So I’m downstairs working around 12:30 AM, and I hear a beep. Hmm. Wait. Ah: beep. It’s a smoke alarm dying. We have about 12. First job: isolate which floor. I went downstairs, listened: nothing. Went to the living room. BEEP. It was upstairs. But where? And why do they always go off when you don’t want to spend the time changing the battery? It’s like shoelaces! They never just break on their own in the closet, but snap when you’re putting on your shoes and need them the most! Have you ever noticed that? Isn’t it ironic? 

Sorry. Have to air out the inner hack ever so often. Eventually I deduced that he alarm was in my studio, and that brought up a new problem: the only chair in my studio is a swivel chair, and if I stand on it at 12:30 AM I will surely end up falling over and cracking my scalp on the doorframe. And then there’s blood. Everywhere. Stitches. Scars. So I got a stepstool from (G)Nat’s bathroom and replaced the battery – but not before my wife came out from slumber and asked if I was going to stop the beep – oh. Very good, well, carry on.

I went downstairs, set the alarm, watched a little TV – then remembered that I should turn off the water feature. Opened the back door. BEEP went the alarm. Ahh, dammit. Ran downstairs, turned off the alarm. Went outside to turn off the water feature. While coming back to the house I saw my wife appear in the kitchen, arms upraised in the universal gesture of exasperation with husbands. She was upstairs by the time I got back inside. A few minutes later I heard a strange thumping upstairs, as if someone was moving (G)Nat’s step-stool around.

In her sleepy state she believed the alarm beep was the smoke detector beep, and that I had not fixed the latter, and she’d have to do it herself. She was pleased to learn it was only the alarm.

I didn’t dare test the smoke detector. That’s okay. In all probability we won’t have a break-in and we won’t have a fire. But BY GOD WE ARE READY FOR ANYTHING.

This morning my wife asked why I didn’t change all the batteries at the same time when the last alarm went dead. There’s really no answer to that question, is there. Because I didn’t? Because I’m lazy? Because I wanted to save batteries and let them fail individually, instead of using them before their time and adding more toxic chemicals to the landfills?

The real answer – because I need the 9Vs for my guitar pedals – would not have flown.

After some morning work it was off to the Dentist’s, aka the Happy Sleep Place. This was just a fitting for some periodontal-health-promoting mouthguards. (Now that I think of it, it should be perio-dental, just as earthquakes should be tremblers, not temblors. But there is no logic in these things.) The end result will be more Happy Sleep and much scraping, but when it’s all done I’ll be able to slosh liquid oxygen around my mouth without the slightest twinge.

Back home to blog and finish the column. Then I took some “personal time” – as opposed to collective time, perhaps – and observed (G)Nat’s Track and Field event at school. She wasn’t looking forward to the event, as she is not the most athletic child on the planet. I understand; I was the same way, and I dreaded gym. It was nothing but things I couldn’t do well. She likes gym, but running around the entire park without stopping loomed large as a Thing to Be Dreaded. Again, I understood; the 600-yard dash was the worst event of the year, a mix of side-stabbing pain, dead-leg agony and the inevitably humiliation that came from dragging your pudgy butt over the line after all the fleet-footed Wheaties-eating all-American kids had made it over the line. The birds came down and dipped beaks in their sweat and flew off singing Mozart. The last kid got what? Pity claps.

It made her very happy to see me. Odd how expectations change – my mom never came to watch, even though she was the model of an Involved Parent. My dad? He was working. Dads didn’t leave work to watch their kids kick a soccer ball. For that matter, kids didn’t kick soccer balls. I don’t think they had soccer balls in North Dakota until 1981; it was brought in on a special train and placed behind glass and people got to walk around it and get close, if they felt comfortable, and become accustomed to its strange surface. It is faceted, yet round. It doesn’t seem like a gateway sport that leads inevitably to socialism. Maybe we should give it a try. No, we had baseballs. Hard, unforgiving, painful, American baseballs. When it came at your head you got out of the way. Now in the space of a single generation we’ve trained the young to stick their heads into the path of an oncoming ball.

She did as well as expected – second place in the soccer-ball kick, a “participant” in the 500-yard-dash. Adults use that word to boost self-esteem, but the kids know what it means. “I got a loser ribbon,” she said.

“Well, that’s because you didn’t win,” I said. I wasn’t going to give her the widdle-sweetums-did-her-best speech, because she’d given up on the 500-yard dash early on, and she knew it.

“I know,” she sighed. “I was out of energy.” Then she got an idea. “You said to use all my energy on the 50 yard dash. That’s why I didn’t have any energy left.”

I had. I told her to give it her all. The voice of experience, handing down lessons. The 50-yard squirt was the only race in which I’d done reasonably well. But I say that with no evidence, really; as far as I know it’s based on one first-place finish, and I only won because I got off the blocks better than anyone else, and was up against the two kids in class who were larger pails of lard than I was. For whatever reason, the idea that I was Good at the 50-Yard-Dash has persisted for decades. No – amend that. I was chosen to be in a track meet in grade school, and it was the relay race. That required dashing, so I must have impressed someone. I remember the meet because I fumbled the hand-off, and we lost. Because of me.

I learned a lot of important lessons about teamwork that day: there will always be a loser, and sometimes it will be you. Best to work alone.  Perhaps this is why authors plagiarize. They think they’re quoting imaginary colleagues.

So what else is new? The dog lost five pounds. Put another way, the dog stopped throwing up. If you recall previous Bleats, I got a call on my cell while touring the Three Caballeros ride in the Mayan Pyramid in the Epcot Mexican Village  - it was the housesitter, telling us that Jasper had been barfing up bad potato. She wasn’t kidding – he hurled ten times while we were gone, and was gakking for half the week. I put him on a mild diet of hamburger and rice, and frankly for a day or two I wondered if he’d be borne off to Dog Valhalla. He could barely make it down the block for a walk last Tuesday. But he’s bright and cheerful now, back to normal. And he expects hamburger and rice for all his meals.

Tonight I gave him the old stuff, the pressed-nodules of grain infused with flesh-flavor, the stuff he’s happily gobbled for years. He looked at it, then looked up at me. I knew what he meant.

You know why dogs don’t talk? Because they don’t have to.

New hardy-har-har dead-tree column up; check the link on the sidebar. (It goes to the main page. Every hit counts.) is up and running as well. I may take Monday off, since we have holiday plans, but next week will see a few new features: Since summer’s begun, that means the return of the Motel site, and if all goes well there will be a massive site devoted to 1950s BB-gun ads as well. See you then, and have a fine weekend.

I'd write something about Memorial Day, but that presumes you need to be reminded. I'll raise a glass for yours. Raise a glass for mine. They're all ours, in the end.