherly charm. "Hey whatcha wait'n f'r? Go pet 'em." But as Doce flew towards the cage his father realized something. "'Err, on sec'n thought, seein' how we can't afford food, 'n I can't hunt 'ntil those plants take full 'ffect, we better kill those things 'n put 'em in the freezer for when we're outta hen." Doce looked at his father with that look that really has no title, that look that can only be accomplished by a child, right after his father decides that he is going to murder four of his pets and serve them as dinner later in the week. "You can't do that! You already gave them to me!" "Well I know it ain't very Indian of me, but, I figer'd out I need 'em back now." Doce began crying and locked himself in his room for the rest of the night. From his window he watched his father hang the cage from a branch and sit Indian-style beneath it in prayer. The very authentic looking ceremony lasted for almost a minute, but when Doce heard his father's danger theme-music he knew the shots were coming soon. Doce plugged his ears with his tiny fingers and his heart lunged with each of the four shots. A few hours passed by before Doce noticed that his dad was back outside. This time his father was gripping a bottle of Southern Comfort, rolling around in the bushes, wearing nothing but a t-shirt around his waste and an Indian chief's headdress he had constructed using his belt and the remains of the blackbirds. This prompted Doce to do some praying of his own, but his sad aimless words were cut-off by a knocking at his door. "What do you want?" "Doce, boy, come out here. I made sumth'n for you."
The knocking came again in the morning. "Yer breakfast's ready Doce!" his father hollered. The horror of the previous day had kept Doce up for most of the night and he walked sleepily to the breakfast table. With his awareness lacking Doce didn't notice his father's condition until he was halfway through his portion of hen. "That's really gross Dad." After each bite Doce's father took he would furiously scratch his body with his fork, and then take another bite, and scratch again, over and over, in a remarkably unappetizing cycle. "The God damn Indian God poisoned me las'night, whadd'ya want me ta do about it?" Doce's father shot defensively. "What do you mean he poisoned you?" Doce's father lifted up his shirt and showed his son the product of an evening spent rolling naked through poison ivy. Every inch of his body was a pussy, swelled, alarming red, except for the zones hidden by the beard he had decided to keep and his headdress. "Oh my God!" Doce bawled. "I think it looks pretty bad-ass," Doce's father opined as he surveyed his stomach, "An' whatt'ya talk'n 'bout yer God?" he chuckled all-knowingly, "You don't even know what yer God looks like." "What do you mean?" "I mean I ain't even told ya who'e is yet.." "Well who is he then?" "Well, hezza wizard f'r starters." "He's a wizard?" Doce asked skeptically.
"Yea a wizard. We're Hindu'ers now. Ya' see, when you thought we were gonna be Hindu'ers yesterday I miss'd a sign." "You did?" "Well sure, I mean," Doce's father adjusted his headdress, "When yer son talks 'bout sumth'n he don't know the first thing 'bout, it's outer-spacey. It's a sign." "My teacher is Hindu, so we learned about it in class." Doce's father ignored this possibility. "It's sorta like, when that kid from that movie you like so much's like 'I see dead people.' Yer just inclined ta believe'em. It's jus' too odd, too outer-spacey f'r a kid'ta come up with that 'emself" "So I made us Hindu?" Doce's father had finished his meal and his fork began to address a few of his more private itches. "Yea, but hell, I ain't complain'n. Means I didn't make this feather-hat for noth'n. Speak'n 'a which, put on yer hat boy. We'r still Indians, just the wizzard ones now. Act accordion." Doce put on his jet-black feather headdress and started to cry. "What'ssa matter Doce?" Doce's father inquired slowly, scratching himself like a madman. "Everything!" Doce sobbed, "I'm wearing a hat you made out of my dead birds! We have a different God every morning! You're just confusing me." The tears ran down Doces face and past his pouting lips and there was nothing there to catch them. They just fell. "Boy, first off, men don't cry, alright?" Doce's father consoled his son with a pat on the back. "An' secon' off, we don't have a bunch'a different Gods. That ain't even possible. We got one Wizard God that lets us do voodoo and magic and fly when we get'n battles." Doce only cried harder, so his father promised he would prove it to him by the end of the day. Using Doce's electronic football set and a particularly ghastly brand of voodoo Doce and his father spent the morning crippling the Bears' defensive line. Doce, however, found the voodoo unconvincing, so his father insisted that they try their hands at some magic. "Okay, son, now don't feel like ya gotta aim high, hell, the magic's gonna
