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Home: The Toast

He earned his first star (gold) for designing and hanging up his sticker chart.

That evening he earned another star (gold) for watching a movie with his children without complaining about it.

Later that evening he earned another star (gold) for getting his children in bed without complaining about it.

And later that evening he earned a star (red) for an undisclosed reason.

 

The next morning he earned a star (gold) for getting his children ready for school without complaining about it. He earned another star (gold) for rinsing their dishes, putting them in the dishwasher and running it.

That afternoon he earned a star (silver) for going to Home Depot, purchasing a new towel rack and installing it. He earned another star (gold) for uninstalling it and reinstalling it using a level.

Later that afternoon he earned two stars (gold) for taking his children to their practices without complaining about it.

That evening he earned a star (silver) for watching MLB on mute.

 

The next morning he earned a star (gold) for getting his children ready for school without complaining about it, but he missed out on a star (gold) for the dishes.

That afternoon he earned two stars (silver) for taking his children to practice, even though he complained about it.

That evening he earned a star (silver) for not watching MLB. He didn’t earn a better star (gold) because it was only on account of the internet being down.

Later that evening he earned a star (silver) for getting his children in bed, even though he complained about it.

And later that evening he earned a star (silver) for shooting two balled-up socks and making them into the hamper from all the way across the bedroom. He remained uncertain as to why he missed out on a better star (gold).

 

The next morning he earned a star (gold) for getting all the tiling stuff out of the garage and moving it into the bathroom. Later that morning he lost the same star (gold) for leaving the tiling stuff in the bathroom without having started in on tiling the floor, because he was in the living room all day watching Golf Channel.

That afternoon he lost two stars (gold) when he got caught transposing stars (gold) for other stars (silver) on his sticker chart.

That evening he earned a star (silver) for watching MLB on mute while pretending to pay the bills.

Later that evening he earned two stars (red) for two undisclosed reasons.

 

The next afternoon he lost a star (gold) for watching Golf Channel all morning instead of playing with his children.

That evening he earned a star (silver) for helping his children with their homework without complaining about it. He missed out on getting a better star (gold) because he referred to his son’s teacher as an idiot.

 

The next morning he earned a star (gold) for getting his children ready for school without complaining about it. He earned another star (silver) for rinsing their dishes and putting them in the dishwasher. He didn’t earn a better star (gold) because he forgot to run it. He also earned a star (silver) for filling up the dog’s water bowl.

That afternoon he earned a star (silver) for filling up the dog’s water bowl. That evening he earned another star (silver), also for filling up the dog’s water bowl.

Later that evening he lost three stars (silver) when he got caught dumping the water from the dog’s water bowl into the sink, only to fill it up again, in hopes of earning another star (silver).

And later that evening he earned a star (red) for an undisclosed reason. And late that same evening, he placed all the sheets of stars (red) on top of the stack of all the other sheets of stars (gold and silver) in the little basket hanging beneath the sticker chart, in hopes that the mere sight of those stars (red) might entice someone into offering him further opportunities to earn such stars (red).

 

The next morning he earned a star (gold) for getting his children ready for school without complaining about it. He earned another star (gold) for rinsing their dishes, putting them in the dishwasher and running it. And he earned another star (gold) for filling up the dog’s food and water bowls and promising not to dump them out just to earn more stars.

That afternoon he earned a star (red) for an undisclosed reason.

That evening he earned a star (gold) for not watching MLB. He earned another star (gold) for getting his children in bed without complaining about it.

Later that evening he earned another star (red) for another undisclosed reason.

 

The next morning he earned three stars (gold) for various reasons pertaining to his children and the dog.

That afternoon he earned a star (red) for an undisclosed reason.

Later that afternoon he earned two stars (gold) for reasons pertaining to his children.

That evening he earned four stars (gold) for reasons pertaining to being a good father.

And later that evening he earned three stars (red) for three undisclosed reasons.

 

The next day he earned a total of eight stars (gold) and five stars (red) for various disclosed and undisclosed reasons.

 

The next day he earned a total of nine stars (gold) and six stars (red) for various disclosed and undisclosed reasons.

 

The following morning he earned a star (gold) for installing a new ceiling fan. But he lost the same star (gold) when the ceiling fan fell from the ceiling and cracked the coffee table in half.

That afternoon he lost another star (gold) for watching MLB instead of playing with his children. He lost another four stars (gold) for drinking four too many beers.

That evening he lost five stars (gold) for failing to schedule his vasectomy operation during the previous week, like he was supposed to.

The next morning he lost three stars (gold) for drinking three beers before noon, and he lost three more stars (gold) for watching Golf Channel throughout the entirity of the morning and most of the early afternoon.

Later that afternoon, while his children were at a friend’s house, he attempted to earn one or more stars (red) for one or more undisclosed reasons, but he ended up losing a couple stars (gold) when he became angry about not having been given what he thought was a fair chance at earning such stars (red).

That evening he earned a star (gold) for helping his children with their homework, but he also lost five stars (gold) for reasons pertaining to undisclosed things he said about their teachers.

 

The next day he earned no stars. He lost eight stars (gold).

 

The next day he earned one star (silver) for something having to do with the dog. All told, he lost six stars (gold).

 

The next day he earned no stars. He lost twelve (gold and silver).

