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Stir crazy inside the house. The kids are screaming and I’m trying to clean. The wife is overwhelmed with tasks and hides, crying. Things are untenable here. We get ready to go hiking.

Driving, crying baby, panting dog, stagnant heat. We arrive at the dusty trail and set out. I’m carrying the baby in a backpack designed for the purpose. Goldbrick. He must eat baby bowling balls. We find a river bank and the dog splashes around. The boy takes pictures. It’s tough with all this gear and the heat, but the creek is beautiful. If you get just the right angle there’s no powerlines or houses.

We march on through the dust, over steep banks. I’m sweating so much and breathing hard. My hair is dripping. The baby pulls my hat off and throws it on the ground. He pulls my hair. I pick it up with the big gut welder’s bend and put it in my pocket. Now the sun is melting my brain with its death rays.

“Hey, you guys look tired,” I gasp. “Maybe you (wheeze) feel like (choke) turning around up here.”

“You look really bad,” she says.

“No, no (panting), I’m worried about you guys,” I lean against a tree. The kids laugh. I don’t remember much except seeing stars.

“I used to (gasp) hike with way more (dying) weight than this. (sucks wind) I’m totally cool,” the sweat runs down my fingers and earlobes like faucets.

“When you were in the Marines, right dad?” the kid asks.

“What? (disoriented) oh yeah, machine guns and tanks (not making sense),” I manage to fake my body back to the car and lean against the steering wheel.

“Just gimme minute,” I croak.

At least we got out of the goddamn house.