I’ll tell you right now: this is the most excruciating story I’ve written to date. I’m sure some of you will catch on to the challenge, but if you don’t, you’ll see it at the end. Meanwhile, I’m exhaling a HUGE sigh of relief now that this challenge is complete.
I hadn’t wanted to join the Bad Dad Alliance, but when my wife died, it felt like the right thing to do. My daughter Ellen and I didn’t get along well, and I dreaded the time ahead of me: eating alone, going to the gym alone, gardening alone, lying in bed alone. Lou had been begging me to join the Alliance, and once Madeline gave in to the call of Death, the thought of guaranteed company comforted me.
After my initiation, there were 18 men in the Bad Dad Alliance. We got together once a week at a crumbly brick building downtown with an old, broken traffic light affixed to the door. Before I joined, I had thought the Alliance met to drink beer and play poker. But that old brick building turned out to be a wonderland filled with everything I’d dreamt of while growing up. I found Lou and David on a giant trampoline in the center of the room while Eric worked on a model train made with a full mile of track. I gawked in wonder at the Theatre of Magic pinball machine, the RC car collection, the pool table, the 84-inch TV, and the bar filled with high-priced liquor.
I laughed excitedly, frozen in awe in the doorway. From the trampoline, Lou cried, “Get on up here!”
“What the hell?” I crowed. “I’ve got to admit, Lou, I’m a little taken aback.”
Lou jumped down and grabbed a beer for me. “Why do you think I kept hounding you to join the Alliance?”
Tony walked in behind me with pizza and added, “And why do you think we call it the Bad Dad Alliance?”
We dug into the pizza and plopped down on the leather couch in front of the TV. Lou chugged a beer and explained, “I tell my wife we play poker when we meet up. I’d never tell her the truth about our manly utopia.”
Eric, who continued to work on the model train while he ate, admitted, “We all pretend we’re broke when we’re really not. We pool our money and have a little covert fun.”
That night, a month after Madeline died, the Bad Dad Alliance proved to me that I could, indeed, dodge the real world if only for one night a week. Retreat from reality. That part felt good.
But I couldn’t help wondering: had I known all along what really went on when the Bad Dad Alliance convened, would I have done it? Would I have traded in time with my Madeline for fraudulent fun with men who take what they have for granted?
I wanted to think I would not have. But in front of the 84-inch TV on the leather couch with a beer in hand, I knew that I probably would have. That part hurt like hell.
Now for the reveal: the challenge was that this story does not contain the letter s. I never thought I would be so desperate to use the letter s, but now that I can again: sssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssss!!!