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There is a time when a hunter must go hunting.  This was that time for Neanderdad.  He needed to get out to the office and slay a mammoth.  He was dressed for the hunt.  He had prepared.  A conference room full of colleagues awaited his arrival.  But, alas, Neanderdad simply could not get out of the house.

Neanderdad struggled with the doorknob, a backpack dangling unevenly from his shoulder and work papers stuffed dubiously under his arm.  The dog, eager to get outside, tried to squeeze past him and through the door as it opened.   Neanderdad had to drop a hip to bock him.  This made the backpack even more unbalanced and Neanderdad tottered.  But what presented the gravest challenge were his offspring.  They pulled him back inside with all their might.   After a morning of fully ignoring his presence, Neanderdad’s offspring had suddenly rediscovered the irreplaceable allure of their father.  They now gripped him fiercely.

“Daddy, you can’t go,” cried the girl, clinging to his shirt.

“Stay!” sobbed the boy, holding him dramatically around the waist, his lip quivering, vying for an Academy Award.

“Late,” explained Neanderdad, pointing at the clock.  Indeed, he was late.  And getting to work was going to be tight.  But if he could just…get…out…the…door.

Neanderdad’s mate rushed in to help.  She strongly suggested that the children release him.  She offered to go with them to watch Neanderdad’s departure from a nearby window.  She suggested they prepare for their own imminent departure to school.   But, alas, they rejected all alternatives and clung to him tightly.

Neanderdad could think of no solution to his detainment short of forcefully prying their fingers from his freshly-pressed business clothing.  But after a split-second of consideration, he rejected this, certain he wasn’t strong enough.  Instead Neanderdad tried reasoning.   Dropping to the children’s level so he could make eye contact, Neanderdad proceeded to explain the importance of his on-time departure.  He outlined to them that their own long-term well-being was tightly entwined with his success at work.  He pleaded for their comprehension.  In the end, however, he simply reinforced to his suddenly sentimental offspring that there was power in their protest.  They sprung on him even more ferociously, grappling him about the neck and nearly toppling him.

“Stay, daddy!  Stay!” They lamented, holding him fiercely and wailing like a Greek chorus.

It was then, with everyone distracted and the children’s cries echoing out the gaping front door, that the dog saw his opening.  The infernal beast looked right at Neanderdad and their eyes locked for a moment.  Neanderdad shook his head in warning and growled.  Then the dog seemed almost to smile before turning abruptly and galloping through the doorway.  Neanderdad instantly recognized the temporal consequences of this canine betrayal and roared.  His reaction startled the children into silence.  They loosened their grip for a moment to peer out the door at the retreating dog.  Neanderdad roared in frustration again.

Then, an idea came to him.  Like the dog, Neanderdad saw his own opening.   With their grip loosened, Neanderdad was able to twist free of the children and sprint out the door even faster than the dog.

“Dad!” they cried.

“Dog,” Neanderdad apologized over his shoulder and went to chase the dog.

It took Neanderdad precious minutes to track down the dog, coaxing and threatening in equal measure.  No amount of growling at the infernal beast could chase the mischievous look from its face or the happy wag from its tail.   Neanderdad sent the mongrel up the stairs with a stern look and a shove.  The children didn’t realize that Neanderdad wasn’t returning until, instead of coming back up the steps, he opened the door to his car.  Neanderdad quickly got in, waved, yelled goodbye and drove away.  His children’s wailing receded into the distance.

Neanderdad had a moment to revel in the ingenuity of his escape before he noticed that something was missing.  The portable device—that telephonic lifeline to his fellow hunters—was nowhere to be seen.  A moment of quiet contemplation, followed by several profanities, led Neanderdad to the realization that he could not go forward without the device.  Unfortunately, it remained in his abode, guarded by those intense little beings from whom he had so recently escaped.

Neanderdad returned home as quietly as he could, coasting the vehicle the last fifty yards into the driveway.  But it was of no use.   Neanderdad could hear the dog barking his arrival as he opened the door.   He cursed the beast yet again, then sighed in defeat.   Neanderdad realized he would never get to work now.  As he walked up the steps, he resigned himself to the realization that his device retrieval would require an investment of time with the children.  They were sure to seize and detain him.  No mammoth would caught today.

But as Neanderdad entered the doorway to his home, a surprising sight greeted him.  The children were calmly preparing in the hallway for their departure to school, pulling on their jackets and shoes.  They looked up indifferently at Neanderdad and then looked back to their undertakings.  All of the…drama…was gone.  Only the dog seemed thrilled to see him returned, jumping up at him.  Neanderdad pushed the beast away.  Neanderdad’s wife did look up from assisting the children to provide a silent, raised-eye-brow query.

Neanderdad picked up the device and showed it to her.   She smiled and nodded understanding.  Then Neanderdad walked back out the door.  The children didn’t even look up for this departure.  There was no pleading for him to stay.  No farewell.  Not even an acknowledgement.  And Neanderdad was taken aback by the swift change.  In fact, it was foremost on his mind as he drove his conveyance to work.  He found himself strangely melancholy.

As Neanderdad strode into the conference room to finally begin the hunt, he remained somber. It was only when Neanderdad began his presentation, after his fellow hunters had chuckled at the greasy handprints his children had left on his shirt, that Neanderdad’s mood revived.   Neanderdad the Mammoth Hunter looked down at those prints and smiled.

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