Long ago, I hit upon the inspired idea of issuing formal Paternal Proclamations on matters of particular importance to my family, which are to be treated with the same reverence and obedience as an edict from the king. (My children refer to my decrees as "Dad's Demented Demands.") I usually announce these mandates at the dinner table, followed by a formal posting to the refrigerator, which is so littered with papers and photographs it looks like a collage.
Being a benevolent dictator, I allow a period for public comment following a dinnertime Paternal Proclamation, though once it has been affixed to the refrigerator with a magnet it becomes the Law of the House, Forevermore.
I, Wise and Wonderful Father: Children, I have a Paternal Proclamation Please stop eating for a moment and pay rapt and worshipful attention.
I, Wise Father: It has come to my attention that all of you are, on occasion, leaving a good quarter of an inch of milk in the bottoms of your glasses. Since milk is an expensive commodity, and we do not yet own a cow, you are forevermore required to finish your milk at every meal. Any public comments before this goes on the refrigerator?
Son: If we're throwing up, do we have to finish our milk?
I, Wise Father: No. If you are throwing up, you do not have to finish your milk.
Son: What if the dog licked it, would I still have to drink it?
I, Wise Father: How would that happen?
My son proceeds to show me how, in the course of taking a drink of milk, he might be seized with muscle spasms which fling him from chair, causing him to fall to the floor and to thrust his cup out in front of him. Our canine springs forward to assist in the demonstration, burying its nose in the glass. I shake my head.
I, Wise Father: I really don't think that's going to happen.
Son: Well how about if there's a fire and you tell everyone to get out of the house, should I stay and finish my milk even if it means I will be incarcerated?
Daughter: I think you mean incinerated.
I, Wise Father: No, if there's a fire, you don't have to finish your milk.
Daughter: "Incinerated" means burned up. "Incarcerated" means being arrested.
Son: That's what I meant.
Daughter: What do you mean, that's what you meant?
Son: I meant what if I was arrested.
Daughter: No, you didn't! You said if the house was on fire!
Son: Well, what if I started the fire, wouldn't I be arrested?
Daughter: You never said you started the fire!
Son: Dad, if I were arrested for starting the fire, would I still have to finish my milk?
Daughter: This is so stupid.
I, Wise Father: Well, yes, if you were arrested, you would still have to finish your milk.
Son: That's not fair!
Daughter: It does seem like if you were arrested you shouldn't have to finish your milk.
I, Wise Father: How does that make any sense?
Daughter: I told you this was stupid.
Son: What if the only way to put out the fire was to pour milk on it, wouldn't you be glad then?
I, Wise Father: Glad about what?
Daughter: What you should do is a Demented about stupid conversations.
I, Wise Father: Stop calling them that; they're Proclamations.
Son: What if we're out of milk? Can we drink root beer?
I, Wise Father: What?
Daughter: Hey, he's kicking me under the table!
Son: You're nothing but a big baby.
I, Wise Father: Stop kicking your sister.
Daughter: He's kicking me! (Stands up, knocking over her milk glass.)
I, Wise Father: Hey!
Son: (After studying the white stain.) Dad? What if we spill our milk, do we have to drink it then?
Thus ends the period of public comment, and in due course the Proclamation is pressed to the layered surface of the refrigerator, held in place by a magnet with sufficient strength to penetrate two years' worth of elementary school art and a photograph of me that my children improved by adding a mustache and a tattoo of a fish on my forehead. So from now on, the Cameron children must finish their milk.
Well, unless there's a fire.
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Submitted By: W. Bruce Cameron
Mar 13, 2001 13:04