Tag Archives: parenting

The Life and Times of Mr. Quack Quack


Most of us remember that one special toy we had when we were little that bordered on being an imaginary friend. Mine was a plushie dinosaur I named Scary because my parents told me that “Dino” wasn’t creative enough. (He’s still around, in fact. They knew how to make toys in the 80’s.)

When Aurie, my oldest, was about two, she fixated on a giant pink hippo chair that she named Spiderman:

Hippo Spiderman

Not my kid, but was our hippo…

Giant pink hippo Spiderman’s demise had less to do with a manufacturing error and more to do with a feline companion we had at the time. Kitty, being a cat and thus evil as the nine hells, deluged sloppy turds, turds that smelled like week-old garbage tossed in salmon and expired mayo, all over Spiderman’s poor plushie lap. (Right about where that kid is, actually…)

It was a horrific end even Stan Lee couldn’t have seen coming.

I remember sneaking out in the middle of the night and hauling Spiderman’s big, dead, pink hippo ass to one of the apartment complex’s industrial sized dumpsters. The only onlookers at his interment were drug dealers and college students right out of a Kevin Smith movie, and these trenchcoated denizens of the ghetto regarded me strangely as I committed the atrocious act of consigning my daughter’s most prized possession to oblivion. So much shame.

Then, in the morning, came the inevitable question.

“Daddy? Where’s Spiderman?”

So Daddy (hey, that’s me!) went out and bought little Aurie a real Spiderman chair! Spiderman chair 2.0 said all kinds of interesting phrases when you sat down… in his lap. -.-

spiderman chair 2.0

Come sit on me! I’m not creepy or anything…

Little Aurie pretended to be happy, but it wasn’t really the same. Em and I, of course, were traumatized by this toy (he kept talking about his web balls!) that at first seemed like a viable replacement for pink hippo Spiderman but later reminded us of the kind of thing you’d see in the bargain section of a Fascinations Sensual Superstore.

A few months later, we moved out of the ghetto. Spiderman stayed there to “clean up the neighborhood”, and Aurie eventually forgot about him.

It was about this time that we bought Mr. Quack Quack. Aurie didn’t initially have that much of a connection to the toy, but Em and I pushed it. Em was afraid she was going to be into boys too early. I, ever the pragmatist, was more afraid that she was never going to find out that Spiderman is a total dweeb compared to Wolverine and Thor.

Spider Sense Wolvie

Spider sense tingling? Too late, bub…

And so it soon came to pass that Aurie had a Mrs. Quack Quack. And, for Easter, a Baby Quack Quack. A whole gaggle of Quack Quacks. She played house with them. A few years passed, and Kiera began to play with them too. Then came Mr. Gram, our Golden Retriever who made it his mission in life to misappropriate these beloved iconic family trophies for chew toys. Em patched a seam here, they went through the wash a few times, and Baby Quack Quack lost an eye to the dogs, but overall, I thought the Quack Quack family was a happy family.

Then, almost overnight, there were no more Quack Quacks about.

The other day, I heard from Em that Aurie, who is now in third grade, has a crush on some boy in her class. Apparently, he “makes her heart flutter”. That’s right. You heard me. Flutter.

This came a couple months after Aurie’s birthday, on which her grandmother gave her deodorant and a training bra. That’s right. You heard me. Deodorant and a training bra.

So, in what was probably a subconscious effort to ignore the real issue, I asked Aurie why I didn’t see her hanging out with Mr. Quack Quack anymore. Her answer astounded me, and I hope to God it isn’t some metaphor for how she sees our family life.

Aurie: Mr. Quack Quack? I go over to his house all the time, but he has plans.

Me: Plans?

Aurie: Yeah, that’s what he tells me. He always has plans. The last time I was there, he yelled at me in the Quack Quack language and chased me out with a mop!

Me: That wasn’t very nice of him, was it?

Aurie: It’s not his fault though, Daddy! Mr. Quack Quack is stressed. He has a hard life.

(At this point, I looked over at the plushie on the nightstand, and he appeared to be brooding… very Twilight Zone.)

Me: Umm… So, what’s so hard about Mr. Quack Quack’s life?

Aurie: It’s his situation, Daddy. He can’t find a job because he doesn’t speak English. All he can say is, “Quack quack!” No one understands him but Mrs. Quack Quack–he tells her things, and then she has to explain everything for him. But she can’t go to his job interviews with him because she works  all day and all night at a taco stand to pay the bills. They never see each other.

Me: Wait a minute! The Quack Quacks have bills?

Aurie: Yeah, they rent. They all live in a beaver damn with holes in it, and Mr. Quack Quack is always mopping. He needs a job really badly, but he can’t get one because all he can say is, “Quack quack!” Plus, he has to take care of his baby all day. Baby Quack Quack should be in kindergarten already, but they can’t afford it because he needs to go to a special school.

