So you’re all set for another day, another iteration of the Unvarying Wednesday: morning with Gnat, shower and shave, out the door to Nana’s, office for three hours to write the column, pick up Gnat, go home, make Indian Chicken. Every version is slightly different, of course; my life has enough variations to reassure me that I’m not stuck in the Groundhog Day loop. Today Gnat was running around the house spouting that goofy babble toddlers make when they’re full of juice and Froot Loops. (She likes her cereal dry, and one of these days I’m going to find her hoovering up the Froot Loops dust with a straw. I quit anytime, daddee. Really. One more chance. Peeeez.) I was looking through her drawers for a sweater when I saw her run into her bathroom and stumble: KONK.

One one thousand, one thousand two -


I scooped her up, and ohh, my. Blood. The old claret on tap, droogs. She’d cracked her chin on the edge of her step-stool. I cleaned it off and took a look, and I knew this was not the sort of wound that would heal neatly. I called the pediatrician, got the triage nurse; of course she said I should take her in. That’s their answer to everything: professional treatment by experts. My child was grazed by droplets of Windex! Bring her in. My child got a severe static shock from walking on the rug and touching the dog! Bring her in for a full brainscan. My child ate a page of a Gore Vidal interview! Bring her in, that’s toxic stuff. We’ll have to pump. What else are they going to say?

(I couldn’t go to work today because we went to the ER, and wrote my Sunday column at home this evening based on the day’s events - if some of the Bleat ends up in the column, forgive the overlap.)

I called my wife to tell her what had happened, then gathered everything up double-time, convinced that if I didn’t get to the ER in five minutes, the wound would remain a gaping gash forever. Tense? Somewhat. At one point Jasper was unnerved by all the commotion, and registered his opinion by barking very loudly.

SHUTUP! I yelled. And I mean, yelled. I don’t think I’ve ever yelled at him that loudly - his ears went flat and his eyes went wide and he sunk to the ground. Gnat looked at me quizzically: whas your problem, Daddee?

Daddee shouldn’t have shouted at Jabber. I’m sorry. Sorry, Jabber. (He whines, unhappy.) We pile in the car, hit the highway; of course I get behind a Cadillac drive by bobble-head figurines; it’s doing 27 MPH. MOVE! I say. The wound needs closing before it attains an aesthetically unpleasing shape!

Whas your problem, Daddee? I hear from the back seat. No concern, just curiosity.

Daddee’s impatient, honey. It’s one of his worst traits. But everything’s fine! We’re going to see the chin doctor, and he’ll make your chin all better.

All bedder. Chin chin chinny chin chin.

We went to the same ER where my wife had her chin stitched after a Rollerblading mishap five years ago. The receptionist asked if my daughter had been here before. No, I said, then I remembered: yes, she was born here. That’s pretty much the ultimate “been here before,” eh? (Receptionist reponse: dial tone.) Next: triage. To put Gnat at ease, everyone gave her the high-five. The first time it flummoxed her, since we are not a high-fiving household. I prefer the handshake / curtsey model for adult interaction, but that's a losing battle. The nurse high-fived her. The doctor high-fived her. Then he peered at the wound and declared that stitches would not be required. We'd glue it shut. He got an orderly to hold the wound closed while he daubed it with Crazy Glue or Rec-Tite or nail polish or whatever they use.

The orderly was unusually large. He was the guy you’d page because Hulk Hogan had snapped his restraints and was hurling oxygen tanks around. Gnat looked up at his looming bulk, and when all the circuits finished flipping the punchcard said TRUST. She didn’t flinch. As with the previous ER trip, she took direction well without complaint, and required only a parental digit to hold. I tell you, the love you feel in this situations swamps levees you never knew you had.

I had promised her a hangiger when she was done, so we went to Burger King for hangigers. In the line a woman bent down and cooed at Gnat, pronouncing her the epitome of cuteness and sweetness.

Gnat high-fived her.

“We’ve had quite the day,” I said as we ate.

“Quite - the - day,” she repeated.

And it was only one o’clock.

I’ve been staying up too late this week, but what else is new? It’s a pity I haven’t been enjoying the late hours as I should. Instead of finishing these things at 10 PM they’ve taken until 11, 11:30 - and then I waste an hour watching some movie I TiVod out of morbid curiosity, like William Hurt / Sigourney Weaver’s “Eyewitness.” (Featuring James Woods at his nutso pockmarky-mark best.) Last night I watched the last half of Rocky 3, God help me. It’s an interesting period piece, from the classic cock-rock “Eye of the Tiger” themesong, to Stallone in his alarmingly-ripped-physique period. It has much scrappy Burgess Meredith, scrappily acting scrappy and dying scrappily as well - but most of all it has full-strength Mr. T as America’s Scariest Negro. Apollo Creed had style and grace, but that Clubber Lang, why, he knew no bounds. It could be accurately said of the man that he observed no niceties.

“I’m gonna mess you up,” he said to Rock as they squared off in the final sequence. And let us never forget Rock’s deathless rejoinder:

“Go for it.”

The boxing sequence consists entirely of two men hitting each other in the head hard enough to send each other’s teeth ricocheting around their skulls. But Rocky has a secret strategy: wear his opponent out! Wait until he’s out of tricks, and then unleash a barrage of punches - to the head, of course - that lay him low. Who could have seen THAT coming? At least by Rocky Four they gave him a white guy to beat, the fearsome Ivan Drago. If I remember that movie correctly, the Soviet crowd was so impressed by Rocky’s pluck and courage that even Gorbachev rose and applauded. A parable for our times - if only we could have settled our differences in the ring instead of placing missiles in Germany.

Dolph Lundgren: no career. Carl Weathers: MIA. (Too bad; I liked "Action Jackson.') Burgess Meredith: dead. Burt Young: not exactly America’s matinee idol. Talia Shire: waiting for Rocky 6. Stallone: last wide release bombed; most recently seen in "Eye See You," which went straight to video.

Yet Mr. T endures! He suffered cancer, fell off the radar, had a short-lived comic book, inspired a dreadful early Internet meme concerning testicle consumption, but came back as a camp icon in TV commercials, undimmed and unbowed. And now if they made a movie in which Mr. T takes on Rocky and beats him so bad his DNA unspools, we’d all root for him and cheer, and I think that says something good about America. And yes, I'm serious.

And tired. TiVo beckons. One hour of pap before I sleep. Is that too much to ask?
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