Blood Like Water: chapter 1

“No! It’s a stupid hat!” the little boy complained tugging the hat off his head with a determined fist. Hair so recently brushed stood in a flurry at most of the known angles with faint crackling static.

 

“Well now it’s a sad hat since it heard you call it stupid” his father said glancing over while one hand brought cup of coffee to his mouth. Mid-sip his other hand caught the offending hat just as it was raised but before it could be flung across the room.

“Hats don’t have ears they can’t hear anything!” A smile almost as pointed as his ears nearly reached them smugly. It was a rare swell of pride to think that he had just found a great flaw of logic in something his father had said, something that could not be argued. It was on par with a law of the universe, hat did not have ears and in stating that fact he somehow on some level had won an argument.“Well you do and you heard me say the hat stays on.” His father smiled right back at him at the same time that he shifted to another more unwinnable argument altogether. In the same motion that set coffee on the counter he leaned to put the hat back on the boy’s head.

“I don’t want to wear it.” Just a simple duck of his head and another tugging hand lifted upward toward it gave the child hope that the argument was not as futile as it seemed.

“You have to wear it if you want to go play outside” his father crouched right down to force hat onto the boy’s head. A firm look on his face fought with the twitch of amusement at the corners of his mouth despite the potentially wearying battle of wills.

“You never make Don wear a hat to go outside” the boy pointed out with a last-ditch turn toward a different argument of his own.

“Don’s a stuffed animal. Stuffed animals don’t need to wear hats” his father pointed out as he turned temporary attention to the readjustment of a wayward velcro strap on one of the boy’s sneakers.

“How many times do I have to tell you Dad? Don’s a person too.” Small face frowned clear disappointment that his father had forgotten or insisted on ignoring such a basic fact. He wiggled toes inside the sneaker and stomped that heel against the floor. Not so much to demand the distinction for his favorite stuffed animal, but because the Velcro adjustment had made the sneaker pinch the top of his foot.

“But didn’t you say just yesterday that he’s a real live monster?” A brow just as dark a shade as his son’s shot upward with a contradictory glance and clearer trace of smile. The night before, their bedtime story had been an entirely improvised tale in parts back and forth all about Don’s monstrous adventures. There had been a bit too many protests over forgetting how monstrous Don looked and acted for any argument now to hold much water.

“Yeah but even then he’s a person too.” More impatience than protest ran through the high whine of childish voice.

“Yeah? Well real live monster persons don’t need hats. You do.” He stood up and turned back toward the counter to pick up his coffee and switch on the radio. Digital numbers shuffled on the small display to avoid radio talk in favor of a classic rock station.

“No I don’t! I’m a real live monster person too!” The boy made a face that attempted to mimic the toothy ferocity sewn onto his stuffed animal monster’s face.

“No. You’re a real live Martin person who needs to wear a hat outside.” A glance bore a smile back toward the boy as his father reached free hand over with gentle push of palm down upon the top of the hat just to keep it from behind removed again.

“I can too be a real live monster person who doesn’t need a hat!” While no longer trying to take it off it slid just a little but mussed hair beneath much more as he looked up at his father.

“If you don’t wear the hat I won’t let you go play outside.” A sip of coffee already grown too cold put a similarly monstrous look on his own face. He would have dumped it down the sink and started over but it was an over the counter dose and he didn’t feel like doing math …before he’d finished his morning coffee. A deeper grimace went right along with swallow the rest of it in one disgusted gulp while his son gave a last-ditch complaint.

“Aw but Dad!”

“Keep it on. I’ll be watching from the porch and if I catch you taking it off you’re gonna see a real live monster person for real.” Those words spoken with equal threat and chuckle as gladly he rinsed the cup and turned it upside down in the strainer to save a washing between now and another cup later in the afternoon.

“You tell him that and he’ll just take the hat off twice as quick.” His wife and the boy’s mother interjected into the argument as she stepped into the room on her way to grab something from the cabinet for a quick breakfast before work.

“Mom! Dad won’t let me go play outside!” The boy jumped onto her appearance as new hope to turn the argument to his favor.

“Then play inside.” She smiled siding with grownup tyranny. With breakfast bar still unwrapped in one hand as she bend to kiss her son’s cheek good morning.

“But I wanna go outside!” He wrapped little arms around her neck to simultaneously hug her and bop stuffed animal against her back.

“Then put your hat on.” She whispered in his ear before she straightened and set him toward the door with a pat to his back.

“…and keep it on!” His father noted sternly but with a smile as the boy sighed and stretched to turn doorknob in defeated escape into the great outdoors of a small yard.

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