Chicago dad falls, once again, for “Guess what? Chicken butt!”

If he says it one more time, I will kill him. This is not hyperbole. I have cause, just cause, to take him out-my son, the new teenager, the purveyor ofthe non sequitur, the little !@#$#% who thinks this is the pinnacle of high comedy.

Dad, guess what?

Wait, let me stop right here. You need context for this to make sense. You have to know the buoyant hope with which I unconsciously respond to my son; you need to envision his beatific dome turning to me in the car, a smile on his face that can melt steel, a sparkle in his eye foretelling outstanding accomplishment, recognition, genuine inspiration.

Dad, guess what?

I mean, you have to believe, the way I always believe, that this time, this grin, this smirk is heartfelt. This time it’s not a sucker’s bet. You have to let your mind unspool histrionic scenarios of potential greatness: He’s on the honor roll; he got picked as valedictorian; he invented flubber.

Dad, guess what?

You have to be standing there elbow deep in sink-water splendor thinking about your other life, the one wherein you stand with an insouciant slouch against the dark mahogany bar of a private club that is feting your recent literary-

Dad, guess what?

You have to be hauling a bag of dog food up onto your shoulder, envisioning yourself trim and well-jeaned, worn flannel sleeves rolled up, neighborhood soccer moms slowing down their minivans and thinking how lucky Mrs.-

Dad, guess what?

You have to be on your knees in the laundry room fishing underwear out of the dryer vent and wondering how in the name of God-I mean, how is it even possible? Did the underwear pull the lint screen out? Did they transmogrify themselves into the-

Dad, guess what?

You have to be asleep, deep into the dream about the mahogany bar, Don Draper just finishing his riveting extemporaneous speech lauding your singular character, rolling it into a metaphor about Scotch, people crying, the reporter from Life magazine applauding, and you-

Dad, guess what?

You have to be hunkered over your old Royal, like an anvil with buttons, your mind reeling with the pure, unadulterated beauty, the sheer mind-bending brilliance of the first sentence of your first screenplay, when the main character-a perfect blend of Cary Grant, Tom Hanks and Bruce Campbell-looks into the camera and says-

Dad, guess what?

WHAT!? WHAT?! FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THINGS HOLY-WHAT? WHAT? WHAT? WHAT? WHAAAAAAAT?!!!!

Chicken butt!

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