He asks if the kids are all right. Be careful, be careful, be careful, BE! Then his wife shacks up with a Kenpo instructor and he’s left with sole custody of his daughters, Fragile and Susceptible.
The world is a bad trip full of child abductions, weaponized bacteria, chemical agents. There are volcanic eruptions and earthquakes and floods. He tries not to think about nukes, environmental catastrophes, war, school shootings, or celebrity adoptions.
And then his girls reach puberty. They tell him that he sucks and they hate him. They scream it on the day after he's pawned his life. He’s a pacificst, and he supposes that his daughters have a point, so he doesn’t put up a fight. He lets them whip him until his him runs out onto the floor. When they leave, what’s left of him cries. When they come home to visit, he picks up the yoke and tries it on again, but there’s no load and he feels like the stinking carnival pony that no one wants to ride.
But his generation isn’t known for its willingness to accept the status quo. When he's stiff and gray, he begins to drink peach smoothies and send his children email messages that challenge their rebellious, conservative beliefs. He dallies with non-medicinal marijuana and deep fried Twinkies. He leaves the oven on and he doesn't clean his dryer’s lint trap. He sneaks into the homes of his daughters and steals the keys to their cars. He rocks out to crusty, old music and drives until the juice bars close. His life becomes new and improved, but he checks to see that the deadbolts of his daughters’ doors are locked after he parks on their lawns.
Terry DeHart has written one novel, The Unit (Orbit Books, 2010). His stories have appeared in The Barcelona Review, FRiGG, Night Train, Opium, Smokelong Quarterly, Vestal Review, and other places. He lives in Washington State with his wife and daughters.