The Curse of Curfew

My eyelids snap open at exactly twenty-two hundred hours, responding to an inner alarm that sounds whenever a daughter is out on a school night. Curfew has darkened the land, and any children caught outside the perimeter are now subject to arrest and the torture of telephone deprivation.

I pad down the stairs to my daughter's bedroom. Every light is on and her stereo is blaring, sure signs that she's not home. It is now two minutes after ten o'clock, and normally I'd call 911 but those people got surly with me last time because I phoned it in as a "possible child abduction" due to the fact that my daughter's date wore an earring.

I glance out the window and freeze: The boy's car is in the driveway.

Well okay. I flick on the outside lights, helpfully flipping them on and off a few dozen times so the occupants of the car will know what time it is.

There's no reaction. I peer at the vehicle, but the windows are dark and pitiless, coated with the light mist that is falling. What are they doing out there?

Well, that was a bad question to ask myself! I try another burst of light-flicking just to give myself something to do, but I know the only way I'm going to be able to settle this matter is to go out there, knock politely on the window, and spray the two of them with the garden hose.

I'm not garbed for such a diplomatic undertaking--I have on a pair of pajama bottoms and nothing else. What I need is some protection against the elements, something waterproof. With chains and hooks hanging from it. And grenades.

Okay. I open the coat closet and discover where my son put all the junk last time he cleaned the living room. I could try my own bedroom closet, but I don't want to take the time. For my bare feet I find a pair of duck slippers--big, puffy clunkers with plastic duck heads on them. There are no umbrellas, but I do find a hat--one of those hunter caps with ear flaps that tie under the chin. This one is an incandescent orange so that fellow hunters won't think that maybe they ought to open fire on the thing wearing the ear flaps in case it is a deer. The hat is so bright it seems to be giving off its own light--I look like a cross between Elmer Fudd and a road flare.

Naturally, even though I am searching through a coat closet in my house, none of my own coats are available. I finally decide to struggle into one of my kids' old jackets, a nylon job with a picture of Daffy Duck on the back. I have something of an outdoors motif going.

I survey myself in the mirror before heading out. Regrettably, the tight hem of the jacket falls a couple inches short of bridging the gap to my pajama waist, creating the odd illusion that my stomach sticks out in a roll of belly flesh. I toy with the idea of tying the ear flaps under my chin, but decide not to go that formal. I grab a flashlight and step out into the rain.

I'd forgotten that my duck slippers quack when I walk in them, which threatens to ruin the element of surprise. Actually, it is less a "quack" then a "wheeze," as if the ducks are lifetime smokers.

I bang on the implacable car windows, wait a moment, and then yank the door open, the car alarm splitting the night air.

No one is inside.

When I get back into the house, my daughter and her date are standing in the kitchen, looking concerned as I quack in out of the rain.

"Hi!" I call cheerfully.

"I just needed to use the telephone..." the boy stammers uncertainly. With a quick glance back at my daughter, he scampers out of the house.

"Oh, Dad, how could you do that?" my daughter demands, whirling and bolting from the room.

I stand there in the middle of the kitchen, scratching my head.

How could I do WHAT?

[ by W. Bruce Cameron © 2002 - 2003 ( -- { used with permission } ]


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