Waltzing out of the monastery

The last man I dated with any conviction before the appearance of The Troubadour in this story, over a period of a bit less than a month, called my house “the monastery,” though I’m certain he meant it as a criticism and I took it as a compliment.

I did live in a monastery, in a life in service to a state of self-reliance and the slow practice of learning to write and to make music and to keep the world in fine mechanical and administrative fettle, but that’s a life now mutating into something new and often inexplicable.

Almost from the start, she was changing everything. Continue reading

Particularly rude mechanicals

Little Miss appeared in the library on her usual morning schedule, as I was just waking up on the couch, doing a quick morning crawl through the world news on my tablet, and unceremoniously plopped Foxy next to me. I am not fond of Foxy, a toy seemingly designed by someone with both a desire to make me unhappy and an uncanny understanding of exactly how to produce this feeling, and I turned back, still bleary from sleep, to see the threadbare robot fox perched beside me and Little Miss staring down at me.

“Good morning, Little Miss,” I said. She said nothing, but reached for the spot on the back of Foxy that spurs it into a terrifying display of dysfunction. The mechanism that once tipped a threadbare, floor-grimy head in a grim impersonation of life is long since broken, so it just grinds, horribly, and clatters as broken plastic gears clash deep in its little body. Then, firing up ancient silicon, it plays back random strings of low-fi, distorted sounds.

“Wow! Wow! Wow!” it shrills, followed by “Wocka! Wocka! Wocka! AY-ow! AY-ow!” in the kind of bad human beatboxing beloved of the kind of annoying people who believe their brand of annoying to be clever and ironic instead of, well—

“That’s nice, hon, but wouldn’t you prefer to play a game instead?” Continue reading

The snowflake in the blizzard

“What do you want to do?” I asked Little Miss. It was our first time on our own, after a long stretch of getting to know each other in the company of The Troubadour, and it’d been a good while since I’d had a child in single-digit years in my jurisdiction, so I had a little bit of mental recalibration to do. I caught the little glint in her eye presaging an expression of interest in tiresome pre-processed media, and preemptively added “…that’s not TV.”

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Bad with children

It’s a funny thing. You hit 48, well into that territory at which you can be definitively described as “pushing” fifty, and you’re gay, you’re content with an ordered, adventurous, artistic life of one new challenge after another, and suddenly—everything’s new, and different.

It was a rough start.

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Working at the lexicon

Little Miss has gotten wise.

“Hon, would you please take three and a half big bites of your quesadilla and eat one more piece of your turkey “sausage” before you go play with Ashley and Madison in the pavilion?”

“The sausage is too spicy.”

“If your mouth catches fire, I will get a fire hose and heroically extinguish the conflagration.”

“The confla-whaaa?”

“Conflagration. It means an out-of-control and thoroughly dramatic collaboration of flames.”

A petite head tilts, accompanied by the semiotics of “huh?” It is a similar display to when Little Miss’s new friend pointed to Gentleman Caller and asked, innocently, if that was Daddy, if was I her grandfather, but I am nothing if not a master of restraint.

“Big fire, sweetpea.”


“You need to eat that so you’ll have energy to play. Also, if you leave food behind, a bear may wander into the camp and eat the rest of your breakfast.”

A small eyebrow lifted gently in a way that made me happy for all mankind.

“I know you’re the actual bear, Joebie.”

“Do you, now?”

“Yes. Joebie?”


“How do I eat three and a half bites? What’s a half bite?”

“An interrupted bite. Like you started and then were distracted by a sudden insight into Wittgenstein.”

The tilt returns, then levels out.

“I like when you make jokes, Joebie.”

“I’m absolutely one hundred and eleven percent serious at all time, sweetpea.”

Eyes roll. It’s a new skill, but she shows promise. Middle school is going to be terrifying.

“Umm, Joebie?”


“Did a bear wander into camp and eat the rest of my cotton candy?”

“I’m afraid so. We’re all lucky to have survived!”


“I think I see Ashley and Madison getting on their scooters, sugarhoof. Perhaps you should join their entourage.”

“Entour-whaaa?” she starts to say, but takes off instead to join a scooter gang.

Every day is renewed, and renewing.

©2017 Joe Belknap Wall