Let me tell you now: when you feel yourself thudding your wife’s microwave face-down on the floor between the couch and TV with the game on, that thud, which, let’s say, doesn’t crack the glass or plastic but shakes the floor, so maybe sort of loosened some seal somewhere–that satisfying thud of getting your hands into a project–that thud, well, some might say that the thud itself signifies that you’re probably an idiot in a way that wholly replaces your status as a rogue microwave repairman. But I prefer to see it this way: wanting to be a geek only means you want to be a geek. Trying to be a geek could take you anywhere.
The shell comes off like any old stereo or computer, if you have a screwdriver that can handle screw heads with snowflake imprints. I don’t mind mangling them; I’m more focused on cracking this nut than insuring it’ll go back together in its exact original form. I can always wing it later. So an angled Phillips head screwdriver and some patience and elbow grease does the trick just fine.
But then, mid hand-plunge into the patient’s gaping gut-incision, my daughter arrives. She’s delivered by my mother-in-law, who, I have to admit I’m grateful, doesn’t make it past the doorway. Six years old and returning from a summer day camp trip to the zoo, Naomi is wound up like a clock. She has a piece of bread that she confides is “freaking delicious,” and will blow my mind if I try it. I reach across the patient, spilling a screw somewhere into it, to accept a piece. I inform her that she likes sourdough.
There’s a third grade boy who calls her “Wyomi” (or “Why-omi”), and who is smaller than she is, she says. “His name is Finn, like Finn and Jake”–referring to a character on our show Adventure Time. I have the microwave wide open and am nodding at several things at once. I have no idea what to do next, and have clearly timed this poorly. “Did you know spiders have eyes on the tops of their heads?” she asks. Then she shows me a penguin she made: a styrofoam ball painted black atop a coffee cup decorated as a tuxedo. And she shows me the bread, impaled: “Look, I have the biggest thumb ever.” There is nothing that can be changed inside the microwave as far as I can see, but I find another place to take apart. I’m good with unscrewing, and these are regular Phillips screws now.
The game hits extra innings, but I never really cared about it. I just don’t like to listen to anything else.
She pulls at my hands to use my fingers to press buttons on a book that plays songs, rolling my thumbprint across the squares like a cop. Then she keeps bringing me things, saying, “I’m sorry, all I have to give you is this _______________,” over and over, bringing extraordinary little treasures I haven’t seen before: a small stuffed pink flamingo with long dangly legs that she bought at the zoo store with the five dollars her mother gave her, a twisted metal spoon she found…
“I’m sorry, all I have to give you is this rare fossil I found on a dig in that lot.” A pretty blue-gray rock.
“I’m sorry, all I have to give you is this seed from my bread that you could plant and it could grow more bread. Did you know I planted a pumpkin seed and it still hasn’t growed? Do you remember the giant sunflower in the yard?”
She hops out of her room in giant socks tied at the toes. “I wish we had a slide from the roof into a pool as the way to go out of the house. That could be my and your way to go down.”
Sometimes, one’s kids pay one such close attention, it borders on harrassment. But it’s also an embarrassment of riches.
It lasts until you have a panic in your stomach for the near future of their stomachs: the thought that you’d better start dinner. Kids’ appetites and sleep cycles you have to treat like you’re medicating your own pain, because you are. So you stay ahead of it.
If only there were a way to speed dinner up, I keep thinking. I turn the screws as fast as I can, going nowhere.