“A Place Where Kids’ Word Is Law,” by Michael Giddings

Dec 20th, 2011 | By | Category: Fiction, Prose

I’m sitting on the couch watching TV with the kids when the Party Action Party Packrat explodes out of the screen and into our living room.

The kids, of course, go absolutely wild.

“Hello friends!” says the Party Action Party Packrat.  His name is Pizza Pete, and you never see it in print without a tm at the end.

“Pizza Pete!” says Andrea, my daughter.  “Oh, Pizza Pete, I’m so happy to see you!  You’re here to take us to Party Action Party for the day, aren’t you?  You must be!”

By way of response Pizza Pete begins doing a jig on the rug.  Andrea gets to her feet and joins him.  Her little pink slippers become a blur as they dance.

Tommy has crawled onto the couch next to me for assurance.  He’s always been one to look for assurance.

“Is this okay, dad?”

I watch the five foot three inch cartoon packrat swing my daughter into the air.  She is laughing.  Her eyes are filled with embers of glee.

“I’m not sure,” I tell my son.  Tommy puts his head down on my arm.

The commercials for Party Action Party play out as follows: two children are sitting around watching television.  Pizza Pete bursts in wearing a backwards baseball cap, a purple shirt with a slice of pizza on it, and no pants.  After a brief and completely unnecessary introduction (the children always know his name) he whisks them off to the nearest Party Action Party establishment where they have the time of their lives with curly slides, ball pits, video games, and prizes.  Pizza is consumed.  Children screech and shout.  Party Action Party, they quickly decide, is a heavenly kingdom.

My daughter Andrea is lactose intolerant and has to take a pill before going there.

“Who wants to rage?” booms Pizza Pete, putting a foot on the coffee table.  “Who wants to party?”

“I do!” screams Andrea who has fallen to the carpet and is flailing around in her nightgown, displaying not a trace of modesty.  “I do!  I do!”

“Let’s go to…” Pizza Pet slobbers over the suspense, his whiskers quivering.  “Party!  Action!  Party!”

“Can we go with him, dad?” Tommy wants to know.

“I should make a phone call first,” I excuse myself and go into the kitchen.


Keeping an eye on the packrat I dial the number of the local PAP.

“Party Action Party,” says a lifeless voice on the other end.  “A place where kids’ word is law.  This is Lynette speaking.  How may I help you?”

“I have your packrat in my living room,” I say.

Lynette hangs up thinking it’s a prank call.

Pizza Pete is swinging Andrea back and forth by her ankles.  The little girl is shrieking with the fun of it.


We get in the car with the kids in back and Pizza Pete riding shotgun.

“I want to listen to the Banana Hannah tape,” Andrea demands so I put it on.

“How you doing?” Pizza Pete asks me while the backseat sings the Banana Song.

“I’m well,” I tell him.

The sun is blinding in our neighborhood because there are no trees.  Each house is cream colored, each lawn stiff and green.  It only takes five minutes to get to the highway.

Banana Hannah sings something about the mistakes that can be made between cupcakes and birthday cakes as we go.

“She’s quite a fox,” Pizza Pete tells me.

“I wouldn’t know,” I tell him back.

“Next exit.”


As soon as the car is parked Pizza Pete grabs my kids by the hand and races across the parking lot.  I lock the car and follow them inside.  Party Action Party is exactly the same as it was the last time I was here: bright, loud, and vomity.

“Welcome to Party Action Party,” says Lynette at the front desk.  “A place where kids’ word is law.  How many are you with today, sir?”

“Just the two,” I say motioning to Andrea and Tommy, now kicking a discarded slice back and forth over by the trashcans.  “And—”

I think better of mentioning the escaped packrat again.  He’s no longer with us anyway.  He is no longer with us but his presence is felt.  He leers down from every poster on the wall, each piece of merchandise, and the many stacks of greasy paper plates they have yet to dispose of.  I pay for the tickets while avoiding his gaze from the center of Lynette’s crooked visor.

Tommy takes my shirtsleeve as we push through the bubbly plastic gates into everlasting fun.  Andrea has abandoned us for the Spider Stomp game.  Tommy has always been one to be abandoned.

“Thanks for taking us here,” he says softly.  “I really like it here.”

There is an animatronic Pizza Pete holding a guitar near the food plaza.  It is short-circuiting.  Its vast black eye winks and dilates to the cries of children.


Michael Giddings is from Brooklyn. Most of his stories concern the specific laughs of ancient cartoon characters. Muttley, for instance. He is the proud father of short stories such as “Raccoons & Bacon,” “Gabie Goes to Japan,” and “Banana Hannah.

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