Daisy in the Doghouse

Daisy in the Doghouse

by Joe Barrett

Paperback(First Printing ed.)

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Overview

From the author of Managed Care, the Maxy Book Awards 2019 "Book of the Year"

“Joe Barrett's Daisy in the Doghouse is serious about America’s social ills, yet it wraps its message in a dark, yet witty send-up of the digital age.” –IndieReader

What happens when an ex-CEO, frustrated with the corruption in the American financial system, hijacks his twelve-year-old daughter’s blog to try and change things from the bottom up?

In the wake of the 2008 financial crisis, Jack Sullivan, former CEO and current stay-at-home dad, struggles to find an outlet for his frustrations with the unfair financial systems of corporate America. Meanwhile, Daisy, his precocious twelve-year-old daughter, has recently garnered a substantial following for her new blog, documenting surreptitious “social experiments” performed on her unaware family. When Daisy’s blogging activities are outed, Jack decides to leverage his daughter’s popularity with American youth to communicate the greed and hypocrisy inherent in the corporate professions of many parents. Inspired by her father’s rants, the popularity of Daisy’s blog soars, resulting in an unlikely sequence of events that ultimately has a very positive impact on way that people treat each other in American society.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781684333103
Publisher: Black Rose Writing
Publication date: 08/15/2019
Edition description: First Printing ed.
Pages: 248
Product dimensions: 5.98(w) x 9.02(h) x 0.56(d)

About the Author

Award-winning author Joe Barrett has spent the past twenty-five years as a chief executive of entrepreneurial organizations ranging from private, venture-funded companies to large publicly-listed multinational corporations. He has been a frequent speaker at National Retail Federation conferences and has sat on the boards of several for-profit and non-profit companies. His short fiction has been published in Iconoclast, The Storyteller and The Palo Alto Review. He lives with his wife and two children in New Jersey.

Read an Excerpt

CHAPTER 1

It isn't a coincidence. It couldn't be.

I'm a person who understands the odds. I usually don't understand the actual odds, but I have a sense about them. In this scenario, worst case, the odds should be fifty-fifty. Maybe higher in my favor, assuming that anyone who knows anything would replace the toilet paper correctly. You know, hanging over, not under.

Someone is messing with me. It has to be deliberate. The numbers don't add up.

Three bathrooms in the house. Two adults, including myself, two children and a grandmother who typically stays thirty-six hours each week. The children probably don't factor in, but we can put them in the fifty-fifty category given the remote possibility that either would actually lift a finger in this house in a way that doesn't cause damage or a mess.

In my process of elimination, I decide to approach my son Sam first. Not necessarily because he is easiest to eliminate, but because he is the first child I see when I come out of the bathroom.

"Hey, bud."

"Hi."

"Whatcha doing?"

"Minecraft."

The ten-year-old equivalent of shooting heroin.

"Pause it for a minute."

"You don't have to pause Minecraft."

"Whatever. Hey, do you ever replace the rolls of toilet paper in the bathroom?"

"You want me to replace the toilet paper rolls in the bathroom?"

"Sam, that's not what I said, but yes, when you use the last of the toilet paper, you should replace the roll." A rare teaching moment. "But what I asked is, have you been replacing the rolls of toilet paper in our bathrooms?"

"Before they're finished?"

"No. Well, yeah, I would want to know if you've been replacing the toilet paper before it's finished because that would be wasteful."

"I wouldn't do that."

"I know, son. And I'm proud of you. But ... well, let me put it this way. Have any of the rolls of toilet paper in this house been put into the holder by you?"

"In which bathroom?"

"Any of them."

"What time frame?"

"Ever."

"No."

"Awesome. Glad we were able to narrow it down to that level of detail before you answered," I say and walk away.

The grandmother should know better. She's old. She's lived a long life, and she isn't noticeably senile. She should weigh the odds in my favor. But I'm going to put her in the fifty-fifty category anyway in the event that her mind is slipping or that she's just too old to care. Plus, she hasn't been around much lately, me being between jobs and all.

