An unemployed stay-at-home dad who opens the paper one morning to find he is running for congress; a young man struggling to hold onto a life that is slipping away while meeting the love of his life; and a crazy old man who couldn't care about any of this all cross paths in Christopher Profeta's debut novel, Life in Pieces, to show that we are never too old to come of age.
On Target by Christopher Profeta
Since the release of my debut novel, Life in Pieces, several people have asked me if the main character is at all based on me. True, he is unemployed and I work part time, nights and weekends. True, we are both stay-at-home-dads. And true, we both have been known to lose our temper when faced with the stresses of such a situation.
But I have never opened the paper to read an article in which I learned I was running for congress.
Still, the idea that so many people think this character is a fictional version of me is interesting. As a result, I thought it would be fun to take this opportunity to share some of my experiences as a stay-at-home-dad.
When I’m at home with my kids during the day, the afternoon hours can sometimes drag. When I feel like we’ve learned all we can from “Mickey Mouse Club House,” that my two and three year olds have learned how to count backwards from one hundred by intervals of 7 while skipping all prime numbers in order to help Daisy Duck get to the carnival on time, we like to go out to Target for some more interactive fun.
We used to go down to our public library, but since I’ve racked up a considerable amount of fines by turning in The Very Lonely Firefly and Horton Hears a Hoo months after they were supposed to be back, I have a growing fear that I am no longer allowed to set foot in there. Instead, we spend a lot of time sitting in the Target book aisle reading board books, being very careful not to bend the spines or chew on the pages too much. Now that my molars have come in, though, I usually don’t do too much chewing anymore.
When we’ve read as much as we can, we go over to the toy aisles and play with the full sized Buzz Lightyear and Sheriff Woody dolls still in the package. My daughters love to pull the string and press the buttons to hear their favorite catch phrases, and I’m always amazed that they never tire of the limited selection of expressions they get without pulling the hidden plastic tab that releases the full capabilities of the toy’s arsenal of slogans. After about forty five minutes, some cranky elderly worker will walk past us with a dirty look, and I’ll round up the girls and move down to the wall of giant TVs.
On the way, we stop in the camping section, grab a folding chair, and set it up right in front of some TV showing scenes from various children’s movies, then sit and enjoy the show. The Target Team Members don’t like that too much either, but when they threaten to get a manager, I tell them I’m planning on buying one of the more expensive televisions, and I just need to test it out first, like trying on a pair of pants. When they attempt to remove us anyway, my youngest daughter does that thing she’s done ever since she was born where she screams with a volume and tone that an adult might if they were being assaulted in a dark alley behind a thumping night club, and they usually leave us alone pretty quickly.
The Target Team knows that cry well, as I will often unleash it on them when some old woman in front of me in the checkout line is holding things up with her expired coupons, or when the pharmacy is giving me a hard time about some prescription not being covered by my insurance. There’s nothing like that child’s scream to get people moving.
Eventually we’ll get tired of the electronics department and head over to play fashion show with the clothes. We load up the cart and head to the dressing room where I end up playing ring master to two girls trying on frilly dresses and leopard print pants in a two foot by two foot room for about twenty minutes.
By the time they get tired, it’s time to go home and start dinner. Despite the best efforts of the Target employees, with their dirty looks and shaking heads as I leave the store, I do not feel bad at all for not buying anything. I leave there with happy kids, and you can’t put a price tag on a satisfied child.
When I think about the realizations the main character in Life in Pieces comes to in the end – that family is more important than anything; that the stresses of life are what make it enjoyable; and that there’s nothing wrong with doing whatever you have to do to get by – maybe we are more alike than I realized.
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