Glint leaned aside, making doe-eyes at her father. “Hey Dad,” She said, “You should teach us how to drive…”
Nori saw his daughter out of the corner of his eye making an hand gesture as if she were spelling out the words in the sky. He couldn’t help but chuckle a little at her antics, but shook his head a little anyway. “Uh, no,” He said simply with the decisiveness only an amateur father could have.
“What?!” Glint sat up completely straight in the passenger seat, giving her father laser-eyes that her particular Pokémon type didn’t actually have, “Why not?!”
Nori had to give the decision some careful, but quick thought. Thankfully this wasn’t the first time his daughter had asked to drive his old Camry. It wasn’t the most attractive of cars and was definitely what people could consider a ‘grocery-getter,’ with its copper brown paintjob and some sort of noise that came from under the hood Nori had never bothered to get checked. But he understood the appeal of learning how to drive – maybe then they wouldn’t need him to take them places. Nevertheless, he had his reasoning.
“You’re not old enough yet,” He said simply.
Spark, in the back seat, looked away from his droning stare out the window. “We’re seventeen,” He said, “The legal age to get your first-level license is sixteen.”
“Yeah!” Glint rallied.
Hm. That excuse was gone. Nori paused and stared straight ahead as they came to a red light. This gave him a lot of time to think, but just as much time for his kids to be impatient.
“You’re not ready yet,” He said with an affirmative nod, “In order to drive the car, you gotta earn the car.”
“Dad! I can jump-start the battery!” Glint shouted, gesturing to her cheek-pouches and giving her dad an intense stare-down, “With the power of my faaaace! I think that gives me more right than YOU to drive the car!”
“What? No,” Nori grinned at his daughter, “And sit up straight, jeez.”
“Oh fiiiine,” Glint rolled her eyes as she slumped back in her seat and crossed her arms, “But if you break down at the side of the road, don’t you come craaaawling to me OR Spark.”
The light turned, and Nori pulled back into a drive. “Hey, don’t bring your brother into this,” He said, looking briefly at the Minun in the back seat through the rear-view, “Right Spark?”
Spark met his father’s eyes in the rear-view, and then scooted forwards in his seat to rest his hands on the back of his sister’s seat. “Maybe if Dad actually crawled,” He said. Nori blinked a few times and flicked one of his ears in slight agitation.
“Yeah~ Make Dad crawl!” Glint beamed, raising a hand to exchange a high-five with her brother.
“Gah, my God,” Nori groaned, “It’s a one-man battle against you kids. Bottom line: no driving the car until you’re eighteen.”
“Gah, eighteen,” Glint huffed, “Always eighteen.”
“Don’t drive the car until you’re eighteen,” Spark said.
“No parties until you’re eighteen,” Glint rebutted.
“No dating until you’re eighteen.”
“No moving out until you’re eighteen.”
Glint planted her hands on her head as if the words were trying to bore their way out of her skull. “No being eighteen until you’re eighteen!” She cried.
Nori rolled his eyes, “Don’t be so dramatic.”
“I’m a teenager it’s my right to be dramatic!” Glint shouted as she pulled her ears down against either side of her head.
The old Camry pulled into the gravel driveway of their home, the stones making for a bumpy ride. Once they stopped, the family all piled out of the car, and Nori went around back to open the trunk and grab the groceries they had picked up. His twins helped out by grabbing a few bags each and marching towards the house, continuing to chatter back and forth about their teenaged woes. Nori did his best to ignore them for the moment as he walked in behind them, and then made his way to the kitchen with them to put things away. It was just another average day in the Kusemurai home!
It’d been so long since Nori had welcomed the twins into his home, and it seemed every day would just get rougher. As they grew up from sixteen-year-old strangers into independent a seventeen-year-old teenaged son and daughter pair, they tried their best to push the boundaries. They argued with him over things, purposely pushed their limits, and sometimes went out of their way to try and prove to Nori that they were more grown up than he thought. He hadn’t expected it to happen so fast, but it seemed they were becoming little adults faster than he could really keep track of.
But in just as many ways, they were still just kids. They sat on that unique cusp between adolescence and adulthood where they would consistently prove they were immature and still learning just what it meant to be an adult. He had them get a job so they would learn that hard work got them what they wanted, but even then they felt themselves entitled to things. They had no idea what it was like to be in his shoes – paying bills, dealing with adult responsibilities, and raising them – but it also seemed like they didn’t care. They didn’t ever try to see things from his perspective, so they were butting heads more and more often.
