There were no cameras handy; otherwise, I'd have posted a video. It was entertainment of a rare kind.
Last night, I was lying in bed reading volume 2 of Simon Callow's massive three-part biography of Orson Welles. I was just getting to the point where Welles was no longer interested in sleeping with his then-wife Rita Hayworth when my wife and daughter decided to sit on the mattress and talk about whatever it was they found important. You know -- girl talk. Daughter was on the lower edge of the mattress; wife was closer to the left side.
I reluctantly put my book down and did my fatherly duty. This meant keeping quiet while "the girls" did the talking. So far, so normal.
A moment later, without warning, my daughter appeared to have seen something quite horrible. At this point, as it always does when it seems disaster is about to strike, time started running in sloooow motion. Daughter jumped a good six inches in the air and screamed, "A mo--!"
That's as far as she got, because my wife, joining in on the panic, looked in the same direction and screamed even louder, "A mo--!"
Less than one second had passed since the first scream and yet thoughts started racing through my head. Was our will up to date? Would anybody find us before our bodies started to putrefy? And who gets the 529 college plan?
This "mo" -- the thing that had caused two females of radically different ages to scream loud enough to set off motion detectors -- appeared to my left from out of the darkness.
It was a moth, no more than an inch in size.
A moth was nearly the cause of at least two simultaneous heart attacks.
A moth causing a 17 year-old girl to shriek in terror: that alone fits a stereotype that women claim is sexist, even though -- as President Woodrow Wilson regarded The Birth of a Nation -- it is all so terribly true.
But as for my wife's reaction... here's where an interesting combination of stereotype and psychological trickery come into play. Upon hearing Daughter's scream followed by "A mo--!", my wife decided to fill in the blanks with the letters u s e. So what was a moth was now a mouse. And, as quickly as she put 1 + 1 together to make 6, she saw that mouse running up the side of the bed where no mouse existed.
Let's look at the score so far. A girl screaming at a moth a little larger than a shelled peanut. And a grown woman doing likewise at an invisible mouse. Is it any wonder our house would fall apart without me running the show?
I saw the creature's shadow pass near the the overhead light. Remaining calm in a sea of double-X chromosome terror, I stood on the bed, Welles bio in hand, and smashed the enemy to kingdom come.
Try telling that to my wife. "No, dear, you didn't get it." Seconds earlier, she was hallucinating a rodent. Now she was Inspector Lestrade of the Sherlock Holmes movies, suddenly in charge of the situation that, in reality, was out of her control.
I turned the book over to the back cover. There was Mothra, Jr., all 2.54 centimeters of him, flattened against the one line review of the first volume of the Welles trilogy. Proven wrong, my wife had nothing to say.
Here's the beauty part. What was the topic of conversation that my wife was going to launch into with my daughter before all hell broke loose over a tiny moth and an invisible mouse?
The way dad always overreacts in every situation.