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MUSED Literary Magazine.
Non Fiction

Remember, Dope, Don't Drown Junior

Bill Diamond

Many wives consider their husbands as innately irresponsible. After a while, men shouldn´t be shocked by this. Sometimes you just can’t help it.

Walking along the open cement path near the Jefferson Memorial, Kim and I were enjoying our annual cherry blossom visit. On a blue-sky March morning, the sun was burning off a drifting, light haze. The cherry trees lining the Tidal Basin were vibrant and ephemerally beautiful. Nestled among the Washington, Jefferson, King and Franklin Roosevelt Memorials, the park evinced the breathtaking best of the nation’s capital. At eighty percent of peak, the delicate pink-white blossoms reflected in the mirror of the still water.

With a warm Spring, the blossoms were ahead of schedule. This, combined with the early hour, meant there were minimal tour buses or crowds.

A young family of four was on the path ahead. The father pushed an infant in a stroller, while the mother held her daughter’s hand. Pulling a camera from the stroller, the mother stepped toward a tree with a low-hanging branch and falling petals. She began to pose her gaily attired daughter against the scenic backdrop. As she did, she turned and casually, but loudly, said to her husband, "Stu, don´t drop him into the water."

Although it was stated in a matter-of-fact tone, the alarming comment startled me. I spun around expecting to see a psychotic father dangling the infant precariously over the dark water of the Tidal Basin. Nothing of the sort was happening. Stu was pushing the stroller safely back from the edge of the wide walkway. Junior was gurgling happily, apparently oblivious to any looming threat.

I turned back to the mother. While taking pictures of her four year old daughter, she kept vigilantly glancing at her husband and son. You could almost see her ‘mom ears’ at full alert, ready to detect the sound of a telltale splash.

Shaking my head in disbelief, I was intrigued by the necessity of such a superfluous admonition. Is this something a guy really needs to be reminded of? The statement seemed akin to me going to the office and loudly announcing, "Remember, don´t commit arson today!".

Stunningly, the father displayed no reaction to this gratuitous directive. Ignoring the comment like he would a spam email, he continued pushing the stroller. With dawning realization, I recognized the response. It’s the prudent reaction of every man who has had extensive interactions with his spouse. Having learned it was pointless to object to the implied negligence, Stu had decided to ignore the comment rather than engage in a lengthy no-win discussion. He had adopted the silent non-response that was neither defensive argument, nor tacit agreement.

To confirm this analysis, I made a closer assessment of the family. Since the young girl was at least four years old, this couldn’t just be the mother’s over-protective ‘first baby syndrome’. Searching my brain, I couldn’t remember hearing any news reports about a rash of baby dunkings in the Tidal Basin that might have triggered the remark.

Stu looked perfectly normal. There was nothing sinister in his attire. He wore standard, tourist-issue cargo pants and a blue polo shirt (no all black, or camouflaged, terrorist fatigues). He was burdened with all the baby care and protective paraphernalia of the typical twenty-first century American family. I couldn´t detect any evil glint that indicated a perverse curiosity to see whether his infant son might float. By all appearances, he was a dependable, model father. Stu was even wearing a fanny pack. In front! There aren´t many certainties in dysfunctional Washington, DC these days. But, surely one of them is that no one wearing a fanny pack dumps their baby in the Tidal Basin.

All this time, Mom was assiduously dividing her suspicious attention between her daughter and the men of her tribe. She had the look of a classic Washington Type A personality. I could easily imagine "Super Mom" tattooed on her Pilates sculpted bicep.

I became offended on behalf of Stu, and all men, at the assumption that they were feckless or mentally deficient. I could barely contain myself from asking Major Mom for more details, if only to hear her explanation: ‘Excuse me ma´am, I couldn´t help but notice that you just warned your husband not to do something that no rational person would do. Could you satisfy my curiosity and explain your thinking? What was it?’

A. “I think he almost does things like that all the time. Just yesterday, I thought he was about to hand li´l Joey a set of Ginsu steak knives to play with."
B. "I say things like this a thousand times a day, just to be safe. Then, if something does happen, I can say, ´I told you not to do that´."
C. "He´s a man, and as all women know, none of them have the brains they were born with."
D. “I heard about something like that happening once. I want to make sure Stu worries constantly about things that have a minuscule possibility of ever happening.”
E. All of the above.

I was ready to pose the question when Kim turned and nonchalantly said, "Bill, don´t walk into any tree branches."

Huh? My mouth dropped open in a puzzled expression. I was nowhere near any trees! And, in my entire life, I had never walked into a tree branch. Even a nearby squirrel slapped his head, as if he couldn’t believe anyone would say that. I prepared to give a tart reply and a vigorous defense of my common sense. Then, my eyes connected with Stu, who had heard the comment. We both raised our eyebrows and shrugged in a shared ‘what are you gonna do’ moment. I decided to ignore the remark and kept walking toward the Jefferson Memorial. I wondered if the great Founding Father was ever similarly baffled by women.