So anyway, we're at this fast food joint where drinks are dispensed at a self-serve station. The 11-year-old has his plastic cup poised under the cola spigot, looking at us for approval.
He must have lost his mind. The last time this kid had caffeine he was up until five in the morning, bouncing off the furniture and swinging from ceiling fixtures. And, if my memory serves correctly, he tried to build a full-sized kayak out of cocktail weenies.
He's standing there, eagerly giving us that angelic look we thought was so cute when he was 3. He has one of those monster cups that holds enough pop to fill a grain elevator, so if we give in we can kiss goodbye a good night's sleep and any hope he'll calm down before Thanksgiving.
"No way on God's green earth," I whisper to my beloved. He holds some sort of swami magnetism over her, so I warn her not to look directly into his eyes.
It's the same when he eats sugar. You might as well pour rocket fuel into his feet and light a fuse. Being 11, he naturally has more energy than the combined populations of Asia and Zimbabwe, so kicking him into overdrive is like giving a neurotic Chihuahua steroids.
I, on the other hand, am not ashamed to admit I need caffeine. It's not like I'm a spastic, fidgety 18-year-old anymore, slowing down only long enough to inhale another 6,000 empty calories. Nowadays, I trudge home with stooped shoulders griping about my myriad aches and pains, whining about needing a comfy pillow and my poofy slippers. My wife brings them to me, but not without muttering how my maladies seem to flare up when there's housework to do.
So get off your duff and exercise, I hear the Pilates crowd out there saying with disgust. Expand your lungs and get your blood circulating. Stop living like a slug, lay off the corn chips and work those atrophied muscles.
First of all, they're Aunt Whammy's Extra Fat Pork Rinds, not corn chips. And second, my muscles most certainly are not atrophied, although my kids have used the word "blubbery," which, after some hesitation, I tend to deny. Besides, after draining six or seven caffeine drinks, my heart gets all the exercise it can handle.
I don't like to brag, but a good jolt like that allows me to perform some pretty amazing feats. Once, after downing several of those mega-caffeine energy drinks that are so potent a single can could theoretically blow Gary Coleman to smithereens, I ate 364 tater tots in one sitting. And I mean the jumbos with the added breading that expands your stomach to a point just shy of requiring emergency surgery. After another can I climbed the neighbor's TV tower and did a spot-on triple-axle back flip into her azalea bush, which she didn't appreciate, but so what, she's crabby anyway.
You can argue I'm setting a bad example. But I've explained to my stepson I have all the vitality of a marathon runner at the finish line, and need the push. I'd set up caffeine as an IV drip if I thought he wouldn't rat me out to this mother, who thinks I'm quirky enough already.
The standoff with him at the drink dispenser continues, although my beloved is starting to quiver, meaning she'll crack and say yes.
"Be strong," I plead, "Remember the family reunion."
That was a year ago. I had diverted my attention long enough to lie to relatives about a dazzling career and he chewed an entire pack of caffeinated gum. For the next six hours he howled like Tarzan from a nearby tree while wearing hair extensions he snatched off a balding aunt.
The uncontrollable tic that episode gave my wife starts jumping, and she says firmly, "No caffeine."
"Aw, c'mon!" he protests, and points at me. "I couldn't act any worse than him!"
She sighs heavily. "He's got us there."
It's going to be a lo-o-o-ng wait for Thanksgiving.