Thriller Writer Tj O'Connor

The Pappa Files: “The House Boy”

Nov 21, 2023


Sometimes, it’s hard being me. No, no, it’s true. By day, I’m a consultant supporting Homeland Security (and a man among dogs and cats). By night, early mornings, and weekends, I am an author. Sometimes, all that takes a backseat to my real lot in life—house boy.

Full disclosure here. With family and friends, I’m known as the House B—ch. But, not wanting to offend anyone with my self-deprecation, we’ll just go by House Boy. Agreed?

Some will say the term conjures up condescension or is somehow bad. Note to reader: This blog, as most of mine are, is about my own life-woes and adventures. So, if there is any belittling, it’s inward toward me. Deal with it.

ANYWAY . . . To set the stage, my esteemed spouse enjoys the life many spouses wish for. She works hard and long hours, of course. I do the cooking most nights. I care for the majority of household things and she has her own enterprises; I have mine. And when it comes to preparing big family or friend events . . . it’s all me, baby.

A semi-annual late summer event is her sponsoring a painting party at our place. She invites a dozen or more work friends and our daughters, and one of the gals (yes, ladies) tutors a painting gig where she orchestrates all the others to paint a particular scene or something. It’s like paint-by-numbers but with a real, living, breathing tutor guiding the way. Kinda cool.

For these events, I am the chef, butler, bartender, and house boy. Not necessarily in that order.

Recently, I made bacon-wrapped seared scallops, potato leek sausage soup, tzatziki, and other appetizers. Oh, and I drained bottles of wine and spirits to them as I regaled them with my classic wit and humor. (Well, I tried, anyway.) That, and babysat two grands much of the night. No, I did not drain the wine and spirits into them. Though, the thought did cross my mind.

The day began like any other house boy Saturday. Except this one started a tad bit differently. Oh, not that I didn’t make a huge breakfast for my bride as she sat sipping coffee and entertaining herself on social media—I did. No, it was the game of rock-paper-scissors we played. Or in this case, Rock-foot-bandages.

While cleaning the back deck for her painting party, I made the mistake of moving a large plant on one of the wrought iron tables. I guess I forgot all my combat lessons and survival skills about expecting the unexpected and clearing blind spots. As I moved the plant, I became acutely aware of a pile of small boulders (okay, large 10–20-pound fossilized rocks) overflowing from a can far too small for the horde. And yes, I became acutely aware that my shifting the table sent that mountain of stone and ancient plant life imprints tumbling toward the edge of the table and down, down, down. And why yes, I was then acutely aware that the falling boulders careened off the table and onto my bare foot.

The world around me, I’d say five miles in all directions, then became acutely aware of the sudden and excruciating pain thundering through my body. And why yes, my pronunciation of profanity was clear and distinct. Of all the times one does not quibble over vocabulary, this was one.

Injured Foot

Fast forward to an hour later when the initial shock and awe began to subside. Now, bandaged to keep the broken toes and pulsating toenails and tendons in place, I climbed into my trusty Jeep, painkillers starting to take effect, and went to my granddaughter, Railyn’s, soccer game. And why yes, the soccer game was the last field on the right, ten miles from the parking lot (okay, maybe an eighth). But I, being dutiful pappa, carried my folding chair, coffee, and aching body limping those miles to watch her team get slaughtered. But hey, it’s all about learning and having fun. Right?

Oh, but my misery was nary over yet. Next, I went to the grocery store, bought food for 100 (okay, 15), stopped by the organ bank and sold a lease on my kidneys to pay for it, and returned home. There, I began preparing for the painting party.

Oh, authors note here: While I rested in my leather chair in the new “cat room,” formerly our dining room and formerly my book room, I closed my eyes to try and ease the pain. As I did, my wife entered the room, summoned her deadly spirits, and sent a cascade of framed photographs, books, and bric-a-brac tumbling off the shelf behind me and attacking my head. But for catlike reflexes and sheer will of survival (plus, I’m starting to think Laurie doesn’t like me anymore), I managed only a small wound on my head.

The rest seems rather innocuous now. I medicated my increasing agony with one-hundred-dollar bourbon (only one so not to tempt fate) and went about creating the meal. Said meal was the scallops, gourmet soup, and libations.

a rousing success

The night was a rousing success for them. They ate, drank, laughed raucously, and painted themselves into a frenzy of camaraderie. My grands had a wonderful time too—Rail out painted most of the adults while wearing my best Halloween fedora as a disguise so no one would know a 10-year-old infiltrated their ranks and bested them. Kat took command of the television (with blessings from Connor) and laid waste to the living room. And Connor consumed his weight in my daughter, Jean’s gourmet cupcakes that are legendary in Winchester — especially at my book events. I should note here that when I send invitations to my book launch cocktail parties with each publication, most of the RSVP’s begin with, “If Jean’s cupcakes are there, I will be there, too.” No mention of my tireless slaving at the keyboard crafting a literary masterpiece (okay, they’re just novels).

a frenzy of camaraderie
Jean’s gourmet cupcakes

This event was no different. Jean delivered the cupcakes and the hordes arrived. Oh, I think they liked my fare, too.

And there you have it. Under fire, with combat injuries and tireless drive, I managed to house-boy for the tribe of Laurie’s pals and deliver on her promises to them that, “Tj will take good care of you.” I did, however, sleep with one eye open and my Glock within reach. You know, in case of burglars or Ninja assassins.

What have I learned from all this? Well, after a life of swashbuckling adventure chasing bad guys, terrorists, and occasionally being chased by them, one only has to look closer to home to know the true nature of danger.

Survival Partner

I, Pappa, survived to house boy another day.

Epilog: No dogs, cats, birds, little scampering animals, spouses or spouse’s friends were injured this evening. Us UFOs (Ugly, Fat Old guys), not so much.

Oh, and daughters Lindsay and Jean were instrumental in finishing my gourmet meal for the crew as I hobbled around—under my watchful eye and guidance, of course.


I first fell in love with writing while in grade school and over the years continued to dabble with characters and stories whenever life allowed. Lately, I've focused my energy on pursuing this dream—interrupted only by life as a security consultant and the demands of two Labrador retrievers.

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