Me: Why does Baby Quack Quack need to go to a special school?

Aurie: (as if addressing the biggest idiot in existence) Because he doesn’t have eyes, Daddy. He needs to go to a special school like Helen Keller. Don’t you remember when we read about Helen Keller?

Me: …right.

Aurie: Mr. Quack Quack just needs some space right now. Besides, he’s a lousy cook. All he knows how to make are fishsticks and fish rolls, and Baby Quack Quack can’t stand them, but Baby Quack Quack can’t tell him because he doesn’t understand the Quack Quack language. Those mean beavers are probably going to make him a hobo soon, anyway. They’re going to break down his house with big logs because he can’t pay his bills.

Me: It sounds to me like Mr. Quack Quack needs to find a high paying gig so Mrs. Quack Quack can quit her job and take care of the baby. Couldn’t he interview at some place where the boss speaks the Quack Quack language?

Aurie: He tried that, but his car broke down on the way to the job. His car is a death trap.

Me: (curiously, and a little afraid) What’s wrong with his car?

Aurie: (after describing my p.o.s down to the last nut and bolt) So when his car broke down, everybody in traffic got mad at him. He shook his fist and yelled, “Quack quack! Quack quack! Quack quack!” But nobody understood him. Then the cops came and took him to jail. Mrs. Quack Quack had to leave the taco stand to bail him out, and that cost even more money. They didn’t even pay her in dollars that week. Just gross fish tacos. Baby Quack Quack pretended to eat them and then put them in the toilet…

This went on for another 20 minutes or so before I put Aurie to bed. I had been worried about training bras, deodorant, and a silly third grade crush. Apparently, I’d missed immigration, the recession, special education reform, kids not being able to communicate with their parents, and some really pissed off mafia beaver land lords.

Evil Beaver

Where’s the money, Quacks? Being late again might be… unhealthy for you. Oh yeah, and your fish rolls are shit.

Fat pink hippo Spiderman chair, wherever you are, I’m so sorry. There are no words. Please come back! :-((((


Filed under Family, Fantasy, My Writing, Rants, Science Fiction

Gearing Up for the Holiday Season


I wrote this rant last year around Christmas time when my wages were garnished and the Mayan apocalypse was looming overhead. I decided I’d dust it off and see if I could apply it to this year’s holiday season. While reading it again, however, I found myself amused at how much has changed in a year—and how much hasn’t.

Rather than fictionalizing the truth, which writers NEVER do, I’ve elected to leave it (mostly) intact and write retrospective side notes, which will probably render this post completely unreadable.


Let’s face it: times are tough, and some of us have the Great Recession Blues this holiday season. But in the spirit of Christmas, we should all stay positive. After all, just think of all the life experiences we’ll get to monologue about to our grandchildren when we’re nigh senile and losing that inevitable battle with diabetes. Screw how our grandparents had to live off green bean casseroles and bunny jerky from those rabbit drives during the Great Depression. We would-be survivors of the obesity epidemic are clearly the real victims here.

Below is a list (26 is a nice round number) of my favorite Great Recession gripes this (last) holiday season:

·       Vacuuming the house before guests arrive involves peeling the duct tape off your vacuum cleaner, shaking the dust into your dumpster through a hole in the bag you’re planning to reuse (and all because you don’t want to waste the other piece of duct tape that’s holding it to the filter), and sealing the jury-rigged contraption back together by tying off the original duct tape in your best approximation of a fisherman’s knot. (Yup. This is still the situation. Orecks suck, and those bags must be made of solid gold…)

·       Your Christmas present to your spouse is to promise to pay her medical bills by the end of 2012. (Yeah, that didn’t happen.)

·       Your strategy for putting up the Christmas lights involves signature moves from Assassin’s Creed because you can’t afford a ladder. This might even include trying to freefall head first into a haystack if you get really desperate. (Replace the Assassin’s Creed reference with a Borderlands reference, and it’s essentially the same scenario.)

·       The apocalypse for you doesn’t seem like it should include an alignment of celestial bodies—no, it’s what happens when all your major appliances at your rental property are functioning properly: dishwasher, disposal, refrigerator, washer, dryer, and microwave. You pray for this. (Still praying for this!)

·       You’ve nearly gotten in a car wreck due to mentally debating how someone as mediocre as Frank Sinatra could possibly have gotten so famous, especially half-drunkenly uttering “dupe de dupe and hickory dock” probably due to forgetting what he was singing about in the first place—this is because your kids want Christmas music 24/7, and your only on-the-go entertainment is your stock radio that occasionally flashes Satanic symbols across its digital clock because it is possessed. Your logic train derails, and you draw the conclusion that Frank Sinatra must have made a deal with the devil. (I’ve since discovered that the lounge singer responsible for “The Holiday Season” is not, in fact, Frank Sinatra. I take nothing back.)

