Chance Mateer is a character in two of my novel drafts. In The Essential Guide to Supervillainy, he is in the first semester of his senior year. When my friend Kit Campbell and I decided to write a collaborative story, Chance was who I turned to as my point of view character. Third Fencepost, finished last month, is the story of Chance’s summer before his senior year as he works at Camp Kinnickinnick with his best friend Ali Kendall. Chance is impulsive, daring, mischievous and musical. He’s also rather obsessed with zombies and pranks. He’s also a pretty amazing older brother, if brothers are to be measured by the forts they build and homemade paintball games. Over the last several years, I’ve had a chance to write a number of short scenes and stories with Chance and his family (I extend my somewhat apologies for that pun). The one I picked out for today features him at his youngest with his biggest hero of all–his dad.
A Lesson in Waiting
Something fluffy touched the top of his head. It tickled. Chance looked up and the fluffy thing hit his back on the way down. He spun around in time to see Dad picking up a small stuffed bird. He jumped to catch the toy, but Dad lifted it up out of reach. Only when Chance stood still did the toy come back down within reach. It sat on his head again.
“Why are you putting a bird on my head, Dad?”
Dad bent over to whisper in Chance’s ear. His hair on his chin tickled. “It makes a stylish hat.”
“Cool. It makes a cool hat.”
Chance giggled. “You’re silly.” The bird bounced on his head, but it didn’t fall.
Dad bowed. He stood up and spread his arms wide. “No, I am the king of silly,” he roared. Then he snatched Chance up in his arms and tickled him. The bird flew down to the kitchen floor. The boy’s feet kicked wildly.
“No! No! No tickles. No tickle monster. Daddyyyyyy!” Chance shrieks stopped as he lost the breath to talk. Helpless, he could only laugh.
He was flipped upside down in another tickle attack. Dad kissed his nose. Then Chance was set back down on his footied pajama feet. He gasped out a few more giggles. He stepped away, watching those fingers that could attack again at any time.
“Tickle monster is gone.” Dad coughed into his elbow, looking tired.
Chance flinched. He hated that sound. His foot bumped into something. The bird. He picked it up, trying to put it back on his head. “Why the bird?”
“To teach you patience, young Jedi.”
“Can I have a lightsaber?” He bounced. The bird fell again.
His dad put it on his head again. “No. But if you hold still and don’t give the bird a headache, you can have chocolate chip pancakes. Remember, no bird falling.”
Chance took a deep breath and clamped his mouth shut. His cheeks puffed out. He could do this. He was four. Almost five. He could wait and not make the bird fall. He could. At swimming he could hold his breath the best. Twenty seconds once. He closed his eyes. Stuff was buzzing.
“Jedi are allowed to breathe.”