Lord of the Flies
“Lord of the Flies is a terrible book!”
I can’t help myself. I freeze in my tracks.
It’s less than a week from my printer’s deadline and I’m a statue, holding a toilet brush, in my living room.
Because tomorrow my wife is hosting a party for her sister’s new jewelry business. Which is based on the wildly successful Pampered Chef/Tupperware shame-your-friends-into-buying-stuff-after-you-get-them-skunked-on-cheap-chardonnay-in-your-living-room business model.
Which means, when I really need to be working, I have to scour the house so we can fool the guests into thinking we’re all neat-n-tidy-n-smell good.
While my three daughters, home on summer break, strive to convince them we’re a chaotic swarm of sweaty hippos with Acute Hyper-Flatulence Disorder.
The Sophomore ups the ante. “Lord of the Flies is totally boring!”
It’s one of the classics on her summer reading list, one of my personal favorites from my Northeast Jesuit prep school – a school that fervently believes the study of Latin and the Lord of the Rings trilogy are what separate this country’s civilized elite from its bumbling masses.
Ad Altiora Natus1, baby.
For all of you who wasted your high school years studying languages still spoken on the planet, Lord of the Flies is a study of human nature – a book about boys whose ship sinks during wartime, stranding them on an island without adult supervision. In short, an all-male Hunger Games without the annoying love triangle.
Peeta or Gale?
Gale or Peeta?
Will someone just drop a big rock on them?
Ad Maioram Dei Gloriam2.
The Sophomore utters her literary heresy just 40 minutes after she staggers from her bedroom, her face swollen from sleep, and grunts. “What’s for dinner?”
She brays such outrages just to make me freeze with a toilet brush in the living room. Then she studies the throbbing vein in my super-sized forehead to properly gauge her impact.
It brings her joy.
But she’d rather be poking her iPod playing Clash of Clans. Despite the summer’s daily one-hour screen limit, she spent four hours secretly Clashing while I was working yesterday. I only caught her when she shrieked, “MY CLAN ACCEPTED ME!”
Which would prompt any father raised up North to leap from his desk chair to investigate.
FYI, the Flaming Death Clan is led by a group of attorneys from a large, downtown legal firm who apparently spend most of their billable hours seeking gold and elixir.
Big surprise there.
The Shedder, 9, however, foolishly chooses this unfortunate moment to enter the living room. She sashays past, ejecting a pillow, a fourth grade Battle book and a pair of crumpled up, dirty underwear.
I point the toilet brush accusingly. “Have you even brushed your teeth?!”
I intend to sound patient, but the words shoot from my mouth in an unhinged shriek. She pauses a second too long weighing whether to lie.
“It’s now one o’clock in the afternoon! You’re still in your pajamas! Your bed is unmade! You look like you stuck your head in a blender! And you still haven’t brushed your teeth!”
Her face reveals not a shred of guilt.
“Can Sam and Ethan come over?” she chirps.
“BRUSH YOUR TEETH!”
She sashays off.
Twenty minutes later she blows through my office door weeping demonically. “Emma stepped on my head and laughed!”
The Middle Schooler rushes in after her. “It was an accident!”
Normally, I would shoo them away, forcing them to independently resolve their squabble.
But this involves head-stepping.
Which, according the Official Parenting Handbook, demands I immediately sound like my own mother.
“I can’t leave you two alone for two minutes, can I?” I glare at the Middle Schooler. “I’ve been alive 47 years and, believe you me, I have never once stepped on someone’s head by accident!”
A deeply foolish strategic move. Rather than declaring an accident and patching it up with a quick apology – slam-bam, thank-you, ma’am – I’ve pronounced the act deliberate. This now demands a trial, careful review of all evidence and a lengthy sentencing phase, further delaying my return to my office.
I stride into the living room to examine the crime scene, only to find the room I had spotlessly cleaned an hour ago now looks like a Barbie factory has exploded. And sitting in the middle of thousands of Barbie clothes and accessories – as well as 12 perfectly naked Barbies – are Sam and Ethan.
Who, unlike my offspring, actually have the good sense to look ashamed.
I put on my calm and reasonable façade. “Maybe all of you should play outside before someone dies.”
“Let’s go in the pool!” the Middle Schooler cries.
“No backflips!” I shout.
An hour later I look up from my keyboard.
Is it wild laughter?
The wail rises again.
I blow through the kitchen door onto the pool deck. Ethan is clutching his noggin and dancing around the deck. “I broke my head!” he cries, rubbing the back of his head. “It’s soft!” he shouts. “IT'S SOFT!”
He’s mistaken a growing goose egg for brain oozing from his skull.
I try to calm him.
“MY HEAD IS BROKEN!”
I glare at The Middle Schooler, who visibly shrinks.
Twenty minutes later, back-flipping Ethan and his intact head are ice-packed off to his mama. I step back into the kitchen, a sharp pain growing in my back.
The Sophomore looks up. “The Lord of the Flies is the worst book ever!”
I can’t help it. I foolishly take the bait.
“What page are you even on?”
She glances down. “Eleven.”
And the vein in the Lord of the Flies’ forehead throbs.
1Born for Higher Things, the Latin motto of my glorious high school in Scranton, Pennsylvania. Not sure that moving to Tampa qualifies, but it hasn’t stopped them from constantly asking for money.
2For the Greater Glory of God, the Jesuits’ Latin motto. Throw in the fact that Gaul is divided into three parts, and you now officially know everything I remember from two years of Latin.
By Chris Barrett, Publisher