I loosened my tie and sank into the sports coupe. It was Friday afternoon, the end of yet another sixty-five hour week. Despite the chaos of rush hour traffic, I willingly accepted the unpleasantness knowing that a cold six-pack and the Knicks game waited for me at home.
The chime interrupted the solitude inside the shell of my personal sanctuary. New text message from Kimmie.
Speaking in the robotic voice that I came to loathe, Don’t forget to pick up the pizza for family game night – smiley face.
Damn. I had forgotten that we moved family game night up by a day. And just like that, the chaotic traffic became an intolerable nuisance.
As I slipped through the front door with the two pizza boxes, I was promptly greeted by my six year old daughter, Lisa. Although I was disappointed about the change in plans that I should have remembered, the excited look in Lisa’s eyes immediately lifted my spirits.
“Hi Daddy,” she exclaimed while simultaneously jumping into my arms. I managed to balance the pizza in one arm and my little bundle of joy in the other.
“It’s my turn tonight … to choose,” she said proudly.
I didn’t need to ask. I knew exactly what she meant. At the front of her closet, in front of all the other toys and games sat Chutes and Ladders.
We played it every other evening, but it held special significance when played on game night. It began as a silly dare and had now evolved into a family tradition. If Lisa won, she could stay up as late as she wanted.
I always seemed to find more chutes than ladders. Tonight was no exception. On other nights, I might entertain the possibility of allowing Lisa to win. Not tonight. I was exhausted and ready to retire early.
I was three spots away from victory and probably a little too eager to win against a six year old. My tenacious attitude in the boardroom was leaking over into my family life. Kimmie kicked me under the table. I pulled my feet back. Just tonight, I thought, let me win. Nope, somehow I knew it wouldn’t happen.
“Yay! I’m staying up until midnight!”
I sank into the couch. My consolation prize was that I’d be able to catch the end of the basketball game. Flipping the television on, I was greeted by a blowout that wasn’t in my team’s favor. I flipped the power off and closed my eyes.
Sometime around 2AM, the duo dressed in black sidled up to the curb around the corner. The lights inside surprised them.
“What are they still doing up? We’ve been watching them for weeks. This doesn’t fit.”
Perplexed by the sequence of events, the accomplice suggested, “Let’s go for the house next door, it’s dark.”
Inside the house filled with artificial light, Lisa remained curled up with her dad on the couch, peacefully sleeping – one dreaming of chutes, and the other of ladders.