I don’t have too many rules for the car, but one of the rules is that no one is allowed to clap. Enclosed-space clapping percusses through my head and annoys the shit out of me. Even if I myself might be in the occasional mood to clap, clapping drives repetitive-noise-sensitive Maj round the fucking bend of sanity. So no clapping . . . no exceptions . . . the end.
We’re all in the car on our way to drop Kallan off at her friend’s house. Mark is driving. Admittedly clappy rhythmic music is playing on the radio. Maj and Kallan and I are singing along.
Mark starts clapping.
I glance over at him, “Seriously? Stop clapping.”
He claps a few more times, “What?”
Maj leans forward, “Are you new here, Daddy? Our family does not clap in the car. It’s one of Mother’s more sensible rules.”
Mark claps a few more incredibly sharp loud joyful times, “Yeah, but I am Daddy! I own this car! I will clap if I want to clap.”
Kallan is delighted, “Go, Daddy!”
Annoyed, Maj fills the car with bossiness, “USE YOUR HANDS TO DRIVE THIS CAR IN A SAFE MANNER, DADDY. HANDS ON THE WHEEL AT ALL TIMES!”
Mark claps again just to demonstrate that he can drive the car without using his hands, “Look! I can keep the beat and also not crash into a tree!”
I glare at him, “Babe, stop clapping.”
He looks over at me and lets his hands fall to the steering wheel mid-clap, “Huh. I guess I forgot we live in Bomont.”
“The town where no one is allowed to dance or clap — from Flashdance.”
“Mark, I’m pretty sure Flashdance is the movie where the girl is a welder and also a stripper and then water is poured from the ceiling onto her arched semi-nude body. You’re thinking Footloose.”
Kallan leans forward, “Wait . . . what’s the name of that movie with the welding stripper?”
I am saved from having to explain by Maj’s excited voice, “Look! A chicken! At first I thought it was a cat, but then it was all not-cat-shaped and moving funny and so then I thought maybe it was a misshapen epileptic cat but then I realized it was a dark chicken!”
“Where? I don’t see a chicken.” Kallan leans to look out her sister’s window and snorts, “Also, by the way? Maj, you do know most people would have stopped talking after Look, a chicken! . . . Right?”
Maj sighs happily, “You’re just jealous you didn’t see a dark chicken.”
“Yeah, superior roadside-chicken-spotting skills . . . I am all green eggs and ham of envy.”
We drop Kallan off at her friend’s house and head back the way we came. Mark adjusts the radio to a song he likes. He starts singing, and then swaying, and then grunting to the music. He is being totally ridiculous, but at least he’s not clapping.
Maj is having none of it, and she snaps at him, “Daddy, you are not allowed to listen to this song if you cannot behave.”
Mark sing-grunts even more obnoxiously, “I am Daddy and I own this car! I will sing and dance in this car if I want to sing and dance in this car. I am the man! I am the man of this car!”
Maj squawks, “Daddy, put your hands on the wheel when you drive! You are being so dangerous!” She turns to me, “Mother, get your man under control! He may be the man of the car, but you are the woman of the man! Get your man under control. Right this instant, Mother. Do it.”
I speak mildly, “Daddy is the man of the car, and he’s allowed to enjoy a song on the radio. He’s a grown-up, babe. Stop bossing him.”
Mark pauses in his singing to say, “Yeah. What she said. So pffffttttt to you, Maj.”
Maj sighs dramatically, “Why must I always be a part of the moments in which Daddy asserts his independence? Why must I suffer?”
Mark turns down the music and speaks happily of his awesomeness, “Yup. I am allowed to do anything I want.” He glances at me and considers and then amends this claim, “Well, I am allowed to do anything I want as long as I don’t irritate your mother.”
He continues thoughtfully, “So no more clapping, obviously.”
Maj is annoyed, “No one likes clapping, Daddy. No one.”
Mark goes on, “And no folding paper.”
A note here in my defense:
I am not bothered by the normal folding of a piece of paper. The following is completely acceptable – Oh look, a piece of paper I must for some reason fold! Let me just lay it down flat on this solid surface, fold it precisely, and then run my hand along the seam one time. I am now done folding this piece of paper and can move along to the next part of my life.
However, I am not fine with the following — Oh look, a random piece of paper that totally does not need to be folded! Let me hold it out away from my body and fold it imprecisely and then run two pressed fingers along the seam not one time . . . not two times . . . not three times . . . but endless pointless absentminded teeth-shivering times until my wife shrieks in anger and lunges at me and rips said piece of paper from my hands.
Back to the three of us in the car where Mark is not allowed to fold paper.
Here’s Mark, “So no folding paper, because your mother is insane.”
“I’m insane too, Daddy. The sound and vibrations of fingers folding paper makes my whole body hurt.” Maj sighs, “It’s why my career as an origami artist was so short-lived.”
She’s not even kidding, by the way. Every single one of her origami folds had to be softly patted into position. No running pressing fingers allowed.
Maj is a tiny bit my daughter.
Anyway, here’s Mark again, speaking loudly and goofily, filled with superiority and pounding the steering wheel as he makes his points, “At work, though? I am all about the fold! I sit in my office and I yell out BRING ME MORE PAPER! and they do because I am the man of the paper and then I just sit there and I fold the paper, making crease after crease after crease of perfectly folded paper. Like a man. Like a man who is in CHARGE of things. Like folding. I AM A MAN OF FOLDING! Yeah, baby . . . that’s right. I’M THE MAN!”
He is a folding man?
I say nothing. Maj mutters, “Oh for goodness sake.”
Mark turns the radio’s volume up and he grunts and sways to the song, “I’m the man, baby! I am the man of paper! Folding, creasing, crumpling . . . I’ll do whatever I like. Why? Because I am the man! I am the man of folding!”
I can’t help it; I giggle, “You are the man of folding?”
Mark glances at me, “What’s your point?”
Maj interrupts triumphantly, “THERE’S THE DARK CHICKEN AGAIN!”
I glance out the window at the vaguely chicken-shaped object that is in fact a black plastic bag snagged on some fencing, “Huh. Hey, Maj? That chicken looks Hefty-ish.”
Maj stares out the window at the not-so-much chicken, “What? Hmmm. Well, that’s embarrassing.”
Mark does a slow-clap of sarcasm, “Way to poultry-spot, Maj.”
She returns the sarcasm, “Well, Daddy . . . at least I’m not a folding man.”
Mark is startled and he turns to me, “Wait. She just made that sound like an insult.”
“And stop clapping, Daddy. Hands on the wheel, young man.”