The wife. She pretty much does everything around the house. Not because she's so industrious, but because the rest of us would be fine living in squalor. Without the wife, the children and I would probably die of dysentery, malnutrition or some other effect of plain laziness.

But there is one big chink in her apron. She almost never finishes the job. The children and I will step over little piles of rubbish she's left for a week after she's swept our wood floors. The kids and I have even discussed the fact that these little piles of sweepings are far more disgusting than dirt and grime evenly distributed over our wood floors.

And, in the space of a week, I cannot count the number of seltzer cans and cardboard coffee cups — minus only one single sip — that are arranged throughout the kitchen, den, living room and bedrooms of our home. It's like M. Night Shyamalan's movie The Sign, except worse, because the children and I are clumsy slobs who shuffle around the house like zombies and knock these "floaters" onto the floors and rugs with a frequency that would make you think we were trying to. But we're not. And despite how slovenly we are, not one of us can leave a fresh spill of flavored seltzer or coffee on the floor — so we are forced out of our comfort zones and into clean-up mode.

We all agree that getting out of our comfort zones isn't a good thing.

I also cannot count the number of times that I've finished a shower and opened the glass door to find no towels on the rack. Seriously? And I don't go to the bathroom without checking to see if there is a roll of toilet paper on the holder because I have learned — far prior to the arrival of my children — that toilet paper was very rarely ever replaced by my spouse.

All of which makes my current quandary even more strange. Possibly even diabolical.

My twelve-year-old daughter is sitting on the floor in her room, iPhone six inches from her face, hands like little talons on the screen board.

"Hey, String Cheese."

"Hi, Dad."

"I have a question for you."

She stops what she is doing and looks up at me with an evil glint in her eye as if I'm going to ask about her involvement in the sudden disappearance of neighborhood pets. But there's also a slight smirk, which lets me know that whatever she might be hiding, she thinks it's funny. Worse, she has the look of knowing that I'll think it's funny, too — in the event that I ever find out what it is she's hiding — which is why she never really gets in trouble for most of her mischief.

"It's probably not what you're thinking," I say, feigning knowledge of whatever she might be hiding, "but we will have another discussion when your mom gets home." I'll probably forget, but need to keep her on her toes. "What I want to ask is ... "

"Sam has candy hidden in his bookshelf. I can show you where it is."

I'm mildly alarmed at this level of misdirection, indicating that there is, in fact, something of substance that she would very much like to avoid talking to me about.

"Don't be silly, Daisy. I totally know that Sam hides candy in his bookshelf. There is literally an entire colony of ants living in that bookshelf."

"It's right by his bed."

"I know where his bookshelf is."

"Does mom know about it?" she asks innocently, showing her hand.

I'm not sure if her mother actually does know about it. Probably something that I should have mentioned to her. Something Daisy would definitely use against me if her chips were down.

"Listen, this isn't about Sam's candy or your ... whatever you're hiding, which we will discuss presently." Her misdirection has worked contrary to her original plans. I hate to digress from my own issue, but I feel like there's imminent trouble with the wife if I don't try to color this blank space a little more. "Actually, maybe we should talk about your thing first. Why don't you just tell me now and avoid a brutal interrogation."

I've always talked to children as if they were adults.

She nods her chin towards her chest and looks up at me with her wide green eyes.

"What if I told you that there is a dead body buried in the backyard?" she asks.

"I'd be very surprised and disappointed. Is there a dead body buried in our back yard?"

"No. So that's good news. Now, what if I told you that there's a dead squirrel down in the basement? A squirrel that probably died of natural causes, but was still so cute that someone like Sam might want to keep it as a pet? Like a stuffed animal, only real and dead."

"I wouldn't believe you because there's no such thing as squirrels."

My daughter and I have this thing where we don't believe in squirrels. We've decided that they're make-believe animals, like unicorns or coyotes, despite the fact that we live in Northern New Jersey.

"Well, whatever you think I'm hiding, it's not worse than those things. If there was anything that we needed to talk about, I mean."

"Daisy, first off, I just want to know if you've been replacing the toilet paper."

"The what? This is about toilet paper?!"

She seems thrown off her game and a little embarrassed.

"Yes, toilet paper."

