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Charlie Hatton
Brookline, MA

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Howdy, friendly reading person!
I'm on a bit of a hiatus right now, but only to work on other projects -- one incredibly exciting example being the newly-released kids' science book series Things That Make You Go Yuck!
If you're a science and/or silliness fan, give it a gander! See you soon!

The Family Jerk-le

I am a master of ruining “family moments”. I’ve gotten so good, in fact, that I’m no longer limited to disrupting my own family gatherings. Now I’m fully capable of disappointing and disgusting people who aren’t actually related to me.

It’s quite an achievement. I’m sure my mother would be proud — if she were speaking to me, of course. Apparently, the wounds from “The 2012 Independence Day Picnic Debacle” are still too fresh.

(How was I to know you shouldn’t use sparklers as barbecue skewers? They don’t teach you these things in the Hillshire Farm commercials.

Anyway, Mom’ll come around at some point. Probably after her eyebrows grow back in.)

But I digress. We’re talking about me ruining some other family’s warm summer evening. It happened last night, around nine o’clock. The missus and I — and the dog — were lounging in the living room, watching some Big Bang Theory rerun for the ninety-third time.

(Seriously, TBS. It’s one thing when I can recite the lines through an entire episode. But when I know what the cast and extras are all going to be wearing before a scene starts, you might be airing the things just a tad too often.

What’s that? You say I don’t have to watch?

Hey, don’t tell me. I tune into whatever the TiVo wants. Otherwise, it threatens to tape thirteen hours of Jersey Shore a day, and fill the rest of the box with C-SPAN 2. You don’t mess with the TiVo, man.)

We live in a ground-floor condo in a nice little three-story brownstone. The backs of several similar structures on our block face into a small courtyard between the buildings. It’s not much — there’s room for some greenery and a picnic table, a sandbox and some sidewalks. A handful of backyard grills dot the landscape near rear entrances and fire escapes. It’s functional. It ain’t the Hanging effing Gardens of Babylon. But it’s fine.

The back room of our unit has a large back window that overlooks the near part of this courtyard. Or “level-looks”, I guess, since we’re on the first floor. If I walk into that room and the window is open a little — as it’s been in this brimstone weather hell-wave we’ve recently endured — I can see right across the picnic table to the sandbox and leafy plants behind the next building over. It’s a wide-open view.

“Why am I taking you on a House Hunters-style jaunt through half our living space, and the excrement-spackled skeletons in our dog’s closet of shame?”

(For opposite-perspective reasons, I make a point to never walk into that room naked. Nobody wants to see that while they’re pulling weeds or flipping a bratwurst.

Or for that matter, pulling a bratwurst. It helps no one. Moving on.)

You may also remember this back room as the site of some of our dog’s most horrific accidents. In our old place, she used to have a “doggy door” right off the kitchen, where she could throw up her paws and pollute a bricked-in kennel to her heart’s delight. Now “right off the kitchen” leads to this back room — which I optimistically called the “dartboard room” when we moved in, but now refer to as the “pee pad palace”, because that’s what it’s permanently papered with, lest the pooch further befoul the bare innocent hardwood with her various misdirected excretions.

Why am I taking you on a House Hunters-style jaunt through half our living space, and the excrement-spackled skeletons in our dog’s closet of shame? There’s a point to it, I promise, and I’m just about to meander back to it, thusly:

As our oft-watched sitcom reached a commercial break, I decided to hit the kitchen for some water. I grabbed a glass and neared the fridge — and smelled an all-too-familiar funk coming from close by. I knew what it was, and likely where. I was thirsty, and in a hurry to get back to reciting the show. So I grumbled my way through the dark hallway, flipped on the light in the back room and saw the mess I’d just been smelling. And with a wrinkled nose, groused loudly to no one in particular:

Aw, just what I thought! There’s a fat bunch of TURDS back here!

That’s when I glanced out the window, and saw the candles burning on the picnic table outside. And the faces of our neighbors and their family — mom, dad, kids, grandparents — all turned in the flickering light to glare in my direction. Beneath their shocked stares, I could make out drinks and plates of food. They’d been having a quiet little barbecue picnic, as a family; grandma even had a half-ear of corn poised for nibbling.

She looked like she was about to huck it through the window screen at me. So I backpedaled:

Wait… not YOU turds. Er, YOU’RE not the turds I meant. I was talking about real turds, not, uh… oh, come on!

Shockingly, that didn’t seem to make things any better. And granny was starting her windup, and aiming at my crotch. So I did the only thing left to do.

I backed out of the room, turned off the light, made sure the back door was locked and bolted, poured my water and went back to the living room. My wife asked, without turning to look at me:

What was all that ruckus about back there?

I was ready:

Oh, the neighbors are having some loud party in the courtyard. Very rude. I say we shouldn’t speak to them for a few weeks.

Mm-hmm,” she replied, as Leonard and Sheldon’s apartment appeared back on screen. “That’ll teach ’em.

Yep, it’ll teach ’em something, I’m sure. Like not to invite us to their next family outing, birthday bash, bar mitzvah or block party. Hey, what can I say? Somebody’s got to be the big fat family-scarring turd around here. At least I’ve got plenty of practice.

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