Eating dinner became a fairly quiet event in the household. Getting older seemed to mean that they’d tell him less about what went on in their lives. They never discussed their grades with him, or even did their homework anywhere he could ever see them do it. He knew that they’d skipped classes more than once, but they’d blame it on the teachers taking attendance wrong. They never told him what they were doing with their friends and they avoided the subject of dating like the plague. They just didn’t communicate, and Nori couldn’t help the matter.
There had been a point, Nori realized, where his teenaged kids became less like his kids and more like a pair of roommates he paid rent, hydro, and gas for. To say that it had started becoming a problem would have been an understatement.
After dinner, Nori would often do the dishes with one of the twins drying each off. Given that it was only the day’s dishes, there wasn’t ever much to do; still, getting them there was like pulling teeth and the act of actually helping always seemed forced. Nori did his best to knock the idea into them that if they weren’t going to help pay for the house, they were going to at least help care for it, but there was something in that easy to understand philosophy that just fell short when reaching their ears. Suddenly they’d claim that they’d earned some kind of break from doing dishes for a night based on some guideline they completely made up. Other times…
“There, done,” Spark said.
Nori looked at the full dish rack, still full of wet dishes. “Uh, no, bud,” Nori said, “You still gotta dry those off.”
“Uh, no, Dad,” Spark would say, gesturing to the empty sink, “That’s the last of them. Just let them drip-dry.”
“I’m sorry, did you just tell me ‘no?’” Nori found himself asking that question a lot with his kids, “I don’t think so, young man. Dry those dishes. It won’t even take long.”
“And I keep saying there’s nothing wrong with just leaving them there for a while!” Spark would argue, “I’ll come back and put them away later.”
“Horse shit,” Nori cussed, “You’ll ‘forget’ like always. Just do them now.”
“No, I swear I will.”
Maybe Nori just never knew when he’d say something that sounds like a challenge to a kid who was a Pokémon – a species of animal that had thousands upon thousands of years evolving while being used as tools to settle challenges. But whenever he did, his kids would always let him know it. Spark looked at his father with a slightly cocked brow and a wary look. “Now? Or else what?” He’d ask.
Whenever Nori heard ‘or else what,’ he knew right where his kids were going. He sighed, “Spark, don’t.”
But, Nori was a teenage boy once, full of bad attitude and too much testosterone. He knew it was already too late. Spark would toss the towel he’d been using over his shoulder and step close to his by all means bigger and taller father to look him in the eye. It’d turn into some kind of playful game in which Nori was at a terrible disadvantage when Spark would give him a little shove. It was clear the kid would be having fun, but Nori would not. Despite having the size advantage, Nori was far weaker than both Glint and Spark – and unfortunately, they knew it.
“Spark, you lay one more hand on me and that’s it,” Nori firmly put his foot down, and put on his sternest of faces and tones, “I’ll ground your ass so fast you won’t know what happened. Just do as you’re told.”
“I didn’t even push you hard,” Spark would get defensive; “Don’t be stupid.”
“And now you’re calling me stupid?” Nori glared, “Nope. That’s it. Room. Now.”
“What?! Come on!” Spark shouted.
“No!” Nori shouted back louder, “You don’t wanna do what you were told to do? Fine. But you can not do what you’re told up in your room for the rest of the night! NOW GO!”
Spark would glare right back. “Pff, screw you, Dad,” He’d say, taking his dry-towel and tossing it in Nori’s face before storming off to his room.
Glint would be a whole other bag of marbles.
One night she stepped out of the bathroom. She was wrapped in little more than a towel, but she’d run into Nori as soon as she stepped out of the door. He was blocking her path.
“You were in there for an hour,” He’d inform her.
“So?” She’d give him an odd look as she dried out her ears.
“What do you mean ‘so?’ That’s an hour’s worth of hot water!” Nori would raise his voice a little too quickly, “I have to pay for that you know!”
“How much could a bunch of water be?” Glint asked.
Getting frustrated at her general ignorance towards the thing Nori got snippy. “What, you think it’s cheap? I guess you’re going to be paying for it then,” He’d say, holding out his hand expectantly as if waiting for her to pay him, “Come on then. Give me your money.”
His daughter would recoil. “I don’t have any money!” She’d squeak.
“Oh, what a coincidence! Neither do I when you take so many crazy long showers!” Nori would point out, “Funny how that works!”
