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Bun in the Oven
“Dad, I’m serious- don’t do anything crazy while we’re gone.” Nick looked his
father in the eyes and repeated himself for the third time. He put his hands
out, as if to stop his father from getting too close.
“Nick, buddy, relax. I’ve looked after a kiddo before. Hell, I raised you and
your sisters all on my own. You really don’t think I can babysit your little boy
for an afternoon?” Murray grabbed Nick jokingly on his shoulders and shook him.
“No, dad-” Nick wriggled out of his father’s squeezing hands. “I’m not kidding
you, Dad. My parenting techniques are a lot different than yours were. We don’t
raise our son the same way you raised me.”
Murray sighed, dropped his hands to his side and said sarcastically, “Oh, I’m so
sorry to hear that, Nick. Would you like to discuss that over a cup of tea and a
tray of biscuits?” He gave his son a hearty punch in the left arm.
Nick rubbed his clammy hands on his navy slacks as he flashed back to his
childhood with his father. He instantly thought of the five-year period during
which six-foot-three Murray forced Nick to play full-contact tackle football
with him every Sunday afternoon. Or when Murray had to be forcibly removed from
Nick’s high school debating tournament because he shouted ‘derogatory and
potentially threatening phrases’ at Nick’s opponents. “It’s a debating
tournament for God’s sake!” Nick had reminded his father in the car home. But it
was the closest thing to organized sport that Nick willingly participated in, so
Murray was determined to make it as competitive as possible. Then there was, of
course, the infamous motorcycle incident. At eight years old, a helmetless Nick
took a ride on the back of his father’s motorcycle. Murray took them on the
highway, at which point a Department of Motor Transportation officer pulled them
over and nearly arrested him. Twenty-five years later, Nick still cringed at the
“All right, are we all ready to go?” Beth called as she walked into the kitchen.
She fastened an earring into her left ear with one hand and held baby Brayden in
her other arm.
“Um, yeah, just about,” Nick replied nervously, as he walked slowly to the
stainless steel fridge to retrieve the baby bottle.
“Hey, there’s the man of the hour!” Murray’s voice boomed and he reached out to
grab for Brayden.
“Hey Murray,” Beth laughed as she handed the baby over to her father-in-law with
an easy smile. It was her parents that were usually the ones to come and babysit.
They showed up on time, took the baby to the park, put him down for a nap and
left the house quietly once Beth and Nick got home, careful not to wake Brayden.
For the first time since the baby was born six months ago, however, Beth’s
parents had cancelled last minute. “I’m so sorry Beth,” her mother told her last
night over the phone. “Your father and I aren’t feeling well. I would hate to
get my beautiful grandson sick.” That left Murray.
“Nick, our appointment with the couch designer is at 1 o’clock,” Beth said
softly. She took the bottle from her husband’s now-shaking hands and put it in
“Right, sure, yeah I remember. And you’re positive we can’t cancel this thing,
right?” Nick asked as he lowered his voice. He glanced at his father who now
held Brayden like a football: the baby’s head rested in his palm and his tiny
body sprawled across his forearm.
Beth looked at Murray to make sure he hadn’t overheard before she replied. “We
have had this appointment for months. Trina is the best furniture designer in
the city, and I am not about to cancel an hour beforehand just because your
father…” she trailed off and flailed her hands. Then, she inhaled, picked the
car keys off of the marble counter, fastened the middle button on her
bourbon-coloured cashmere sweater and marched across the kitchen to Murray and
Brayden. “Alright, Murray, we’re off. We should be back by four at the latest.
Nick’s cell number is on the fridge and mine is on the counter. I left both of
our pin numbers for you too, just in case. If you get hungry, we have some
gluten-free chips in the pantry and dairy-free ice cream in the freezer. Oh,”
she said before Murray could ask her, “and there’s a six-pack in the fridge, but
Nick doesn’t like people drinking in front of the baby, so try to do it while
Brayden’s napping.” She rolled her eyes at the last instruction.
Nick nudged her in the ribs and mumbled, “The oven, tell him about the oven
Beth sighed. “What? Oh right, I forgot. Murray, we aren’t sure why, but Brayden
always starts to cry when he hears the oven timer beep. The doctor says it’s
just a phase—some babies cry when they hear the doorbell, ours cries when he
hears the oven timer. I know it sounds odd, but Nick and I are starting to think
it’s the entire oven itself that scares him. He cries when you put him near it,
so try to keep him out of the kitchen and away from the oven,” she said as she
kissed her son on his head.
Murray looked from Beth to Nick and then back to Beth. “Uh, yeah, okay sure,”
Murray scratched his head. “Yeah I’ll keep him away from the oven or whatever.