take over no matter where ya point that thing," Doce's father reassured his son. "I can't even see the apple, the feathers are blocking it," Doce complained. "What'd I tell ya boy, the magic's gunna guide the bullet." Doce's heart beat savagely, but the Winchester aimed at his father's head remained steady in his little bare hands. "But there'll be more than one bullet. It's a shotgun." "No, boy, jus' shoot one f'r starters, an' if the magic's good I'll find summore stuff to put up there 'n we'll make a day of it." "I'm not doing it. It won't work with a shotgun," Doce said, lowering the gun. "Dammit boy! When you gonna become a man? Cuz I ain't ever hearda one that was too scared'ta shoot a gun! Too dumb'ta drive a car! 'N too fuck'n smart for magic!" Doce cried while his father cooled off and when Doce was offered a chance at redemption he was too ashamed to pass it up. "Don't worry so much son, the Wizard'll give you wings 'n the sun'll keep ya warm. 'N if the Wizard lets's ya down I'm here ta catch ya!" From the rooftop Doce looked a good 15 feet down on his father. "You said I had to be in battle to fly." Doce's father took off his shirt, balled it up, and threw it at Doce; however, the shirt unraveled in the air and fell calmly at his own feet, never coming close to his son. "Ya like that? Huh? What'r ya gonna do 'bout it?" Doce's father heckled halfnaked from the lawn. "Wizard God, please give me wings" Doce whispered. The Wizard God must have sold out of wings that Christmas because Doce landed not so calmly on his father's back and tumbled into the woods, spilling the charcoal black feathers across the snow. Miraculously, neither of them were injured, but who performed the miracle wouldn't be decided until
the following morning. The greatest physical harm Doce suffered from the fall wasn't discovered until he was laying in bed that night. He had been working on a stomach itch long enough investigate and when he turned on the light he saw the five itchy bumps, each encompassed by golden moats of puss. "Daaaaaaaad!" "Well'ya look at that. Hey! Ya should be thank'n me, I think't looks pretty bad-ass."
[Day 6] "Son, whatt'ya know 'bout them birds 'n bees?" Doce's father opened with the following morning. "Can we not talk about birds today?," Doce asked as he watched his father knife through his blackbird breakfast. "No, not figur'tively son, I'm talk'n 'bout where animal babies come from." "Well, if animals are anything like humans, Mom used to tell me that a stork leaves the baby on your doorstep for..." Doce's father erupted in laugther. "F'r what? $39.99 plus ships 'n handl'n? Just like'a woman ta say ya can order babies fr'm the store. Belie'me son, Kids 'R Us 's ain't exactly what't sounds like." "No Dad, she said that..." "Son, when ya landed on me last night I should'a been hurt, hell, maybe even dead. But I weren't 'n it got me ta think'n. I'm invisible son." Doce looked confused. "Now, son, jus' think 'bout it. I got shot 'n what happened? I lived. I got
poisoned 'n what happened? I lived. You land' 'n me from a hundred feet 'n the air 'n I live. I'm God plain'n simple. An' as God my first order 'a business is creat'n life." "I think you have a God complex Dad." "No ya just think it's complicated cuz yer a kid 'n ya don't know how it works. In order ta save life on earth we need to build a' arch." "You mean an ark right? Like a ship? Don't you?" "No, a' Arch. It's got nothin' ta do with ships, I told ya arready, Kids R Us 's a whole lot different 'en it sounds!" Doce followed his father into the garage, which had been housing six Greylag geese all morning. "You went back to Farmer Bruce's? You're so stupid, you could have been killed!" "F'rst off, that's blast'n-me 'n you better watch it. Secun' off, I was invisible so even'f Farmer Bruce did see me there wouldn't 'a been a whole lot he could do 'bout it," Doce's father said proudly. "So, I fig'r we'll start the arch off with these geese 'n save the bigger animals f'r the top." "Why do we need six? Shouldn't there only be two?" "Well I didn't know which ones were boys 'n which ones were girls, so I figur'd I'd grab six 'n be safe." "Do you even know how to breed geese?" "Well I'm hop'n I can do more than that cuz last I check'd tha other guy breathes fire." "What? Nevermind. What are we going to do with these geese? Just pile them up and hope they have babies?" "If yer skeptic cuzza those army pict'rs don't be. That didn't work cuz those were guards mak'n dem arches not Gods. But same basic concep'. Yea, we're gonna mash 'em together a bit 'n poof." "I don't like this. The whole thing is disgusting. It's animal cruelty" "Whatt'ya mean, this is the best time've these geeses' lives. They's 'bout to
get laid! An' think 'bout it. I'm gunna save the world, and yer gonna learn where babies come from... Hell! We're gonna kill two birds with one stone!" By the day's end, Doce's father realized that he was not God and also that he underestimated by four when he predicted that they would only kill two birds.
