Vern's Videotape

Vern was a very ordinary father with an ordinary wife and three ordinary kids living in an ordinary house with an ordinary pet dog, an ordinary pet cat, and an ordinary pet snake that once slithered out of its cage for a week until someone found it sleeping happily behind a closet.

Luckily no one accidentally stepped on the snake after it escaped from its cage. And luckily the snake didn't bite somebody in the leg. And luckily that person didn't have to go to the hospital. And luckily the hospital didn't have to put seventeen stitches in the person's leg.

But that's a completely different story. This story is about Vern's precious videotape. Last year Vern bought a video camera to take movies of his daughter Veronica.

Veronica was just learning to ride a two wheeled bicycle. So Vern wanted to record this important event onto videotape to show the neighbors, the relatives, and anyone else who walked through the front door of Vern's very ordinary house.

Veronica would have preferred if daddy didn't carry the video camera around with him all day. She would have preferred if daddy spent a little more time being a daddy rather than being a movie director.

For the past six months Veronica had been practicing riding her two wheeled bicycle with training wheels. Her balance was getting better and better. Sometimes the training wheels hardly touched the street at all.

One sunny Sunday in June Vern decided that today was the day to take off the training wheels. The sunny sunlight would make for excellent lighting. The pretty summer flowers would make for a good backdrop. The chirping birds would make for an excellent sound track.

Veronica was not so sure that she was ready to have her training wheels taken off. She would have preferred to wait until the end of the summer, to give her a few months extra practice riding her bicycle.

But daddy had bought a dozen blank videotapes last week. And daddy seemed ready to take the training wheels off. And daddy didn't need a few more months of practicing with training wheels. So Vern and Veronica took out a wrench and unscrewed the bolts on the training wheels. The small wheels came off with very little effort. And then before she knew it, Veronica was looking at a two wheeled bicycle that only had two wheels.

The two of them walked the bicycle out to the street. Then they had to walk two streets over because there was just too much traffic on their own street.

Vern had it all figured out. He would hold the back of the bicycle while Veronica climbed on. Then he would hold the bicycle steady while Veronica got her balance. Then he'd give the bicycle a short push, and run along behind it. Then he'd pick up his video camera to film this important event. What Vern didn't think about was the beautiful bed of tulips Mrs. Tannenbaum had planted near the road. Neither did Vern think about how easily those tulips would be crushed if a two wheeled bicycle road right through them. And neither did he think about how angry Mrs. Tannenbaum would be when her prized tulips were ruined.

Before Veronica ended up in Mrs. Tannenbaum's bed of tulips, she almost rode her two wheeled bicycle all on her own. She weaved back and forth a little after dad let go of the back of the bicycle. Then she rode about twenty yards in a straight line.

Then she wobbled a bit, and headed straight for the middle of Mrs. Tannenbaum's bed of tulips. Luckily tulips are soft flowers. And luckily Veronica had some practice at falling off a bicycle. And luckily nobody had to go to the hospital to get seven- teen stitches in their leg. Vern recorded the whole event on videotape. The lighting was excellent. The pretty summer flowers made an interesting background. And the chirping birds made an excellent sound track. Veronica was not too pleased with having this event on videotape. She didn't want to have the neighbors and relatives to see how perfectly she plowed through a bed of tulips on her two wheeled bicycle.

After she had picked herself up, she walked back to her house with her dad. They had to clean themselves up for a picnic that afternoon.

So she put on a new pair of pants and washed the dirt off her hands. Dad decided to take the videotape of the bicycle accident with him. He wanted to lend it to his sister so she could show her neighbors, her friends, and anybody else who walked into the front door of her perfectly ordinary house.

When they got to the picnic, Vern temporarily placed the videotape down on one of the picnic tables. He knew that he shouldn't leave the videotape out on the sun. He knew that the black plastic videotape case could warp, and the inside videotape could be totally ruined. But someone yelled out for him to come and join a volleyball game. Without thinking, Vern sauntered over to the volleyball net.

Well, by the end of the afternoon, the videotape he left on the table got thoroughly cooked in the strong summer sun. The case became totally warped and crooked. The inside videotape bulged out from the sides of the case.

When Vern saw what happened to the videotape, he gasped out loud. His precious videotape of Veronica riding into the tulip bed was completely lost.

On the way home from the picnic, Veronica said, "You know, Dad. I'm sorry that the videotape became all warped. But I'm not sorry that nobody will ever see it.

At the end of the summer, when I really learn how to ride a two wheeled bicycle, you can make another videotape. And you can show it to the neighbors, the relatives, and anybody else who walks through the door of our very ordinary house. You can show it to everybody in the entire world, if you want."

"And do you know what? If you promise not to tell anybody about the tulip bed, I promise not to tell anybody about the warped videotape that you left on the picnic table on a hot summer's day."

"Okay, that's a deal," replied her dad. "We can keep those secrets just between you and me."

Phil Shapiro

Copyright 1995

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