By Jason Offutt

It’s uncomfortable to walk into a room, especially in your own home, and see something you’re not sure is really there. Like a ghost, or Lindsay Lohan.

For the record, if Lindsay Lohan ever came to my house, I’d probably put down papers.

I could only assume someone was in the living room because the television was on. Rounding a corner, I found my wife and fourth-grader sitting silently on the couch. There may, or may not, have been bonbons involved. I’ve been sworn to secrecy.

“What are you guys do…” I started to ask, but the Wife shushed me.

Shhh? Really?

“I’m just cur…”

The Boy, his face radiating ‘QUIET,’ looked at me like I’d just punched a puppy (which I hadn’t).

“Well, what’s so…” began to spill from my mouth.

“It’s William,” the Boy said. “He’s just asked Daisy to marry him and she only said yes because he’s going to war.” Then he turned back toward the screen.

This time I actually looked at the television. British actors in costume from the early 1900s stood around looking all serious, which is what British people do best.

“What are you watching?” I asked, suspicious of something that looked like PBS so early in the afternoon.

My wife waved a hand toward me. “It’s ‘Downton Abbey.’ Just let us watch it.”

Oh, no.

For the two people in the English-speaking world who don’t know, “Downton Abbey” is a British serialized dramatization of the life of a 1912 Yorkshire country house.

“This is a soap opera,” I said. “You’re getting the Boy hooked on a soap opera?”

My wife shrugged.

“It’s a period piece,” she said. “It’s educational.”


I’m not immune to soap operas. While flipping through channels in college (for some reason, I was having beer for lunch) I landed on “All My Children” and saw Tad Martin chase a giggling Liza Colby up the stairs of his house while shouting, “Sex, sex, sex.” My soap opera fascination lasted until I discovered post-lunch naps, and I was better for it.

But the Boy is only 9.

I started to say something that would have only made the rest of the afternoon uncomfortable for me, and instead walked into the kitchen to listen to sports talk radio. You know, to cleanse the system.

It was during quiet time (an in-depth discussion on soccer), when my mind drifted and I realized how many soap operas I’ve watched and, much like “The Blues Brothers” being a musical, I didn’t even know it.

“Lost.” I spent six years following the exploits of the 48 survivors of Oceanic Flight 815 on a desert island that was more screwed up than Charlie Sheen. It was a science fiction show, sure, but it was also a serialized dramatization, and there was a love triangle.

Now I watch “The Walking Dead,” which is just a soap opera with zombies. And yes, at one point the show had a love triangle.

I grabbed a bag of chips, walked back into the living room, and sat between my wife and the Boy.

“So,” I said. “Which one is William?”

Jason Offutt’s latest book, “Across a Corn-Swept Land: An epic beer run through the Upper Midwest,” is available at

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