by Mike Todd
“Don’t get bug bites all over his face,” my wife Kara said as I took our son Evan out the door for an adventure.
“We’ll be moving too fast for the bugs to catch us; right, buddy?” I said.
“Seriously, though. School pictures are on Monday at daycare. Don’t bring him back with bug bites,” Kara said.
I waited until the door shut behind us to roll my eyes.
“Ready for an adventure?” I asked Evan.
“Benture,” he agreed. Kids are game for pretty much anything, because they have no idea what’s going on.
As we started our hike, I forgot all about the bug spray in my backpack. Even if I’d remembered, I probably wouldn’t have put any on Evan. Getting a few bug bites builds character, just like every other bad thing that happens to you. If you get introduced to someone with a lot of character, you’ve probably just met someone who’s had a rotten life. Also, when I was 12, I got some bug spray on my rain jacket, and it melted the sleeve, so I worry that putting too much of that stuff on Evan, especially around his face, might turn him into The Joker.
About 15 minutes into the hike, I noticed a buzzing in the woods, the hum of a million tiny helicopters. I wanted to stop and dig out the bug spray, but with Evan comfortable on my back, I decided to just keep plowing ahead, like a cow swimming through piranha-infested waters.
Something about the wet weather this year has created insane swarms of radioactive mosquitoes. Regular mosquitoes are one thing, but these were X-Men mosquitoes, flying syringes, mutated to extract more blood than the Red Cross, without even giving us free pretzels afterwards.
By the time I got to a stopping point to put some bug spray on Evan, it was too late. You couldn’t really tell that anything was awry when we got home, but the next morning, when Evan woke up, he looked like he had chicken pox. Somehow, the mosquitoes knew to zero in on his face, which had blazing red bumps taking up more surface area than Mike Tyson’s tattoos.
“His school pictures are tomorrow!” Kara said as I slathered Cortaid on Evan’s face.
“He’s resilient. It’ll look much better tomorrow,” I said.
A few minutes later, as Kara showered, I lay on the floor playing blocks with Evan, contemplating what a terrible father I was.
“Push the wagon,” Evan said as he pushed his plastic wagon around the corner, out of my line of sight.
I could hear him emptying his wagon by the front door.
“Don’t leave your toys by the door, buddy,” I said. Then I heard a WHAM! followed by much screaming.
By the time I rounded the corner, Evan had a goose egg on his forehead that made him look Cro-Magnon, with three small scrapes on his chin. It was the worst his face had looked in his entire life, possibly excluding his zeroeth birthday.
“What happened?” Kara asked, running down the stairs.
The truth was, I wasn’t exactly sure. Evan’s face had made contact with his wagon at high velocity, but the details weren’t clear. He could have been riding the wagon like a skateboard for all I knew.
“I might skip applying for Father of the Year this year,” I said after his crying had subsided.
In the end, Kara didn’t have a thing to worry about. Evan might have been a little banged up after our weekend adventures, but those photography companies airbrush school pictures like they’re going on the cover of Vogue. Besides, I’m pretty sure that if you looked in between all the bumps, scrapes and mosquito bites on Evan’s face, you could see lots of brand-new character.