Hey, you kids got HD right? The football game is on in an hour and I hear it’s a
lot better in high def,” Murray said in his deep, husky voice.
“Yup,” Beth called out as she walked towards the front door while Nick trailed
behind her. “HD and surround sound. Enjoy!”
After a silent, thirty minute car ride, Nick and Beth stood in the middle of
Trina Nishimura’s private showroom. Beth grinned happily while Trina herself
flipped through fabric swatches as they stood amidst the rows of sectional
couches and plush cushioned chairs. “I am in love with that!” Beth squealed as
Trina sketched a tuxedo style, high back sofa in a cream raw silk. “Oh,
beautiful! You’re genius!” she said with excitement.
“Um, no! Hang on a minute Trina,” Nick interjected, waving his hands over the
sketchbook. “I want to make sure you understand what I said before. My wife and
I don’t want a couch that’s too soft or comfy. Our son could suffocate in it! If
he is lying on his tummy on the sofa, his head could get buried in all that soft
material, right Beth?” he looked to his wife with wide eyes .
“Nick,” Beth said in a low voice as she glanced self-consciously at Trina.
“Could you please just let us—”
“Oh, and I forgot to mention before, we need a material that is 100%
hypo-allergenic and eco-friendly. Preferably from a local factory, but I know
how hard that can be so if you have to import it, you can,” Nick added. “And
just so you are aware, my wife and I would like calming colours to be injected
into the design palette to create a soothing experience for Brayden when he’s in
The showroom fell silent. Beth exhaled heavily. “Nick,” she said as she placed a
hand on her husband’s shoulder. “I appreciate how… involved you are but frankly,
you’re de-railing the creative process here. Can you please just leave Trina and
me to design the couch. I promise we will make it baby-proof. Please?” She
looked her husband in the eye seriously. When he didn’t reply, she gently guided
him towards the set of stairs that led to the showroom’s basement, and Nick
walked down them silently.
“How unbelievable was that?” Beth asked her husband as they walked down the
driveway and away from Trina’s showroom. She wove her arm through Nick’s and her
heels clicked against the cobblestone ground as they strolled back to their car.
She had spent the past two hours with the designer, and emerged with a custom
couch, loveseat and dining room chair set. “I just can’t wait until they deliver
it. Three to four weeks can’t come soon enough!” Nick laughed and kissed his
wife’s cheek. While Trina and Beth had chatted about fabric and furniture, Nick
had met Trina’s co-worker, Anderson, who talked Nick into a wine cellar for his
basement. Once Anderson agreed to ship the cellar’s wood from a Brazilian forest
that Nick had read about in Green Parenting magazine, the pair designed the rest
of the wine cellar happily. The plans had distracted Nick from his worries about
Murray and Brayden.
As they got into the car, Beth pulled her cell phone out of her purse and placed
it on the centre consul. “Hey, would you look at that, Nick? I didn’t get one
call from your father, not one. No texts, no messages, nothing.” She winked at
her husband, who reached into his pocket to check his phone too.
“Me neither.” He blushed. “I may have exaggerated just a little, but we can’t
celebrate yet. Don’t say anything until we are sure he hasn’t burned the house
Nick had started the car, backed out of the driveway and was on the highway when
his phone vibrated noisily. He glanced at Beth to see if she looked panicked,
but her lips remained pursed in a small smile and her eyes stayed focused on the
road in front of her. Nick quickly picked up the phone from where it lay on the
consul. He took his eyes off the road to type in his password. B-r-a-y-d-e-n. It
was a text message, not a phone call. Surely if something were wrong, Murray
would have the common sense to call instead of text, so whatever it was, it
couldn’t be too bad. “It’s probably just a co-worker or something,” Nick mumbled
absently and glanced back to the highway with one hand on the wheel. He looked
back down to where his phone lay in his palm. He clicked the small, square
yellow icon and the screen erupted into the words: text message from Dad. Nick’s
heart skipped a beat. He clicked the icon again and the screen filled with a
picture of baby Brayden, clad in his white diaper, laying in an oval cooking
dish in the oven. His eyes were bright and stared directly at the camera, and
his mouth was open into a big smile, wet with drool. The pads of his tiny feet
were pressed together and his belly was big and round. “Oh my God!” Nick
shouted, as he veered out of his lane. “Beth!” He jabbed the phone into her
hand. Beth looked at the screen and her eyes grew wide. She placed a delicate
hand over her mouth and gasped. Underneath the photo was the message: Thought
I’d help the little guy get over his fear of ovens so that he doesn’t turn into
a scaredy cat like his old man! Brings a new meaning to bun in the oven, eh?!
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