"I've been using it!" she yells, indignant.

There was a developmental period in Daisy's life when she stopped using toilet paper. This was only a couple of years ago. Her mother and I had to have a difficult conversation with her about hygiene. It was her mother who did most of the talking while I tried to control dry heaves and to remember how much I love my daughter.

"I didn't say you weren't ... but you have, right? I mean, you remember what we talked about." She drops her thick eyebrows, flares her nostrils and stares at me. My wife and I call it The Look. "Of course, I know you've been using toilet paper. You're twelve years old. What I was asking is whether you've been replacing the rolls of toilet paper on the holder when they run out."

Daisy's head shifts back towards her shoulders and The Look evaporates into a chin-in-the-neck, crescent eyebrow giggle that precedes a fit of hysterical laughing.

Of course, she has not been replacing the toilet paper when it's finished. On a daily basis, Daisy drops her jacket on the floor next to the coat rack. The trashcan in her room looks like a game of Jenga. She so lacks any instinct of household consideration that I have seen her remain seat-belted in the car on hundred-plus degree summer days throughout the duration of grocery unloading.

"Okay, stupid question. But we're going to talk when your mom gets home. About something other than toilet paper."

Though, what, in fact, I have no idea.

"Maybe it's the beaches," Daisy says in a slight Spanish accent as I walk out of her room.

"The beaches! Yes! And don't call them that."

The beaches is an endearing, but politically incorrect name that I have given to our cleaning people, who are sweet ladies of Latino descent. My kids had overheard this casual reference once when I was talking to their mother. It has, unfortunately, stuck. It probably doesn't help that I still continue to refer to the cleaning people as the beaches, but I figure the damage was already done.

Of course. It must be the beaches.

New beaches cycle through our house monthly in some form of immigration dodge. One of them must be so unfamiliar with the concept of toilet paper that she just puts the new rolls on with the paper hanging under whenever she cleans the bathrooms.

I feel a twinge of shallowness at the physical relief that my marriage and family life is saved.

But still, something about this conversation with my daughter doesn't feel right.

When my wife gets home, we always try to act like a normal family. Sam runs to the kitchen table and is concentrating on his homework before the door opens. Daisy stays in her room playing her iPhone, because anything different would only arouse suspicion. I mill around the kitchen acting like a house-dad might.

Catelyn is a philosophy professor at a state college nearby, so she has the kind of hours convenient for raising kids and a husband. I have been the CEO of a few small-to-mid-sized companies, the most recent of which I sold six months ago so I could take a year off to pursue my dream of writing a book. Pursue my dream sounds so gay — not the cool, homosexual gay that has become so hip these days, more like the Nineteen Seventies, eighth-grade slur gay.

I never really dreamed of writing a book. I do, however, feel like I have something to say about what happens in the rigged world of high finance and its impact on the common population. A book seems like the most convenient venue to make a statement.

It has been three months and, sadly, all I have done is perfected the art of procrastination.

My wife says "Hey" and drops her bags on the kitchen table, asks Sam how school was and kisses the top of his head. She asks me how my day was and gives me a tight-lipped kiss because sometimes I try to make out with her at inappropriate times, like in front of the kids. She yells "Hi" up to Daisy, who comes downstairs and gives her mother a trademark sideways hug. I grab a bottle of cabernet from the dining room and open it at the counter.

"Can we have a conversation about something?" I ask, pulling the cork with our cool next-generation wine opener that requires no screwing or tugging.

"What happened?" she asks, eyes widened in mild panic.

Catelyn kind of lives on the edge of an abyss, a part of her expecting any news to be of a terminal illness or personal bankruptcy variety.

"Nothing. Everything's fine. Relax."

She hates it when I tell her to relax and flashes me a contemptuous look.

"Have you been changing out the toilet paper rolls?" I ask.

"What? Why? Is Daisy not using toilet paper again?"

"No, she's fine."

"I'm right here," Daisy says in an annoyed tone.

Daisy's sitting off the kitchen at the tiny art table that we purchased when she was two and where she still does her homework every night, crouched like a giant little girl in a miniature world.

"I know, honey. We love you. What's wrong with the toilet paper?" Catelyn asks.

