T minus three hours and counting. This afternoon I talk to my son's school. Ed has been going around with a longer and longer face, ever since he learned last week that I will be standing on stage in his auditorium chatting about ... heaven knows what embarrassing topic.
His embarrassment goes back to a couple of years ago, when I gave a talk to his elementary schoool, and happened to mention, in front of everyone in the gymnasium, that Ed used to go by the nickname Bun Bun. (Not a very cool nickname, Bun Bun. Not like Flash or Magic or Hell Boy. ) With the persistent insensitivity of thirteen-year-old boys, Ed's friends called him Bun Bun for weeks afterwards.
How could you do it? he asked me. And I had no useful answer. Like Sam with his keys, I simply had not been paying attention. I kept on flapping my gums, and didn't realize what words were escaping.
I could sympathize with his position ... but only up to a point. Get over it, big guy, I said. They're just words. I'll try not to do something like it again.
No! he shouted. I'm serious, Dad. If you do something like that again I'll never get over it. NEVER!
Tears in his eyes.
I apologized. But, you know, it could have been worse, I said. There was a kid named Pee Pants in my grade eight class.
Ed went white, like a blanched almond. Pee Pants Scrimger, he muttered. Oh, my --
Don't worry, Pee Pants, I said.
Don't refer to me at all. You have no son, okay? You have no son.
Are you ever more embarrassable than you are at fourteen? I mean, ever in life? These days I can mortify Ed by simply whistling. (I must remember to use this power for good.) Seriously, I don't want to hurt him. But I say things without thinking sometimes. (All right, often.) And I will be talking to a roomful of kids about writing for kids. I'll have to be extra careful not to mention mine. Maybe I'll begin with a theme discussion: global warming, say. Scary stuff, global warming. Thinking about the consequences of that is enough to make you pee your ...
T minus two hours.