My wife and I had to go out of town.
While engaging in the NASA-level logistics required by travel, our recently teened son volunteered to stay behind to watch the house and menagerie, causing my wife and I to swoon after realizing the money we’d save on pet sitters, house sitters and someone to maintain surveillance on our Canadian neighbors.
I would like to report that at this juncture, as professional parents, we sat down for a long talk with the kid about responsibilities and curfews, but all I remember is arriving breathless and poorly packed at O’Hare. We were somewhere over Ohio when we looked at each other and realized what we’d done.
“I bet he’s on fire right now.”
“The dogs are gonna starve.”
“It’s OK, they’ll probably eat his corpse.”
We worried through a hideous parade of catastrophes until the plane landed. I called him immediately.
“ARE YOU OK?”
“Dad, I’m in the middle of a game. When are you guys leaving?”
This held us over through renting a car, but as soon as we were on the road, hellish visions of disaster struck again. What if the pilot light goes out? What if a plane crashes on our house? What if he gets a tattoo? We pulled over.
“CHECK THE STOVE!”
“Dad, seriously. I’m in an Orc campaign. People depend on me. You guys have to learn how to be on your own.”
He was right. We had spent 14 years turning him into the remarkably responsible young man he had become. He knew how to run the house, take care of pets, order Chinese. Really, truthfully, except for bartending and finances, our work was done. He was fine.
So we did what any confident, highly accomplished parents do. We forgot about him.
Two days of micro-seminars and macro-martinis later, I get a call.
“Dad, did you leave your office light on?”
“I think there’s a burglar.”
“If there was a burglar, the dogs would be-wow, the dogs are really barking, aren’t they?”
“I’m 99.9 percent sure it’s OK, but I’m going upstairs to check.”
“What if there is a burglar?”
“It’s OK, I have a knife.”
Abrupt signal loss.
As a parent, 800 miles away in the middle of nowhere with a bad connection and overactive imagination, I can tell you I was jumpy. My kid’s shoe size is listed as Sasquatch. He ducks under doors. He can pick up a car. However, he is unduly skittish. His reaction to spiders, for instance, is insanely comical-like he’s doing yoga really fast. Plus he’s clumsy.
So my vision of him confronting a burglar with a knife ended with multiple self-inflicted stab wounds and a note from the crook: “Dear parents, what is wrong with you people?”
I shot out of the conference into the rain, fear tears streaming down my face, sealing contracts with various lesser deities, apologizing to the great wheel of karma for leaving my only son home alone, pointing my phone into the stratosphere for bars, when he called back, his voice tight with urgency.
“DAD! DAD! OH MY GOD! DAD!”
“OH SWEET JESUS, BOY WHAT IS IT!?”
“There’s no more frozen pizza!”
They say a sound was heard that night, in the far reaches of the North Carolina hills near a conference center, a snarling, depraved, nearly human wail, guttural, almost forming words. They say it might be proof that Sasquatch lives.
I can assure you: not for long.