My twenty year-old son stumbled out in to the living room shortly after noon, rubbing sleep out of his eyes and grumbling some sort of dire warnings about the leftover pizza that better still be in the fridge, Mother, but stopped suddenly to question me over what he obviously saw as a far more important situation.
“Okay, Mom,” he asked warily, glancing around the room, “what did you kill this time?”
I must have looked baffled — understandably so — because he pointed at the broom that I had leaned against the wall.
“The broom. The broom is in the living room,” he explained. “Dad used hockey sticks, you use the broom.”
I’m not sure if he has that little faith in my housekeeping habits or that much faith in my hunting skills, but I tried to explain to him that the mice and chipmunks in the immediate area were all safe and sound for the time being. “I swear, I just finished cleaning the bathroom.”
“Sure, Mom. Sure.”
In the absence of any rodent corpses or tell-tale bloodstains, he let the matter drop and lumbered away in search of cold pizza.
I wish I could say that this conversation was unusual for us, but unfortunately it was not. I am constantly astonished to find out the way my adult children remember different aspects of their childhood. Like the hockey stick/broom conundrum, apparently.
The Big Guy, their father, was a former hockey player, which explains the hockey sticks. Sort of. He had skates and shoulder pads and helmets stuffed into the back of the hall closet behind his ice fishing gear, which sort of made sense. But the sticks were everywhere. And by everywhere, I mean everywhere.
There was a hockey stick by the back door, and two in the barn. There was one in the kitchen, near the door to the basement. He had one tucked in behind the couch in his office, a well as another beside our bed. That’s right, he kept a hockey stick beside the bed.
Now, I’ll admit to my fair share of sexual fantasies that may or may not involve a large, muscular hockey player skating away with me for a quick hat trick, but the bedside hockey stick had nothing to do with any kind of role-playing.
The Big Guy’s hockey sticks were there for self-defense. Against bats, big hairy spiders, mice, and a very confused raccoon in the mudroom on one memorable occasion. He wielded a hockey stick like Adrian Paul wielded a sword in late-night reruns of The Highlander. The only time he let me use the hockey stick as a weapon was the night someone tried to break into our home at 2:30 in the morning. Even then, he only handed it over because he was busy loading his hunting rifle.
I’d like to think I was at least a tiny bit intimidating, but it’s probably safe to say that the intruder was actually frightened away by rifle, not by me in all of my bathrobe-bedhair-hockey stick terror. Although I’ll be the first to admit that I gave myself a bit of a shock when I glanced at my reflection in the window.
I was pretty damn terrifying.
While my children remember a hockey stick as their father’s weapon of choice, they apparently remember a broom being mine.
You may have caught on by now to the fact that none of our cats have ever been very good at their job. Instead of killing mice in the house, our confused little felines prefer to capture rodents outside, only to bring them inside and then release them. Mice, chipmunks, moles, you name it and they’ve probably brought at least one into my living room. One cat even brought in what I assumed was a dead possum.
That, of course, was the night I learned where the saying “playing possum” comes from.
Let me digress for a moment here. I once got a bad review on Faster Than a Whippoorwill’s Ass because the reader was “disgusted by all the animals [I] beat and killed.” I want to be very clear about the fact that I am not some kind of animal-abusing whackadoodle who enjoys beating rodents to death with hockey sticks and brooms–or anything else, for that matter. I’m more than happy shooing the little buggers outside with said weapons whenever possible. But I will not co-habitate with them.
The only smelly, dirty animal allowed to live with me in my house is my son, and I’m really trying to convince him that showers are, in fact, necessary on a regular basis, and that it is not normal for his dirty clothes to stand up on their own after he takes them off.
“Brushing your teeth is not optional, son,” I’ve had to remind him more times than I care to admit.
At any rate, cleaning out the house for our renovations has raised many questions. Why was there a Cool Whip container in the fridge with the words “Don’t Eat! Cocoons!” scrawled across the lid in black Sharpie? Why was there a mummified bat wedged in behind the lath and plaster in the living room? Why was there a fifty year-old pocket knife under the bathroom floor — and why was the neighbor’s name engraved on the handle of that knife?
So many questions that can never be answered. But I had a very simple answer prepared when the contractor asked me, “What’s the deal with all the hockey sticks?”
“Self-defense,” I told him, and now I think he’s just a tiny bit afraid of me.
If he thinks I’m scary with a hockey stick, he should see me with a broom.