And that evening he lost a star (red), although he still doesn’t understand how that’s even possible.

 

The next day he earned four stars (gold) for reasons pertaining to his children, but then he lost all of them when attempting to earn one or more stars (red) later that evening for an undisclosed reason, while knowing that there was no chance whatsoever of that happening, and for complaining about it.

 

The next day he lost fourteen stars (gold and silver).

Later that evening, he should have earned a star (red) for an undisclosed reason, he believed, but for some reason he didn’t.

 

The following morning he earned two stars (gold) for going to Home Depot, buying a new ceiling fan, returning home and installing it correctly. He also earned a star (gold) for going online and ordering a new coffee table to replace the one that the old ceiling fan had cracked in half when it fell.

That afternoon he earned two stars (gold) for playing with his children. He earned another two stars (gold) for arranging sleepovers for his children at their friends’ houses.

That evening he earned a total of three stars (red), two of which were for undisclosed reasons and one of which was to make up for not having received a star (red) the previous evening, the one he’d clearly earned.

 

The next morning he earned a star (red) for an undisclosed reason, apparently, but he can’t remember it because he was still sleeping at the time.

That afternoon he earned two more stars (red) for two more undisclosed reasons.

That evening he earned a star (gold) for going to pick up his children from their friends’ houses without complaining about it.

Later that evening he earned yet another star (red) for yet another undisclosed reason.

And late that same evening he earned a star (gold) as a bonus star for having had such a great day on his sticker chart.

 

The next morning he earned four stars (gold) for various reasons pertaining to his children and the dog.

That afternoon and evening he earned six stars (gold) for various reasons pertaining to his children’ practices, getting them ready for bed and being a good father.

Later that evening he earned two stars (silver and red) for an undisclosed reason pertaining to watching MLB on mute.

 

The following day was his best day yet on the sticker chart. He earned thirteen stars (gold) and seven stars (red) for various disclosed and undisclosed reasons.

 

The next morning, however, he lost every star he’d ever earned when he tore the sticker chart in half and placed it in the garbage bin out by the side of the garage.

But that afternoon he earned a star (gold) for retrieving the sticker chart from the garbage bin, taping it back together and hanging it up again.

Later that afternoon he earned a star (gold) for finally calling the urologist and scheduling his vasectomy operation. He also earned a star (red) for an undisclosed reason.

That evening he earned another star (red) for another undisclosed reason.

And later that evening he earned another couple stars (red) for another couple undisclosed reasons.

And late that evening he earned another star (silver) when he said that earning stars (red) is perhaps his very favorite thing in this world. And he earned another star (silver) when he said that it often feels to him as if the sole reason he has been placed on this earth is for the purpose of earning such stars (red).

 

Over the course of the following two weeks he earned 126 stars (gold) and 19 stars (silver) for various reasons pertaining to his children, the dog, being a good father, and things purchased from Home Depot that he later installed. He only lost 18 stars (gold) and 3 stars (silver). Over that same two-week period he earned 44 stars (red) for 44 undisclosed reasons.

 

Then, early one morning, he lost 20 stars (gold) for waffling on his decision about his vasectomy operation, but he ended up getting them all back later that afternoon when he called the urologist’s office to verify that he would indeed be coming in for his operation the following day.

That evening he earned two stars (gold) for sitting his children down and having the birds and bees conversation with them without making any off-color jokes.

And later that evening he earned five stars (gold) for shaving off all his pubic hair. Over the course of that same evening he earned an undisclosed number of stars (red) for an undisclosed number of reasons.

 

The next morning he earned four stars (gold) for getting his children ready for school, even though he complained about it a little.

Later that morning he earned two stars (gold and silver) for crying in the car on the drive to the urologist’s office. He said he was crying because he was scared of dying on the operating table (silver), and also because getting a vasectomy meant he wouldn’t be able to have any more children (gold). He then made a joke, to try to stop himself from crying, about how he’d be losing out on many opportunities for the earning of future stars (gold and silver) by having the operation, because children seemed to be closely associated with his acquisition of those stars (gold and silver), and having more children would surely mean having more opportunities at earning more of those stars (gold and silver), so maybe he shouldn’t go through with it, he joked, if the whole point to being a father is to earn as many stars (gold and silver) as possible? He earned two stars (gold) for his joke. Next, he admitted that he was also afraid that having a vasectomy operation could potentially result in fewer opportunities to earn those stars (red) that are his very favorite kind of stars to earn, upon which time he began to cry again, earning another star (gold). Finally, he made an undisclosed joke to try to get himself to stop crying, which seemed to work, and for which he earned that morning’s final star (gold).

That afternoon, when he arrived home, he earned a total of 176 stars (gold and silver), every last star (gold and silver) remaining on the sheets of stickers, simply for limping through the front door.

That evening, he should have earned a star (gold or silver) for going online and ordering more sheets of stickers, but since all of those stars (gold and silver) were gone, he earned a star (red) instead.

And later that evening he earned another star (red) for getting his children in bed, even though he complained about it.

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Evan Lavender-Smith is the author of From Old Notebooks and Avatar. His writing has recently appeared in BOMB, The White Review, Eleven Eleven, and The Collagist. He teaches creative writing at New Mexico State University and serves as an editor at Noemi Press.

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