pic provided by konundrum editor p.s.

Monday morning on the Parkway. The weekend had ended, and once again I found myself making the long commute downtown to the office. The sun was low on the horizon, unable to burn through the layer of haze that hung over the landscape like a thick blanket. I wiped the sweat from my forehead and turned on the AC. 

In front of me was a pickup truck, one of those extended cab models that fishermen seem to enjoy, with a handmade bumper sticker that read ‘I Love $outhern Go$pel Mu$ic’. I reread the sticker as we neared the entrance to the Squirrel Hill tunnels, trying to discern its true meaning. Had Southern Gospel sold out? Before I could ponder this too deeply, a voice from the passenger seat interrupted me. It was my daughter, Victoria.

“Daddy?” she said.


“Wouldn’t it be cool if these tunnels went somewhere else?”

I looked over at her. “What do you mean?”

“Well, what if we drove into the tunnels on this end, but when we came out on the other end, we were somewhere completely different.”

“What, like China?”

“Mmm…” She shook her head. “Not China. Somewhere really far away, where everything’s different. Maybe all the people would be cats. Or the grass would be blue, and the sky would be green. And there would be all sorts of magical things, and kings and queens and princesses who live in castles, and we could have our own castle too, daddy, and we could live in it forever and ever and never have to go to school or work again. Wouldn’t that be great?”

“That’s escapism, dear. It isn’t healthy.”

“Oh . . . I’m sorry.”

“You should stick to topics more grounded in reality. Escapism leaves one ill-prepared to cope with the bludgeoning monotony of everyday life.”

“What’s bludgeoning mean, daddy?”

“To hit or strike, with great impact.” I took my hand off the steering wheel and punched the dashboard to demonstrate. Victoria gasped and retreated to the small space between her seat and the door, her body trembling like a leaf. Worried that my violent outburst had frightened her, I reached over and took her hand, speaking only comforting words.

“Honey,” I said, “did you catch the Pacers game last night?”

She shook her head ‘no’.

“Jalen Rose had a double-double. They beat the Celtics by eight points.”

“Is that good, daddy?”

“Well, let’s see, that win puts them within a game and a half of first place in the Central Division, so . . . uh . . . yeah.”

Victoria smiled. What a cunt. She obviously had no idea what I was talking about, but she was just going along with whatever I said because she wanted to make me happy.

“Daddy,” she said, “are you going to come to my soccer game today?”

“Can’t make it. My boss wants the Severson account on his desk by 8 AM tomorrow morning, so I’m going to be pulling some overtime.”

“I understand.”

“No, you don’t understand. Until you’ve spent eight years of your life in the basement of an office building staring at a computer screen for ten hours a day while some middle manager jerks you around by the balls, I don’t think you’ll have the faintest clue what I’m talking about.”

Victoria looked down at the floor. “I’m sorry.”

“For what?”

“I’m sorry you’re upset.”

“Great, thanks a million.”

Victoria fell silent then and looked out the window. Any illusion of a peaceful completion to our drive was shattered when I saw her reflection. Her eyes had that squinty look, which they always got right before she was about to ask something ‘important’.

“Daddy, is mommy the reason you’re upset?” 

“What do you mean?”

“I heard you fighting last night.”


“Why are you mad at mommy?”

I sighed. “Well Vicky, ever since mommy had you, she’s become what grownups call frigid.”

“What’s frigid mean?”

“You’ll know soon enough.”

“Is it like being sick?”


“Did…did I make her frigid, daddy?”

“Sort of . . . ” I cocked my head to the side. “Pretty much, yeah.”

Victoria started to cry. She buried her face in her arms to muffle the sobs.

“I didn’t mean to make mommy frigid!” she wailed.

“Oh, stop your crying. Why don’t you read a book?”

“I don’t think I brought any books, daddy.”

“Well, here…” I rummaged around in the backseat and found a paperback lying on the floor. “Here you go. Read this.”

“What’s Soul On Ice?” she asked.

“It’s a book they made us read in college.”

“Is it like Mr. Rabbit’s Special Day?”

“More or less.”

Victoria set the book on her lap and used her tiny fingers to leaf through the pages. She mouthed certain words as she read, her face twisted in confusion.

“What’s a Supermasculine Menial?” she asked me.
I rolled my eyes.

Mercifully, Holy Cross Elementary came into view. I pulled up to the sidewalk and ushered Victoria out of the car. 

“I’ll miss you, daddy,” she said, but I was already halfway down the block and so couldn’t answer. I watched Victoria in my rearview mirror, standing by the road, her little hand waving goodbye as she faded into the distance. When I could no longer see her, I made a right onto the Lincoln Expressway and drove across town to my girlfriend, Rachel’s place. We spent the rest of the day in her hot tub, feeding each other strawberries dipped in Belgian chocolate. Rachel was a professional masseuse. As her fingers kneaded the tension from my shoulders and back I allowed myself a guilty pleasure, one tiny moment of escape, dreaming of a world where I was free of family and work, where there existed only Rachel and I and a tropical beach where we made love on the sand from sunup to sundown.

Victoria’s team won their game 2-0. It sounded boring from her description.

[Forever after at http://eyeshot.net/unfitparent.html

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