Nut Job

Last Saturday I took Silas and two of his friends to see Nut Job.

Three 10-year olds in the back seat of the car. It’s a 45 minute ride from the middle of nowhere where we live to the city where there are movies.

Two out of the three brought electronic devices to pass the time. The third looks on, suggesting video game strategies, until he gets carsick and has to look out the window.

At the theater we get our tickets and get in line for the concession stand. They each have a $20 bill to spend. Two out of three order the triple play: a box of candy, medium popcorn, small root beer. The third, on orders from her mother and with a long face, omits the candy. The other two promise to share theirs. A triple-play comes to $16.

The friends have also each brought stuffed animals to watch the movie. Three items from the concession counter, plus a stuffed animal is twice the number of hands each has available. Holding animals or candy pinched between chin and chest, bags of popcorn teetering precariously in one hand, soda sloshing in the other, we make our way to the theater trailing bits of popcorn as if it were our feeble attempt, like Hansel, to find our way out again after the movie.

The only row left with four adjacent seats is the very front row. We settle in. I help them get their candy open and their sodas cradled into the armrest cup holders. 10-year olds with cups of root beer the size of their heads and bags of popcorn the size of their chests.

The movie begins. We crane our necks for nearly 2 hours. Sitting that close to the screen I notice that the focus isn’t quite right, or the frame rate isn’t quite fast enough. It flickers just a little too much. I get a slight headache. I notice that my neck is not as flexible as it used to be. The movie has its moments. The kids love it.

By the end of the movie, the kids have managed to eat half their popcorn and drink half their soda. They bring the rest home with them in the car. Half way home, one of them says, “Mr. Green, I have to use the bathroom.” Did I mention we live in the middle of nowhere? There’s no bathroom for another 15 miles. I’d let him out to pee on a tree, but it’s really cold, and he’s really shy, and there’s a girl in the car.

I try to get there faster, but we get behind someone who’s decided that 35 mph in a 55 is plenty fast. We’re in the mountains. The road curves a lot and there’s no place to pass for a while.

“God, please don’t let him lose it in the back seat.”

There’s finally a chance to pass. I take it. We make it, but now I have a reputation among my son’s friends, and probably their parents, that I’m a reckless driver.

We get home, safe and sound — and dry. The friend pees. They call their parents to come and pick them up.

Meanwhile, the sugar and carbs from the root beer and candy and popcorn, combined with sitting all afternoon in a theater and a car explode. Three 10-year olds are bouncing off the walls, whacking each other with stuffed animals and jumping from the sofa to the chair to the piano bench, then chasing each other around the front hall and back to the kitchen.

“Please take it down a notch or two,” I say.

I may as well be talking to the cats.

Finally, their parents come. I apologize for sending them home hyped up on jet fuel. They nod as if they understand. I think they think I’m a nut job.

Silas says I’m the best dad for taking him to the movies with his friends.

Which is good, because with the candy and the root beer and the popcorn and the jumping on furniture, I’m so disoriented I can’t really tell.