Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Thou Shalt Not Floss

Our three boys spent the last week off at church camp. The two younger ones were here in town, while Son Number One went all the way down to Los Angeles with his high school group.

He and I got up before dawn on Saturday to head off to the busses. His bag was ninety-nine percent packed the night before. When we woke up, he was supposed to brush his teeth and then pack his toiletries and his phone charger.

Off we went to the church to get him loaded up onto his bus. “Do you have everything?” I asked him.

His ears filtered my question through his small, inoperative fourteen-year-old brain, and he answered, “Yes! Quit asking me!”

I wrestled a hug out of him and sent him on his way. Fast forward to last Thursday afternoon when I picked him up. We had no contact with him all week, since the youth group leaders took everyone’s phones away on the bus trip there, and gave them back on the bus trip home. That made packing his phone charger the morning of the trip kind of a moot point.

What wasn’t supposed to be a moot point was packing his toiletries. As we were walking to the car and he was busy answering my questions about the week with super-descriptive one-word answers, he suddenly remembered something noteworthy.

“I forgot my toiletries bag, so I couldn’t brush my teeth all week.”

*record scratch*

“What?” I asked, hoping I had misheard his incredibly long sentence.

“Yeah, I totally thought I packed it, but it wasn’t there.”

“I watched you pack it,” I said.

“I know, I thought I did. I thought I put it in the same pocket as my phone charger.”

“I think you did, too. Did you take everything out of the bag to look?”

“Trust me, dad, I looked a bunch of times.”

“So, you just didn’t brush your teeth all week?” I asked, still not having fully wrapped my brain around what was coming out of his mouth, besides the halitosis. “Did you at least floss?”

“I chewed a lot of gum.”

Oh, great, those four out of five dentists will be thrilled. *sound of a blood vessel bursting in my brain*

“Did you tell somebody?”

“I’m not going to use someone else’s toothbrush. That’s gross.”

*sound of an even larger blood vessel bursting in my brain* “Um… not to use someone else’s toothbrush. To get you your own!”

“No. No one’s going to have an extra toothbrush, dad. Geez.”

*more blood vessels breaking, calming breaths*

“Why didn’t you at least ask someone to borrow floss? That’s a one-time use product.”

“I told you, I chewed a lot of gum.”

“Where did you get all this gum?”

“Our group leader took us on a walk to a gas station to get snacks. I bought a two-liter of root beer, too.”

“That’s nice. Do you know what else they sometimes sell at gas station convenience stores?... You know what, never mind.”

I opted to simply drive out of the parking lot in silence and continue the silence all the way home, for fear of having a full-blown stroke while operating a moving vehicle. I tried to think about dogs playing fetch. That’s a nice thought.

When we got home, he grabbed his sleeping bag and pillow and asked if I would get his duffel bag.

“Sure,” I said, still thinking about Labs and border collies leaping in the air for sticks and Frisbees. I carried it by the shoulder strap and was halfway to the front door when I looked down and saw it.

*second record scratch of the day*

I walked into the house where my wife was already getting super-descriptive one-word answers to her questions.

“Please tell me this whole thing was just some kind of elaborate and really stupid joke,” I said, falsely hopeful. “You brushed your teeth all week, right?”

*first record scratch of the day for my wife*

“You didn’t brush your teeth?” she asked.

“No, I couldn’t. I forgot my toiletry bag.”

“This one?” I asked, trying very hard not to have a totally paralyzing stroke, even though I was not driving anymore. “This one, here, in the end pocket of your duffel bag? The MESH end pocket!? The pocket on the outside of the bag that I can see right into without opening the bag or even needing to unzip it? This toiletry bag right here under your phone charger!?!?!?”

“What? There is no way that was in there the whole time. I totally looked, like, a bunch of times.”

As I stared into my wife’s beautiful eyes for some shred of logic or reason, I heard the sweet, welcomed sound of the rest of the blood vessels in my brain exploding.

No, no. Don’t call me an ambulance. Just get me some gum.

See you soon,


Copyright © 2019 Marc Schmatjen

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