·       You’re considering making a deal with the devil like Frank Sinatra. It’s okay if you too have to change your last name to include some kind of vice like avarice or gluttony. Daniel Avaricio. You can live with that.

·       You have to wrap and unwrap your dog before you can play with him. No, he isn’t one of those Japanese robotic dogs that your kids are demanding for Christmas. He just has an infection where his tail was recently amputated due to it being slammed in a door in a failed attempt to escape being dressed in a hoopskirt and put in a fashion show by one of your little darlings. After over a grand in medical bills, you keep flashing back to that scene from Gladiator in which the chiseled African dude puts the maggots in Maximus’ infected shoulder and declares, “They will clean it. Wait and see.” You even bring this up when there’s a fly buzzing around your bedroom one night. Your spouse looks at you like you’re crazy and hands you a fly swatter. Financial salvation is then splattered all over your wall. Normally, you’d be impressed with your critical hit against a flying enemy, but this time all you see are dollar signs… (Mr. Gram has since made a full recovery and is back to swimming on land and rearranging our couch cushions into a doggie fort.)

·       When you go to court over your debt, your creditors sympathize. (Heh. Now it’s just the student loans…)

·       Your desktop computer is old enough to have a name, a backstory, and an invented personality. You may even make excuses for her—I mean it—when it (she!) freezes. (Victoria’s still ticking. Where do you think I found this file?)

·       You still have a desktop computer.

·       You’re able to feel vindicated for continuing to use Netflix despite the price increase because paying for cable seems outrageous. Having your mom TIVO Knights of Mayhem on NatGeo is good enough for you. (I’m over Knights of Mayhem. I tried watching Full Metal Jousting too, but I just felt embarrassed for those guys.)

·       The majority of your entertainment comes from free sources on the Internet that you will never, ever sponsor or even bother to log in and “like”. But you gripe about the ads. (Don’t do this. Take the high road, and let your good example show me the error of my ways…)

·       You’re considering making Christmas presents for your family this year using simple but artsy designs cribbed from Etsy and the clearance rack at Michaels. (Done and done.)

·       You’ve spent more money on your pet’s medical bills in the last three months than you’ve spent on food. Yet you’re still fat. This is because the McValue menu is cheaper than buying groceries.

·       You’re considering going back to school for your doctorate just to avoid paying your student loans. (Taking four Spanish classes to earn my doctorate in English makes for an ironic deterrent.)

·       You’re considering quitting your “real” job and delivering pizzas just to be able to pay back your student loans. Education? Who needs that? But pizza…

·       You’ve yet to replace the gas cap on your piece of crap car. You consider the inaccurate gauge “running on empty” insurance. In a way, you know you’re just punishing your car because it won’t stop screaming… (Wow. This was before my glove box was operated by bungee cord and my passenger side window was stuck in the down position.)

·       You’re so unreasonably upset by a bad deal on Pawn Star that for hours you go over in your mind how you would have handled things differently.

·       Cleaning up your rental’s yard with hand clippers, a rusty wood saw, and a spindly rake is a viable alternative to paying $40 for a landscaping crew. When you finish, you pat yourself on the back with, “I just paid myself $40! That’s like a half a tank of gas!” (A year later, none of this has changed. Especially the gas part.)

·       Your text messaging app on your phone crashes so much that you miss the days of AIM. (Ha! I have an iPhone now! And it’s slowly swallowing my soul!)

·       You work in Florence. (Still guilty.)

·       The other day, one of your students delivered a quintessential statement for the town in which you work: “My dog used to chase the neighbor’s chickens until my daddy beat ‘im with one. That’s how he learned him how not to chase them chickens no more.” Let me rephrase this. Dog training in Florence involves beating a dog with a chicken. BEATING A DOG WITH A CHICKEN. (Sorry, but I’m still not over this.)

·       You work in Florence. (Do you know what I received for Teacher’s Appreciation Day last year? A bottle of Sam’s Club water and a Crystal Light packet. Sure, there was this little paper decal of a knight…)

·       On Thanksgiving, you played bumper cars with a family member’s vehicle because he/she parked you in, but you are still keeping the event under the radar in hopes that he/she won’t notice. (Anybody care to guess who I hit?)

·       Ten years ago, you collected swords and armor. Today, you forge swords and armor in Skyrim. When you’re finished, you bitch about the graphics in real life. Skyrim might seem like a luxury, but you have to consider that it’s 200+ hours of entertainment for $60. This is to tide you over because you haven’t been to the movies, gone on a vacation, or had any kind of outing without your kids in at least three years. In fact, when the Fates conspire so that you take only your spouse to Wal-Mart (or the hospital), you refer to this as “date night”. (Replace Skyrim with Dragon’s Dogma or Dark Souls, and it’s essentially the same thing.)