"You can bury the gooses Doce," Doce's father said, washing down his blackbird with some apple juice, "I mean, I'm a bird lover 'n all, but goose just don't taste that good'ta me." "Thanks," Doce managed miserably, and pointing to the plate of blackbird he had shoved aside, "Is that the last of the bird then? I'm getting pretty sick of birds." "Ehh, we got one more," and detecting his son's gloom, "What's tha matter son?" "Nothing, well, no. A lot. It's just that, a lot of the things you do are ugly Dad. They aren't right, and the way you treat me isn't right. I'm sick of you treating me like some little boy. Can't you for once see me as a man?" "I'm 42'n yer the man 'round here?" Doce's father pondered for a moment and challenged, "Okay, well, if yer such'a man maybe you can get us outta this religious chrysler we're in. An' hell, while yer at it smarty pans, maybe ya can tell me what'da hell is wrong with my leg." Doce's father lifted his pant leg to show Doce his calf, which had doubled in size, tripled in puss, and multiplied roughly seven times in gruesomeness. "Dad that's really infected. I told you not to itch it! We need to get you to a hospital right away." Doce's father grabbed his shotgun and his son slowly helped him to the car. "You drive, ya gotta learn some time right?" "You'll teach me?"
"Sure son," Doce's father said lovingly, and the happiest ten seconds of Doce's childhood ensued. The nearest hospital was a children's hospital in East Troy and it was just short of fifty miles away. Doce's father began badgering his son the instant he pressed down on the pedal. "So, ya think at all 'bout our chrysler yet?" "No, not yet. Hey, how do you turn on the wipers Dad?" "Oh c'mon man, I thought you were gonna fig'er out this chrysler for us." "Not now I can't. Hey, how do you use the wipers? " "So th' great big man can't figer out the great question." "Dad, that sign said we still have 42 miles to go and it's snowing so hard I can barely see. Please, say where the wipers are." But Doce's father was on a roll. "I ain't sayin' nothin 'ntil we get this straight." "I don't know Dad! It's all greek to me! None of it makes any sense at all." Doce panicked. "Well that's interestin'." Doce continued to struggle behind the wheel as his father was swept away with the feasibility of Greek mythology having governed the preceding days. "An' I guess I was a bit like Hercules when I killed 'dem gooses with ma' bare hands." "An' I guess it would 'xplain me likin' American Gladiators's much as I do." And so forth, until the car dove into a pond and Doce and his father opened their doors to find that there wasn't a road in sight. "Ooooooh," Doce's father cried, holding his leg. "Well, ya must'a really piss'd off the Gods this time Doce. My leg's surely broke now. Don't even need'a doctor ta tell us that one, ya figer'd it out alright on the way there. Ohhhhhh! Now I ain't even able to go get help."
