From behind the barricaded door, I could hear Dad coming up the steps. With his big, rough hands, he was the go-to guy when a jar had to be opened, and he could chin himself one-handed. My father was not in the habit of spanking me, especially now that I was a teenager, but I had really gone over the line with Mom, and I’d heard her tell him to let me have it. I was scared.
He got to my bedroom door, knocked, and said quietly, “I’m not gonna hurt you.” So I pulled the desk away, and he came in. “I’m going to start clapping my hands, and you’re going to start crying.” And I did! When he stopped, we sat down and talked. He knew why Mom was mad – I had stayed out late the night before and she had locked me out, which meant she’d had to get up and let me in when I finally got home. She didn’t upbraid me then, but the next day after school said, “Next time I won’t let you back in!”
I’d retorted, “Great! No more of your runny scrambled eggs for breakfast!” She chased me up to my room with a broomstick in her hand. I was able to turn her around and push her out the door. And then, of course, she said it: “Wait till your father comes home!”
So Dad listened to the way I told the story, and said, “It’s only a year till you’re eighteen. After that, you’re free. Do you think you can behave till then?” I said yes. “Your mother is just doing her job.” He sighed. “And I suppose you’re doing yours. But you don’t have to insult her.” I nodded.
He put his hand on my shoulder, stood up, and went back downstairs. I heard Mom tell him, “You didn’t have to hit him so hard!”
Dinner was tense, silent. Then, out of nowhere, Dad said, “I bought a wooden whistle.”
Mom groaned, and said under her breath, “Not again.” I didn’t understand.
“But it wooden whistle,” Dad went on. Ah, so it was a joke. A pretty lame one, I thought.
“So I bought a steel whistle. And it steel wooden whistle.” Mom and I looked at each other; why was he doing this?
Dad ate quietly for a while. “Is that it?” I asked.
Mom sighed and said, “No, I’m afraid not.”
After a bit, Dad finished it off. “So I bought a tin whistle, and now I tin whistle.”
Mom shook her head and I jeered even while I was laughing. Actually, we all laughed.