There Will Be Blood

Sometimes after picking kids up from three locations after school, helping with homework, making dinner, dealing with your freshman’s stupid mother effing mousetrap car project, and trying to figure out why a microwave that was working fine a minute ago just up and died, you pretty much end up phoning the rest of the night in.

Cameron: “Mom, if you type in the coordinates 52.376552 and 5.198393 on Google Earth it shows a guy dragging a body into the lake.”
Me: “Okay.”
Cameron: “Mom, seriously, look at this.”
Me (glancing at an aerial view of a deck and a splotch while cutting up strawberries): “Yeah, I don’t see anything at all.”
Cameron: “Really, it’s there. Look! I’ll zoom in. You can see the blood trail.”
Blood Trail?Me (yeah, sure, that might be a body): “Gross.”
Cameron: “I know!”
Justin: “I wanna see the blood trail.”
Cameron: “No, you can’t.”
Justin: “Why did Mom get to?”
Cameron: “Duh, she’s an adult.”
Justin: “Show me!”
Cameron: “Fine, but don’t blame me when you have nightmares.”
Justin: “Where is it?”
Cameron: “Right there, see all that blood by her head where he’s dragging her into the lake.”
Justin: “Yeah.”
Alex: “I didn’t get to see! Let me see!!!”
Cameron: “You can’t, you’re too young.”
Alex: “Well ha ha, I saw anyway.”
Cameron: “No you didn’t.”
Alex: “Yes I did, I saw the blood trail.”
Cameron: “No you didn’t.”
Alex (crying): “Yes, I did!!! Mom! MOM!!! Cameron, let me see it!!!”
Cameron: “NO!”
Alex (turning violent): “Cameron!!!! It’s no fair, LET ME SEE IT!!!”
Cameron (evading a lunge): “NO!”
Alex (jumping on Cameron): “Yes!!”
Cameron throws Alex to the ground, Alex starts wailing.

Would moms of girls ever make that demand?

Update: Upon further review, the Google Earth photo of a body being dragged into a lake is an urban legend. It’s apparently a very wet black lab whose trail of water makes a wooden dock look red. Don’t try telling Cameron this, however. He’s 100% behind the dead body theory.


Not Building A Better Mousetrap

I enjoy reading about science, exploration, and research. My grad school focus was in healthcare administration, but the human biology, anatomy, and physiology coursework was what intrigued me the most. I like to think of myself as reasonably intelligent, but when it comes to practical applications and understanding the physical sciences, I have the intellectual ability of a table lamp. I couldn’t engineer my way out of a paper bag.

I recently tried to help my sixth grader with his science assignment. It was about principles of light and reflection. I’m a photographer. I know exactly how to bounce flattering light onto a subject, how to diffuse and filter light, how to use angles to illuminate certain areas of someone’s face. I can pass the Farnsworth Munsell 100 Hue Test, which measures how the eye distinguishes colors, with 100% accuracy. I understand angles of incidence and light absorption. Can I explain how or why any of this happens? Not a chance.

“Using the information you’ve learned about the propagation of light, explain why light reflects off of a mirrored surface, but not off of a black velvet surface.”

Um, because it DOES. Duh.

Does he look like a future astrophysicist? Either way, he won't be getting much help from me.

Does he look like a future astrophysicist? Either way, he won’t be getting much help from me.

I bring this up because yesterday I received a lengthy email from my freshman’s high school physics teacher about an assignment that is due next week. In lieu of a semester test, students are to create a car powered by a single spring mousetrap. The kicker was her little paragraph insisting that this project is a wonderful way to spend time with your child, and it must be completed by the student, but parents may “brainstorm ideas, use power tools, glue complex pieces together.” (Snort!)

It’s fair to assume that David will be earning his grade, whatever it may be, completely on his own. I got to thinking about how shitty this assignment is. You know damned well that there are parents out there who are engineers, mechanics, and so forth who will sit down with their kids, and even if they are not doing the project for them per se, will know exactly what insight to offer to create the Aston Martin of mousetrap cars.