"I asked you where the wipers were Dad! I begged you to tell me!" "We can't jus' wait'round ta die out here, grab the gun Doce 'n go see what ya can find. An' try 'n stock up 'r else we're gonna be goners! Ok? Deal?" Doce was too ashamed to not follow his father's orders and he only had to travel a few feet to execute them, leaving his father in earshot. "Zeus is test'n us boy!" "An' if it come ta 'xtreme measures it don't help me out much ya ain't been eatin' lately!" Doce tried to tune his father out as he took aim at the seven unsuspecting swans in the pond. BOOM! BOOM! BOOM! BOOM! BOOM! BOOM! BOOM! "HEY!" someone who was not his father screamed. "What in the hell are you doing?" The snow was beginning to clear up and Doce was just able to make out the house the man must have come from. "You killed those swans. What kind of sick boy are you?" "No hezza man!" Doce's father corrected from the passenger seat of the car. "He's like you 'n me now!," he added emotionally. Doce explained that the hysterical man was his father and directed this other man to his father's leg, who upon seeing it agreed to drive them the rest of the way to the hospital.
"So what happens to the swans?" Doce asked his father from the backseat, woozy from his actions. "Well, looks like I'll be eat'n at the hospital now. But don't worry, we'll pick 'em up on the way back 'n put 'em in some kinda trophy case. I mean, it's yer first kill." When they arrived at the hospital Nurse Helen introduced herself to Doce's father, and Doce's father fell in love with her instantly. "Are you my maid?" Doce's father asked raptured. "Well, no, I'm your nurse. Actually, I'm one of nine nurses on the floor so we'll all be taking care of you tonight. But Doctor Leda will be in to see you soon." Ten minutes passed before Doctor Leda came in to see Doce's Father, but it took him less time than that to amputate his leg. Doce could hear his father scream from the waiting room. "I announce you Zeeeuuuuuus!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!" Doce's father cried, and by doing so renounced Greek mythology for himself, his son, and as a contemporary religion entirely. [Day 8] Because the day before was so long, and perhaps because it was so painful, Doce's father slept for most of the next day making it go by much more quickly for his son. The accelerated day, however, did not surrender all of its activity. Doce's father and, consequentially, Doce, did not hold any religious beliefs on the eighth day. Doce's father was too in love with Nurse Helen to even think about religion and Doce simply didn't care. Doce's father guzzled milk all afternoon for the one-in-nine chance Nurse Helen would bring him another glass and every time after she did he would tell his son, "Ya can have th'other eight maids son, I just want that one." It was ironic because all of the nurses were about Doce's father's age, except for Nurse Helen who had just turned 17, but nevertheless it was Nurse Helen who was the woman of his dreams and Doce had never seen his father as crushed as when Nurse Helen told him that she only dates guys in bands. "An' she says she only dates guys in bands, can ya belie've that?" Doce's
father asked the man driving them home, the same man who had sat in the waiting room for 20 hours for a guy who ordered his son to murder seven swans outside his bedroom window the night before. "Well, if she was seventeen she probably would have been better suited with your son back there," the man opined with an air of disgust. "Ehh, the boy's a cock-block'r. Ya offer'm eight maids 'n he still wants'da one he can't have," Doce's father responded sourly, adding, "Hey, I hate'ta trouble ya, but we gotta mak'a few stops." "Where?" The man asked patiently. "Well, yer pond 'n Guitar Center f'r starters." [Day 9] After Doce's father polished off the rest of the blackbird he wheeled from the table to the drum-sets. There were ten of them and each had "Ante-Chris" scribbled in crayon across the drum head. "I feel bad about taking this stuff dad. I mean, just because we're atheists means we can steal whatever we want?" "That's 'xactly what it means. If there was'sa God I'd still have m' leg! We ain't gotta follow rules no more, trus' me! All the rest'veem that're follow'n rules 'r gonna go ta hell! Every las' one of 'em, no expectations! We've been learn'n that tha hard way. They'za buncha knuckleheads! We ain't believe'n 'n no rules no more." "It sounds more like nihilism Dad." "Now there'ya go gett'n all outer-spacey on me again. Don't do that son, we need this'ta work." "Okay, but I really think we should change the name. Why's it Ante-Chris and not Anti-Christ?" "Thru one ear 'n out the oth'r, I swear'ta God. I told ya! I'd bet a million doll'rs there's arready a band out ther' named Anti-Christ 'n the last thing we can aff'rd is ta get a law-suit when I don't even wear'em," Doce's father collected himself, "Plus, I think Anti-Chris sound'sa little d'rker anyway."
