Had I sired children in more civilized times, I would’ve enjoyed a violent, premature death
A dark meditation on the joys of modern parenting
I wake in a child’s bed at 4:23 a.m. The room is dark and cramped. The covers are warm. I am safe. This unbearable horror will continue for many years to come.
Had I slept near my son, in Babylon circa 540 B.C., I would’ve been awoken by the rumble of Cyrus the Great’s invading army. Greeted by the reprieve of imminent decapitation, my severed head would’ve been proudly displayed on a pike in the town square. My son castrated, made a eunuch of the Queen’s harem.
Peaceful, endless sleep, at long last.
Boil the water. Dispense the grounds. Four bowls of fresh fruit and hearty grains. I am sated. There’s an infinitesimally small chance I will starve to death.
Had I been afforded the luxury of living during the final stanza of the Persian Empire, I would’ve been conscripted, against my will, to fight for Darius III against Alexander the Great’s heathen army. The final King of Kings’ armored phalanx would’ve crashed into my worthless, wicker breastplate. My bow no match for the spear entering my eye socket. Chunks of brain seep from my skull, decorating the soft earth.
From the dishes, a permanent respite.
Walk to school. The sidewalks are well demarcated. The procession is controlled and orderly. The odds of being crushed to death by an SUV going five miles per hour through the lone intersection are exceedingly low. I will traverse this sterile path thousands more times.
Had I been fortunate enough to live on the Eurasian steppe during the Mongol conquest, a walk to the schoolhouse would’ve been interrupted by the rampaging cavalry of the venerable General Subutai. The countless arrows fired by his ravenous horde would’ve littered my defenseless body with gaping wounds. My daughter made a slave to the Khan, eventually adding an esteemed branch to his expansive lineage.
No more eighth graders and their annoying TikToks. Calm serenity in the vast nothingness of the abyss.
Eat an after-school snack. Dense calories processed and congealed. Review math homework. This one is wrong because you rushed through and didn’t pay attention. Her subpar effort will haunt me through my last breaths, which, according to actuarial tables, are fortyish years away.
Had providence shined on me, my wife would’ve run a schoolhouse for our nine surviving children, and I would’ve been called upon to serve my country. At Antietam, during a fearless charge to preserve the Union and, secondarily, end slavery, a cannonball would’ve serendipitously ripped through my groin. Right leg lacerated, pelvis shattered, manhood pulverized.
Bleeding out, prostrate, watching wave after wave of comrades felled, the weight of unrealistic expectations forever lifted.
Add butter, milk, noodles, and processed cheese stuffs to the pot. Stir, lifeless. This is not food, but it’s all they will eat. Eschewing beef as a virtuous response to disastrous, unmitigated climate change has foreclosed the possibility of contracting Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease. Neurodegeneration and cognitive senescence will be forced down their natural, longer, less humane paths.
Had fate intervened, at the Battle of Passchendaele, I would’ve slipped into an impact crater. Teeming with fetid water, urine, clay, silt, dissolved chlorine gas, mutilated horses, barbed wire, and human remains, I’d sink, interminably, over the course of hours. Incapable of being rescued by my fellow soldiers, themselves marching to their own brutal demises, I would’ve cried for help, driven madder each passing second, imploring them to shoot me.
Imbibing the hellacious soup, a poetic last (synthetic) supper, embalmed by the cold embrace of eternity.
Fill the bathtub. Add industrial chemicals. Shudder the screams and splashes. The water drips, pristine. Free of lead. Devoid of pathogens. Succumbing to cholera in an O.E.C.D. country? Preposterous.
Had destiny called, my final cleanse would’ve come on the beaches of Normandy. Onward toward Berlin, to end fascism and preserve democracy for future generations, the landing craft’s door would’ve opened. Embraced by the gentle buzzing of MG 42 rounds, life flashing before my eyes, my carcass would’ve plunged into the cold, briny depths.
Eternally spared the tyranny of bathtub defecation and moldy bath toys.
Read board books and middle-grade literature. These stories are lies. A distorted reflection of our nightmarish reality. Will I ever be a great or renowned author? No. I am conscientious and disciplined, futile traits associated with longevity, precluding a hackneyed descent into madness, alcoholism, wanton self-destruction, and extraordinary commercial success.
Fortune begat me in 1980. Game Theory mitigates global thermonuclear annihilation. Climate change remains aggressively gradual.
Barring a tragic (fortuitous?), unforeseen accident, I will very likely live a long, despairing life, replete with resentment and regret, in a love-hate relationship with my kids, until the bitter, ignominious end.
Amran is a formerly talented and ambitious person turned father of two. He’s writing a novel you’ll never read. Follow him on Twitter.