Flashbacks to my own junior high science fairs, where my mom and dad, who were business majors, and employed a certain laissez-faire type of parenting, never helped me one iota with any project, from conception to execution. So my sad little “Is It Magnetic?” project with household objects glued to a poster board and a string attached to a marginally working magnet, that was hastily rendered the night before it was due, had no chance against the exhibits displayed by the progeny of local pharmacists and professors who showed up at the Colby High School gymnasium with working nuclear reactors, prototypes for flying cars, and fleshed out proofs of Fermat’s last theorem.

“Wow, you did this all by yourself? I didn’t even know they sold heavy water at TG&Y. Nice work!”

© Jennifer Alys Windholz, 2015

For Mature Audiences Only

I attended a First Reconciliation workshop at church the other night with Alex, my seven-year-old. As we were getting out of the car, he said to me very seriously, “When I grow up I do NOT want to be a priest. Because of, you know, the terrible things they have to do.”

What terrible things are you referring to, I asked with an equal amount of curiosity and trepidation.

“Mom, duh. They have to go to people’s homes and get rid of dolls that have the devil in them.”


Someone’s brothers have been filling his head with the plot of the horror movie of the moment, Annabelle. That’s just awesome. So now he’s afraid of big dolls, and evidently thinks parish priests are routinely making midnight house calls when Cabbage Patch Kids are crying tears of blood. Thanks, guys.

As many of you know, I have four boys. They are in ninth, sixth, third, and second grades. That gap from oldest to youngest is profound. When David, my oldest, was in second grade he was nearly pure as the driven snow. Sneaking in part of an episode of The Simpsons was the most risqué thing he saw on TV. He didn’t come home after school to the lax supervision of older siblings. His parents were a constant presence. There was always an adult with him at the playground.

To say that I’ve given up on parenting my youngest would not be correct, but as opportunities arise, I have definitely outsourced some of the work. And though I have never been a helicopter parent, my willingness to allow Alex more freedom to roam has increased tenfold because there is no one younger I have to worry about following him around. So he spends more time out of my sight than his older brothers did. And he spends more time with his older brothers, which David did not do, because he didn’t have any.

And therein lies the problem. Whereas I was reluctant to allow David to watch PG-13 movies until he was sufficiently “old” enough to handle them, Alex has watched them since he can remember. Because his brothers were. What am I going to do, put on Sesame Street for Alex, risking a loud and violent uprising from the boys who don’t want to watch baby shows, or just say screw it, and let him watch The Dark Knight along with them? Wait, he’s sitting still and being quiet intently watching a bus being riddled with machine gun fire? Decision made.

So in addition to their idiot brothers showing them things like “Squidward’s Suicide” videos on YouTube, Alex and Justin are included in topics of conversation that the others never heard about until they were at least in double digits. Most of this information comes from their oracle, Cameron, my second oldest, a middle schooler, always ready to impart to his young charges completely unfiltered and sensationalized gossip that David, a self-proclaimed authority on everything, enjoys exaggerating and sharing with him. So stories and facts that are already only marginally true, are riddled with hearsay and inaccuracies by the time they make their way down to Alex.

So my apologies to any of Alex or Justin’s classmates and friends who have heard about any of the following: farting, Family Guy, high school students who smoke weed, penile cancer, the eraser challenge, steroids, bad teachers, exorcism, Michelle Obama’s school lunch changes, terrorism, Slenderman, compound open leg fractures, The League, hangovers, hemorrhoids, homosexuality, heroin overdoses, testicle injuries, youth sports association politics, doing sex, machetes, Eminem, serial killers, Adrian Peterson, e-cigarettes, new swear words, new uses for old swear words, or the truth about the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy, and Santa. There may be more.

© Jennifer Alys Windholz, 2014

Gas Pains

Know what I hate? Pumping gas. Know why? This.

