Drink. Son. Drive

by Matt Ryan

My wife�s been working the last five hours and I�ve been drinking for the last four. She�s a phlebotomist. That�s what you call the person who pokes you in the arm with a needle when your blood needs to be drawn. Her patients call her the vampire and then laugh and laugh, even though my wife�s body language, I�m sure, does little to encourage them.

�I hear this twice a day,� she once said to me, holding up two fingers and sticking her tongue out the corner of her mouth to show her irritation.  �And they all think they are the first to think of it.�

�Well, shit, it is kind of funny.�

My wife shook her head in disapproval, not understanding how I could find any humor in the joke.  Maybe I just don�t think something has to be original to be funny.  I just hate how nowadays everybody and everything has to be so darn different and unique.  It�s that kind of thinking that�s screwing up the kids of today.  I�m a dad and I�m doing what I can to protect my boy from this sort of message.  The world is best when it�s normal and predictable.

My wife claims to disagree with me, but I tell her she�s a hypocrite.  Case in point: the other day when we were making sweet love, I sized up her neck and bit into it.  I probably chomped a little harder than I should have, but I didn�t do it out of meanness.  It was more out of drunkenness or horniness.  It just seemed like a good idea.

�Ouch!� she screamed, scraping her fingernails across my shoulders.  �Why�d you do that?� 

�It�s my turn to be the vampire.�

�Get off me,� she said, and when I did, she moved to her side of the bed and turned her back to me.  �Pervert.�

I laughed and laughed because she failed to see the humor in the whole thing.  I did something out of the routine, something creative to our lovemaking, something original, and she didn�t appreciate it.  Instead, she responded by making it clear that she preferred sex our normal way of doing it.  Like I said, she�s a hypocrite.

I gotta admit that it felt good to bite her.  None of her blood entered my mouth, but the thought of it did and this charged me up and made my mouth get all tingly.  I�m a former soldier and soldiers know about blood.  I was in the Army, back when we invaded Iraq the first time.  I didn�t get to go because I was stationed near Tokyo at Camp Zama, so I never actually bled, but I was willing to because that�s what soldiers do. 

Females bleed, too, when they become women.  It�s what women do.  It�s this blood that draws man and woman together, especially soldiers and women.  I tried explaining this to my wife, hoping maybe she�d forgive me, but she wasn�t having it.  

�Darren, sometimes you are so darn backwards the way you say things.  You sound like the biggest redneck in the world.�

She went the whole next day without talking to me.  The only thing she�d do when I�d speak to her is point to the band-aid on her neck. 

If I was that backwards or old-fashioned like she said, I wouldn�t be a stay-at-home dad.  Some people that don�t like me, mainly her sisters and friends, say I don�t do a damn thing except sit on the couch and drink beer.  The truth is, I stayed home so I could teach Jake to be a man, and let�s be honest about it, sitting on the couch and watching TV is part of being a man.   If we�d had a girl, I�d probably be out there working because I�d have less to teach her than I do Jake. 

He�s 14 and his childhood sure is different than the one I had.  In today�s world, there�s so much weird stuff that you have to protect kids from.  But at the same time, this generation has been protected so much that they aren�t out there causing the right type of trouble.  The kind of trouble where�d I�d raise my voice and say, �Jake, don�t do that.�  And when he�d leave the room, I�d brag to my wife and say that he gets his orneriness from me.

The boy reads a lot.  I don�t have any problem with that, necessarily, but reading seems like the type of thing that a kid should be talked into doing, not something they�d prefer to do on their own.  But ole Jake, he�ll just sit up there in his room and read for hours, especially since I cancelled our internet service a few months back. 

Boy, that pissed him and my wife off.  �We need the internet.  It�s 2008,� they said.

�I know.  That�s what I�m protecting you both from.�  They didn�t like my answer but they learned to accept it.

I tried to make it up to Jake by buying him an Xbox.  I got him this wartime video game, �Call of Duty,� that I was hoping he�d love.  He�d play it with me, but only for short periods of time.  He didn�t seem that into it. 

Whenever I�d shoot his character, I�d say, �Take that you filthy terrorist.�  And he�d always say, �Ouch, ouch, ouch,� like he really got hurt. 

I was always on the American side.  As a former soldier, I just couldn�t see doing it any other way.  He didn�t seem to have any objection.  That bothered me a little bit.  I�d like to see the kid a little more patriotic, a little more thankful for his freedom.  I mentioned this to him a few times, but he�d say something smart, like there�s not a 14 year old in any country who�s actually free.  Especially one that doesn�t have internet access.

He actually preferred the Wii system my wife got him for his birthday.  It�s one of those games that has this handheld pointer device and you�re supposed to stand up and move around like you�re actually playing a sport.  When you bowl or play tennis, you actually make that same motion with your arm while holding the controller.  I don�t much care for it, but I do like sitting back and watching my wife jiggle her ass when she plays with Jake. 

Their game of choice was tennis, a sport I�m not too interested in.  I�m more of a hunting, fishing sorta guy.  But unfortunately, I�m the only one in my family who is.  My son absolutely refuses to go hunting, and the one time I did take him fishing, he vomited when I made him hook the worm.  No kidding.  He put his knees and hands into the ground and yakked like he�d had too much to drink.

I didn�t take him home because he needed to toughen up.  This boy is my blood and I take my job as his father seriously.  If truth be told, I�m probably a better father than I am a husband.  My son didn�t complain about having to stay.  He might be kind of soft, but he is a good boy.  I�ll give him that.  He and I get along fine.  It�s just my childhood was so different than his that we don�t always know where the other is coming from.