"You don't wear wha....Fine," Doce submitted. "Ya know yer lines?" "Yeah. So I'm going to sing and you guys are going to just sit there and beat on your drums? I still don't know why there have to be ten of you." "One ear 'n out th.....I swear ta God Doce. I went ov'r this. We're here ta' help tha singer, ta help you! Tha Bigger'tha band, tha better th' music. Bigger's better 'n ya can ask any'a my friends when they get her' 'n they'll tell ya the same thing," and as the door rang, "Speak'a the devils." The men who walked in had always done their best to be friends to Doce's father. They tried to limit their involvement with him to poker, fantasy football, and, most recently, dreidel, so they could take whatever money he had to take; however, each year they would oblige Doce's father by taking part in a few less profitable endeavors in order to retain his friendship. In a way they were bigger scumbags than Doce's father. "We're all here except Ronnie," the first man through the door informed Doce's father. "Ronnie's not going to make it though." "Why the hell not?" "Well, he's got some Christmas shopping to finish up. You know, he's got twins, and their young like Doce, and you know how hard that can be shopping for kids that...," the man bumbled, and realizing that only the truth might satisfy Doce's father, finished, "And one of their names is Chris you know. So, I think he just didn't feel right about it." "I told ya guys what it's short'fr! I mean, when a guy's like 'Gahhhhh.....damnit' any knucklehead cud fill in the blanks." "Hey, we know that. What's important is that we're all here," and looking around to gather enthusiasm, "And I don't think any one of us hasn't ever dreamed of being in an anti-Christian rock band before." "Arright," Doce's father said, still a bit salty, "Then take yer placemats men. An' Doce, stand by tha drums. She's gotta be able to hear us too." So, Doce sang his father's lyrics into his father's tape-recorder to the beat of ten solo drummers. "I gave my leg 4 yuuuuu
Babi you were their so you no it's truuuu Id give up the other 1 tooooooo All you have to do is asc me toooooooo." Doce glanced over at the band. His father was nodding triumphantly while most of the others were drumming thoughtlessly and paying more attention to the mantel, where there sat a cardboard box placed on its side to showcase a dead swan. "You braaaat me miiiilk But I wanded yuuuuu Becuz yor sweeter then anyyy milk On this urth its truuuuu
Hellin this town rips the booones from yor leg Its a deth trap, its a suisssiiide rap" A few of the men shot glances at Doce's father. "We gotta get out wile yoooor young Cus champs like us, Hellin you wur born to ruuuuuun
Buuuut I kant withouuuut my leg Ante-Chris rools and god is deaaad! After the song was finished the men all told Doce's father how powerful his music was, how his lyrical genius reminded them of a young Bob Dylan, and how Helen would be insane not to jump in his car and go away with him the minute she heard the song. "Truble with that is my car'sin'a pond right now 'n that's why I was sort'a hopin' she liked runnin'." Doce's father admitted. But Doce's father's friends rescued themselves , as they always did, and a few of the most cautious men even volunteered to drive him to deliver the tape to Helen. At the hospital Helen listened to the recording and then made up a hasty excuse that she, Doce, and all of his father's friends would soon wish she hadn't. "No I like different music. Like, the opposite music. You know, with bagpipes and stuff. I just don't like you. The music I mean. We are just too different." On the way home Doce's father persuaded his friends to buy ten bagpipes for the band, which they all agreed was a good investment. And then he left the men with, "An' if Ronnie doesn't show tomorra, he bett'r stay out'ta my sights fer good, 'r so help me God I'll make 'em wish he did." [Day 10] The eleventh day went almost exactly as the ninth day did. Even the lyrics stayed the same. The only exceptions were that Ronnie showed up allowing Doce's father to give his son ten men on instrumentals, bagpipes were used in place of drums, and Helen's reaction was more direct. "Just stay away from me freak or I'll call security."
[Day 11] "Know what?" Doce's father asked, chewing through his son's trophy swan. "What?"