Pay here or pay inside?
Push credit or debit.
Enter your zip code.
Do you want to use your rewards card at the pump?
Do you want a car wash today?
Would you like a receipt?
Select grade.
Lift handle and begin fueling.

You know what I would like to do? I would like to pump my gas. It’s 11 goddamn degrees out and I would like to get out of the wind and get back into my car. That’s it. That’s what I want to do.

A Cold War spy going through code phrases to gain entry to a safe house in Prague had fewer hoops to jump though.

“Have you seen the symphony?”
“The cat rides at midnight.”
Access granted.

© Jennifer Alys Windholz, 2014

Act Now, Think Later

A note to my children. I appreciate your need to ask questions, even to respectfully question authority . I encourage it. I love your inquisitiveness and curiosity. Don’t ever lose that. Critical thinking is vitally important, and I want to raise children who are independent and in-depth thinkers who scrutinize sources of information, and wonder why things are done the way they are.

That said, you still need to consider context. Allow me to offer an example. When your mother tells you, with a sense of urgency in her voice, to “go get a plunger” that is a time for action, not questions. It should be a reflex. When you hear the word plunger, you jump into action. Plunger. Action. Plunger! ACTION! PLUNGER! IT’S FUCKING GO TIME!!!

Because unless someone is telling you to retrieve a plunger from a burning building, the consequences of NOT getting a plunger will always be worse than getting a plunger. ALWAYS.

Once the crisis is resolved, there will be a debrief. THAT is the time to ask, “Why?”

So, if you must know why, here is the answer. Partially eaten celery sticks WILL clog a toilet.

And as long as we’re asking questions. WHO took the plunger out of the bathroom in the first place? I’m not even going to bother asking about the celery.

© Jennifer Alys Windholz, 2014

Farm And Fleet

The Twin Cities area is an odd place, as I suppose any major metropolitan area is in some sense, except perhaps the East Coast. Minneapolis and St. Paul are quite cosmopolitan, liberal and progressive, with a vibrant theatre, art, and music scene, major corporations and universities. The suburbs are the same as suburbs anywhere. Chain restaurants, McMansions, malls, parks and trails. But once you get beyond the second ring, things get all red state. And I kind of love it. Because I’m a ten minute drive from the countryside, quiet roads and farmland. Wildflowers, lakes, sunsets. I grew up in a rural area, so sometimes I crave the nothingness and open skies of the Great Plains. 

There is another magical place that I only recently discovered. A retailer called Mills Fleet Farm. I’d heard of it before, but until they built one in nearby Carver, Minnesota, and I stopped in after dropping off my son at a friend’s house, I’d never actually gone in. I was taken aback by the sheer size, and the inventory that was nothing like I’d ever seen. It’s a cross between a bait shop, Walmart and Costco, and chock full of awesomeness. Though I’m definitely a Kansas girl, my family was more or less city folk, and never into the hunting, camping, farm, and fishing scene, so some of the stuff in here was nothing I’d ever seen before. 

Full-on rain gear. For all the sword boats and lobstermen up here on the lakes. Or if anyone wants to dress up like the Gorton's Fisherman for Halloween.

Full-on rain gear. For all the sword boats and lobstermen up here on the lakes. Or if anyone wants to dress up like the Gorton’s Fisherman for Halloween.

This is only one of SIX aisles of nuts. I feel like there should be epinephrine stations at the end of each row. Has anyone ever had a craving for a chili-lime pine nut? Not only are there nuts, there are an equal number of aisles devoted to things covered in chocolate. Like you want a chocolate-covered praying mantis? No problem, do you want milk chocolate, white or dark?

This is only one of SIX aisles of nuts. I feel like there should be epinephrine stations at the end of each row. Has anyone ever had a craving for a chili-lime pine nut? Not only are there nuts, there are an equal number of aisles devoted to things covered in chocolate. Like you want a chocolate-covered praying mantis? No problem, do you want it slathered in milk chocolate, white chocolate or dark chocolate?

