May 22, 2013
The Egg and I
Posted on Nov 18, 2011
By Mr. Fish
As a teenager, world-renowned Oscar Wilde/Cindy Brady genius hybrid Truman Capote worked as a copy boy in the art department at The New Yorker. This was in the early 1940s, and one of his responsibilities, in addition to sorting cartoons for Saul Steinberg and William Steig and George Price, was to deliver the famously ill-tempered and blind humorist James Thurber to his mistress’ apartment at the end of the day. Capote would wait in the living room while the couple engaged in the sort of rowdy lovemaking that he later described as the sound of hogs being butchered. He would then dress Thurber and return the satiated lecher home, oftentimes fall-down drunk, to his wife, who would undress him for bed. The helplessness of his ward made Capote feel servile and invisible, like a nanny hired to mollycoddle a spoiled rotten baby with the same exact daily routine, Monday through Friday, that began with a few drinkie-poos, followed by a walkie-poo, then an obstreperous ejaculation into a homely secretary, then a changing, then another walkie-poo and then beddy-bye.
Finally bored beyond tolerance by the scut work, Capote decided, while dressing Thurber one afternoon, to put the old man’s socks on inside out. Predictably, Thurber’s wife, who had dressed her husband in the morning, demanded an explanation as to why it had appeared he needed to remove his socks during the day, to which the celebrated wit is rumored to have quipped, “That fucking little queer.” (Pause to allow Eustace Tilley the Walter Mitty-esque daydream of believing that he is not really just Alfred E. Neuman in silk pantaloons and a $300 hat.) Needless to say, as a result of the inverted socks, Capote was immediately relieved of his professional obligation to Thurber’s vas deferens and, 70 years later, the artfulness of his extrication can still be enjoyed as thoroughly as if it were an exquisitely rendered poem designed expertly for repeated recitation.
Specifically, not only does the story testify to the power of humor to sustain a real-life parable celebrating the ingenuity of a man hoping to escape the mundane, but it is also proof that the scenic, circuitous route through life may be preferable to the more direct. Had Capote merely decided to end his association with Thurber by complaining privately to Harold Ross, the magazine’s editor at the time, or by quitting, not only would the delectability of the original story have been lost forever, but so too would the example that the human experience could, at times, be lived with grace and artistry.
When I was in the eighth grade, I was arrested for throwing eggs at a pedophile’s house. Let’s say that her name was Deloris Keating, not true, and that I was NOT chew-my-own-foot-off jealous that my 14-year-old friend, Richie, was the one having sex with her and not me, also not true, though both details are necessary for the streamlining of the narrative. She was old, real old, maybe 31, and freshly divorced with three young children. Richie was her baby sitter, and every Tuesday and Thursday night he would use a hair pick to inflate his North Jersey wopfro into a Don Henley, comb the porn star prototype mustache resting on his upper lip with a dry toothbrush, slap on enough Brut Cologne to bruise the air and walk to her house around the corner like he was Youngblood Priest in “Super Fly.” He would then watch television and drink chocolate milk with Deloris’ kids, feed them macaroni and cheese on plastic Hanna-Barbera plates, get them into their pajamas and tuck them into their beds. Then, sometime around 11 o’clock, his employer would come home and take off her pants, open her blouse, turn on a porno film and rub up against her hire, stinking of Long Island Iced Teas and cigarette smoke. Minus the diseased and psychotic manipulation of a minor, plus the inexplicable preference for Betamax over VHS, it was a real Romeo and Juliet romance. That is, until Richie thought that it would be a laugh-riot to take the 17-inch zucchini she had in her bedside table, bake it at 350 degrees for an hour and return it back to its drawer as soft as a gargantuan green alien stool sample.
“What do you mean, what did she say?!” he barked back at me with watery eyes, momentarily forgetting that anybody with whom an adolescent boy is having sex is not so much a sex partner as an interloper encroaching on the magnificent love affair he is already having with his own genitalia. “She was pissed off—said that I was too fucking immature for her! Can you believe that shit?” he said, trying to keep the contents of his “Spider-Man” Trapper Keeper from spilling out all over the bus stop.
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