"I hate bein' 'n atheister. They're jus' depress'all the time. An' they don't even care, they just keep goin' thru life like'ts some arcade game 'n they gotta 'nother life just waitin' for 'em after they die." "Yeah, I didn't really like it either." "Yer' just jump'n off'a cliff with all these religions. None'a dem make any sense." "I guess." Far's I can see, ther's only one relig'n that can get this family back on it's feet." "I don't think that's possible," Doce said, eying his father's missing leg. "Oh it's poss'ble son," Doce's father said excitedly,"Y'ever hear of morphinism?" "Dad they only gave you that stuff because they amputated your leg. I'm not allowed to be taking...," but Doce's father wasn't listening. "Yea, morphonism. It's tha party religion." "I'm sure it is, but...." "Hell, yer allowed'ta have as many wives as you want while yer' on it." "Oh," Doce said, realizing his father's error. "Mormonism. You want us to be Mormon." "Ya say tomato, I say potato," Doce's father said without joking, "But yea, Morm'n, the p'rty religion! They ain't all nerdy like th' others, mak'n a big fuss'over pray'n an' books. Hell no! They just want'ya ta have a good time while yer down here." Doce's father wheeled to the phone. "Who are you calling?" "The wives-ta-be son. We're gunna have a' good time today! Gonna get us back on'r feet." "WE HEARD YOU THAT YOU WERE FEELING ILL," The strippers started their lifted routine on the porch and Doce's father peeked out the window to
inspect the goods. "They're maids! Oh thank God they didn't bring Helen. I didn't even tell 'em I'd been sick, can ya believe this?" his father asked as he struggled to open the door. "HEADACHE, FEVER, And aaaaaaa..............." "Ya' must be the weekend maids, cus I sure's hell didn't see y'all there the other night," Doce's father said, looking up from his wheelchair with his birdlittered beard and his rash-littered body." "I hope you have booze. You have booze?" the head stripper asked. "Hell ya we do, 'n lots of it. Why, you Mormon?" "We aren't maids, and we aren't Mormon," the stripper scolded, "We're ladies. And in fact, I feel like I'm gonna have to see the 600 up front." Doce's father put his hand on his son's shoulder as they watched the strippers get back in their cars. "Soak't in son." "You knew this was going to happen?" "Yeah, well, I knew I cudn't aff'rd for us ta take a long look at one of 'em, so fig'red it'd be fun for us ta take a short look at as many they'd send." "That was pretty cool of you dad." [Day 12] It was Christmas morning and when Doce entered the living room he couldn't believe his eyes. A baby Christmas tree was propped against the wall and his father sat proudly beside it wearing a Christmas hat, and, well, the rest of the costume pretty much took care of itself. Two skinny tire tracks of snow led to the door and the giant tears that swelled in his eyes spilled across them. "Doce, I'm s'rry f'r how I behaved this Christmas. It was wrong'a me to make thing'so hard on ya," Doce's father paused to wipe his eyes, "I've been think'n, an' it really don't matt'r what we believe in, so long's we happy 'nuf , so long as we love eachoth'r 'nuff. Those Gods shudn't control 'r lives, I mean, if a dozen've em jump off'a side of a cliff 'n one don't, I'm gunna do all
I can'ta stand beside the one that don't. But I ain't gett'n mad't sumone that don't make tha same decis'n. What make'm happy 'n hop'fer might work for'em. 'N we'll jus'do what works for us. No problems," and after a short pause, "So, I guess wer' back wer' we start'd, an' altho I didn't have'a dime ta get ya any presen's, I want ya ta know I'm sorry. I don't expect ya ta f'rgive me, but I want'd ya to know I'm so s'rry 'n if ya do f'rgive me I won't ever act accordion like that again. Deal?" And crying himself now, Doce rescued his father, as he always did. "Deal. And Dad, don't worry about the presents. You've given me so many already:
That Twelve Lords leaping talk Eleven ladies who were so close to dancing Ten pipers who were so close to piping Nine drummers mindlessly drumming Eight maids making milk-runs Seven swans that once were swimming Six geese you forced into laying Five gold rings of puss Four colly birds, albeit briefly Three french hens Two turtle dove books And a partridge out of a pear tree."
And then they hugged, father and son, side-by-side, as Doce's father's sad theme music played in the background.
*** THE END ***
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