It was an insurrection.
The Husband got our two oldest sons to play one of those card-and-token table games with four-hour, ghoul-infested medieval plot lines.
“Now,” he said, “Who wants to loot, and who wants to kill?”
“I’ll do both,” said my middle-born son.
“Nooo,” countered The Husband. “Just pick one. Be a team player.”
Middleborn nodded. “Right. So I’ll kill and loot.”
The Husband sighed like a tornado blasting a cat through a chimney. He shuffled and re-shuffled the attack cards, straightened a character profile and arranged his plague tokens in alphabetical order.
“I’ll kill,” said my first-born son. “Wait – don’t you get to keep the goods if you loot?”
The Husband shook his head. “No, we split all the goods at the end.”
“So it’s socialism,” said Firstborn.
“It’s a team game!” protested The Husband.
Firstborn shrugged. “Tell that to Venezuela.”
One countertop away, I kneaded tortilla dough and heated the griddle.
The Husband gathered his dad-patience back together.
“When do we sleep?” asked Middleborn, shearing away an overgrown pinky nail with his gritted exposed molars.
“We can’t sleep this early,” said The Husband. “We’d lose a card.”
“But we’d gain an axe,” said Middleborn.
“We don’t NEED an axe. We need food, and mead, and to kill off the townspeople before they turn zombie, OK?” the Husband said.
I dumped raw shrimps into a pan and sautéed their springy grey corpses in chili powder and olive oil ‘til they blushed. Their aroma broke free.
Firstborn sniffed. “I smell victory.”
“It is – “ The Husband inhaled “ – a team. Game. We ALL have to conquer the landowners and defeat the scourge, or we’ll all die together.”
“Of gangrene?” asked Middleborn.
“Of distraction,” groaned The Husband, massaging his temples.
Middleborn grinned and slipped a card from his sleeve. “OK so I’m going to muddle the monster with this hex, and I’m going to disappear your head.”
“You can’t disappear my head. I’m not the blood clot,” said The Husband.
“Then where’s the blood clot?” asked Middleborn.
“He’s on the other side of the fabric of reality, you dork,” snapped Firstborn.
“I’M not a dork, YOU’RE a dork,” said Middleborn.
In table-top gamers’ hallowed vernacular, there are few dark incantations as grotesque as “dork.”
“Guys…” warned The Husband. “If we don’t pull together, the phantom quicksand is going to eat our brains. Now focus with me: what do we need to do to restock our potions?”
“Boil the hag,” said Firstborn.
“MARRY the hag,” argued Middleborn.
I minced a red onion. Middleborn scrunched his nose into deep branched lines between freckles. “What’s that reek?” he asked.
“Your wife,” quipped Firstborn.
“Heyyy!” Middleborn furrowed his half-tanned brow under a sweeping monocular shock of butterscotch hair.
“You SAID you wanted to marry the hag,” Firstborn said, his voice rising.
I chopped four peaches, popping their fibrous bloody inner morsels into my mouth when no one was looking. Peach syrup oozed onto the countertop like a curse.
“Mo-om!” wailed Middleborn. “He said my wife reeks!”
“That’s just sweat,” I said. “That’s what happens to women when they exercise.”
“No, Mom, I never made her any stamina potion.”
“Then you’re not a very good husband,” I said, as I snipped parsley leaves into papery green trapezoids and sprinkled them over the peaches and onions. I flipped the tortillas on the griddle.
“This is dumb,” said Middleborn. “When do we eat?”
“As soon as we seal the portals with the blood of our enemies,” said The Husband.
“In about five minutes,” I said, working pulpy fragments of an Anaheim pepper into my peach salsa with both hands.
The Husband straightened his attack cards and gave it one last try. “OK guys. We got this. We just have to get the monks chanting to ward off the hexes, strap on our flying boots and gas the village with halitosis and ill will. Ready?”
“Dinner!” I called. Everyone’s eyes widened. Time froze, and so did the monsters trapped in the fabric of reality.
“Oooh, dinner!” shouted the boys, leaping up from their chairs and scattering hex cards into kaleidoscopic chaos as they fled for the counter.
“What’s for dinner?” asked Firstborn.
“The blood of our enemies,” said Middleborn, scrunching his nose again at the red onions.
I smiled and gave the bright salsa one last shake. “Shrimp tacos.”
Firstborn sighed, relieved. “That’s a win.”