A Family Moment . . .

Family projects much like trading stock on the Wall Street floor culminates as a lesson in organized chaos. Take this morning for instance, which involved the disassembly and transport of one bunk-bed down one flight of steps. Other furniture, clothes, bins, toys, and debris were involved as well but despite popular opinion were not responsible for what happened:

Take me down to Paradiiise Cit-ay, where the Graass is Green and girls are Pret-ay.” As he sings Ryan’s head bobs like an excited parakeet. Cleaned of all the mattresses, spring boards, and sheets, the rectangular bed frame sits upon piles of blankets and matted clothes like a great animal skeleton left to dry among the rocks. Shannon, Ryan, and I are assigned to prep the room for its eventual cleaning while the others finish breakfast. Our first task involved removing the bed from the room and into the hallway. We used to have games like these in school, which required the player to rearrange square slots to make a picture. Pushing the bed through the doorway would prove to require just as much manipulation without the benefit of finger-sized tiles.

“Ryan, turn the bed the other way,” Shannon says, helping the still-bobbing Ryan to turn the frame on its side. He mouths a sibilant hiss – more lyrics to a Gun n’ Roses song perhaps – and we stare at the door and the head boards.

Ryan is one of the more interesting members of my family.  A puzzle-solving jock, Ryan would complete a Rubix cube through an imaginative and sometimes impractical feat of engineering (i.e. building a paper-mache robot to solve it for him).  Although not exactly carefree — intense and serious with respect to his homework — he nevertheless dons an honest grin wherever he travels, which can bask even the most dreary places with brilliance.  He cannot sing worth a damn though, and so I retain the view that we failed to dissemble the bed because his voice somehow stabbed at our minds like the cruel knife of some fell beast.  If only he had chosen a better song . . .

“. . . AND THE Girls arrrrre soooo Prett-ay!  Uh, guys, is it going to fit?” Ryan asks.

“Let’s just push it,” Shannon suggests heaving the bed on his shoulders.

“Wait, hold on guys,” I shout as anxiety settles, disliking their speed and needing to think “Do we have a plan? We’re not just going to smash this bed to bits. Why not take it apart first.” Sean walks out of the shower and stares at the – little – progress we’ve made. I see a smirk and do not relish it.

You see, Shannon and I possess two contrary perspectives on this job. If we both were assigned to solve a Rubix cube, I would relish the challenge, failing in perpetuity until I eventually solved the puzzle or . . . researched the answer online. Meanwhile Shannon would throw the cube against the wall, shatter the block into several smaller cubes, and then reassemble a solved puzzle with the remaining fragments.

Naw,” Shannon says, “let’s just push it. With these guns, we’ll get it out of that door in no time.” At the mention of “guns” he rolls up his arms and gives his muscles a kiss.

Yeah, and breaking the door in the process.”

What are you two losers doing?” asks Sean, the budding lawyer and rising businessman in the family.


Like all of my siblings, Sean is quite brilliant but relies too often on his cleverness to see him through. Sean’s method of solving the cube involves lots of steam and rearranging the square stickers. Documentation would then be produced as proof, signed in triplicate, witnessed, ratified, and quickly vetoed by any and all who know him.

“What type of screws are those? They look star-shaped to me . . .”

The noise of groans and creaking wood signals Dad’s approach up the stairs. He looks in and asks us how we are doing.We need a Philips,” Ryan answers.

“But it’s square.”

“So? Shan, we need a square-shaped Philips.”

Do they come in that shape?” I ask.

No.”

“Boys, hold on for a second . . .” Dad says from the doorway. Now I know two very important things at this moment. Dad is becoming impatient, and if everyone does not turn to listen to Dad soon (which has a small chance of occurring) or this bed is not removed quickly (which judging from our mediocre teamwork skills will not occur), Dad will become very angry very soon. I can appreciate his consternation, yet after twenty-plus years of family chaos, he continues to ask absurd questions like “Why aren’t the shoes put away?” “Why is the house a mess?” or “Why can’t we throw anything away?”

In truth, I have no satisfactory answer for the last question. When I was a kid, I watched a lot of MacGyver, and so the thought of being trapped in a small room without an ample supply of paper clips, bleach, or D-batteries frightens me. Dad simply sees trash and useless boxes. Yet I realize that as soon as we throw away the useless box and trash, we will immediately require a large cardboard container to infiltrate a government lab or fight off swarms of killer bees. Unfortunately these insights rarely assuage my father’s disposition and only serve to convince him that I was dropped as a baby.

