May 25, 2013
Posted on Jul 7, 2011
By Mr. Fish
“If it’ll make you feel better, I’ll think of you as Joan Baez. That’s not gay.”
“You know what I fucking mean!”
“Here it is,” said my brother.
“Here what is?” I said.
“It’s almost 6 o’clock so she’s probably started boozing already,” he said.
“Who?” I said.
“Maybe she’ll feel less like an alcoholic if I give her some reason to keep drinking—you know, some reason other than having no reason to stop,” he said.
“Look, I asked you to wait on that,” I said, repacking myself and pulling up my zipper. He didn’t answer me. “Jeff?” I said, raising my foot and setting it against the flusher. “Jeff?”
Flushing the toilet into a gruesome foam, the water gnawing loudly on diarrhea and vomit scabs like walnuts, I opened the bathroom door just in time to see my dickhead brother stepping into the hallway and closing the bedroom door behind himself. “Hey!” I said. There was then the sound of a key fumbling into a keyhole followed by the clicking closed of a deadbolt, the sound not unlike the sound of a pinball in a pinball machine clattering into a chute for launching. “Hey, wait a minute!” I said, having seen that key before, a key forged a hundred years ago to protect the polite Dutch opulence prized by the wealthy Pennsylvanians who built the house only to become, decades later, a key as tarnished and full of horny witchcraft as the winning side of a snapped wishbone that had been yanked from a choked chicken and used to trap more fellatio and clumsy ejaculation in this attic room than there were wishless Coca-Cola bottle caps in the Fontana di Trevi. “Hey!” I said, running across the room and throwing myself up against the door.
“Hey!” I said again, twisting the doorknob hard in neither direction, its immovability as fixed as a tooth. “JEFF!” Stepping back, I punched the wood. “I like girls!” I said, sounding just like one.
I then imagined with a hope so extreme as to become a prayer the following scene:
My mother, Mae Bea Blithe, is sitting at her dining room table in the small beach town of Manahawkin, N.J., her classic 1950s prom-queen features swollen and exaggerated by four decades of alcohol and Shake ’n Bake recipes into that of an over-Othelloed William Shatner. The time is exactly two minutes from my imagination and my mother sips vodka from a 17-year-old Battlestar Galactica glass cloudy with scratches and blinks slowly. The phone begins ringing and she reaches into the fruit bowl in front of her and picks up a banana. “Hello?” she says, speaking into it. The phone continues to ring. She reaches for another banana. “Hello?” she says. The phone continues to ring, the number of rings dependent upon the number of bananas in the bowl. Eventually, she feels hungry and reaches for the telephone.
“Mom?” my brother says when he hears the receiver being turned around and around in my mother’s hands while she looks for a way to peel it. “Mom!” he says again. My mother looks hard at the telephone receiver and narrows her eyes.
“Yes, Mr. Banana?” she says.
“Mom! Put the phone against your head!” screams my brother. “It’s Jeff!”
“Death?” says my mother.
“Wait a minute, I fell asleep the other night watching a movie with you in it—it was foreign and you were on the beach.”
“No,” says my brother, “I said Jeff, not death!”
“Well, I’m not ready to go.”
“Mom! I can’t hear you! Talk into the phone!”
“There’s still so much I want to do, like going back in time and starting all over again as somebody else.”
“Hey, I know—didn’t you play chess with that guy in the movie?”
“Are you talking to me? Is there somebody there with you?”
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