“They messed it up,” April said. “Mine is for a boy. That’s not right.”
“Mine is for a girl,” Lance said.
Their father, Win, examined the photo books. Then he removed the receipt from the shipping box.
“Why is mine for a boy?” April said. “Why?”
“Hold on,” Win said. He held up his hand and continued to study the receipt. Then he picked up the phone and called the number on the receipt.
“Well, don’t you look at these before they’re made?” Win said on the phone.
“No, it’s all done by a service bureau in East Asia,” the customer service rep, “Franklin,” said on the phone. “They can’t tell the difference between a boy and a girl.”
“In what country can’t they tell the difference between a boy and a girl?”
“Not between a boy and a girl, just between an American boy and an American girl. That’s not their job.”
“Is there anything else I can help you with today, sir?”
“So you’re not going to do anything about this?”
“There is nothing I can do. You entered the information wrong. You chose the girl’s theme for the boy and the boy’s theme for the girl. You couldn’t tell the difference between a boy and a girl.”
Win slammed down the phone. “Asshole,” he said. “Piece-of-shit asshole.” Both Lance and April left the kitchen and went into the living room. Swearing meant time to leave.
Win spent a long time in the kitchen thinking about what he’d like to drink. He pictured various drinks in his head. Eventually he settled on a screwdriver, which he fixed.
He thought about how he’d ordered copies of the photo book for his parents, his wife’s parents, his sister, his wife’s brother, his aunt and uncle…. He stopped thinking and instead downed his screwdriver. Then he fixed another one.
You married a moron, his wife’s father would think. He wouldn’t say it, but Win would be able to tell that’s what he was thinking. Then if they ever got into a fight, her father would just unload a whole pile of insults and putdowns that he’d been saving over the years. One insult would likely be, Win thought, that Win wasn’t able to order properly.
The family always commemorated humiliating moments with a title. For example, The Jumper Cable Incident or The Draino Debacle. Only recently had they started appending the year onto the incident due to confusion over The Septic Tank Incident, which occurred in 2004, 2005, and 2007. This incident became known as The Photo Book Screw-Up of 2010.
“How could you screw this up?” April said.
“I’m getting tired of you complaining about this,” Win said.
“Are you getting me the right one? Are you getting it fixed?” April said.
“No. We can’t afford it right now.”
“I can’t believe you screwed this up,” April said.
Lance walked into the room from upstairs. “You’re not getting new ones?”
“Just shut up,” Win said. “I’m already goddamn sick of your bitching about this.” He stood.
“Why did you have to screw it up?” Lance said. “Why couldn’t you handle ordering?”
“Both of you upstairs. Now!” April and Lance looked at each other. “Now! Get upstairs now!” Both kids stood but didn’t move. “I’m not joking around.”
Win drank the rest of his screwdriver while his kids ran upstairs. He wanted to throw his glass into the fireplace like they always did in the movies, but, instead, he put it on the coffee table.
Upstairs Win picked out some of April’s clothes and handed them to Lance. “Put these on,” he said. He picked out some of Lance’s clothes and handed them to April. “Put these on.” Neither kid moved. Win yelled and threatened, and Lance and April eventually put on each other’s clothes. Both cried.
“If we can’t make the books right, we’ll make the kids right,” Win said. “OK, now downstairs.” Win made himself another screwdriver while his kids sat on the couch.
Around six, Beth, the mom, arrived home. “What’s going on here?” she said as she looked at her kids who were wearing each other’s clothes.
“Dad got drunk and went crazy,” April said. Her eyes were red from crying.
Then Win entered the room carrying another screwdriver (this time without the orange juice). He set it down on the coffee table. He placed his hands on April’s shoulders. “May I present your son…” he said. April twisted away from his grasp.
He pointed at Lance. “… and your daughter.” Lance leaned his head against the back of the couch.
“What are you doing?” Beth said. “What is this?”
“Now they match their photo books.” He picked up Lance’s photo book and showed it to Beth. “Here’s our daughter’s book.” The book was stereotypically girly: pink, with a bow and a feminine font. Beth took the book and looked through it.
“Dad screwed up the photo books,” Lance said.
“Go change,” Beth said. Lance and April ran upstairs.
“Their dad is a big fuckup,” Win said. “He can’t even handle ordering. He can’t even handle ordering by himself. No wonder no one will hire him. And now everyone in the family knows what a total fuckup he is. If there was ever any doubt. We can all have a big laugh about how pathetic and stupid Win is.”
“It’s not your fault,” Beth said. She was sitting at the computer reviewing the order. “They screwed it up.”
“The guy on the phone said it was my fault,” Win said.
“Not according to this,” Beth said. She pointed at the screen. Win studied the screen. It showed he ordered the right books. He turned to look at Beth.
“Don’t know about the kids, though,” she said. She laughed.
“I don’t think you should be laughing,” Win said. He laughed.
“Then why are you laughing?”
“It’s just I feel so bad for them,” Win said.
“Stop laughing then,” Beth said.
“For once, some screw-up wasn’t my fault. But then I go and screw up trying to deal with it,” Win said.
“It’s a gift.”
“Thanks,” Win said. “Maybe I can draw on this gift in my job hunt.”
“Yeah, that’s it.”
“They’ll be fine, no big deal,” Beth said.