I very much enjoy the military surplus section. These field jackets are from the German Army. I feel better that they do have surplus German Army field jackets because no one really wants to see that band get back together.

I very much enjoy the military surplus section. These field jackets are from the German Army. I feel better that they do have surplus German Army field jackets because no one really wants to see that band get back together.

I can't lie, I was a little disappointed that only these boxes were for sale, not the actual mortars or grenades that they stored. They'd make nice flower planters in some doomsday prepper's backyard, though.

I can’t lie, I was a little disappointed that only these boxes were for sale, not the actual mortars or grenades that they stored. They’d make nice flower planters in some doomsday prepper’s backyard, though.

This Romanian Army overcoat is made out of perhaps the itchiest substance I've ever touched. Imagine sandpaper and steel wool. But rougher.

This Romanian Army overcoat is made out perhaps the itchiest substance I’ve ever touched. Imagine sandpaper and steel wool. But rougher.

You can actually buy this guy. Why? Seriously. Why?

You can actually purchase this guy. Why? Seriously. Why?

That is a lot of blaze orange. Enough to burn out your retinas.

That is a lot of blaze orange. Enough to burn out your retinas.

I can't even.

I can’t even.

Miles and miles of ammo. If the Wolverines from "Red Dawn" had been able to hit a Fleet Farm on their way out of town, maybe the Soviet troops wouldn't still be occupying post WWIII America.

Miles and miles of ammo. If the Wolverines from “Red Dawn” had been able to hit a Fleet Farm on their way out of town, maybe the Soviet troops wouldn’t still be occupying post WWIII America.

I don't even want to think about how this "medicated" product is used.

I don’t even want to think about how this “medicated” product is used.

40 pounds of bird seed. Forty. Pounds. In case you're inviting Big Bird over for dinner.

40 pounds of bird seed. Forty. Pounds. In case you’re inviting Big Bird over for dinner.

Who says farmers' wives can't be fashionable too?

Who says farmers’ wives can’t be fashionable too?

© Jennifer Alys Windholz, 2014



Leftover Arguments

8:00 in the morning. One kid wants pancakes for breakfast (leftover from yesterday when I was trying to be nice), the other wants leftover macaroni and cheese. Right fucking now. A heated argument over whether or not it’s gross to put fresh raspberries on pancakes. Another about whose turn it is to let the dog out. And yet one more to determine what TV show to watch. Then…the crime of the century. Justin ate Alex’s chips and cheese. The ones that sat out over night, getting stale, the cheese hardening into a rubberlike substance that only non-ionizing microwave radiation can regenerate as an edible substance.


Histrionics ensue. Demands of restitution. Accusations of targeted thievery with malice aforethought. A third party gets involved, telling both of them to quiet down, stepping on them and on someone’s stomach as the aggrieved parties wrestle on the floor. Godzilla on a much smaller scale. More crying, this time in pain.

The kid who already ate a pancake drenched in syrup and raspberries assembles a mountain of tortilla chips and covers it with an avalanche of shredded cheese. These will surely go largely uneaten since he had zero interest in them until his brother sniped them. Now they chirp each other for no reason other than to establish the upper hand going into the next fight.

“You’re stupid.”
“No I’m not.”
“Yes you are.”
“No I’m not. You are. You don’t even know math.”
“That’s because I don’t like to add.”
“Well, you should.”
“You don’t know anything about football.”
“I don’t care. I don’t like football.”
“Well, you should.”

Four. More. Days.

UPDATE: Next fight has already broken out. Over a softcover Scholastic book called Mice on Ice. Who is the rightful owner? I can’t even be the arbiter because I bought it, and several other books for them for Christmas, and I can’t recall who got that particular book. A book that no one has touched for the past three months. Now more valuable than a first edition Mark Twain, all because someone else wants it.