Raising her hands, Glint shook her head a bit as if to snap herself out of some daze. “Oh, you know what Dad? Here’s an idea…”
Stepping back into the bathroom, she’d quickly close the door just so was sticking her head out. She’d blow him a raspberry and then slam and lock the bathroom door. After an eye-roll from Nori, the next twenty minutes would be spent making it explicitly clear to his daughter that she’d be grounded for a week and that if she kept up her habits, he really would make her start paying for them.
Glint and Spark spent more and more time getting grounded the older they got. It felt like Nori was losing control of the situation. He thought he’d expected this sort of phase to happen, but nobody ever told him he’d go to bed some nights utterly livid with his own children. He just hadn’t been prepared for how desperate their teenage struggle for independence would actually be.
He found himself doing things with them less and less. On the weekends they’d decide on their own to go to the city and spend time with their friends Salem and Whitney. Naturally they wouldn’t tell him, and if he was fortunate enough to learn of their plans it would always be at the last minute. They never asked him to bring them anywhere if they could help it, and they sure as heck didn’t want to play with their old man when it came to soccer. They didn’t even want to play video games with him, and would often times blatantly leave him out of the fun by just doing things together and saying he wasn’t allowed to join them.
“Is it even normal for your kids to hate you?”
“Yup,” Sammy Quine, Glint and Spark’s Pikachu “Nanny” crossed her legs as she sat at Nori’s kitchen table with him, “I hated the heck out of my Dad. Didn’t you?”
Nori blinked a little, snapping out of his little daze. “What? No, I didn’t hate my Dad,” He said.
“Oh sure, we don’t hate our Dad’s now,” Sammy said, taking a sip from a soda she was drinking, “But did we hate our Dads? Absolutely.”
“I barely even knew the guy,” Nori said, waving a hand dismissively, “Not my fault.”
“Look, all I’m saying is that right now they just see you as that guy who never lets them have any fun,” Sammy explained, “But they’ll come around. They love you.”
“I know they love me, it’s just…” Nori sighed, sitting back as he crossed his legs, “I dunno if I can take this whole arguing thing much longer. I’m just gonna snap on them one day.”
Sammy kind of squinted behind her soda can, shifting her gaze aside. “Did you try… talking to them?” She asked.
“Talk,” Nori repeated, “To seventeen-year-olds. I may as well be trying to talk over a blender.”
“Alright, how about just spending time with them?” Sammy shifted gears.
“Pff, they’re never within ten feet of me if they can help it,” Nori huffed.
Sammy leaned forwards. “Awww, they’re growing up,” She said, “And it bothers you.”
“Does not,” Nori raised a hand, “That is completely not true. And cliché.”
“Nori, you just have to stop trying to show them how to grow up and just grow up with them,” Sammy explained.
Nori gave her an odd look, “Did you just tell me to grow up?”
“Listen, come out to the ranch this weekend with them,” Sammy smiled, “We’ll get this sorted out.”
Nori did just that, accompanying the twins to the ranch on the weekend they were supposed to work. One sunny Friday morning, and he’d find himself standing outside at the edge of Sammy’s property with his kids.
“Sammy, what the hell is this?” Nori would ask.
“Paintball guns,” She explained, handing the last one to Glint, who looked like she’d won some sort of prize, “And a few acres of forest for you guys to run around in.”
“Seriously?!” Glint squealed.
“Yup. But you only have one hopper of paint. No shooting in the face either, we don’t have masks around here,” The Pikachu nodded, “So, go on! Have at it!”
“Sam, I don’t see how this is supposed to…” Nori started to protest, but he saw his kids eyeing him just out of his peripheral vision. Looking at them slowly, he watched them take their safeties off and aim at him.
“Five second head start,” Spark said.
“Then it’s pay-back time for Daddy!” Glint grinned wickedly.
“Guys, come on,” Nori sighed.
Well, that decided it. Nori turned and ran into the forest as fast as his legs could carry him. Five seconds wasn’t a huge head start, so he barreled in as deep as he could go before finding a tree big enough for him to hide behind. His kids were on his tail quickly, and they could run far, far faster than he could. Glint could run so fast she created optical illusions for crying out loud! And Nori wasn’t the best hider, so it wasn’t long until splattering balls of paint nailed his cover and startled him. The twins had hunkered down behind some trees too, and were having far too much fun listening to him shout at them as they plastered his hiding spot with multi-coloured paint.
