Everyone knows the game of chicken, famously played in Rebel Without a Cause (and Paula Abdul’s “Hush”): two people steel themselves and try to hold out in the face of danger until one of them “chickens” out.
This is how parents play chicken:
My son plays in the courtyard while the Dane and I are in our second floor flat (with limited visibility of said courtyard) waiting to see which one caves in first and goes downstairs to keep an eye on the mite.
So far we’re deadlocked. I’m prepping kale chips and he’s downloading photos.
The clock ticks ominously.
I look out the window, scan, report: “I can’t see him.”
He asks, “Do you want me to go out?” in a tone that suggests I’m a wuss.
I look out the window again, and suddenly I see my boy emerging from behind two Chinese grandparents. He is pushing a bike around the courtyard.
“Nah, it’s OK, I just saw him.”
I toss the kale with spices. The Dane keeps doing whatever it is he’s doing.
The clock keeps ticking slowly. I try not to twitch too much.
The boy is making the rounds, and I cannot see him from the kitchen.
Goddammit, I am NOT going to be the one who caves in and goes outside! I will not! I will not! I will not!
I’ve never heard a clock tick so loud. Nor so freaking ominously.
TICK. TICK. TICK.
I put the kale in the oven. The Dane is the very picture of nonchalance.
I can do this. I will be strong. I will resist.
Suddenly we hear an all too familiar “WaaaaAAAAAH!” and we both instantly sprint for the door.
The greyhound-legged Dane is way, way faster than I am, but I’m a lot closer.
I beat him to it!
I bolt down the stairs and swoop C in my arms! Victory! I win!!
And then it hits me:
Damnation and hellfire.