© Jennifer Alys Windholz, 2014

Five People You’ll Meet In A Small Town Bar

DentI spent this weekend at my friend’s lovely lake home (or “cabin” as weekend houses are quaintly called in these parts) in northern Minnesota. For her birthday we had the opportunity to go bar hopping in some nearby small towns. I grew up in a small town in Kansas, so I was not surprised that really the only difference between a bar in rural Minnesota and in rural Kansas is the latitude. Certain elements of the clientele might vary from New England to Florida to Idaho, but I’d venture that in any local watering hole, you’re going to mix and mingle with the following type of folks.

Freedom. Freedom is the townie who probably hooked you up with illegal liquor when you were in high school 25 years ago. Back then he had a pimped out Firebird with a Pioneer stereo system, but now no one knows what he drives because they’ve never seen him anywhere but on his barstool for ten years. Freedom’s wardrobe consists of t-shirts adorned with airbrushed designs of stars, stripes, and bald eagles. He is the epitome of “Murica.” He hasn’t been sober since the Reagan administration, and spends his time wandering around from table to table trying to engage in conversation. His eyes are permanently glassy, bloodshot, and half-open. When Freedom finally manages to slide his wallet back into the pocket of his Wranglers after five minutes of many unsuccessful attempts, the whole bar cheers his effort.

Divorcée. She’s a cougar on the prowl. Recently liberated and enjoying her new lifestyle, Divorcée is down to…flirt. She’s wearing low-rise dark denim with blinged out back pockets, a studded belt, and she teeters on pseudo Jimmy Choo heels. Her new boobs are pushed up high so they spill out of the top of her tight sparkly t-shirt. Big tan, big make-up, big nails, big hair. Everything about her screams high maintenance, yet the local bachelors, all of whom are wearing at least one article of blaze orange or camo clothing, flock to her while she holds court, falling all over themselves to buy her another Cosmo.

Glee. Playing Nathan Detroit in Guys and Dolls as a high school senior was the apex of Glee’s life, and he’s been trying to recapture the moment ever since. Once every few months the old ball and chain lets him out of diaper duty, and he gathers up his co-workers from the real estate office for happy hour on karaoke night. Everyone checks their phone or goes to the bathroom when he starts belting out show tunes and big band standards that no one under the age of 50 has ever heard. Then he sits down and smugly waits his turn while intoxicated frat boys home for summer break sing an off key rendition of Margaritaville clearly inferior to anything Glee is capable of.

Dancer. Dancer was probably once very pretty, but she’s been rode hard and put away wet. Her weathered skin makes her look like she could be anywhere between the age of 20 and 50. She’s wearing an ill-fitting short skirt, and that roses and barbed wire neck tattoo is dangerously close to her face. A month or two of clean living might add some meat on her bones and make her hair look less like a troll doll, but that just isn’t in the cards right now. Tonight she’s high or drunk or both, and is spending the evening grinding on any and every guy on the dance floor or at the bar. If she doesn’t hurry up and go home with someone, she’s going to get her face rearranged by a jealous girlfriend. 

Rudegirl. Rudegirl is the 40-something who is part of the group from the big city that actually doesn’t get out much unless it involves neighbors and a bonfire, but a milestone birthday or reunion is being celebrated, and this bunch thinks they’re pretty awesome, especially after several rounds of brightly colored shots of alcohol. Rudegirl knows the downtown club scene is way out of her league, so she’s ready to party like a rock star in the sticks where she can lord her purported sophistication over everyone for one night before she has to return to her kids, husband, and laundry back in the cookie cutter suburbs.

© Jennifer Alys Windholz, 2014

Is My Name Google?

People. They’re the worst. Especially helpless people. Especially helpless people who are also bossy. Especially helpless and bossy people who are demanding and ungrateful. Especially helpless, bossy, demanding, and ungrateful people who interrupt me.