"I think it's the beaches," I reply.

"Dad!" Sam says, offended more by the fact that I'm punning on a bad word than by the casually implied racism-slash-misogyny.

"It's a term of endearment, boy!"

"Are the beaches ... are the cleaning people stealing our toilet paper?" Catelyn asks. "You know, they could steal stuff that's a lot more valuable if they wanted to cross that line."

"No. Besides, stealing is something that you can address head-on. This is worse. Have you noticed, in the past few weeks, that every new roll of toilet paper in the house is hanging under, not over? I was working the odds, not in like a scientific way or anything, but there's no way that this could be happenstance."

"Happenstance?" Catelyn raises her eyebrows, looks at me as if I'm losing perspective on the situation.

"It's not a coincidence. The frequency ... look, it happens too many times not to be deliberate. If you're not doing it — like, you know, to make some kind of point — then it's got to be the beaches."

Daisy has stopped doing her homework and is sitting on her tiny bench looking over at us like one half of the creepy twin duo in The Shining.

"What?!" I ask, turning to her, and she immediately goes back to doing her homework.

"You know, this toilet paper orientation thing is a pretty big issue for some weird reason," Catelyn says. "It's on the Internet. People get super worked up about it. Kind of sad, really."

"Don't be offensive. And how can it be a big thing? How can it be a thing at all? There's a right way and a wrong way to put toilet paper in the holder. There are absolutely no merits to the roll hanging under! You spin the thing and can't find the end-sheet. How can people even pretend to prefer that?" I say and go get my laptop to Google some research on the subject.

Catelyn takes a long sip of wine and sigh-moans in a way that I find sexy despite the contentious atmosphere in our kitchen.

"What if people don't like the way toilet paper looks when it hangs over," she says, "like when it unrolls and just hangs there six inches out from the wall?"

"So it looks better when it unrolls and hangs under down the wall?"

"It's not as sloppy that way, maybe. And I guess the wall might keep it from unraveling if the unravel end of the toilet paper is facing the wall."

"That's ridiculous. Wait, are you doing this? It's you, isn't it!"

"Easy, Francis," she says. My name is Jack. "It's not me. And it's not the beaches, either. They usually leave a nice folded triangle or flower type of thing on the toilet paper after they finish cleaning the bathroom. How do you not know that? It's a really choice gesture, makes you feel like you're in a nice hotel."

"That's right. Of course. It can't be the beaches. What am I thinking?"

I'm scrolling through my Google search results on toilet paper orientation when my mind suddenly turns to ice.

I look over at the tiny art table, and Daisy has disappeared.

My hand is shaking as I click on one search result that has appeared. In the Doghouse: Experimentations in Social Disruption at Home. A blog by Daisy Peanut Sullivan.

CHAPTER 2

"Daisy! Open the door. Now." She's locked herself in the kid's bathroom, or as I call it, "The Port Authority" because it is that disgusting. "Daisy Peanut Sullivan! You open that door."

Yes, that's her full name. Catelyn and I had been a little buzzed the night we came up with it.

"Can we name our baby Daisy if it's a girl?" I remember Catelyn whispering as she put her mouth against my ear.

Following a brief panic pending my confirmation that she was not, in fact, pregnant – which would have ruined the drinking part of our evening – I told her that I'd be fine with the name Daisy, as long as the middle name could be Peanut. It had just kind of rolled off my tongue, and I swear I could picture that little girl who came along a few years later.

"Daisy Peanut Sullivan," Catelyn had said out loud. "Okay, but I'm going to get mad if you continue to act like my getting pregnant would be an apocalyptic event."

"Daisy Peanut Sullivan," I said, redirecting the conversation. "It's perfect. I'm good with it."

"I can't wait to meet her," Catelyn had whispered, her mouth against my ear again.

"Daisy, you come out of there!" I say again through the door. My mind still feels like it's been cryogenically sealed. I rattle the bathroom door.

(Continues…)


Excerpted from "Daisy in the Doghouse"
by .
Copyright © 2019 Joe Barrett.
Excerpted by permission of Black Rose Writing.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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