My spouse Robin and I start our morning by enjoying a well-balanced breakfast of cereal, a glass of milk, and a backup glass of milk. While we eat, I glance at our framed “LOVE WAITS!” purity pledges on the dining room wall, which we enforced until we’d been married for a year, just to be on the safe side. I still admire Robin’s impeccable cursive, which comes in handy every day.
I grab a russet potato out of our pantry and jam it into the engine compartment of my Ford Escape. Thank goodness I haven’t misplaced my alligator clips again, or else my battery wouldn’t start, and I’d be late for work. Today is already shaping up to be stressful, as the diorama my team has been working on for all of Q3 is finally due.
In college, I double-majored in my passions: Reading Interesting Books and Doodling. This landed me my dream job, a vague corporate thing where I was offered a $150K salary as soon as I whispered the words “bachelor’s degree” at a recruiter. My friend who went to trade school is super jealous.
Robin is also college-educated but stays home with our twins, Dawson and Joey, who are pasteurized chicken eggs. Robin is an excellent parent; aside from one minor incident where Joey was left behind at Trader Joe’s, those two are always kept snug and refrigerated.
Like every responsible adult, I drive to work ten miles per hour under the speed limit. We don’t need any blood on the asphalt today.
Fortunately, our presentation goes well. My colleagues and I converted an empty copier paper box into a scene depicting the penultimate battle of the Spanish-American War. This seems to impress our client Mr. Jones, who is offering our company a contract or a merger or something.
I enjoy the well-balanced lunch Robin packed for me: a bologna sandwich, a Red Delicious apple (extra mealy, my favorite), and a twenty-four-ounce Yeti thermos full of two-percent milk. I wipe off my milk mustache and head back, only to find Mr. Jones at my desk, admiring my trusty protractor, which is secured in a locked glass case.
“Simmons said it was your idea to use cotton balls to simulate gunsmoke in that diorama—is that true?” he asks.
“Well, yes,” I say, blushing. “I also came up with the idea to use dry rotini pasta to mark the graves of fallen soldiers.”
“We could use someone like you where I work, another vague corporate firm. I take it you have a bachelor’s degree in literally any field?”
“Tell me this, though,” he says, producing a boombox and CD from his briefcase. “If I were to play this song, what would you do?”
He inserts the CD, presses play, and I immediately clock the opening notes of “Turkey in the Straw.”
I’ve never been so thankful for my sixth-grade gym teacher, Mr. Butkis, who publicly harangued me until my do-si-do was in form. Jones applauds and offers me a job that is double my current salary. He shakes my hand and says, “I haven’t seen anyone ‘allemande left’ that well since ’97.”
I’m so excited to tell Robin the good news that I skip happy hour milk with the team and head straight home.
But when I arrive, our house, a three-thousand-square-foot colonial we acquired right out of college using the proceeds from an auction sale of our Beanie Baby collection, is on fire.
The fire department has a trampoline and encourages Robin to jump from the second-floor window. In the glow of the flames, I see Robin fiddling with something, and then two small packages fly from the window: Dawson and Joey.
Both miss the trampoline.
I scream, but then I see what Robin has done: each of our precious babies has been encased in bendy straws, masking tape, rubber bands, and pipe cleaners. With trembling hands, I unwrap them as Robin lands safely and rushes to my side.
“They didn’t break! Thank God you learned those basic engineering principles.”
“I just wrapped shit around them willy-nilly and hoped for the best,” Robin sobs. We embrace.
The fire chief offers us each a carton of milk, and we gulp it down, grateful to be alive and for the nourishing power of calcium.
Then our neighbor, Edna, approaches us, shaking her head.
“I hope you two have homeowners insurance,” she says. “You’ll have to file a claim ASAP and follow up with your mortgage company to see if you can get a forbearance. Too bad this happened right after you could have claimed the loss on your income taxes. You have a savings account, though, right? You’ve budgeted for emergencies?”
Robin and I look at each other in confusion.
“Sorry, Edna,” I say. “I didn’t understand a word you just said.”