I’m hanging out in the coffee shop this afternoon. I’m antsy, and just needed to chill out and not be driven insane by my children. David is probably not particularly thrilled with being home with them, but when you’re 14, you don’t always have a lot of choices. So I’m listening to my earphones and editing some photos, applying for some jobs. Just doing some stuff that is easier to do when you don’t have a kid declaring his hunger or telling on his brother every five minutes.

So I’m plugging merrily along, and a late middle-agish woman comes up to my table. I thought she was just waiting for her coffee, until she tapped on my table and waved at me. I took out my earphones, even though Jim Rome was in the middle of a pretty funny rant about some new thing called “spray cake,” you know, in case going to the trouble of baking a cake, and eating it with a fork and plate is too daunting of a task for you.

Her: “Excuse me. I don’t know anything about computers, even at the library, and I’m wondering if you could help me with something.”
Me: “Sure.” I got up, thinking she had something wrong with her computer she wanted me to troubleshoot.
Her: “Oh no, can you check something on your computer?”
Me: “Oh, ok. Yeah.”
Her: “I’m not interrupting what you’re doing, am I?”
Me: “No. It’s fine.”
Her: “Can you look up and see if the county fair is going on right now?”
Me: “Oh, the Carver County Fair is actually in August.”
Her: “But can you see if there are any other county fairs going on today?”
Me: “Oh. Yeah, I guess.” I searched “Minnesota County Fairs” and found a link for Fairs & Festivals on the Explore Minnesota website. I scrolled through, but didn’t see any fairs this weekend, but read off some festivals going on in Hastings and Fargo.
Her: “No, I mean just the metro area. Are you looking at the metro area?”
Me: “Well, yeah, this has metro area information.”
Her: “But I don’t want anything from outstate, just Dakota County, Hennepin, Scott County. The metro area.”
Me: “Right, but I don’t think there are any county fairs going on right now.”
Her: “Maybe you should let me see.”
Me: “Ok.” I turned the screen toward her and scrolled through.
Her: “But this says fairs and festivals. Isn’t there something that just has county fairs?”
Me: “Well, I think they’d be included in this.”
Her: “Can’t you type in just Minnesota county fairs?”
Me: “Sure.” I went back to my search results and found a link for “MN 2014 County and State Fair, Events and Festivals” as she now moved behind me to look directly over my shoulder.
Her: “Is this just county fairs now?”
Me: “I think so. It really looks like most of them don’t begin until the end of July. The Otter Tail County one is this weekend.”
Her: “That’s Fergus Falls.”
Me: “Yeah, I know, but it looks like that and Wabasha are the only ones really happening right now.”
Her: “There’s Kittson County. Where’s that?”
Me: “Um, I really don’t know, it says Hallock.”
Her: “I just want the METRO area.”
Me: “I know, it looks like Scott County is the closest, and it starts next week.”
Her: “Oh, there’s Jordan. Is that Scott County?”
Me: “Yes, that’s the one that starts the 23rd.”
Her: “I can’t really see the dates, where are the dates? What is today?”
Me: “The 18th.”
Her: “Are these all in date order?”
Me: “It appears so.”
Her: “There’s Washington County, but I just want the metro area.”
Me: “I know. It just doesn’t look like there is anything this weekend.”
Her: “What’s that one in Hastings? Oh, an antique show. I thought these were just county fairs?”
Me: “Um, I guess there are some other things on this list too.” I scrolled up and realized I was on a County Fairgrounds USA site.
Her: “Oh so this is fairgrounds. This must also list things that are going on at the fairgrounds. Can you type in something that JUST has COUNTY fairs?”
Me: “Well, I think they’d be included on this.” GEORGE IS GETTIN’ UPSET!
Her: “Oh. So I guess they maybe don’t have something with just county fairs.” (I feel like she really meant, “Oh, you’re just too lazy or stupid to find the correct website.”)
Me: “I think pretty much everything is right here.”
Her: *SIGH* “Well, I guess now I know that Jordan is next week.”
Me: “Yeah.”
Her: “Well, thanks.”
Me: “Sure.”

