Every kid knows that the house is just DIFFERENT once Daddy’s crawled inside!
1. You hear the scritchy-scratchy of Daddy’s long fingers: Before Daddy’s even in the house, you’ll always hear the ticky-ticky-ticky of Daddy’s many, many snaky fingers creepy-crawling through the mail slot and up the door to undo the locks. When you hear the clackity-clack of Daddy’s white rings, that’s when it’s time to cup your hands and whisper, “Welcome home, Daddy!”
2. All the neighbors’ lights are off: Even the streetlights go out when Daddy’s come home. And the beam of a flashlight seems to die in its bulb, or turn a trembling blue when Daddy’s very, very, very, very near. Daddy must have darkness for his slumber, or else his Dreams turn terribly nasty.
3. Father has fled: If Father is nowhere to be found, it can only mean that Daddy’s about. And if Father stands up mid-sentence and makes a break for the back door, it’s a sure sign that soon enough, Daddy will be tucking Father’s keepsakes into the deep, deep folds of his black, black coat. It won’t be till Daddy’s long woken from his slumber and his Dreams have all melted away that Father warily skulks back in, all chattery, shivering damp.
4. There’s a prize on the doorstep: Daddy always brings a prize! Sometimes it’s coins plucked from hidden pockets. Other times it’s a dog sucked dry like a raisin. Every now and then, Daddy will even leave a bright new bicycle he’s folded over and over like origami, until you can barely see its folded-up rider gawping out from inside. Best to leave Daddy’s prizes alone, though, unless you’d very much like to play with him.
5. The light bulbs are all licked clean: Inside and out! And all the icky insect husks in the fixtures are lickied up too! Daddy does love a clean bulb.
6. The table’s set for feasting: When Daddy’s home, the table’s always set oh-so-perfect, with Mother’s shattered china; tallow candles with too-familiar scents; and twisty, prickly silverware for hands and mouths not quite like ours. And such a spread, so sticky-foul and stinky-sweet! Don’t worry about leftovers; once Daddy’s supped his fill and crept up to bed, his Dreams will come dripping on down from upstairs to sniff their many, many nostrils in search of the scraps.
7. Daddy’s pajamas are off their hook: Oh, oh, how Daddy loves to don his comfy clothes on his drowsy way upstairs. He wraps a pale-skin robe around all his trembly tower of many, many ribs and perches his long droopy cap on his great big head and tickles its hem with the corners of his grin so shiny it gleams through your keyhole, and slips pale-skin gloves over his snaky-squirmy fingers and clackity rings! When Daddy’s night-hook dangles empty-bare, Daddy’s never far behind.
8. The stairs no longer go down: The house is all Daddy’s when he’s inside, and just like Daddy, it likes to play. So run, run, run downstairs all you please, but you’ll never seem to reach the floor below. Instead, the stairs always lead up, up, up, up, up, to the nail-scratched door of Daddy’s room, where his snores jiggle the knob and his Dreams come dripping out through the cracks and gaps, all lumpy, toothy, and thin, hungry to roam all through the house in search of quivery, shivering little hideaways.
9. It’s dead quiet: The only thing worse than a great sniffly sneeze or gurgly yelp attracting Daddy’s Dreams is when one interrupts Daddy’s slumber. Even the clocks quit their ticking to let Daddy sleep so peaceful. All Daddy can stand to hear is his grumbly snores, the stumbly limping thuds of his Dreams, and the huff-huff-huff of little fluttery lungs scrambling away. Must be why Mother’s mouth goes missing when Daddy comes home!
10. Daddy’s shadow is everywhere: Even long after he’s gone to bed, Daddy’s tall shadow lingers on every wall, pointing and grinning, pointing at you, no matter how many lights you turn on in a vain attempt to drown them out. There’s no doubt about it: If Daddy’s tall shadow is watching you, learning your weaknesses, you know Daddy’s home!