After awhile he perked up and started asking me questions about, of all things, the birds that kept flying over us.  �What kind of bird is that, Dad?  And what about that one with the yellow belly?�

�Shit, son, I don�t know.  One that you could shoot with your pellet gun that I bought you last Christmas.�  I laughed when I said it.  I was half-serious, half-joking, but Jake didn�t laugh.  He and I don�t have the same sense of humor.

In fact, now that I think about it, he doesn�t laugh much.  I tend to laugh a lot, especially when I�ve had a few beers.  My wife, if you asked her, would say that I drink too much.  But hey, that�s my right to drink beer if I want to.  We have freedoms in this country and I did my part to make sure that we always will.  Besides, I�m a grown-assed adult and I�ll do what I want and what I want is to teach my son how to be a man.  Not only that, I�ll protect him from the shit that kids need protecting from.  That�s why I turned off the internet service. 

I don�t use the internet�never have, never will, but Jake and my wife did.  My problem with it, in addition to it taking up so much time, was these pop-up ads that kept coming up when Jake was using the computer.  The pictures were disgusting and unnatural.  I�d walk into Jake�s bedroom and ask him what he was looking at, and he�d say, �I keep getting these pop-up ads, Dad.�   They were the most faggoty things that I�ve ever seen in my life.

Once I saw this was a problem that wasn�t going away, I turned off the internet service.   Young boys don�t need to see that shit.  Boys needs to be boys and get in the kind of trouble that I did when I was a kid.  The kind of stuff that�s perfectly normal to get in trouble for:  sneaking beer out of the fridge, skipping out on your chores so you can get to second base with some little blonde down at the creek, throwing eggs at cars.

Maybe I�ve had too many beers, but it sure seemed like Jake needed me to teach him how to cause the right kind of trouble.  Ideally, a kid would figure it out on his own, but times have changed for the worse.  I guess I have to take things into my own hands.  My dad probably would�ve done the same thing if he were raising me in today�s world.

I remember when I was about 16, I asked my dad how I would know when I was a man.  He didn�t say anything at first.  He just walked to the fridge, grabbed a can of beer, set it down on the table in front of me and said, �When you�re old enough to drink that with your old man.�

I wasn�t sure if this was an opening to drink a beer with him or not, but I decided to take my chances.  I pulled back the tab and drank it.  He stayed silent, sipping from his own beer.  When I finished it, I walked to the fridge and got another beer, then another and another.  I believe it was the next day that I told him I was going to join the Army when I turned 18.  I held true to my word.

That�s probably my favorite moment I ever had with my dad.  He taught me to be a man, and I never really thanked him with words, but he wasn�t the kind of dad that would want me to.  I thanked him by signing up for the Armed Services.

That�s what men do:  we teach our sons to become men and maybe we do it in a way that our wives don�t understand.  But men and women are different.  We bleed different and we have different enemies out there that want to vampire our blood.

And that�s exactly what I did a few hours ago when I gave my son his first beer.  I was so dang proud when he took his first drink.  �Way to be cool, son,� I said.  He didn�t like it at first, but beer takes getting used to.  It�s an acquired taste, I told him.  I compared it to boot camp and all of the physical activity you have to do that makes you become a soldier.  I told him you�re not a soldier until after you do the things that you don�t like doing.  It�s the same thing as becoming a man.  �But don�t worry, son.  You�ll learn to love beer.�  I held my can against my cheek.  Man, I love how the condensation makes my face sloppy wet.  �It will be the loyal dog you always dreamed of.�

After the second beer, he stopped complaining about the taste.  He even started laughing some.  I have to tell you, this was one of my favorite father-son moments of all time.  It was even better than the first beer I�d had with my dad.

It was beer, and I truly believe this, that helped us understand each other for the first time.  I felt so comfortable with him that I started telling him about the crazy shit I used to do when I was a drunken teenager.  Like how I used to take my Nova on the interstate and drive over 100 miles an hour with my headlights off.  Or when I broke into the old lady�s house who lived next door just so I could piss on her toy poodle.  Or like the time I drove out into the country and fired six bullets into the side of some random cow.  Man, we kids used to have some crazy times.

I also told him about the first time I got laid.  I was drunker than crap and had sex with my buddy�s older sister.  I barely even remembered it the next day, but it changed me.  Prior to that hook-up, I was kind of nervous around girls, but the beer changed everything.  The girls noticed how confident I�d become and that resulted in me getting more and more tail.  I guess, now looking back, that�s what my dad was trying to teach me.

And I guess that�s why I ordered my son to get the car keys because he and I were going to go for a little ride.  I figured, if he learns how to drive while he�s drunk, he�ll be good at it later on and not get pulled over for drinking and driving like I did a few months back.

That�s how freedoms work.  If you abuse it and get caught, you have to understand that there will be consequences.  I messed up and now I can�t drive for the next five months.  I accept my punishment.  If we make it to the whorehouse without getting pulled over, then great.  And if we get caught, my son will learn a lesson and never do this again.  That�s what happens when you get caught.  You learn your lesson and stop fucking up. 

�Dad, I don�t think I should drive.� Jacob slipped the car keys in my shirt pocket. 

I laughed and handed him a beer.  �Drink, son.�  I waited for him to do so and then I took the keys out of my pocket and handed them back to him.  �Now drive.�    

When he agreed, I told him that I was taking him to a whorehouse.  He scrunched his face and said that he didn�t want to lose his virginity this way, but I explained to him that everything will look differently after he goes through with it.  That he won�t be interested in some damn internet any longer.  That maybe after he pops his cherry, he and I can gather up our beer cans and use them for target shooting.

BIO: Matt Ryan lives in Minnesota. His stories have appeared in numerous journals, including Pindeldyboz, Opium, Ghoti, Mud Luscious, and elimae.