I hope she steps in manure while she’s there. Metro area manure.

© Jennifer Alys Windholz, 2014

Love Love

I played a lot of tennis as a kid, honing my skills by using the outdoor racquetball courts at the local community college as a backboard. Not many of my friends played tennis, especially anyone in the neighborhood, so my usual partner was my little brother. He was not an especially gracious loser. A typical match with him consisted of multiple contested line calls, abrupt rule changes, scoring arguments, and fits of pique that often resulted in him launching tennis balls over the fence. Many times I would just get disgusted with him, and stop playing, which resulted in him declaring that if I “quit,” he would be the winner.

Flash forward 25 years later, and Justin has taken an interest in tennis. I love that, because it gives me an opportunity to get back out on the court again after a very long hiatus when I had tiny kids. Unfortunately the experience is eerily reminiscent of those old days with my brother, leaving me feeling exasperated, frustrated, and angry.

Yesterday morning I took Cameron (age 11), Justin (age 8), and Alex (age 7) out to hit around. The fun began when Justin insisted on playing “a real game,” despite the fact that he can only get one of five balls back over the net. Of course that is my fault because if I hit one to his backhand side, he complains vociferously. “Stop hitting it there! I can’t do LEFTY!!!” But if I hit it to his forehand, Cameron would step over and attempt to hit it in front of him, resulting in clashes over whose ball was whose.

Justin’s biggest problem is that his expectations are way too high. He thinks that even though he’s never had a formal lesson, and has only played a handful of times this summer, that he should be playing at the level of a Roger Federer or Andy Murray. And when he misses a shot, he swings his racquet in disgust, yelling at himself like John McEnroe.

We arrived with three cans of tennis balls, nine balls. At one point I used the last ball in my pocket, and Cameron hit one that rolled to the fence by the far court. I needed another ball to start a rally, but only saw the one that had been hit over the fence, still lying in the grass. What happened to all the balls? I asked Justin how many he had in his pockets. Evidently all of them, which he refused to give up, and insisted I run over and get the one that was by the fence. Eventually we coaxed him to let us use some of the balls from his pockets, but admonished Cameron when he hit another one astray. “I’m not letting you use my balls if you keep HITTING them!”

Ages ago I got clocked in the face while playing the net. The ball hit me right in the eye, bruising my cornea. My pupil was constricted for a week. That was more enjoyable than what was happening with Justin at this moment. Another car pulled up, and out jumped a dad and his two kids, an older boy who was quite good, and a kid about the age and talent level as Cameron. “Care if we join you?”

“Sure,” I said, secretly thinking, “Do it at your own risk.”

Justin then couldn’t concentrate until we retrieved our ball that was on the side of their court. “MOM! They have our ball!”

Nothing could convince him that it wasn’t a big deal, and that I was sure they’d kick it over when they had a chance. That’s when Dad started barking orders at his kids in Russian. Or maybe it was just coaching. Kind of everything spoken in Russian sounds ominous. Chalk it up to growing up during the Cold War. But Justin was intimidated, and refused to play on the side of the court adjacent to them, but of course Cameron wouldn’t trade places with him. After hitting about ten balls onto their court, I suggested we move to the kid-sized courts on the other side of the fence.

They actually did a little better on those courts, but everyone wanted to be on my side. There isn’t enough room for three people on a junior court, but every time I moved to another side, someone would follow me, and someone would cry about being left. Finally I just told Justin and Cameron to play a set by themselves, and Alex and I would hit on our own on another court. That remained friendly for about two minutes, and then the arguments about line calls, scores, etc. began. My favorite of Justin’s arguments: “It’s not fair if you hit it good and I can’t get it! That’s MY point then.”

The day came to its inevitable conclusion when each one insisted he was the winner, and Justin threw his racquet at Cameron.

Game. Set. Match. We’re outta here.

© Jennifer Alys Windholz, 2014