·       Your favorite bedtime story is Go the %#@* to Sleep! Then you have nightmares in which your creditors write your obituary. (Now I fall asleep to The Walking Dead and have nightmares about my publisher getting eaten by zombies before the anthology can be released.)

·       You’re considering revealing the true identity of Santa Claus to your young children just so they pay you some respect. “Hey, kiddies? You see that robotic horse with the mane made from orphans’ hair that really whinnies and poops plastic turds all over the carpet? Santa and his gender confused little helpers didn’t make that shit. I paid for it out of my recession salary. So who’s magical now? THIS bearded fat guy.” (My eight year old still believes in Santa Claus. She’s pretty much the only kid in the third grade that does. She was devastated the other day because her teacher told her that the toothy fairy should be filed under ‘fiction’ on a genre worksheet. Em says we should have one more Christmas before we break her heart, but considering that little Aurie also believes in Thor, I’m starting to wonder…)


Filed under Education, Family, My Writing, Publishing, Rants, Reading, Writing

Photo Magic! (feat. Disney-Star Wars Mr. Gram)

Upon noticing that my blog had been Freshly Pressed, the following conversation ensued regarding my “simplistic” layout:

Me: Wow, everybody else has slick images, cool emoticons, the works… pikeknight would have stood out more if we staged some kind of picture.

Em: We still can. You’re only ten positions down from the top… make that 11!

Me: Then forsooth we must make haste! What if we had an image of the knight forcing the agent to read his story?

Em: Like a reading at sword point? I could be the agent. I look professional in my glasses.

Me: (nodding) Yes, yes. I could use you in several images. You could be like a model for the blog.

Em: (does a double take) Are you serious?

Me: (shrugs) Hey, I’m over the fact that you’re hot and guys are going to look at you…

Em: (laughing) So it’s okay if I model if it benefits you?

Me: Hey, nothing wrong with showing you off a bit…right? Em? Em!

(By this point Em is already half dressed in  her would-be literary agent getup and putting on lipstick that was a favor from a bachelorette party six years ago and is contained in a rather circumspectly shaped case…)

Em: (puckers her lips, then looks up) What?

Me: Yeah, you’re real offended!

Em: Are you going to get your armor on?

Me: If I wear the armor and hold you up with a broadsword, who’s going to take the picture?

Em: Good point. Maybe it should just be the broadsword, and me holding up a white flag. Wait, isn’t that a crumpled up copy of Manifesto laying on the closet floor?

Me: Indubitably. The house is a disaster. Where are we going to stage this?

(Cue 30 minutes of vacuuming, rearranging furniture, unplugging computers that are essentially paperweights, and rummaging through books.)

Me: First time we’ve done this in awhile!

Em: Do you still have Lori Perkins’ agent guide? You know, the one you had to special order because it’s basically out of print?

Me: Yeah, and No Plot! No Problem! probably belongs on an agent’s desk as well!

(More staging ensues…)

Em: It’s too dark in here! You’ll have to open the blinds!

Me: (opens the blinds to find the yard in ruins and Hime the Chow-Chow smiling mockingly through the glass) Holy dogs–t! Have you seen our yard lately?

Em: It’s cool. I’ll just superimpose a New York skyline in the background when we’re done. Sans the flood damage, of course.

Me: Too soon, Em!

(We complete the staging, but a new problem arises…)

Me: Hey, babe… I can’t snap this photo on my iPhone and hold the sword at the same time… (tries bracing it on the footboard and nearly takes off Em’s favorite nose) Hmm…

Em: Seems like we need another person after all.

Me: Hold on. (calling across the house) Aurie! Aurie, come here! Mommy and Daddy need your help with something!

Aurie: (skips in, stops, and looks at us like we’re insane) Hey, I’m just eight. Am I supposed to understand what’s going on here?

Me: (handing Aurie the broadsword like a true candidate for father of the year) Here, honey. Point this at your mother’s chest…

Aurie: (seizes the blade a bit too enthusiastically) Okay!

Me: But be careful honey… (angling the point higher) Here, more like this…

Em: (gulps) Damn, I knew I shouldn’t have scolded her this morning…

Aurie: Mwahahahaha…

Me: Everybody say cheese! S—t, Mr. Gram’s in the picture! Do it again!

20 excruciating minutes later…

Em: (edits the WordPress feed to include the image) There you go, babe.

Me: How did you do that?

Em: I’m magic…

And I agree. Any woman who’ll risk being stabbed by a medieval weapon (look how frickin’ close that was!) to help promote her man is more than magic. Thanks to Em, my girls, and everyone who’s stopped by, pikeknight is about to hit 1,000 views in its first week.

So if it’s okay with you, I think I’ll stick around and besiege the blogging community for awhile.

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Filed under Family, My Writing, Publishing, Rants, Science Fiction