By JEFF PICKELL
In eight short months, I am to be an uncle.
My brother John and sister-in-law Stephanie cheerfully reported the news on a Tuesday night three weeks ago, just after I finished helping David empty the big blue van of the newest batch of Observers.
“I’m going to corrupt your child,” I cheerfully reported back to them.
I wasn’t kidding. I have long dreamed of being a weird uncle. You know, the shady character at reunions begging the rich family members for cash to start his latest pea-brained money-making scheme? Who has let enough people down that nobody even takes him seriously anymore? Who smells like airplane glue?
“I’m going to make him call me Uncle Sam,” I said. “I want him to associate the values I teach with the values of these United States of America. He will know more about the Galactic Rebellion and the Kree-Skrull War than the American Revolution and the Civil War.”
“What are you talking about?” said Stephanie.
“Are you going to name him John?” I asked.
“If it’s a boy, yes,” Stephanie answered.
“All right! Johnny Five is alive!” I exclaimed. My brother is John Middleton Pickell IV.
“Please don’t call him Johnny Five,” Stephanie said.
“Too late! Too late!” I yelled. “Input! Need input!”
“What if it’s a girl?” she countered.
I screamed “No!” and slammed the phone down. Then I ran to the office to tell David the good news.
“Guess who gets to be a weird uncle?” I asked.
“You’re going to be a monkey’s uncle?” he said.
“I have no idea what you’re saying!” I replied for the fifth time that day, then sprinted out onto the street.
I was preparing to go for a walk when John called me, so I parlayed the sprint into my standard plod. But I was still giddy with excitement. I’m sure I outdid myself in terms of sheer bizareness of appearance.
Let’s start with my normal exercise garb—a fluorescent orange Microsoft t-shirt that proclaims “Think” in bright white letters, a nine-year-old pair of diamond-patterned stark blue tennis shorts, black argyle socks, and huge orthopedic running shoes.
Add that I’m usually either humming or talking to myself as I walk, usually nonsense phrases like “Bus the Capitol” and “Call the mayor.”
And remember my freakish lack of elbow flex and strange semi-upright, shoulders-slumped posture.
Now factor in a huge, airplane glue-induced euphoric grin. Just kidding about the airplane glue.
I’m glad a crew of volunteers was mowing the grass around the track at the high school. If anyone heard what I was mumbling—the snippets of knowledge I plan to impart on my nephew—I’d have ended up in the looney bin.
“Han shot first. Han shot first. Han shot first. ‘Star Wars’ episodes one through three don’t exist.”
“William Shatner won two Emmys and a Golden Globe. For acting. This is scientific proof that nothing is impossible.”
“The American people elected Jesse ‘The Body’ Ventura and Arnold Schwarzeneggar to the governorships of two U.S. states. It is not a coincidence that both were in ‘Predator.’”
“We refer to the man who played both Maverick and Jim Rockford as ‘Sir’ James Garner.”
“The closest any man will come to feeling the pain of childbirth is the fourth level of ‘Sonic the Hedgehog.’”
“Originally, literary scholars outlined four basic human conflicts: man vs. man, man vs. nature, man vs. self, and man vs. man’s work. Recently, a fifth conflict has been added—man vs. snakes on a plane.”
“I have always wanted to drink chocolate milk directly from a gas pump.”
I had my entire curriculum thought out by the time I returned from exercising, at which point David informed me of the nine gazillion unanswered calls to my phone line (the secret line in the office doubles as my personal line after hours).
I knew just who it was.
“I get to be the weird uncle!” yelled my brother Jamie.
“Too late! Too late! I already called it!” I chided.
“Shucks!” He said. “What does that leave me?”
“You can always be the cool uncle,” I said.
“Aw, who wants to be the cool uncle?”
Who indeed. Who indeed.– Aug. 23, 2006