COLUMBIA — My home is getting smaller. About nine years ago my wife and I had a son. Then we had a daughter and then another son.
Then, a few years ago we were guilted into a schnauzer, and in August we accumulated a goldfish at a pretend fishing booth at the Missouri State Fair. Then we decided to host a Korean girl for the school year – who is, so far, the only visitor admitted without someone crying.
On top of all this, in the last few weeks I have realized we have another guest, one that is uninvited. The kids call him “Not Me.”
Whenever something bad happens at home and I ask for the responsible party, my kids say, “Not Me.” They are so vehement that I have to give the denials some credence. After all the times they have tried to tell me the incidents have been caused by Not Me, and with such passion, they are either right, schizophrenic or conspiring.
The odds that they are all having the same schizophrenic illusions at the same time are small, yet still bigger than the odds that all are working together in unity.
I have to find this guy.
Upon inspection, he seems to be everywhere. “Who forgot to flush the toilet?” “Not Me.” “Who left the door open?” “Not Me.” “Whose turn is it to take a bath first?” “Not Me.” “Whose socks are these?” “Not Mine.” “Who’s Not Mine?” “Not Me?”
Everyone can see the guy except me.
He is so hard to catch because like Boo Radley in "To Kill a Mockingbird" he only comes out when there are no adults around. The kids tell me that he is the one willing to do all the chores, but then he never does.
The kids end up begrudgingly doing all the work, and I try to feel sorry for them. I tell them all that they have to do is bring out Not Me, so I can deal with him.
All I really know is that above anything he loves vegetables. I ask the kids: “Who wants pizza?” “I do, I do.” “Who wants a salad?” “Not Me.” There he is again.
He is always the one who leaves out the milk, always the one who hides my keys, always the one with bad gas and never the one who needs to apologize. He even takes all the books, games and toys out of the closets and the kids’ rooms and throws them all over the hallway and living room floor when no one is looking.
The jerk is everywhere.
My oldest boy can claim to see his little brother put a DVD face down without putting it in its case, and the little brother can claim that he saw older brother do it. When I pull them aside, they will each admit that Not Me was the one to not put the DVD in its proper place, which only means one thing: Not Me is a master of disguise. He can dress up and impersonate anyone so well even a blood brother is fooled.
This is going to be difficult.
I have become so confused, and Not Me has become such a preeminent idea in our home that the other day, in a moral crisis, I blamed him for something I had done. My wife was upset because there were only two chocolate chip cookies left, when there had been three a short while before. Since each of our three children had been saving a cookie for after lunch, this was a problem. My 4-year-old accused me of eating the last cookie. I told him it was Not Me, but the boy did not buy it at all and was looking rather sad, so I cracked.
Now that I think about it, though, how could he know that I was not Not Me unless he was Not Me? That would validate my theory that he is the one not flushing.
My fear is that Not Me is going from house to house tormenting good people. I called a neighbor and asked, “Do you have a secret person living in your house that does bad things, but you can’t catch him?” “Hmm. Not me.” “That's him.” “Who?” “Not Me.”
My friend responded by saying he was worried about me and that he would pray.
There could very well be millions of Not Me’s because that is how many people supposedly bought Wham CDs, and every person I know denies buying one.
It also seems that many people want there to be a Not Me. We want him to pay all the taxes, buy only American products, teach our children respect, drive courteously and be generous and honest. And we all agree Not Me is doing a terrible job of that lately. But whatever the extent of the problem, there is a problem, even if there is only one Not Me. His ways are so befuddling that I have even starting to think that maybe I am Not Me at times, and that occasionally I have blamed some things on Not Me and excused myself from responsibility without knowing it.
Surely that could not possibly be me. It must be Not Me.
I suppose I should be rather busy just trying to chase out the Not Me from my own life and home before I go after everyone else’s Not Me. Come to think of it, we should probably all start searching for Not Me in our own house first.
Brad Clemons has no agenda but writes as if he does.