When Dave showed up sixteen minutes later (he needed four minutes to "suit up," it would appear), I kind of laughed at him. I regretted it immediately. Now I wish I could say that regret was rooted in compassion and good conscience, but I know that in truth I regretted it immediately because of how it deflated his composure, poise, performance, etc. which I would've liked to burn into my brain a few moments longer. I'm not going to flatter myself and suggest that he put on the tool belt for me, but I'm nearly certain that he exchanged the tools that normally lived in it with those he felt were more pertinent to the situation. Of course, he did not know what the actual situation was, but taking into consideration the weaponry he'd amassed, I have reason to believe that Dave thought we would be hunting vampires.
There was a calculated symmetry to his costume: matching hammers dangling from the thigh loops of his Carharts, two cordless nail guns holstered in his tool belt, along with thirty feet of rope and his jack-razor. Two-inch chain crisscrossed his chest, holding what I later discovered to be a pick ax, strapped to his back. He held in his gloved hand a sharpened broom stick. And duct-taped to his right forearm (yes, his forearm) was a small flashlight.
When I laughed out loud there was a look that flashed across his face for a split second. I believe he was already so invested in this action-packed version of himself that he'd forgotten how abnormal it would appear to me. But that look was quickly replaced with embarrassment as he let out the breath he'd been holding, now long and disappointed, and quickly tucked the makeshift spear behind his back. In that shame-full, fantasy-popping moment I saw the inescapable behavioral parallels of fathers and sons, and I was jealous of both Dave and his son Jungleboy, simultaneously. I wanted a son whom I could pass on my few endearing traits (pancakes, great dancer, rap) to, and I also wished I had a dad whose enthusiasms mirrored mine so exactly. When I saw Dave cast off his superhero id in a small fit, the accuracy of heredity smushed my nosed, braided my heart strings, silenced me. This is why:
Over this past summer Jungleboy developed a very welcome habit of waking me up early most mornings by standing at the end of my bed, mute, and fully decked out in one of the hundreds of costumes he's amassed. Some mornings I saw Spiderman. Sometimes The Hulk. Sometimes Boba Fett. And it was mutually understood that I was to respond to this wake up call by feigning extreme terror. There was one time he did actually scare me... I was half awake, just about to sit up when there on the stairs, sporting the mask from Scream and a butcher knife (yes, a real butcher knife; yes, he's five), rose my human alarm clock. And honestly, I wouldn't have been so easily scared by a midget version of the dude from Scream if he hadn't climbed the stairs in that manner - sideways, facing me the entire time, slowly revealing his top half above the horizon line of my floor, as if on an escalator. [He got in serious trouble for that one. Apparently, one of the neighbors had seen him marching resolutely down the street and through my front door, masked and gripping the butcher knife. They thought he was going to kill me in my sleep. Dave really reamed him out---not for the knife, or for waking me up in my own home, but for walking unchaperoned along the busy road that linked our houses.]
One morning near the end of the year, Jungleboy must've run out of costumes. When I rolled over onto my side, there he was staring at me in a veritable patchwork quilt of heroic villainy: the claws of Wolverine, the plasticized flaming wrist bands of the Human Torch, the utility belt of Batman, the tights of Superman, the spiked shoulder pads of the Road Warrior (that costume was a Dave original), the helmet of Darth Vader, and the face of Skeletor. When I burst out laughing he dropped his scepter and bolted. I felt so low I spent the whole day after that trying to get him to play Leggos with me, telling him how I was laughing out of terror, etc., but still it took hours for him to even speak to me. He hasn't done the spandy-gram thing since.
In that short fifty-foot walk from Dave's to my house, Jungleboy had become so invested in the WolvtorchBatSuperRoadVadertor persona that its comedic value had escaped him. And now an identical caught-off-guard reaction was expressed by his father when I guffawed at his vampire hunting uniform.