“Come on out Dad, and we’ll make this quick!” Glint shouted.
“Guys, come on!” Nori shouted back, “This isn’t what I signed up for!”
Nori nearly got hit when he tried to peek out and see where they were. A paint ball splattered near his head, causing him to duck quickly back into cover. Fortunately his tree split into two parts a little over his head, and he stepped onto its roots and pushed himself up to rest his gun between the gap and fire back at his kids. The two of them quickly ducked out of the way and hid as their father pelted their cover with paint.
“You ungrateful little punks!” Nori yelled at them, “Take your medicine!”
“No, you!” Spark yelled back, “You’ll run outta paint before we do!”
“Come out and get killed by your kids!” Glint shouted back, “It’s the only way!”
Nori growled. This was ridiculous – fun, but ridiculous. Even in a game, a harmless game for fun, they were against him. They just wouldn’t stop! “You know what? Fine!” He shouted back at them, “I give up! If you guys are just gonna hate me no matter what I do, then that’s fine!”
The twins gave him odd looks as he stepped out from behind his cover and stood with his arms at his side. “Go ahead, kill your father,” He said, “Put me out of my misery.”
Spark furrowed his brow. “The heck’s wrong with Dad?” He asked.
Glint shrugged, peeking out from behind her cover. “What, do you honestly think we hate you?” She asked, “Where’d that come from?”
Well, that was embarrassing, but Nori kind of looked away. “Don’t be coy with me,” He said, “You guys are never listening. You’re always arguing with me and telling me I suck and calling me names.”
“Well, yeah,” Glint said as she stepped out from behind the tree, “But that’s because you totally suck, Dad.”
“Yeah but that doesn’t mean we hate you,” Spark said, “And what about You? You’re always yelling at us and grounding us and you never wanna do anything either!”
“Me? YOU guys are always the ones leaving your old man out of everything!” Nori argued.
Spark shook his head, “You stopped doing everything with us! You won’t help us with our homework anymore, or go to the music store with us like you used to.”
“And you won’t take us out to the beach anymore, or go with us to the city when we ask,” Glint added, “So we stopped asking!”
“What, really?” Nori blinked.
“Yeah, you jerk!” Glint huffed. Then she took up her gun and fired. *SPLAT* Nori got a paintball that made him cringe and fold like a deck of cards. It hit him straight in the groin. The poor raccoon practically choked on a gasp of air as he fell to the ground and curled up.
“Oh mother ‘effer!!” Nori cried, “Oh Jiminy!”
Glint sputtered a laugh as Nori fell, and she raised a hand to her mouth in shock and to hide her grin. “Oh my God, are you okay?” She asked, “That… That was an accident; I didn’t mean to shoot you there!”
Spark was too busy laughing to really even ask if his father was okay. Nori kind of rolled back and forth on the ground, cursing in the most polite ways he could possibly think of. Eventually though he rolled onto his front, aimed his gun, and fired two shots! Splat, spat! Each pegged his kids in their groins, and like him they fell to the ground to writhe and wallow in pain.
“Augh! That still hurts y’know!” Glint squeaked, “Owwwww, it’s gonna bruise!”
“The agony!” Spark dropped his gun to curl right up, “S-So tender… Uuugh…!”
“It stings so bad!”
“Oooof… You suck! You suck so bad!”
“We all suck!”
“Yeah, you all suck!”
“No, you suck too!”
“Yeah, I suck too…”
“I don’t hate you, but oh God I hate you.”
“It’s okay, I hate you too.”
“Oh gaaawd, this is what child birth must feel like!”
Ironically, the three of them hadn’t even made it ten feet from where they started. Sammy was still watching them. “Well, it was almost sweet…” She sighed, shrugging somewhat.
Nori buckled his seatbelt and sighed as he pressed his bag of ice between his legs. He breathed out a sigh of relief, and then leaned aside. “Alright, now shift into reverse, and check your blind spot.”
Glint pulled on the gear-shift only to be startled as it crunched and ground because she had her foot on the accelerator. “Ah! What did I do?!” She squealed.
“Take you foot off the gas! Good lord, woman,” Nori sighed, “Okay now pull back slowly.”
“No, not THAT slowly.”
“Oh, GOD, not that fast!”
“Don’t just slam on the brakes like that!”
“Jesus I can’t wait to teach you parallel parking.”
Yes, it seems no matter how much Glint and Spark grow up, they’ll always be a little childish. But that’s not so bad, really.