“I see slots. Can’t we just lift up the slots?” I ask.

That star-shaped screw is in the way,” Sean notices. “We have to get that out first before . . .”

“Square-shaped and I still say we should push it.”

“We can’t get it out with those legs! Do you want to break it?”

“Honestly? Yes.”

“AHHHHHHH!” Kevin screams from somewhere in the hallway. “Wasp! There’s a wasp here!”

“So kill it,” Shannon shouts. “Stop screamin’ and man up!” Shan’s remarks are too late though as Kevin frantically whacks at the insect with his hat. The wasp does not appear to enjoy this game, buzzing towards his attackers as each swat seems to agitate it. After several minutes it finally lands on the wall, when Kevin picks up a statue of St. Patrick and smashes the wasp, leaving a messy bug-stain on the white walls.

Kevin’s brilliance is often overshadowed by his impatience. He could probably solve the Rubix cube within a few hours, only to give up within two or three turns of the solution and build his own. In honor of Ford — his favorite car company — the cube would comfortably seat eight, offer large cup holders, and consume a half-gallon of gas with every turn.

Not St. Patrick!” Mom screams on route to the laundry room, dirty towels, collared shirts, and bright boxers piled high in her arms. Even on the most beautiful of days, Mom can become a bit superstitious. If at that very hour Ireland had sudden sank beneath the waves or Patrick Dempsy stubbed his toe, you could be sure that Kevin would receive the blame.

“That’s blasphemy and a curse against Ireland!” Kevin relaxes some. She did not see the stain yet.

“Well you know Mom, he WAS quite effective against snakes,” Shannon adds from the bedroom.

“I don’t care. He could have damaged it.”

“Did you know that when the devil visited Ireland, he saw a country rich with beer, brawls, and sin that he and his serpents left as soon as they could saying, ‘These poor bastards have enough problems.’”

“Watch your mouth! Mike, did you hear what your son said?!”

“Sean! You talk again like that and I’ll shove my foot up your ass!”

“Mike!”

“Ok listen, there are too many bosses here . . .” Dad says as a way of changing the subject and focusing the efforts. “So everyone just shutup and listen for a while. Ryan and Shannon, grab that cabinet there and . . .” A pitched scream reverberates from the room interrupting Dad’s attempt at crowd control and coordinated cabinet moving. Kevin quietly shuffles out of the room.

“Look what those boys did!” Mom shouts. “They left bug stains on the walls. We just had it painted too. Oh I’m going to kill your sons!”

“What did we do?” shout Ryan, Sean, and Dad together.

“I don’t know but I’m sure it’s your fault! Where’s Kevin?!”

“I’m sorry!” moans a voice hidden deep within the bowels of the hall closet.

All while this I going on, Ryan, Sean, and I feverishly try to disassemble the bed, which is proving quite impervious to our efforts. Dad by this time is becoming more and more agitated like a volcano seconds before it annihilates a small Greek village.

Like Kevin, Dad possesses little patience for games of any kind. He would effectively delegate the task of solving a Rubix cube to one of us, or simply ignore the stupid thing altogether in favor of a game of golf. FUN FACT: after twenty years of playing the game, I have broken four club heads, lost thousands of balls, dug my own weight in divots, maimed several living things with a golf ball — including my sister-in-law (sorry again Tiff) — and played accessory to one dead goose.

Suddenly he bellows: “Listen, who’s the boss here?! We have too many bosses IN THIS ROOM! Who’s the boss?! It’s not you, or you, or you. It’s . . . ”

“Tony Danza?”

This remark simply knocks us on the floor with laughter. Shannon perfectly executes the remark, which with a fraction less timing would have sent Dad stomping off in utter disgust and frustration. Instead he smiles at the lunacy of the whole morning and asks us to move the dresser from the room. We continue to chatter but at a volume few decibels lower. Eventually we bend, shift, and transmutate the whole frame from the room, and – somehow – fit the entire monstrosity out the front door. It will never play the piano again, but someone one day may sleep on it without much discomfort. The room empties from that point quickly enough, and afterwards we all separate to sofas, couches, and beds for an early afternoon nap.