Twilight was later than Derek was accustomed to coming home from his state government job. Tired and out of his normal routine, Derek felt emotionally edgy as he walked through the front door of his forty-year old rental home, a constant jab at his wasted youth and his uphill climb to be a stable provider. Aware of his edginess, Derek consciously made an effort to push it below the exterior of his countenance and put forth a happy front to his loving wife, Deb, and his overachieving, super-extraordinary kids.
Deb was busy in their tiny white kitchen preparing her standard fare… hamburger. Derek’s irritation slowly seeped from its hiding place as he realized that he had an acute case of hamburger fatigue from Deb’s lack of creativity in the kitchen over the last two weeks. In all fairness, Deb made dinner every night for the threesome who at times took it for granted and was most of the time unappreciative of the thousands of meals she had prepared for them. Derek knew this and knew that sometimes the inspiration for meals left her for periods at a time and most of the time he understood this. Although, it can be said he never offered to cook meals during when these moments occurred.
Noting that Deb was pounding out only one patty, Derek asked Deb if the kids were eating dinner tonight. Deb replied that she had already fed the kids and told Derek what she had fed them. Now, Derek was not the sharpest tool in the shed but he did pick up on the fact that they had not eaten hamburger. All of the sudden his irritation burst out of its hiding place and Derek went to his dark place and began to erupt about Deb’s tendency to mollycoddle the kids and put them, in his opinion, above the family. Knowing that argument had no effect on her, Derek took his immaturity one step further and used a sarcastic kids voice to demand something other than hamburger and then went off in a huff to change clothes.
All of this time Deb quietly resisted all temptation to reach for one of the many sharp implements in the kitchen. Instead, she found more satisfaction by adding to the size of Derek’s hamburger patty, pounding it over and over. The more she reflected on the way he had talked to her, what a big jerk he had been to her, the more the size of the burger increased. When Derek came out of their bedroom in one of his man-child t-shirts with a sports team logo or some funny, ironic quip and in his shorts, he was met with a surprise when Deb handed him a large hamburger on one of the kid’s melmac Disney plates that they had owned for years.
Deb went to the living room to read her emails from her parents and her friends’ Facebook updates. Meanwhile, Derek shoved off to the TV room to eat his hamburger. There was no wall between the two rooms and Derek had a straight look from his spot to Deb’s back. Derek strategically looked at the hamburger and pridefully vowed to eat the whole 2 pounds of hamburger no matter what it took. Deb and her mollycoddling was not going to win this time. Deb was equally determined not to give Derek, the cad, any attention for the rest of evening—no matter how many talking animal videos her parents had sent to her that day.
It was about a half-hour into the burger ,that would not stop giving, that Derek realized just how big this burger was. His pride had blinded him to the thickness and density of Deb’s burger. As drops of sweat began to bead up on his forehead and the room’s temperature began to rise, he did something he rarely had done took off his shirt. Shirtless with his stomach slightly distended from all the hamburger he had eaten and all the milk he had drunk up to that point, he went into the kitchen to get his third glass of milk.
Still he persisted, albeit less convincingly, to tell himself that he must not surrender to her and her mollycoddling. He was going to make a point and by golly she was going to honor it and obey him for once. The kids needed to learn as well. If not, Derek was pretty sure, they would turn out to be shiftless idlers and he could not have that on his conscience. Several weeks ago, he had secretly made an oath to eradicate all mollycoddling under his roof and to deal swiftly with all mollycoddlers. Here was his first battle and losing was not an option, this pernicious evil had to be stopped.
It was towards the end of the second half-hour when Derek began to experience mild panic attacks. He envisioned all the packed red meat coursing through his already dumpy body getting stuck as it was pushed up and around corners making its way to his heart. In a delirious sweat, his imagined himself experiencing a coronary attack. Derek reasoned that tonight would be a terrible time for death to come knocking on his door. At that moment, the words, “I can’t do it”, were meekly uttered from his lips. Feeling Derek’s weakness, Deb asked Derek to repeat himself. In his meat induced stupor, Derek in a monotone voice obeyed Deb’s order and repeated “I can’t finish my hamburger”.
Always the gracious winner, Deb released a good-humored smile and came over to Derek’s side. As she gently wiped the sweat of Derek’s Neanderthal brow and carefully put his Disney plate down, she looked into his glossed over eyes and said, “I forgive you…jerk!” and then mollycoddled him for the rest of the evening.