You already know that I’m a horrible mom. I mean, psychologically horrible. I can’t help it! I live and breathe to punk people and no one is easier and more fulfilling to punk than my own kid. And believe me, he gives it back to me! It’s like our thing. We love to fuck with each other.
Off and on over the years, I’ve made loose comments about the man who lives in the attic. The steps to the attic can only be accessed from Chooch’s room, so it’s my way of nudging him down Night Terrors Alley. He’s always just like, “YEAH OK MOMMY” and then we all laugh and go about our day. But lately, it’s been heating up. My response to almost everything has been “manintheattic” and Henry gives me a disappointed look. Like when Chooch had a fever last week and woke up in the middle of night and dressed himself. He was horrified when he woke up because he never goes to bed with a shirt on.
“And now I have on TWO t-shirts?!” he cried, like call up Scully and Mulder, quick.
“Manintheattic,” I half-coughed. “Sometimes he dresses you during the night. You’re like his living baby doll.”
“YEAH RIGHT!” Chooch scoffed, but I could see that there was a tiny glimmer of doubt in his eyes.
The next night, as we all in our respective bedrooms for the night, Chooch made a fake phone number using one of those free text apps and started prank-calling me. I stupidly fell for it too, and I got so nervous when I saw a call coming in from someone with our area code BECAUSE WHO COULD IT BE, WHAT DID I DO NOW!? Then I realized it was the idiot in the next room over. So I made one too and said, “Be quiet down there, I’m trying to sleep.” And then “Good night.”
“You’re a dick,” Henry mumbled into his pillow when I giddily showed him my work.
The other day at work, I decided to create an Instagram account for The Man In the Attic.
Because these are things normal moms do.
Step 1: Find a good snap of Gary Busey’s mug to use as my user pic.
Step 2: Follow Chooch.
Step 3: Comment on Chooch’s most recent video of the kittens.
“You need to put them in the basement while you’re at school. They’re very disruptive during the day.”
Step 4: Post pictures.
I was crying at my desk over this while several of my co-workers clucked their tongues and made various remarks about Chooch’s future therapy bill.
“He does it to me, too!” I yelled in defense.
Glenn just shook his head at me and Todd struggled to wrap his head around how anyone thought it would be a good idea to have a child with me.
“My mom used to do this shit to me all the time when I was kid,” I explained during one of our daily “Dissecting Erin’s Childhood” conversations at work.
“Oh,” Todd said, attempting to understand how this was normal.
“I don’t talk to her anymore, though,” I added as an after thought, and then we all started to laugh, because: family.
“I’m going to pay someone to hide in the attic one night,” I said, and everyone groaned.
After work, Henry dropped Chooch off downtown because he and I were going to the Pens game. First, we went to get dinner. Over pizza, Chooch learned of the Man In the Attic’s Instagram account.
At first he was like, “Wait. What. How.” But then his brain kicked on and he said, “Yeah OK, I know this is you.”
“I have no idea what you’re talking about. Let me see that. Oh my god, this is so creepy!” I exclaimed, scrolling through Instagram on Chooch’s phone.
“Whatever, I know it’s you.”
I kept denying it over and over, and then we went to the game, where me made jokes about how Henry was home alone with the Man In the Attic. I thought everything was good. He knew I made the Instagram account and was able to find some humor in it, life goes on, Pens win, etc etc.
But later that night, after we came home from the game and Henry retired to bed after a long night of staying home doing nothing while Chooch and I screamed our faces off at Consol, Chooch brought up the Instagram account.
“Honestly, this is you, right?”
I couldn’t believe this was coming up again because I was certain he knew it was me. I mean, Chooch is a pretty bright kid!
But the sinister side of me saw this as an opportunity to continue the fun, so I denied it. Over and over and over.
“Chooch, like I have time to do shit like that at work, really!” I said with faux-annoyance.
(LOL, this was the biggest lie I’ve ever told.)
Suddenly, we had a replay of the Doll Episode. He was pissed, and he was also tired: A deadly combination.
He got so angry because I wouldn’t admit to it, that he started sobbing. Like, hands covering his face, body-convulsing sobs.
Since he’s my son, I initially couldn’t tell if he was faking it or not.
Turns out, nope. Thems some real optic-wets right there.
So of course I dropped the gag and hugged him, swearing it was me and apologizing profusely, but he shrugged away from me and shut himself in the kitchen.
When he came out, he spat, “DELETE IT. DELETE THE ACCOUNT.”
I promised I would, and then he retreated up the steps to his bedroom, sniffling and wiping tears with the back of his hand.
I felt like a complete asshole.
“Good for you!” Henry spat with disappointment when I went up to bed later and filled him in. “I’m glad we spent all that money on his new bed, because you’re the one who’s going to be sleeping in it!”
The next morning, Chooch was still bitter, but by the time I came home from a day of being scolded for being a terrible mom by my co-workers, Chooch had cooled down. I honestly think that the biggest issue here is that he hates it when I prank him better than he pranks me. But I’m happy to report that Chooch has now accept The Man In the Attic as a part of this household and has even added my newly-created phone number to his contacts as Manin Theattic. One day, we will laugh heartily about this over Christmas picnic in the cemetery with his children. I just can’t help it—I was born with a very dominant Prankster gene. (Or as some might argue—a Bully gene.)
The funniest part about all of this is that I’m the one who’s actually terrified of the attic.